By: Mohammad Hassam Kang
Have you ever traveled far in search of the Justice and the Truth, venturing to such wide lengths as immersing oneself in a place that showcases extreme human condition? It was a gloomy, rainy Friday night at MCWS, when the Muslim Legal Defense Fund of America held a fundraising event that filled up every hall and chair to hear the humbling story of journalist Lauren Booth's journey to Islam.
Currently employed at Iranian Press TV, she humbled everyone when she shared her story, as the boldness of it drew light on the minds that try to ignore this hour of oppression that has befallen our fellow brothers and sisters as well as the subtleties that draw us towards this faith.
Sister Booth's unique journey started in 1967 in London where she was born to a devout Catholic mother.
Noticing the distinction even at age 7, as her mother would hang up crosses around the house and her dad would drink heavily, Booth recognized that there was a celestial order and began praying to God, talking openly in prayer about any issue that bothered her. But soon, as we all have experienced, faith is eroded by the Ego, and mind-ravaging arrogance deceives us to view God as weak. But eventually when we're done trying to assess the blame, find a scapegoat, and dismiss our problems, we are awakened by a grave sense of guilt and anger, and misplaced spiritual rage that coalesces around the truth. It was then that Sister Booth would start reconsidering some of the more trivial aspects of her life, like caring too much about the style of hair or clothes that one wears.
Sister Booth started noticing and befriending the Muslim girls at her school. She noticed that they were well suited to be friends because they talked less and studied harder, but at this point she could only recall three consistencies in this foreign religion of Islam between the Muslim girls that she had met. One being that Muslim girls had shiny hair when it wasn't covered and two was that all Muslim girls were training to be doctors. Thirdly, seeing their discipline, she also noticed that they would never converse with the opposite sex and she found that there were no boys allowed near them.
Later, one day in her career she came across a heart- wrenching photo by a photojournalist. The picture told a familiar tale and one that signals the oppression and repression of the Ummah by the powers that be, as it depicted a Palestinian boy holding a rock, aiming it at an Israeli tank. She felt the message and felt the courage of the boy, who stood up to one of the most indifferent killing machines man has ever been damned enough to invent. He somehow said to it that “as long as I have this rock, you cannot hurt my family,” as King David aiming at Goliath with the single stone. Booth was shaken by the image and sought to reconcile with humanity as the fires of empathy burned bright. She decided right then that she had to go to the place where the image came from and was on her way to Palestine with an embattled heart.
After she landed at the Tel Aviv Airport, she met a cab driver named Jamal who called himself Jimmy. She said he gave her occupation 101, when she requested to go down an empty road because it would be faster, but Jimmy coldly explained that some roads are for Jews only. He said that the virtual state of apartheid had relegated him to substandard second class citizen, as he must pay taxes for roads that he can't even use. At this point Sister
Booth admits that she had little knowledge of Islam. Her "arabaphobia" became apparent as she went for an interview with former PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas, and saw frantic men with walkie talkies yelling in Arabic and pacing back and forth. But in the streets she would notice the sense of hospitality that the Palestinians, a people who had lost everything, were still able to provide.
This softened her heart and gave her a sense of humility. As Sister Booth beautifully explained, such kind human behavior often melts the hardness around your heart that society encases in our own fleeting desires. But her next experience was all the more telling and strange. She met with the honorable Shaikh Raed Salaah, who protected Masjid Al-Aqsa, and said he had an aura which was hypnotizing and made her want to be in his company, also known as the "Lion of Palestine". It was at this point that she made a transformation and started being called towards Islam. She said that at first glance she never expected herself to become Muslim. She met Palestinian sisters that were strong willed and independent and had such noor, or light, that it made her want to be like them.
She said visiting the refugee camps and seeing the suffering, she felt angry for the pain of the people that lived there, but the people themselves emanated such peace and tranquility that it made her feel ashamed. Some of the refugee camps were riddled with bullet holes. Such is the state of our people that are in dire need of Justice, and freedom from oppression.
Years later Shaikh Salaah is in jail and even Masjid al-Aqsa has its share of bullet holes, as we now live in a time where, instead of working out a way to a peaceful solution, there is only amplified violence. What opens up one’s eyes to the struggle is the search for justice and truth and to plunge into the depths and see the oppression first hand.
Sister Booth's story touched us all, but which one of us will challenge ourselves as the Quran instructs us, "Be upholders of justice, bearing witness for God alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives. Whether they are rich or poor, God is well able to look after them. Do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth." In an age when vague laws are broadly applied and Justice is administered very selectively and partially, please support our brothers at MLFA who are doing everything they can, on behalf of our fellow American Muslims that are being persecuted by these new legal entrapments, such as the 1996 antiterrorism legislation and measures of suspended habeas corpus and preemptive detention.
May Allah aid us in our search for Truth and help us understand the path to relieving the oppression of anyone who has met with the dealers of injustice and inequity.
By Faiz Ahmed, Oakland University
The Palestine Cultural Office (PCO) and the United States Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) jointly commemorated the 63rd anniversary of the Palestinian Nakbah (Exile) at Burton Manor in Livonia, on Saturday May 14th, 2011.
Hasan Newash of the Palestinian Cultural Office commenced the program. He spoke about the will of the Palestinian people in exile and their will to continue to struggle for their right to reclaim their home. “Ben Gurion, the first prime minister said, that the Palestinian story will end when the old will die and the new will forget. Guess what? We are proving them wrong, our people are resilient and our people are not forgetting our rights,” he said.
He also spoke about the USPCN, and said that it was a new initiative to unite the Palestinian community to allow the Palestinians to speak with one voice.
He introduced Dr Khalil Katato, the treasurer of the Michigan branch of the USPCN. Dr. Katato also spoke about the new USPCN initiative. He said that USPCN stands for the Palestinian community as a whole and not ‘communities’ that are divided.
Dr Katato then introduced Aamir Othman, a founding member of USPCN and the national representative. Othman spoke with great hope and drew links between the Arab revolutions and the Palestinian struggle.
“There is a natural connection between the Arab revolutions and the Palestinian struggle. It was what we have lost as a link over the past 63 years if not more. Today, for the first time we see the voice of the Arab world coming together, the voice of democracy, the voice that echoes in Gaza in Palestine, in Tahrir in Egypt,” he said.
He then introduced the guest speaker Awad Abdel Fattah, the Secretary General and a founding member of the National Democratic Assembly Party. Fattah has also been an editor of two different newspapers and a target of persecution by the Israeli government.
This was Fattah’s first visit to the USA and he currently resides in occupied Palestine.
Fattah spoke about the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis. He said that since the Zionist movement wanted to establish their homeland in Palestine. To achieve that, they systematically carried out ethnic cleaning. The reason why they carried out ethnic cleaning was because they wanted to ensure a Jewish ethnic majority and show to the world that they were the only civilized nation in the Middle East because of their democratic values.
“Some thought that after the horrors of the Holocaust, nothing like that would ever happen again, but the victims of the holocaust were themselves perpetrating a holocaust and the Palestinian people are the victims of the victims of the holocaust. We are not just the victims of the holocaust, we are also victims of the democracy of the state of Israel. The Zionists wanted to make Israel a democracy to endure the moral, economic and military support of the western countries. Every settler came with the slogan that they were civilizing the barbaric people of the east and tried to exhort itself as the only enlightened state in the region. To ensure their power in the democratic system, ethnic cleansing was inevitable” he said.
He also mentioned that after the creation of the state of Israel, they enacted laws and legislation that marginalized the Palestinians, confiscated their lands and tried to suppress their identity. He also mentioned that Israel is worse than an apartheid state because there are two types of citizenships: one for Jewish settlers and one for native Palestinians.
After Fattah’s speech, the keynote speaker, Helen Thomas, addressed the audience.
Helen Thomas was the most senior White House correspondent and covered the White House press releases for the last 50 years.
Thomas ran the audience through with the history of the creation of the state of Israel. She expressed her feelings that the Palestinian people have the right to return to their ancestral homeland. She also mentioned that the Balfour Declaration was unfair, in that, the British promised the Zionist movement headed by the Banking house of Rothschild to give them a land that they did not have the right to give and that did not belong to them.
“Under international law, you cannot annex territory, something which the Israelis have been doing with impunity and with the allegiance of the United States. Israel has been involved in a land grab which was started by three terrorist gangs, namely Irgun, Stern gang and Haganah who savaged and pillaged Palestinian villages, even babies were bayoneted in their beds” she said.
She also praised the Arab revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. She said that this just goes to show that “Man cannot live under tyranny.” She said the Middle East is in turmoil with real revolutions under way and the day of dictatorships is over.
“Israel has been terrorizing the Palestinians for years and these revolutions scare them and it should” she said. “I would like to tell America to wake up to the plight of the Arabs and I would like to tell the Arabs to stand up and keep fighting” she said.
After her speech, Noura Erakat, a political activist and professor of International Human Rights Law spoke to the audience via a recorded message.
Erakat’s message was a call to unity of all Palestinians to come together, Palestinians that live in the West Bank, Gaza or in exile all over the world. She praised the USPCN grassroots effort as a great step in the direction of unity. She called for a boycott of all Israeli products, campus campaigns, and educational town hall meetings.
The entire event had a charged atmosphere, with emotions ranging from remembrance of tragedy to that of hope and unity.
Helen Thomas was presented with an article from EWL honoring her achievement and struggle.
By Allen Colombo
David Grossman’s book, The Yellow Wind, was an attempt by a Left-liberal Israeli newspaper to understand the rift between the Palestinian Arabs and the Israelis, more specifically those living within the refugee camps and outside of the State of Israel itself.
The setting of this account takes place is in the mid eighties, when the situation was at a boiling point, and shortly after the work was published, an uprising begun among the Palestinians. When looking back here on his work one can find that within the text there are so many examples that show just how bad the situation had become.
Many times in his book Grossman asks questions to the people who would rather not have to answer them, as well as to people who are in need of a voice. In doing so he creates a work that clearly shows his attitude toward his home land and his people, as well his sympathy for the Palestinians and their situation. He also demonstrates his understanding of how the situation would have an effect on the future of Israel and the whole Middle East as a direct result
I found this book to be a good source of material in learning about the conflict and how it had an impact on the people, due to the large number of individual accounts and in depth analysis of every statement and every sight Grossman sees during his time in writing his book, The Yellow Wind.
Grossman shows a unique view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he starts off by going to Arab settlements and the Deheisha refugee camp asking the inhabitants many questions, about the Israelis about the government, how they feel about “the situation”, their thoughts and personal stories.
The Palestinians in turn reply with an astonishing history of the brutality and oppression they have been suffering since the exile from their lands. His experience at the Deheisha refugee camp allows him to see the longing for the Palestinians to return home, how they live a double life within themselves, how they are a people who are waiting to return to homes that may never again be theirs. They all tell him of these places, and of how wonderful and beautiful they are although most have never once seen the cities they speak of with their own eyes.
For example, a sixteen-year old girl he talks to, tells him of the city of ‘Ludd’ with houses as big as palaces “and in every room a hand painted carpet. And the land was wonderful, and a sky that is always blue.”
This allows for further elaboration into the subject of how or why rather do the Palestinians harbor such a deep sense of loss and how exactly do they see as the problem between the Jews and the Palestinians.
Grossman often times takes pause in comparing and contrasting between the Jewish oppression in Europe and how the Palestinians are in a position similar to that, referring to how the Palestinians now have nothing to lose.
He makes a direct link to the Jews who were living in Eastern Europe, in Latvia and Cracow. This he concludes, with the help of the refugee population, that this is a direct result of “bolitics” how the government feels about the people within the state.
He talks to a woman who tells of the Israeli willingness to bring down their governmental might upon a whole people because the actions of a few individuals.
However there are some ways in which the Arab population can help their situation and that is not to change in the face of such oppression, to wait and to be patient as was told to him by a wise man.
The Jewish people were able to change their situation, get out of oppression, and return to their assessorial homeland from Europe with centuries of waiting and through the support of individuals who could work within the vast world of “bolitics”.
Traveling to the Deheisha refugee camp again Grossman attempts to look toward the future of Israel, the children and the situation in which they are growing up in. “The future of every race resides within their children” he writes.
As he walks through the miserable conditions of the refugee camp he notes many details, how the city is in a constant state of building for if they were to stop building what they had worked so hard to build would collapse upon its self. He makes his way to the Deheisha kindergarten where he speaks with the teachers, as well as the students.
This was something that struck me and left an impression. The way in which Grossman describes the children as, “the children who in ‘67 sold us figs for ‘grush’ and afterwards they grew up a little and became the ‘shabab’, you know, the ones with the look of hate in their eyes.”
These same children who he is interviewing he understood the possibility of them growing up and carrying out acts against the State of Israel, to me it was amazing how he was able to maintain a state of neutrality while looking into the causes of the conflict, so that a deeper level of understanding would be obtained.
The physical appearance of the streets leading to the kindergarten seems appalling as written, and does not leave any room for the actual buildings to be much better. This gives a sense of feeling as to the situation these children know and will grow up in, a situation they will come to understand as normal but not right.
He notes the contrast in the obedience of the Arab children when compared to Jewish counterparts. “How well the children behave where as in a Jewish school the children are not quiet and cannot sit still” he writes.
The explanation Grossman describes is that the Jewish children “are a free children, and you can only understand what this blessed, natural freedom is only when you see it’s opposite.”
In talking with these students and teachers both, Grossman comes to understand truly the terror in which these people live. They tell him stories of how Israeli soldiers break into the homes at night and conduct raids in which family members go missing, and how in such a state a sense of safety or security can be maintained. How that these raids conducted by the Israeli army lead to first fear and then to anger and finally to hate; the children come to hate the soldiers because of the atrocities they commit to their families, to them. I could only guess that such an event in a child’s life would leave a deep impression, and Grossman shows the importance of these types of situations and how they only lead to future problems and issues.
Going further to compare and contrast he looks into the dreams of the children and how these dreams could give an insight to the thoughts of the children about the Jewish or Arab people.
This study showed in the end that within both groups the children did indeed dream about meetings with the opposite side, however the study showed that the Palestinian children were much more affected by such dreams of conflict, and yet in both Jewish and Arab children there was not one dream that gave any hope for peace.
In contrast to meeting with the Arab population Grossman also meets with some of the Jewish family in Gush Emunim as well, this leads to some trouble with conflicting ideals, in the beginning. Finally in the end he realizes the problem lies with the hypocrisy, and again the younger generation is involved, to which they are left to fill the gaps that their parents and teachers leave for them. He wants to have the answer for only one simple question, he wanted to know if the Jews understood why it was that there is hostility between the two groups, the family he spoke to could not, or would not answer this question for him. The response he received was “don’t pity them too much.”
From this he was forced to move onto another topic for the discussion that night, however the family was reluctant again to answer him clearly, and using what he described as acrobats with words, dancing and fluttering around the question until there could not be any chance for a direct answer.
The facts that were shown were that the Jewish population as a whole was disconnected with the problem, they did not feel it in their everyday lives as the Palestinians did, and it was because of this that their understanding of the topic and their unwillingness to answer questions directly led to the tense conversations with the author.
Grossman is increasingly showing his worry for the future of Israel, “where is the identity of the country as a whole?” he writes. “What kind of future will Israel have if the Palestinian lands remain occupied?” Grossman wonders.
When looking to the future of Israel, the Palestinians shown within the book have a drive and a motivation, this can be seen in the numerous examples of the students Grossman speaks with in collecting the data for his books, not only with the students but as well the teachers and the professors of the Bethlehem University, when he visits this college sponsored by Vatican, he can see that there is such an amazing focus here among the Palestinian students, a drive to gain an education so that they may find a way to change their world.
He comments that the college level here was about the equivalent to his high school. None the less this shows a willingness and the understanding on the part of the Palestinians that they need education to succeed in improving their situation.
It is because the situation runs so deep within the minds and hearts of the students that even into the most basic classes, talks of politics occurs. There is no escaping it, and it can be felt by Grossman as he collects the thoughts of the administration and students. One girl in particular, Raula to whom he speaks after a small demonstration takes place, in which he fears he could be harmed; tells him about why it is that there is this focus among the students. She goes on to tell him that the students fear runs so deep that they cannot even speak their minds about their subjects.
She tells him about the Israelis killing a young woman because she would start demonstrations, and was an activist. In telling of this girl she is showing that she is not ignorant of the past, that there are thoughts within the Palestinians as a collective group.
Another point of focus is on the actual occupation of the Palestinian land, and how this is so very complicated when it comes to the laws and legality. The big under lying questions are -: Can the Israeli occupation forces truly keep their emotions out of this issue? Can they remain moral in their role as an occupying force? And how will this relationship shape the future of the West Bank and Gaza?
There is a great significance in showing this relationship, in a court trial of Palestinians through the military court system of course, Grossman shows just how connected everything is. In the sentencing of the boy, Jafer, who was going to study in Germany, there is nothing the judge can do to make things easy, no matter what he does the boy will be put in jail, there is only how bad things will be if he chooses to put him in now or later. It is as Grossman puts it a “Catch-44 is a combination of two Catch-22s.”
Later on in his work we see something quite different, and yet at the same time all too similar to the stories in the early part of the book.
Here we see the underground world of the Palestinians if they want to make any kind of life for themselves, it is a meager way to go, no education to fall back on, nothing but the left over work that the Jewish inhabitants do not want to have to lower themselves into doing. This is where young and old Palestinians can make a career for themselves doing tasks such as washing dishes and taking out trash, to working in factories. All the while being illegal and not cared for in almost any way, they are exploited by those who hire them for what little pay they must part with. Not only this but we can see even more so that even within this unseen world there is a system in place to which, the social situation is maintained.
Grossman tells of the corruption of the ‘Mukhtars’ who form the bridge between the military government and the Palestinians, and how it is only through nearly impossible means that can one even try to gain a better life. How that for the Palestinians a permit for just seeing ones family costs 3,000 Jordanian dinars, the equivalent at the time of $9,000. In his writing Grossman is showing how this corruption is to the very core, and yet the exterior looks so pristine.
He is uncovering a side of Israel that many would never see otherwise. He speaks to the workers, who toil and in return are given nothing but hardship. In these accounts they tell him of their situations. Khaled shows Grossman his personal thoughts in which we see “confusion, thoughts, and sorrow, and dreams and remorse. Life like a prisoner who has sentenced himself to a life in prison…” Again it is that we see where his focus is, this young man, Khaled age 19, he is the future of Israel, of Palestine; the future resides within the young, for better or worse.
In his work The Yellow Wind, David Grossman takes a deeper look into the Arab-Israeli conflict, and deeper still into the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and how this has had a profound affect on the people living in exile. He looks at their lives and their dreams; he looks at the past and focuses so much more upon the future. However he does not seem at all optimistic about this future. In naming his book The Yellow Wind, there is a depth of symbolism shown, “the wind will come from the gate of Hell … rih asfar, a hot and terrible east wind which comes once in a few generations, sets the world afire”. It seems because of his experience Grossman has lost that grand vision he once had if Israel, of “an enlightened nation by all accounts.” How had such a country founded upon such firm ideals loose respect for the simple understanding of humanity? He shows that this issue will not be resolved in his time it is far too late, his generation is far too involved in the politics to ever repair the gaps. However there might still be a hope Grossman shows us, within the children of both Arabs and Israelis. This is the final hope for Israel, for a better future. In looking at this book one can see that an understanding needs to be met clearly, if there is to be anything to hold on to for tomorrow, the dreams of land, of home of peace, all start with a basic understanding.
By Allen Colombo
I was asked the other day, of five states in the Middle East, which territory is the most likely to find itself open for democracy. Of these choices, there were, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and the occupied territory of Palestine. With all of these choices there are many challenges, as well as some hopes that could provide to help facilitate democratization in the region.
Of the five choices the one that I feel is the most likely to democratize would be the Occupied Territories of Palestine, however, some conditions must, which I cannot stress enough, be met in order for this to happen.
There are many reasons that can be identified that would facilitate the rise of democracy in the territories. Along with these reasons that would allow democracy to flourish, there are also factors that prohibit this from happening up to the present day. Some of the factors that could be used to argue the point that the occupied territories could become a democratic state would be; the democratic system currently in place in GAZA, international support for freedom in Palestine, and the ongoing peace negotiations. In spite of all these reasons for a good chance of democracy appearing in Palestine there are many factors that are inhibiting the realization of democracy in Palestine, such as; first and foremost the Israeli occupation, U.S. support for Israel, and the lack of territorial integrity.
My reason for saying that the Palestinian territories could be ripe for democracy, is the fact that within GAZA there is already a democratic system in place. This democracy is controversial on the international level. However, it could be said that if the Palestinian authority were to gain sovereignty, becoming a state, the outside international community should not have a say on their internal affairs.
This would cause the elections by the people of the state of Palestine to be legitimate. This is the largest contribution to the ease of democratization for the Palestine territories. The factors for the promotion of democracy in the Palestinian territories would be the large amount of international support for the liberation of the occupied territories. With the rise in support for the liberation of the occupied territories, again it could be said that there is a very possible chance that if allowed to gain full state status that the choice of government would be a democracy. In addition to that, the local support for the political system in place is a large contributing factor.
The occupied territories political system although it would be hard to say that all Palestinians feel it is a good representation of their aspirations, can say that it is a better circumstance than no representation at all. The main issue being the occupation of the territories, it could be said that they vote into power the groups who are best equipped to protect them, in the event of Israeli invasion as what happened in 2006. The hard issue politics could be said to be the cause for “radical” groups being voted into power by the Palestinian people. Not only these above reasons mentioned, but also because there seems to be at the very least a sense of responsibility of the international community to keep the peace talks going there is still reason to believe that a solution can be found for this conflict.
The one that many seem to be most attracted to is a two state solution. The key factor in democracy in the Palestinian territories I would say is sovereignty. Once that happens there would be no reason not to see democracy gaining a foothold in the region.
Of those factors that would help bring democracy into the Palestinian territories there are others that are limiting the spread of democracy. The greatest reason it could be argued that there is not a democratic system in place is the occupation of Israel. The occupation has a long history, and some would say that there is no hope for it to end. It is because of this, more than anything else that the elected Palestinian authority, HAMAS, has not been able to actually rule with any legitimacy.
It could be also noted that the occupation would not be possible without the help of the United States aid that flows into Israel. Israel counts on the U.S. for much of its aid, without this aid Israel could not exist how it does today. With such cheap housing for its citizens, and the settlers who keep expanding further and further into the occupied territories. Not only does this aid allow the average Israeli citizen to live a comfortable life, it also allows the government to spend more on its military and defense budget. This causes a security dilemma if nothing else within the region, and nations who feel threatened work on building up their forces for their own protection. When this occurs the Israeli government is quick to take action, more often than not, which keeps the conflict smoldering.
This special relationship between the U.S. and Israel is one of the main problems in solving the conflict, it could be said due to the above reasons, which directly prohibits democracy from appearing in the occupied territories. Another main factor that makes it very difficult for the occupied territories to unify and create a democratic system is that there is no territorial integrity between the West Bank and Gaza. This is a very real problem for the Palestinian representatives, because without this territorial integrity any form of government would be hard pressed to carry out the needs of its constituents. This problem is further troubled by the Israeli roads which even within the West Bank divide the cities further, causing an even more disconnection among the Palestinians.
Although it is unlikely to see democracy come to place in Palestine until the occupation ends there is still some hope for the appearance of a democratic Palestinian state once a peace agreement can be found. This is in great contrast to other states in the Middle East and North Africa. The one that seems the most likely to not see democracy is Saudi Arabia. There are some reasons for that which could be identified, and be looked at in comparison with other monarchies in the region. For one it is a state that has a vast oil reserve, which allows it to regulate its economy much more than those states that are lacking in oil reserves.
Not only this but Saudi is a very important strategic ally for the U.S. and because of that reason they receive military aid from the U.S. to keep the monarchy in place. In addition to the U.S. interest because of oil, Saudi has had a history of its citizens being somewhat discontented with their state and because they do not have any outlet for this dissatisfaction they turn to violent methods, this is another reason that the U.S. maintains a high amount of interest in the stability of the current Saudi government. Some of the internal factors that allow for the continuation of Saudi monarchial rule is the fact that they have a very small citizen population in comparison to their wealth as a nation, with much of their population being made up of immigrant workers looking to benefit from the vast wealth the state has to offer them, this is another way that the monarchy is able to maintain a large amount of control. Finally, because of the royal family’s history as the leaders of not only the state, but also its important tribal position within the country, this is another point of claim to power that can if needed be called upon to show their legitimacy to rule.
The oil wealth of the gulf-states is almost immeasurable. This is something that has greatly benefited many of the governments in the region with some varying degree. Saudi is one of the states that seems to have benefited the most from their oil more than others, because of the sheer size of the state, and the relative emptiness of much of it there is more oil per-individual than almost any other state, this allows for the government to provide for their citizenry in ways that is impossible for other states to do so. Because of this much of the citizenry are overall content with the economic situation of their country, and are able to live in some form of comfort when compared to citizens of other states in the region.
This allows for a higher amount of stability of the monarchy, and thus preventing democracy from developing in Saudi. In addition to this vast reserve of oil, the Saudi government is a close ally to the United States for a few different reasons, and because of that relationship they receive aid in the form of American military support and American business. America is the largest importer of Saudi oil in the world, due to the American economic dependence on oil. It has been shown time and time again just how vital this oil supply is the U.S. in the 1970’s and as recent as the late 2000’s. Because of this the United States has to maintain good relations with the monarchy in place or risk the chance of its largest supplier of oil put lower caps on the amount they are willing to export.
In addition to this business relationship, it is in both states mutual interest for the monarch to remain in place because of the greater control the government has on regulations of its citizens. Saudi has had problems with many people who are not satisfied turning to violent methods to have their issues addressed. Those who are not satisfied with the US presence, Saudi government, or any other issue that could possibly be addressed have become threatening force to not only the monarchy but the United States as well.
This is a factor that makes the US more willing to support the monarchy, because of this critical security threat to American interests at home and abroad. Another factor for U.S. security is the Persian Gulf and Iran, in which maintaining good ties with the house of Saud is a crucial element. The regional strategic location of Saudi Arabia has become another major reason why it is that the U.S. supports the current regime in Saudi.
The threat of Iran gaining nuclear capabilities has risen in recent times, and ever since the 70’s the relationship between the United States and Iran has been strained almost to a breaking point. Saudi, because of its location in relation to Iran has been used for the US as a strategic positioning point for their military, of which the Saudi government does not totally disagree because it at the same time provides them with a large amount of stability, and a close ally in their own yard. Finally when looking at the ability for the Saudi monarchy to claim to be the legitimate rulers of the state, it can be looked at through a historical context as well. Ever since gaining independence from the Ottoman Empire the territory of Saudi has been under the leadership of the family Saud, if all else fails the regime that historical context can provide some leverage in its position to rule the nation, and by extension the state.
These are some of the possibilities of the challenges, that the Occupied Territories face, as well as some of the benefits that they have when it comes to the possibility of gaining democracy if they were to become a state. I would ask my readers to think about this question, and see what their role would be in helping those countries that have yet to reach their full potential.
By Allen Colombo
On Monday Jewish settlers lit fire to a Mosque in Ramallah, Israel. This event will likely make the peace negotiations come to a standstill in the ongoing process which has been stalled over the settlements in the West Bank.
Palestinians claim that Jewish hardliners set fire to the village of Beit Fajjar, near the city of Hebron. It has been argued that this was an attempt by the settlers to bring these negotiations to an end, in the area where the Jewish settlers are outnumbered greatly. This is a big issue for the Palestinians who claim that they cannot build a state with the current situation of Israel’s expansion into this land that they hold claim. The Israeli government has been in negotiations with U.S. mediators over the last week to find a solution so that direct talks can continue, however, no situation has been found so far. The scene was one of confusion, anger, but most of all sadness. Light blue uniformed police and tan uniformed military personnel were on the site to maintain order. "Only somebody who doesn't fear God would do this," said resident Ayman Taqatqa. "We won't allow people to offend our religion. We'll defend it with our lives."
There has been no group that has come forward to claim responsibility for this action, but it is highly suspected that it was the group of Jewish settlers that are on the fringes of Jewish society and not within the general public thinking.
This is not an unknown thing though and has been going on in different forms known as the “price tag” policy, in which the settlers take matters into their own hand attempting to drive off and terrify the Palestinians living within the region. The reasons for this could be the Israeli government is showing their willingness to give up the settlements for a sustained peace, or even for as little as the slowing down of constructing settlements.
“Revenge” was scribed on the wall of the mosque, written in Hebrew, with much of the carpet burnt to ash, and a row of Muslim holy books, the Qur’an, blackened and charred. Overall it seems that the fire was kept under control and targeted at specific areas and items within the Mosque, over all the damage could have been much worse had the fire gotten out of control. Taqatqa said that he saw a car pull up to the mosque just before dawn prayers. Four men got out of the vehicle, two of whom rushed inside, while two others stood guard outside, two more men stayed in the car waiting to make the getaway. He said he saw a small blaze coming from inside the Mosque and began yelling for his neighbors to come. He said they had to wait for the men to leave before putting out the fire, fearing they could be armed Jewish settlers. This did not stop the Palestinians from holding regular prayers in the Mosque.
This town is ringed by Jewish settlements, and both Palestinian and Jewish community leaders acknowledge that the situation is tense; however, there is little history of physical altercations in the past. In a statement released by his office, Netanyahu condemned the attack on the mosque and ordered his security forces "to act with determination" to bring the arsonists to justice.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak described it as a "shameful act." “Whoever did this is a terrorist in every sense of the word, and intended to hurt the chances for peace and dialogue with the Palestinians,” he said in a statement.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said they were looking into the incident. It was the third West Bank mosque burning in the past year, following incidents last December and March.
There have been no charges pressed as of yet with any of these arson cases, according to Dana Zimmerman or Yesh Din, an Israeli rights group, that monitors any attacks on the Palestinian community in the West Bank. This group holds that only about ten percent of the attacks on the Palestinians result in prosecutions. The international community has put pressure on Israel to take action against attacks and discrimination against the Palestinians, but there has been very little real steps taken. The only response from the Israeli government on the attacks to the international community was stated at a daily press briefing on October 4th, they stated that “We condemn this attack in the strongest terms and call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. We note that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Barak have also condemned the attack and have called for an investigation.”