Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 – The End of a Bad Year

Habib Siddiqui
2017 has proven to be a very disappointing year for most people around the globe. Starting with Donald Trump as the president of the most powerful country in the globe so many things simply went from bad to worse and beyond.
We, as global citizens, have miserably failed to stop the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. Nearly 700,000 Rohingyas have been forced to leave their ancestral homes in the Arakan (Rakhine) state of Myanmar because of the state-sponsored genocidal pogroms of Myanmar government and its murderous Buddhists there. More than 14,000 Rohingyas were also murdered, let alone tens of thousands of females that were raped by savage Buddhists. The sufferings of the Rohingyas who have managed to flee, according to international human rights groups, “is nothing in comparison to those who have been left behind, who are unable to move since they’re too old or don’t have the finances to pay people or traffickers to traffic them out of the area”. We know genocide is happening there and we know how to stop it but there’s no political will. The international community, shamelessly, continues to drag its feet while people are dying in large numbers. It is a dark chapter in human history that can’t be whitewashed later with excuses!
Tens of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis also died due to the on-going mess there that was created by George W. Bush by invading Iraq in 2003. Scores of ancient towns and cities have been destroyed to defeat the nihilist ISIS forces. While the strength of the ISIS has been reduced significantly in those two countries, their messages via social media remain a threat to any country and its people, exciting mentally deranged or intellectually vulnerable people to volunteer for their nihilist cause. Examples of such deranged activities were witnessed in parts of Europe and failed attempts in the USA.
Thanks to the Saudi-US Alliance, Yemen is in flames. The United Nations' humanitarian aid official in Yemen said a year ago that the civilian death toll in the nearly two-year conflict had reached 10,000, with 40,000 others wounded. I am sure the casualty figures are much higher now. Even the hospitals and infirmaries are not immune from war crimes of MBS and Donald Trump. The Saudi-led military coalition's blockade of Yemen could lead to "the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims," Mark Lowcock, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, warned recently. The UN estimates that some 17 million Yemenis are in urgent need of food, 7 million of whom are facing famine. The outbreak and spread of cholera in the country has reportedly infected nearly 900,000 and cost some 2,000 lives.
North Korea has been able to successfully demonstrate its nuclear capability, threatening its neighbors to the south and east - South Korea and Japan, and even the continental USA. Trump's hard talking has not delivered any positive outcome.
Trump's win has invigorated racists and bigots around the globe to widen the conflict along racial and religious lines. The fascists are on the rise in Europe and many parts of our world. Accordingly, the hate crimes directed, esp., against Muslims are on an all-time high. As we have repeatedly seen throughout history, such hateful messages always rebound back. U.S. congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) was attacked by a racist White gunman who opened fire on a congressional baseball game. Another white gunman killed 25 in a U.S. church. It was the 153rd mass shooting of the year in the USA, in just 165 days of the first half of 2017. At least 58 people were killed and more than 515 injured when a trigger-happy, well-planned, rich, white American fired on a crowd of 30,000 gathered on the Las Vegas Strip for the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival; the casualty figures show that it was the worst in American history. However, as usual, since these criminals were Christians and white, terrorism was ruled out. Media do not even mention their names anymore!
Under the BJP rule, India is showing its ugly fascist face rather unapologetically. Hundreds of Muslims have been lynched to death by Hindutvadi fascists under the name of 'gau-rakhsha' or saving cow. Fears around “love jihad,” a supposed form of religious warfare by which Muslim men lure Hindu women away from the faith, have grown several folds in recent years and are being exploited by Hindu fascists to foment unrest in many parts of India. In the past year, there have been selective bans—on films that are deemed to be sacrilegious, and on eating beef—while extremist Hindu mobs run wild. Modi has used Twitter to respond quickly to tragedies in other parts of the world, but so rarely talks about the religious eruptions in the country he governs, such as the lynching of Muslims in B.J.P.-ruled states, that his merely acknowledging them makes news. Not surprisingly, the destruction of Muslim properties and houses of worship has become a regular phenomenon in many parts of India. Kashmiris continue to be denied of their legitimate human rights and the right to plebiscite by the occupied Indian forces. As a matter of fact, violence against disempowered Muslim minorities seems as Indian as tandoori chicken in Modi’s India. Gandhi who led nonviolence movement is no longer relevant. It is difficult to find a single Gandhi in today’s India!
2017 also got a glimpse of culture of sexual harassment and assault that has become so pervasive in the West. The allegations were not limited to guys like Harvey Weinstein of Hollywood alone. Nearly half a million women in the West signed up in the social media to say 'Me Too' to show the gravity of the problem. Many media icons - Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey and Charlie Rose - once perceived to be decent human beings - have proven to be sex perverts. Even the ex-president Sr. Bush, George W.'s father - has been found to be a sex pervert. And of course, the least said about the current president Trump the better. He is in a league of his own!
As noted by Laurie Penny in a recent Time magazine article, cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug. 'It smothers the senses of societies that claim to despise sexual predators and yet keep giving them awards and electing them to office.'
Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change. He has revoked a slew of Obama-era policies meant to stem greenhouse-gas emissions. He has repealed the Clean Power Plan, a landmark rule that would have made the United States grid less reliant on coal. And he has declined to seek any kind of climate-protecting measure in the new GOP tax bill, despite the many alumni of the Reagan administration pleading for it. He has called climate change—in part a triumph of the American scientific enterprise — a “hoax” “created by and for the Chinese.”
Last year's 2015-2016 report card showed that year was "by far" the warmest in the observational records, which date back to 1900. The 2016-2017 period was significantly cooler — but still the second-hottest year since 1900. Trump, a sceptic on Global Warming twitted: ‘In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!’
Perhaps Trump has forgotten that his native New York suffered three heat waves by late July this year, or that a “normal” summer now would count as a “hot” summer during the 20th century. Scorching temperatures have vanished not because global warming has stopped, but because it is the winter, which every preschooler knows as the “cold season.” Trump is in denial that there is, in fact, a connection between global warming and the current frigid weather across the United States. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say it is warmer than normal almost everywhere right now except for Canada and the northern United States.
At home, Trump has kept his promise of further enriching his rich corporate buddies by lowering their tax burden in the recently passed tax bill, which is bound to worsen condition for most not-so-rich families. He has also repealed the Obamacare, which is expected to make it difficult for many low-income Americans to get the necessary health care at an affordable price.
Finally, Trump's preposterous Jerusalem declaration is probably the worst international blunder he has committed in his first year of presidency. It was like a Christmas presentation to his Judeo-Christian Evangelical base and a Hanukkah present to the extremist Zionists like Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu who believe that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would pave the way for the construction of a Third Jewish Temple in the same place the Second Temple had been before it was demolished in 70 CE by the Romans. “There have been amazing advances towards bringing the Temple this year. It was clear that Trump was part of that process, guided by Hashem [God],” said Asaf Fried, official spokesman for the United Temple Movement, an association lobbying for the Third Temple’s construction on the Temple Mount.
Not surprisingly, some Jews and Judeo-Christians see Trump's announcement - and, in fact, Trump himself - as hastening the long-awaited coming of the Messiah.  To be sure, Trump did little to dispel the sense that something of biblical significance was in fact taking place. But just as the Haaretz has questioned: whose Messiah is Trump hastening? Is it the fundamentalist Israeli vision of a return to a Jewish kingdom and priesthood reminiscent of the Old Testament? Or is it the Evangelical belief in the return of Jesus Christ and the conversion of all the Jews to born-again Christian doctrine and faith?
Nonetheless, Trump’s decision is sure to bolster the extremist Zionists with their criminal land-grabs further worsening the Palestine-Israel crisis. As part of the payback, Israel’s transportation minister is pushing ahead with a plan to dig a railway tunnel under Jerusalem’s Old City, passing near sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims — and ending at the Western Wall with a station named after Trump.
Yisrael Katz proposed naming the station after Trump “for his brave and historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”. Digging railway tunnels to the Western Wall would also entail excavating in Jerusalem’s Old City, where religious and political sensitivities — as well as layers of archaeological remains from the city’s 3,000-year history — could make for a logistical and legal quagmire.
Many see Trump as a precursor to Dajjal (anti-Christ). The Palestinians have said, and rightly so, that they won't accept the USA as a mediator any more to resolve the crisis. "It means the death knell of any peace process," said Hanan Ashrawi, an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
As expected, Trump’s controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was dealt a blow when 128 countries - almost two-thirds of the 193 member states - of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly (GA) member states backed its motion to brand his unilateral move as “null and void”.
Only the coming days will show what is next in Trump’s diabolical plan. Will he make the world a living hell? Will he make it worse by going to war against Iran – or letting the Saudi-alliance fight it - at the behest of Netanyahu in order to make Israel the supreme power of the region? I pray that he is not that BIGLY stupid and moron!
Perhaps, not everything was lost! Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe resigned in November, bringing an end to 37 years of rule and sparking jubilant celebrations in the nation's streets. He and his wife will receive a “golden handshake” worth many millions of dollars as part of a deal negotiated before the resignation.
Is that the going rate for despots and mass murderers to relinquish their grip over power?  Will the tyrants, Mugabe-heavies and -lights, of our world consider such an option to ease the pains of their suffering masses in 2018?

The year of Love Jihad in India by Rahul Bhatia


“I need the freedom to meet the person I love,” the former Akhila Ashokan, who married a Muslim man against the wishes of her Hindu parents, said. “I am asking for fundamental rights.”

Photograph by Sivaram V. / Reuters

In 2011, when Akhila Ashokan was eighteen, she left her home in T. V. Puram, a village in Kerala, for college in Salem, a busy town seven hours to the east. Her father, K. M. Ashokan, was an ex-military man; her mother, Ponnamma, a practicing Hindu. In Salem, Akhila studied homeopathy, boarding with five women, including two Muslim sisters, Jaseena and Faseena, with whom she studied, cooked, and talked. Akhila watched them pray. Soon after—it is unclear when, exactly—Akhila started to read books and watch videos that helped her understand Islam. Feeling the stirrings of a new faith, she began to pray. In 2015, she decided to call herself Aasiya.

To her father, Akhila seemed a changed person in November, 2015, when she returned home for a funeral. She was quiet and reserved, reluctant to join in the rituals. After the funeral, Aasiya resolved to declare her new faith, and returned to school wearing a hijab. Her mother, when she heard of the conversion, told Aasiya that her father had broken his leg and asked her to come home to see him. But Aasiya, wise to the extravagant emotional blackmail of Indian parents, refused. She began a residential program for new converts at Sathya Sarani, a religious institute in Kerala; took yet another name, Hadiya; and registered a profile on, a Muslim matrimonial site, where she noticed a man, bearded and lean, who worked at a pharmacy in Muscat, Oman. Shafin Jahan played goalkeeper for the F.C. Kerala soccer team, had a sweet smile, quoted Shakespeare, and hashtagged all his posts on Instagram. She met him, and then his family. Jahan’s Instagram went from pictures of food and football to photos of open skies and sunsets.

Even before Hadiya and Jahan got married, last December, Ashokan had taken his concerns to court, arguing that the people behind his daughter’s conversion had “unlimited resources in finances as well as manpower” and were enabling “illegal and forceful conversions.” His counsel argued that Hadiya, then twenty-four, was in “a vulnerable position from which she is necessary [sic] to be rescued and handed over to the petitioner.” Ashokan was convinced that Jahan, who had ties to the radical-Muslim Popular Front of India political party, was sent to disappear his daughter, and was backed by a shadowy organization with links to the Islamic State. (“I can’t have a terrorist in my family,” he said.) The judgment from the Kerala High Court, which came in the last week of May this year, sided with Ashokan. “In the first place, it is not normal for a young girl in her early 20s, pursuing a professional course, to abandon her studies and to set out in pursuit of learning an alien faith and religion,” the judges wrote. They were clearly unimpressed by Hadiya, a “gullible” and “ordinary girl of moderate intellectual capacity,” who had “apparently memorized” Arabic verses. Hadiya’s five-month marriage to Jahan was annulled; Hadiya was put in the care of her parents.

This past August, I looked up at a mute television tuned to the news and read the headline “Kerala girl denies forced conversion.” Onscreen, a policewoman stood beside a young woman wearing a red floral-print headscarf at the doorway of a home with beige walls and bars on the windows. The young woman seemed to be venting to another, older woman—her mother, I realized—who looked as frustrated as her daughter looked distraught. By that time, Hadiya had been kept at her parents’ house for three months, and was not allowed to leave.

When a charged video clip drops into the lap of India’s cash-strapped news channels, its echo is heard for days. In short order, Hadiya became India’s top story: everyone wanted to save a woman who showed no signs of wanting to be saved. In August, the National Investigation Agency, the Indian government’s top antiterrorism organization, began investigating Hadiya’s conversion and marriage. One news channel, Republic, said that more than twenty-five thousand tweets had shared a link to an investigation it had conducted into “love jihad,” and the same phrase

Fears around “love jihad,” a supposed form of religious warfare by which Muslim men lure Hindu women away from the faith, have circulated in one form or another in India for more than a century. According to Charu Gupta, a history professor at Delhi University who has written extensively about Hindu-Muslim marriages in India, Muslim rulers were frequently portrayed as decadent manipulators in the popular literature of the late nineteenth century. “In the nineteen-twenties, it went from rulers to all Muslims,” she told me. “They were called abductions then. Even elopements were seen as abductions.” These abductions effectively provided “one of the glues for Hindu unity” in a country divided by caste. Such fears have increased since 2009, with the emergence of Hindu nationalists as a dominant political force in India. In 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Narendra Modi, came to power promising development and freedom from corruption. In the past year, there have been selective bans—on films that are deemed to be sacrilegious, and on eating beef—while extremist mobs run wild. Modi has used Twitter to respond quickly to tragedies in other parts of the world, but so rarely talks about the religious eruptions in the country he governs, such as the lynchings of Muslims in B.J.P.-ruled states, that his merely acknowledging them makes news.

It was during this year of the almost cheerful dismantling of law and order that the story of Hadiya became the soap opera we all watched. After the High Court’s ruling, one headline read, “ISIS Recruitment? Kerala HC Cancels Marriage Between Hindu Girl, Muslim Man.” The Times of India ran with “Kerala HC Cancels Marriage Due to Bride’s Alleged IS Links,” above a picture of a masked ISIS fighter. The reports, which rarely mentioned Hadiya’s version of events, left the reader with the vivid image of a father protecting his daughter from the Islamic State.

Lawyers I spoke to thought that the whole thing was nuts. “This should have been thrown out of court,” Amba Salelkar, a legal researcher, told me. “People are allowed the dignity of risk.” Newspapers reporting the story referred to it as the “Hadiya love-jihad case” without irony or quotation marks. After the judgment, Hadiya became a celebrity, the media’s hunger fuelled by the difficulty of catching a glimpse of her. Her appearances on television were furtive and fleeting: unauthorized recordings, glimpses through a phalanx of policemen hurrying her along. The video clip I saw, of Hadiya and her mother arguing, was filmed by a Hindu activist named Rahul Easwar, who was dismayed by her treatment. Jahan wrote Hadiya letters, but they were returned to him by Ashokan. Outside the family’s home, constables ordered by the Court to protect Hadiya and her family watched CCTV monitors and asked neighbors to alert them to visitors.

Days after the High Court ordered Hadiya to return to her parents’ home, Jahan contacted a young Supreme Court lawyer named Haris Beeran, and asked him to appeal the ruling. The case excited Beeran. “I thought it would be a challenge, judicially,” he told me. Navigating India’s justice system is its own unique brand of punishment, and for months, while Hadiya stayed with her parents, Jahan’s case wound through its endless plumbing. In the last week of November, both sides argued over whether Hadiya should be heard at all. “Their case was that Hadiya was so indoctrinated that she would have a ready set of answers,” Beeran recalled later. I followed live accounts from the New Delhi court on legal blogs and on Twitter. Hadiya stood listening for two hours before the judges turned to her. It was the first time in months that someone who mattered asked her what she wanted. And yet her presence in the courts was also a terrifying reminder that she was being asked to prove that she was worthy of freedom.

Later, everyone I spoke to was struck by her calm, and her lack of interest in lamenting her months of being held against her will. “I need the freedom to meet the person I love,” she said. “I am asking for fundamental rights.” She spoke about how her parents had tried to convert her back to Hinduism. She wanted to complete her education and leave all this behind. Finally, the judges agreed with Jahan’s lawyers that Hadiya didn’t sound brainwashed. They ruled that Hadiya could return to school and could once again make her own decisions. Even so, the Court decided to continue hearings over Jahan’s association with the Popular Front of India into January, 2018. This month, Hadiya and Jahan met for the first time in six months. The room in which they met was wired with closed-circuit cameras.

The court moved on, but the Hadiya story had reached a vast audience. “So many people who hadn’t believed in it before now do,” Gupta told me, of love jihad. The idea has a way of prying open hidden prejudices through multiple means, like so many keys, one of which might just turn the lock. In Rajasthan, schoolteachers attend fairs to learn about love jihad. In Kolkata, Hindu men are encouraged to fall in love with Muslim women as a form of counteroffensive. One key turned. The day after the couple’s meeting, a video surfaced that abruptly replaced Hadiya in the national mind. I watched it after spending days bracing myself, and then, too, only in a corner at home late one night. In the footage I saw, a Muslim laborer, later identified as Mohammad Afrazul, apparently unaware that he is being filmed, strolls under a tree, while another man, holding a pickaxe, jogs up behind him, takes aim, and lodges it in his upper back. Afrazul turns around, uncomprehending. “What did I do, sir?” he manages to shout. His attacker, later identified as Shambhulal Regar, from a town north of Udaipur, stumbles between blows, preparing to strike again. The camera follows, at a distance. “I am dead, I am dead,” Afrazul cries. Finally, he lies motionless where he has fallen. Regar speaks to the camera. “Jihadis,” he says, breathing deeply. “This is what will happen to you if you spread love jihad in our country.” Then he sets Afrazul on fire. (I later discovered that I had watched an edited version of even more violent footage.)

Hours after the video appeared, the Rajasthan state police brought Regar before a group of reporters. One journalist asked if he felt regret. “I am a regular man,” he replied from under a hood. By then, support for his actions had swelled. “Brother, we should chop up each and every one of these Muslims,” one person wrote in the comments section below the video online. Dozens of others offered their support. A fund drive for Regar’s wife raised more than three hundred thousand rupees (equivalent to nearly five thousand U.S. dollars). To prevent rallies from forming in support of Regar, as well as those calling for his death, the nearby city of Udaipur did what worried officials everywhere in India do these days: they banned gatherings of more than four people and turned off the Internet. Even so, on December 14th, as the light dimmed in the city, a man in a saffron-orange shirt climbed the newly inaugurated gate of the local court building and vigorously waved a flag dyed a luminous orange—a declaration of Hindu supremacy over the police and the courts.

Rahul Bhatia is a journalist based in Mumbai.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Jerusalem Question – Part 2

by Habib Siddiqui

Part 2: Muslim Period

In 636 CE, at the battle of Yarmouk, the Byzantines were decisively defeated by the Muslim Army, led by Amr ibn al-‘As (R). Within months in 637 CE, the Muslim army under the leadership of Abu Ubayda ibn Jarrah (R) lay a bloodless siege on Jerusalem, which lasted for four months. Patriarch Sophoronius offered to surrender the city if Khalifa Umar ibn al-Khattab (R) himself would come in person to ratify the terms of the surrender. The encounter between these two men was very dramatic. In the words of a Christian historian, Anthony Nutting, "Umar taught the caparisoned throng of Christian commanders and bishops a lesson in humility by accepting their surrender in a patched and ragged robe and seated on a donkey." [The Arabs, New American Library, N.Y. (1964)]

The terms of the surrender were: "Bismillahir Rahmaneer Raheem (In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful). This is a covenant which Umar, the servant of Allah, the Amir (Leader) of the faithful believers, granted the people of Aelia [Ilya’]. He granted them safety for their lives, their possessions, their churches and their crosses. They shall not be constrained in the matter of their religion, nor shall any of them be molested. Whoever leaves the city shall be safe in his person and his property until he reaches his destination." [11]

Umar (R) thus pledged security of the lives, properties, churches and freedom of worship of the city’s Christian inhabitants. These pledges came to be known as the Covenant of Umar, which established the standard of conduct vis-a-vis the non-Muslim population of Jerusalem for subsequent generations and specifically for the two Muslim rulers of Jerusalem: Sultan Salah al-Din Ayyubi (1187) and the Ottoman Sultan Selim (1516). [It is worth noting that the Covenant was one of the most progressive treaties in history. For comparison, just 23 years earlier when Jerusalem was conquered by the Persians from the Byzantines, a general massacre was ordered. Another massacre ensued when Jerusalem was conquered by the Christian Crusaders from the Muslims in 1099 CE. The Treaty of Umar (R) allowed the Christians of Jerusalem religious freedom, as is dictated in the Qur’an and the sayings of Muhammad (S). This was one of the first and most significant guarantees of religious freedom in history. Umar (R) further allowed Jews to worship on the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall, while the Byzantines had banned them from all such activities.]

When Umar (R) entered Jerusalem, (what is now known in the West as) the Temple Mount lay vacant. The Christian Byzantines had used it as a garbage dump [to offend the Jews]. But to the Muslims it contained the Rock hallowed by the Prophet Muhammad’s (S) Isra’ and Mi’raj (the Prophet’s nightly journey to Jerusalem and ascension to heaven with Angel Jibril (AS)).

After accepting the city’s surrender from Sophronius, Umar (R) was shown around the church during which the time for mid-day (Zuhr) prayer came. The Patriarch offered a place for him to pray inside the church and laid out a straw mat but Umar (R) refused, explaining to the Patriarch, “Had I prayed inside the church, the Muslims coming after me would take possession of it, saying that I had prayed in it.”  He (R) prayed outside the Church.

According to the Muslim chroniclers, Umar’s (R) next concern was to identify that Rock. Sophoronius guided him to a spot, which by then had no traces of its Jewish past. Because of high reverence for the place, Umar (R), the Amirul Mu’meneen, himself started cleaning it in person, carrying dirt in his own robe. His entourage and army followed suit until the whole area was cleaned. He directed that no prayers be held on or near it until the place has been washed by rain three times. His entourage then sprinkled the place with scent. Umar (R) then led the Muslims in prayer on a clean spot to the south. Foundation of a mosque was erected on the spot and this is the Al-Aqsa mosque, revered by Muslims as one of the three most sacred mosques on earth.

In the Jewish apocalyptic literature of the time, Umar’s (R) capture of Jerusalem was seen as an act of redemption from the Byzantines. It is worthwhile mentioning here (as has also been recognized by Jewish historian Moshe Gil) that it was not until 638 CE that a Jewish quarter would be assigned in the city – since the days of the second Jewish Revolt some five hundred years ago – when Muslims invited Jewish families to reside therein.

The most obvious reflection of Islam’s reverence for Jerusalem is in its architecture. During the Umayyad rule (660-750 CE) Jerusalem flourished to become a major city, and from this period, important buildings survive. The Umayyad Khalifa Al Walid later completed the construction of the al-Aqsa mosque in 715 CE. His father Caliph Abdul Malik bin-Marwan constructed the "Dome of the Rock” Masjid al Quba as-Sakhra (visible with gold dome) on the Haram al-Sharif earlier in 688-691 CE (68-71 AH). These two mosques became essentially the most visited mosques in the entire Muslim world outside the Ka’ba and Masjid an-Nabi in Arabia, and grace the city of Jerusalem to this very day.

In 728 CE, the cupola over the Al-Aqsa Mosque was erected, the same being restored in 758-75 by the Abbasid Khalifa Al-Mahdi. In 831 Khalifa Al-Ma’mun restored the Dome of the Rock and built the octagonal wall. In 1016 CE the Dome was partly destroyed by earthquakes; but it was repaired in 1022.

As part of historical revisionism, some Orientalists, such as John Wansbrough, and Likudnik/Zionist historians have opined that Muhammad’s (S) night journey to Jerusalem – the Isra’ and Mi’raj, one of the principal foundations of Jerusalem’s sanctity in Islam – was a later invention aimed at accounting for the Qur’anic verse 17:1. [17] Others, such as Patricia Crone, have proposed that Jerusalem was in fact the original Islamic holy city, and that the sanctity of Makkah and Madinah was a later innovation. Neither of these ludicrous theories enjoys much acceptance (outside die-hard Zionists), least of all among Muslims. [18]

During the Abbasid rule (750-969 CE) Jerusalem became a religious focal point for Christian and Jewish pilgrims and Sufi Muslims. The vast majority of its inhabitants were Muslims. It remained under Muslim control until the first Crusade (1099). Excepting a brief period during Fatimid caliph (insane) al-Hakim’s rule (996-1021), there was no religious persecution of minorities. [19]

In November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered a speech at Claremont, France, which can only be described as the vilest and most spiteful speech of the Middle Ages, responsible for initiating the never-ending Crusade. He said: “O race of Franks! race beloved and chosen by God! … From the confines of Jerusalem and from Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth that an accursed race, wholly alienated from God, has violently invaded the lands of these Christians, and depopulated them by pillage and fire. … The kingdom of Greeks is now dismembered by them, and has been deprived of territory so vast in extent that it could not be traversed in two months’ time.

On whom, then, rests the labor of avenging these wrongs, and of recovering this territory, if not upon you – you upon whom, above all others, God has conferred remarkable glory in arms, great bravery, and strength to humble the heads of those whom resist you? … Let none of your possessions keep you back, nor anxiety for your family affairs. For this land which you now inhabit, shut in all sides by the sea and the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; it scarcely furnishes food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder and devour one another, that you wage wars, and that many among you perish in civil strife.

Let hatred, therefore, depart from among you; let your quarrels end. Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulcher; wrest that land from a wicked race, and subject it to yourselves.

Jerusalem is a land fruitful above all others, a paradise of delights. That royal city, situated at the center of the earth, implores you to come to her aid. Undertake this journey eagerly for the remission of your sins, and be assured of the reward of imperishable glory in the kingdom of Heaven.”

With that deleterious speech, the Pope aroused Christians to recapture Jerusalem from Muslims. On 1099 CE the Crusaders entered the city and began one of the bloodiest and crudest massacres in history. According to Ibn al-Athir some 70,000 Muslims were slaughtered in Masjid al-Aqsa alone, all of them non-combatants, some of them Imams and professors of theology.

Raymond d’Aguiliers, chaplain to Raymond de Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse, wrote: “Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one’s way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious ceremonies were ordinarily chanted. What happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief. So, let it suffice to say this much, at least, that in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle-reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies. The city was filled with corpses and blood.” [20]

Jerusalem became the capital of the Latin Kingdom under Godfrey, Count of Bouillon, who changed the Al-Aqsa mosque into a church and erected a big cross on top of the Dome of Rock. Muslims and Jews were banned from living in the city.

In 1187 CE Sultan Salahuddin (Saladin) Ayyubi (RA) liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders and restored the al-Aqsa mosque to its previous condition. Before liberating Jerusalem, Saladin wrote a letter to King Richard which sums up Muslim position vis-a-vis the status of the city. He wrote: “Jerusalem is our heritage as much as it is yours. It was from Jerusalem that our Prophet ascended to heaven and it is in Jerusalem that the angels assemble. Do not imagine that we can ever abandon it. Nor can we possibly renounce our rights to it as a Muslim community. As for the land, your occupation of it was accidental and came about because the Muslims who lived in the land at that time were weak. God will not enable you to build a single stone in the land so long as the war lasts."

Comparing Saladin’s behavior with those Christian Crusaders, the historian Anthony Nutting writes: "Apart from restoring the holy places of Islam, Saladin allowed not a single building to be touched. As Christian historians have attested, strict orders were issued to all Muslim troops to protect Christian life and property and not a single Christian was molested on account of his religion – a remarkable contrast to the atrocities perpetrated by the Franks eighty-eight years before." It is worth mentioning here that while the Crusaders, when they entered Jerusalem, burned Jews in their synagogue Salahuddin, after recovering the city, had allowed Jews to return.

Excepting brief periods between 1229-1239 and 1243-1244 when Jerusalem again fell in the hands of the Crusaders (because of Muslim in-fighting), it remained a Muslim City through all its life. Religious freedom and rights of worship by Christians and Jews were respected. In 1267 Rabbi Moshe Ben Nahman (Nahmanides) arrived from Spain, revived the Jewish congregation and established a synagogue and center of learning bearing his name. In 1448, Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro settled in Jerusalem and led the community. After the Spanish Inquisition (1492), Jews found shelter among the Muslims of North Africa and (what is now called) the Middle East.

The Mamluks (1248-1517), who came after the Ayyubids, left their mark in architecture with beautiful buildings, schools and hospices throughout the Old City. They added markets, repaired water supplies and constructed city’s fountain system.

In 1517 the Ottomans took over Jerusalem peacefully. Sultan Suleiman "the magnificent" (1537-41) rebuilt the city walls (un-walled since 1219) including the present day 7 gates (what is now known as the Old City) and the "Tower of David." He further improved the city’s water system, installed drinking fountains still visible in many parts of the Old City. He also patronized religious centers and educational institutions. A Jewish colony “Safaradieh” was formed in 1522 in Palestine. The Ottomans granted religious freedom to all and it was possible to find (something that was unthinkable in Europe) a synagogue, a church and a mosque in the same street.

The Damascus gate was erected in 1542. It was Sultan Selim, the Ottoman ruler, who dug out the Wailing Wall from under the rubble in the 16th century and permitted Jews to visit it. All the Ottoman Sultans -” from Suleiman “the magnificent” to Sultan Abdul-Hamid (RA) -” were great patrons of Jerusalem, making surrounding territories of the mosques as their Waqf properties.

Throughout the Ottoman era, the city remained open to all religions, although the empire’s faulty management after Sultan Suleiman meant slow economic stagnation. When Jewish people faced extermination across Europe, the Ottoman Sultans allowed them to take refuge in the Empire. Some of them settled in Palestine. In 1562 there were 1,200 (mostly religious) Jews and 11,450 Arabs living in Jerusalem. [21]

By mid-19th century, with the weakening of the Ottoman Empire (to the extent of being ridiculed as the “Sick Man of Europe”) the European colonial powers vied with each other to gain a foothold in Palestine. New areas with names like the German Colony and the Russian Compound sprouted the city. According to Zionist historiography, residential building outside the walls of the Old City began around 1860 with the Jewish settlement – Mishkenot Shaananim. However, such scholarship overlooks the much earlier construction and continued use of numerous indigenous residential buildings outside the walls such as khans, residences for religious persons, and summer homes with orchards and olive presses, belonging mostly to non-Jews, especially the Arab Muslims. [22] In time, as the communities grew and connected geographically, this became known as the New City. [23]

This was also an age of Christian religious revival, and many churches sent missionaries to proselytize among the Muslim and especially the Jewish populations, believing passionately that this would expedite the Second Coming of Christ. These outside missionaries settled in and around places like Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

In 1846 there were only 12,000 Jews in Palestine out of a population of 350,000. In 1880, shortly before the Russian Pogroms, there were only 25,000 Jews in Palestine out of a population of half a million. [24]

The last half of the 19th century witnessed the pontification of Pope Pius IX (1846-78), the publication of Wilhelm Marr’s "Jewry’s Victory over Teutonism" (1873), the assassination of Czar Alexander II (1881) and the Alfred Dreyfus case (1894). [25] These events led to pogroms and anti-Semitism (actually Jew-hatred) across Europe, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia. Jews again found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. [Ironically, the demise of the Ottoman regime can partly be blamed on the Jewish enclave in Salonika (now Thessalonica or Thessaloniki in Greece) – home of the Donme [26] and the birthplace of the (Jacobin) Young Turk movement.] [27]

The last decade of the 19th century saw the emergence of political Zionism calling for the establishment of a Jewish state. Sultan Abdul-Hamid, the last of the Ottoman Sultans, was approached by Theodor Herzl, the father of political Zionism, who offered to buy up and then turn over the Ottoman Debt to the Sultan’s government in return for an Imperial Charter for the Colonization of Palestine by the Jewish people. In his Diary, Herzl writes, “Let the Sultan give us that parcel of land [Palestine] and in return we would set his house in order, regulate his finances, and influence world opinion in his favour…” The Sultan rejected the offer, but reiterated that as the Caliph he remained a guardian of the Jewish people.

Herzl personally met the Sultan in May 1901. The American Jewish Yearbook [5663, October 2, 1902, to September 21, 1903, ed. Cyrus Adler, Philadelphia, the Jewish Publication Society of America (1902)] at the time summarized Herzl's meeting this way:

[Note: The Jewish Yearbook cited above also shows that at the Fifth International Congress (of Zionists), held at Basel, Switzerland, from Dec. 26 to 29, 1901, a system was designed to uniting the various Zionistic societies under one umbrella, the Congress, and the Congress was to establish a National Fund of 200,000 British Pound to be used for the purchase of land in Palestine.]

In his letter to a Sufi Shaykh - Shadhili Sheikh Abu'Shamat Mahmud (dated Sept. 22, 1911), Sultan Abdul-Hamid mentions this episode: “I left the post of the ruler of Caliphate only because of the obstacles and threats on the side of people who call them ‘Young Turks’. The Committee of Unity and Progress obsessively insist on my agreement to form a national Jewish state in the sacred land of Palestine. But in spite of their obstinacy I strongly refused them. In the end, they offered me 150 million English pounds in gold, but again I refused and said the following to them: ‘If you offer me gold of the world adding it to your 150 man, I won’t agree to give you the land. I have served Islam and the people of Muhammad (S) for more than 30 years, and I won’t cloud the Islamic history, the history of my fathers and grandfathers - Ottoman Sultans and caliphs.’ After my definite refusal, they decided to remove me from power, and after that they told me that they would transport me to Salonika and I had to resign. I praise my benefactor who didn’t let me bring shame on the Ottoman state and the Islamic world. I want to stop at this. I praise the Almighty once again and finish my letter.” [28]

The Sultan, to the last of his days, resisted bartering Jerusalem for his reign.

So, what we notice from historical accounts is a remarkable Muslim reverence for the city of Jerusalem, much in contrast to the disingenuous claims made by Zionist apologists like Daniel Pipes and others. Down the centuries, from the time of Umar (R) to the subsequent Muslim dynasties ruling from Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Istanbul, Jerusalem was always important to Muslims. They constructed a wide variety of buildings and institutions in Jerusalem: mosques, theological college convents for Sufi mystics, abodes for holy men, schools of the Hadith and the Qur’an, orphanages, hospitals, hospices for pilgrims, fountains, baths, pools, inns, soup kitchens, places for ritual ablution, mausoleums, and shrines to commemorate the Prophet’s (S) Mi’raj. These buildings were maintained through a system of endowment in perpetuity (awkaf), sometimes involving the dedication of the revenues of entire villages in Palestine, Syria, or Egypt. The patrons were caliphs and sultans, military commanders and scholars, merchants and officials, including a number of women. Their philanthropy bears witness to the importance of Jerusalem as a Muslim center of residence, pilgrimages, retreat, prayer, study and burial. [29]

 .......... to be continued ......

Friday, December 29, 2017

Parallel Worlds: Gaza and Israel

Here below is another excellent article by Stanley Cohen.
History is inexplicable.  It has a way of seizing the chosen few to deliver a commanding message that transcends the tapered, often rote, confines of time, place and journey.
Like the mystery of magic, defining moments seem to find powerful launch through the flash of a sudden second and echo through the voice of those destined to become iconic well beyond the rhyme of powerful lyric alone.
To them, theirs is a journey of the ages. For those fortunate enough to witness such passage it is a transcendent reminder that greatness is measured not through acquired wealth or power but by the prompt of the principle, courage and sacrifice of the few.
Who can forget Faris Odeh, 15 years old when he stared down a tank with little more than a stone in his hand, murdered by Israel in Gaza?  Or 23 year old Rachel Corrie, on that mist covered morning, armed with a bullhorn as she faced off against a bulldozer to save a home, murdered by Israel in Gaza.
And now legend has taken 29 year old Ibrahim Abu Thuraya from us.  Disabled but not disarmed, he had the boldness to stand his ground clutching his weapon, the flag he loved… murdered by Israel in Gaza.
What is there about a tiny enclave known as Gaza that so offends, so alarms, so intimidates Israel? It would be far too easy to say nothing and simply reduce it to Tel Aviv’s voracious chase of its off-shore gas reserves or its potential as a Mediterranean tourist coastline …once cleansed of its native population and the destruction which bears the marked Star of David.
No. Gaza terrorizes Israel not by force of arms but through the endless resound of its resilience and the muscle of its inspiration.
To millions of Palestinians under siege in Palestine, or those forcibly exiled by a Diaspora now 70 years of age, and to its chorus of supporters worldwide, Gaza stands as a shining beacon of resistance and hope.  Yet, to romanticize Gaza is to lend excuse to Israel and no such apologia will be offered here.
50 miles from the destruction that is Gaza sits Tel Aviv… as so much a marker of grotesque Israeli indifference.
Indeed, not a day passes without a new tease from the “third hottest city” in the world and “party capitol of the middle east” whether it’s the pristine Mediterranean seashore, cosmopolitan restaurants, coffeehouses, and galleries or hip after hour dance and bar scene of the “City that Never Sleeps.”
Ranked as the 25th most important financial center in the world, Tel Aviv has the third-largest economy of any city in the Middle East and draws well over a million international visitors annually to its numerous upscale hotels. Home to Israel’s only stock exchange, it has some 70 skyscrapers as tall as an American football field and includes one with 80 floors topped by a spire 150 feet in height.
Described as a “miniature Los Angeles,” Tel Aviv has been called one of the 10 most technologically influential cities in the world. Serving as home to numerous venture-capital firms and scientific research institutes, it has hundreds of startup companies, textile plants and food manufacturers.
Israel’s second largest municipality, Tel Aviv never wants for “culture” and entertainment. Its population of almost half a million, with an unemployment rate of approximately 4% and income 20% above the national average, can choose from eighteen of Israel’s 35 major centers for the performing arts. The Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center is home of the Israeli Opera and the Cameri Theatre. The Heichal HaTarbut is Tel Aviv’s largest theatre and home to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
But an hour’s drive, yet worlds away, sits Gaza; home to two million Palestinians.
Once known, in polite social circles, as the earth’s largest open air prison, it long ago moved on from jail to Israeli administered death camp. Whether by embargo or bombs, it is simply impossible to watch the life and death of the coastal enclave without seeing Israel’s criminal plan unfold.
With the first blush of sunrise, the streets of Gaza City fill rapidly with those who’ve survived its ritual night of darkness illuminated solely by bursts of another Israeli bombing run.  For them, with each passing hour, the taste of daylight portends a constant race against what little time remains to shop at empty markets, rush for medicines long gone, or dangerously dated, search for missing bottled water, or attend to the needs of family too paralyzed or ill to join the chase.
While Tel Aviv remains a constant tease of new ventures, glorious dining and enrapt theater going, Gaza lives a repetition of bare survival… at least for the lucky.
For others, it’s an endless wail of mourn as infants are laid to rest with lungs once barely filled with the breath of life. Alongside them sleep the young who, traumatized by the unbearable pain of living, tragically surrendered to the calm of willing death. Next to them lie the “elderly” who grew old and ill far too soon while their generation is coming of age and power everywhere else.
By now, it seems some have grown inured, indeed, comfortable with the visible suffer that is uniquely Gaza. Unlike an explosive genocide that unfolds overnight, impossible for many to ignore, Gaza has long simmered out of sight…out of mind.
Entering its second decade of complete isolation and embargo, Gaza periodically, inevitably, explodes from mindless rage in which Israel seeks to “mow the lawn” for little more than the embattled enclave’s determined resilience.
In late 2008 through early 2009, Israel unleashed an all out military attack on the defenseless population of Gaza. When the toxic white phosphorous cleared, some 1,417, mostly civilians, lay dead along with 13 Israeli soldiers… 4 from friendly fire.
In 2014, Israel undertook a 50 day all-out assault on Gaza as it once again targeted the entire enclave with massive disproportionate force.
Although some debate continues over the exact results, according to most estimates up to 2,310 were killed of whom 1,492 were civilians, including 551 children and 299 women. Another 10,895 were wounded including 3,374 children of whom 1,000 were left permanently disabled. 
Among the infrastructure leveled were 220 factories, dairy farms with livestock and the orange groves of Beit Hanoun.  138 schools and 26 health facilities were damaged and thousands of homes totally destroyed or severely damaged. The lone power station in Gaza and its transmission lines was targeted and severely damaged.  Sewage pumps and a major sewage pipe serving 500,000 inhabitants were destroyed. 10 out of 26 hospitals were damaged or destroyed along with several TV stations. 203 mosques were damaged, with 73 destroyed … along with two of Gaza’s three Christian churches.
Israel lost 66 soldiers and 5 civilians, including one child. 469 Israeli soldiers and 261 civilians were injured.
Four years later, conditions have only worsened in Gaza. Where once the UN announced it would be uninhabitable by 2020, for all intents and purposes, that day has come and gone. Yet the determination of its people continues on.
Gaza Today
Today, years of Israeli attacks and siege, have left Gaza reeling from an absence of a basic infrastructure capable of meeting even the minimal needs of its two million people.
Whether its electricity, clean water, healthcare, or sewage treatment and waste management, Gaza is undergoing a very public humanitarian crisis now entering its second decade.
In Gaza, abject poverty is rampant. At 41.1 percent, the unemployment rate is the highest in the world. Its youth unemployment is 64 percent. Currently there are 50,000 young women and men with university and graduate degrees unable to find work in their chosen fields… or any other. That figure grows each year by some 17,000 to 18,000. While once the industrial and production sectors offered more than 120,000 job opportunities per year, now less than 7,000 such positions become available.
Although thousands of homes damaged or destroyed during Israel’s attack in 2014 are still in need of repair, the construction sector is practically idle and essentially out of business. It used to contribute to about 22 percent of local production and offered some 70,000 job opportunities.
Sixty per cent of Gaza lives under the poverty line. Over a fifth of it lives in “deep poverty.” According to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), “over 80 percent of the people in Gaza depend on humanitarian assistance.”
Another report by UNOCHA found that over 80 percent of its displaced families have borrowed money to get by in the past year, over 85 percent purchased most of their food on credit, and over 40 percent have decreased their consumption of food.
According to UNICEF a third of Gaza’s children suffer from chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies that can stunt development and affect overall health.
In other, less visible, ways, the residual impact of years of Israeli attacks and a decade long siege have produced a palpable and deleterious psychological impact on the people in Gaza.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack OCHA estimated that at least 373,000 children required psychosocial support. Today the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme has found that Gazans are experiencing increasingly higher levels of stress and distress. The World Health Organization (WHO) has found Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to be widespread with studies indicating that upwards of 54% of Gaza’s children, teens and adults either symptomatic, or suffering from its full-on effects.
According to WHO between 10 and 20 percent of the population suffer from severe mental illness. Because of isolation, community pressure or lack of treatment opportunities the figure is likely much higher. Once unheard of, suicide has now becoming a familiar occurrence in Gaza clearly suggesting that the coping skills of Palestinians are being exhausted. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor reported at least 95 people tried to commit suicide in the Gaza Strip in the first quarter of 2016, a nearly 40 percent increase from previous years.
Life in Darkness
For nearly a decade, Tel Aviv has held a yearly blackout in support of Earth Hour. Meanwhile, millions of nearby Palestinians struggle to eke out a life of bare existence with twenty-one hours of darkness each and every day.
Indeed, while Tel Aviv has converted an idle power station named “Gan HaHashmal” (Electricity Park) into a public park, recently OCHA published new data that shows electricity for Gaza has dropped to a total of just three hours daily and at times that vary from day to day. Lacking any advance notice as to when the electricity will go on, or off, the most rudimentary of life’s work is left largely to little more than blind wish leaving familial, educational, employment and health tasks either undone or incomplete.
According to the WHO, power cuts and fuel shortages have created constant crises for Gaza’s 14 public hospitals; threatening the closure of essential health services leaving thousands of people without access to life-saving medical care.
In Shifa hospital, tiny premature babies, some with multiple infections or congenital diseases, lie crammed in incubators fighting for life as lights sputter. With electricity virtually cut off, their life support is entirely powered by a generator with unpredictable current.
At any given time, power loss threatens the lives of hundreds of the new-born and adults in neonatal and intensive care units and some 658 patients requiring bi-weekly haemodialysis, including 23 children. Refrigeration systems for blood and vaccine storage are also at risk.
With adversity often the mother of invention, many in Gaza have struggled to keep pace with the needs of energy through use of poorly vented generator systems and candle light when available. According to Al Mezan, 29 people including 24 children have died since 2010 from fire or suffocation incidents related to attempts to overcome power outage. In one such tragedy, three siblings were killed after their home caught fire from the candles being used during the power outage.
Water Crises in Gaza
While Tel Aviv holds a yearly contest with an award of free parking to the family that has consumed the least amount of water, in Gaza it would be a competition without a challenge.
As a result of repeated attacks that have targeted Gaza’s water infrastructure… and a 10 year embargo on materials necessary for its repair, a crises in the making has now reached one of epic proportions unmatched anywhere else in the world.
For two million people, it is estimated that 3% of the water of Gaza remains fit for human consumption. In particular, it poses grave risks to its children.
As a result of untreated sewage dumped into the Mediterranean Sea, agricultural chemicals and unfiltered seawater, the rest of Gaza’s water is dangerous; 68% of it biologically contaminated during storage or transportation to Gaza’s households. Indeed, recent studies have shown Gaza’s water contains a large concentration of chloride… as well, nitrate rates two to eight times higher than the WHO recommends.
Recently the UN warned its underground water aquifer, upon which the territory is almost entirely dependent, will soon be completely contaminated; stripping Gaza of access to all its water.
With the shortage of clean water comes the well based fear of a deadly cholera epidemic… particularly in a community with an unusually young population.  This is all the more likely where signs of acute malnutrition and severe wasting are an increasing phenomenon among the young children in Gaza.
Healthcare Dying
Cancer rates are exploding in Gaza. A decade of Israeli wars has poisoned its soil and water, leaving depleted uranium in their wake. Daily spray of insecticides used by Israel to clear border areas, have exacerbated what is becoming a deadly environmental disaster to a community long under siege through every means possible.
According to the head of oncology at Shifa Hospital, today Gaza produces 90 cases of cancer per 100,000 people compared with 65 in 2010. These statistics are particularly ominous given the unusually young population of Gaza with 60% of its residents under 25. Due to a lack of early diagnosis and treatment options in Gaza, women with breast cancer are dying at rates two to three times those receiving first world care.
On top of its energy crises, Gaza suffers from a chronic shortage of hospital beds, medical equipment and specialist physicians.
Treatment for an estimated 6,000 cerebral palsy patients is particularly problematic with many families unable to cover the cost of its specialized care. Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for Gaza’s Health Ministry notes:
The poor financial conditions of families (means they) cannot take responsibility for their children who suffer from cerebral palsy or provide them with medical care such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy.
According to the World Bank, 56 % of all Palestinians have no access to “reasonable and customary” healthcare. For those few, in Gaza, with the financial ability to obtain necessary health care, a lack of embargoed “sensitive” medications has created a “very very dangerous” situation with dozens of drugs unavailable… including antibiotic skin ointment and medicines to treat infants born with hypoglycemia and to counteract venomous snake bites. The UN reports that 34% of essential life preserving drugs at the Central Drug Store in Gaza are completely out of stock.
According to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel  (PHRI), the public health system is not able to provide specialized treatments for complex medical problems in a variety of fields including neonatal care, cardiology, orthopedics and oncology. Moreover, nearly 50 percent of Gaza’s medical equipment is outdated and the average wait for spare parts is approximately six months. With few functioning mammography machines and the unavailability of radiation treatment, lumpectomies and plastic surgery, women with breast cancer routinely receive mastectomies as the only option.
The energy crisis has shed light on the huge rise in babies born with congenital, and other, disabilities who are waiting to leave Gaza for specialist treatment in Israel or elsewhere. For many, the wait for the much sought after exit permit can prove too long to survive.
Recently, three seriously ill babies died after permits to grant the children treatment in Israel were denied by the Palestinian Authority.  Earlier this year, a 5 year old girl with cerebral palsy died while waiting permission from Israel to leave for external treatment.  Not long thereafter, another 5 year old boy and 22 year old man died waiting permission to obtain treatment outside of Gaza.
Ka’enat Mustafa Ja’arour, 42, died of uterine cancer while awaiting a response to her permit request for treatment at a hospital in Jerusalem.  In May, 52-year-old Talat Mahmoud Sulaiman al-Shawi, a resident of Rafah, died after being denied entry to Israel to treat a kidney tumor. In August, Fatin Nader Ahmed, 26, died in hospital, while awaiting a travel permit for treatment for her brain cancer.
So far this year, 20 patients have died after their exit permits were either denied or not granted in time. Physicians report that another 10 who, in July, died of cancer but could have been saved if they had been transferred elsewhere for treatment.
A short distance from Gaza, Israeli patients receive the benefit of complex medical treatment from some of the finest and most specialized hospital and emergency care centers in the world.
The Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center has been selected as one of the world’s top 10 medical destinations specializes in adult and pediatric neurosurgery, orthopedic and surgical oncology, kidney-pancreas transplants, liver transplants, micro neurosurgery and trauma.
The Assuta Hospital, in Tel Aviv, is part of Israel’s largest private medical service and offers surgeries and diagnostic procedures in all fields of medicine; including cardiology, oncology, gynecology and urology.
The Wolfson Medical Center, on the southern border of Tel Aviv, addresses a wide range of health conditions from malaria to diabetes and heart conditions and specialty care in ENT, orthopedics, infectious diseases, pediatrics, OB/GYN, family medicine and psychiatry.
Meanwhile, back in Gaza, Yara Bakheet, age 4, and Aya Abu Mutalq, age 5, are laid to rest… denied access to basic medical treatment that would have saved their lives but for Israel’s delay in granting an exit visa for treatment.
Gaza Lives
In the light of this nightmare, some wonder what can drive hundreds, at times, thousands of young women and men to the edge of steel barricades and barbed wire that make their home a prison built of walls but not of silence.  Yet they struggle on as they toss stones at soldiers hundreds of yards away and ignite fires that pose no threat but speak loudly of freedom.
Ultimately, it’s the indefatigable spirit of these 140 square miles of self-determination that threatens the myth, indeed, puts the lie to the grand sale of an all powerful and democratic Israel.
What little mark Israel has built and, ultimately, will leave behind in the assembled home it seized has been erected not by the call of principled purpose but the drive to become but another mini-empire in a region long known for despots that have placed economic and political profit before people.
At day’s end, it’s a legacy that knows no home, or welcome, but that of brute force.
For empires large and small, real or sham, history is but a predictable march of gaudy pretense.  Gilded shacks built of shallow stilts and tattered shrines, theirs is homage to little more than empty tease. It’s who and what they are… it’s what they do… at least until they crash. And sooner or later they all crash.
Be assured, Israel will not be the exception.
Yes, empires come and go like so much a cheap, but deadly, chase for a call in eternity that welcomes no such guest.  For the learned, it’s a lesson of history acquired not by 140 characters but by keen informed observation. For far too many, empty sound bites have, today, become a defining vision without a view.
Yet, there are crossroads in history where an image, a single glance, depicts more powerfully than the finest of poetic verse, a statement of principle, determination and sacrifice which inspires the winds of time for evermore.
Somewhere, right now Faris Odeh, Rachel Corrie and Ibrahim Abu Thuraya smile down upon us as history’s hope and eternity’s message.

U.N. says 'massive' rights abuses in southern Philippines could intensify under martial law

A Muslim indigenous community in the southern Philippines has suffered widespread human right abuses that could intensify with President Rodrigo Duterte’s extension of martial law there, U.N.-appointed experts said.
Duterte has called the huge island of Mindanao a “flashpoint for trouble” and atrocities by Islamist and communist rebels. He placed it under martial law in May after Islamist militants took over the city of Marawi.
The five-month siege was the majority-Roman Catholic Philippines’ biggest security crisis in decades, killing more than 1,100 people, mostly militants.
Lawmakers this month overwhelmingly backed his plan to extend martial law there through 2018, which would be the country’s longest period of emergency rule since the 1970s era of strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
The militarization had displaced thousands of the indigenous Lumad people and some had been killed, said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s special rapporteurs on the rights of indigenous peoples and internally displaced people.
“They are suffering massive abuses of their human rights, some of which are potentially irreversible,” the two said in a statement late on Wednesday.
“We fear the situation could deteriorate further if the extension of martial law until the end of 2018 results in even greater militarization.”
The Philippines was obliged by international law to protect indigenous people and ensure human rights abuses were halted and prosecuted. “This includes killings  and attacks allegedly carried out by members of the armed forces,” they said.
The government fears that mountainous, jungle-clad Mindanao, a region the size of South Korea, could attract foreign militants.
The U.N. experts said they had information suggesting that 2,500 Lumads had been displaced since October, and that Lumad farmers had been killed by military forces on Dec. 3 in the province of South Cotabao.
”We fear that some of these attacks are based on unfounded suspicions that Lumads are involved with militant groups or in view of their resistance to mining activities on their ancestral lands,” the pair said, without giving further details.
In Manila, opposition members of the House of Representatives filed a petition with the Supreme Court questioning the legality of extending martial law.
They asked the court to declare the extension null and void “for having been requested and granted without sufficient factual basis on the existence of an actual invasion or rebellion as required by the constitution”.
A spokesman for Duterte said the martial law extension was needed “to quell the remaining terrorists who brought destruction to Marawi and its neighbouring communities”.
Its legal and factual basis had been “clearly established based on the security assessment by our ground commanders”, Harry Roque added in a statement.
Since Duterte took power in June last year, the Philippines has also drawn international criticism for the killing of about 3,900 people in police anti-drugs operations. Police deny allegations by human rights advocates that many of the killings were executions.

Netanyahu embraces racist rabbis as EU lavishes support on Israel

EU Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret, left, raises a glass with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in October. (via Facebook)
A day after meeting Zionist rabbis – who form the religious backbone of Israel’s West Bank colonization – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu awarded another big dollop of cash for settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
According to the newspaper Haaretz, Netanyahu had sought the rabbis’ support in the face of mounting corruption probes. Netanyahu’s office denies any quid pro quo.
Among those meeting the prime minister were Haim Drukman, one of the founders of the Gush Emumim settler movement.
In 2012, Drukman, along with other senior rabbis and officials, held a ceremony to bid farewell to a prison-bound settler convicted – a rare occurrence – of abusing a Palestinian by beating him up, firing a gun near his head, stripping him and leaving him naked by the side of a road.
Drukman led that ceremony along with Dov Lior, a rabbi from the notoriously extreme settlement of Kiryat Arba.
Lior has praised Baruch Goldstein, who gunned down 29 Palestinians in the 1994 Hebron massacre, as “holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust.”
With a long record of violent incitement, Lior has also called on Israel to “cleanse” all Palestinians from territories it controls.
Lior was not reported to have attended the meeting with Netanyahu, but others on the guest list are scarcely less extreme. They include, for instance, Elyakim Levanon, who in 2014 called on the government to ban Arabs from driving cars.
Another, Eli Sadan, bears responsibility for institutionalizing the religious indoctrination and radicalization of Israeli youth before they enter the army.
Sadan, like other leading settler rabbis, is a graduate of Mercaz HaRav, a religious Zionist yeshiva, or school, which advocates keeping women out of institutions and rejects the state’s authority to withdraw from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
For those still in denial, this meeting gives a true measure of how seriously to take Netanyahu’s professed commitment to “peace” and a “two-state solution.”
But these harsh realities have made no dent whatsoever in the perception and policies of the European Union.

“Out of the public eye”

On Wednesday, the very day the new funding for Israel’s ever-expanding settlements was announced, the EU’s ambassador in Tel Aviv took to Twitter to brag about “how deep and strong EU-Israel relations are.”
Emanuele Giaufret tweeted a link to an article he penned for The Jerusalem Post defending the EU against claims that the bloc is somehow hostile to Israel.
“Relations are flourishing,” he writes, providing a laundry list of the support and “cooperation” the EU lavishes on Israel, including a staggering $550 million in “research” funding just since 2014.
That amounts to a $1 million reward for every child Israel killed during its 2014 assault on Gaza.
Giaufret admits that the EU “works closely with the Israeli government in all fields of cooperation – usually out of the public eye.”
This secrecy is not surprising since EU officials have admitted privately that ordinary Europeans strongly disapprove of the EU’s support for a government that violently deprives millions of Palestinians of their rights and freedom.

Mere “differences”

Giaufret does not mention Palestinians at all, but only alludes in passing to “differences on certain issues” between Israel and the EU.
There is no mention of settlements, evictions and home demolitions in Jerusalem, Israel’s systematic human rights abuses – including against hundreds of children like Ahed Tamimi who are in military detention – or of Israel’s wanton killings of Palestinian civilians like disabled protester Ibrahim Abu Thurayya.
Giaufret seems to be doing everything he can to persuade Israelis that the EU will never do anything to hold Israel accountable – though he did not go quite as far as his predecessor who last summer hired an advocate of genocide of the Palestinians to tout the benefits of EU-Israel trade.
It is true that most EU governments did anger Israel by backing the recent UN General Assembly resolution declaring Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to be null and void. But this is mere lip service in light of the EU’s steadfast policy of rewarding and incentivizing Israel’s crimes, including its colonization of East Jerusalem.
What Giaufret’s article confirms is that the fate of a people who have survived decades of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid does not even rate a mention in the European Union’s messaging to the Israeli public.
These are mere “differences” that can’t even be named.
The clear message from Brussels is that in the rush by Europe’s elites to embrace Israel’s ever more extreme government, Palestinian lives just don’t matter.