Monthly Archives: July 2009

‘The war is with the Arabs’

29/07/2009 01:00:00 PM GMT   Comments (show_art_comments_count(‘255215’);27)     Add a comment     Print     E-mail to friend
Israeli racism rarely shocks me anymore, but its blatant display still makes me stop and catch my breath

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By Hannah Mermelstein

I saw this sign as I was entering Nablus last week, again on my way to Ramallah, and again near Bethlehem. The phrase is printed in Hebrew, presumably by Israeli settlers, on huge signs throughout the West Bank. Israeli racism rarely shocks me anymore, but its blatant display still makes me stop and catch my breath as I translate it into other contexts. Imagine driving through the middle of a predominantly black neighborhood in a U.S. city or town and seeing an enormous sign that says, “The war is with the Blacks.”

I think about security. Israel’s abuse of the word has rendered the concept almost meaningless in the region, but the importance of security on individual and communal levels cannot be underestimated. However, most discussions I see in the media about security ignore the Palestinian people’s right to security. “The war is with the Arabs” is a new sign, as far as I know, but for years in the West Bank I have seen stars of David scrawled on Palestinian shops and homes, and signs like “Death to Arabs” and “Kahane was right” (Kahane was an extremist political leader who promoted ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people; this sign is essentially equivalent to “Hitler was right” in the middle of a Jewish neighborhood).

But signs are not only created; they are also destroyed. Since 1948, Palestinian people inside Israel have experienced erasure and denial of their identities that is perhaps stronger than that of any other group of Palestinian people. I visited a friend in Lyd last week who lives on Giborai Yisrael (“Heroes of Israel”) Street. Driving around the Palestinian neighborhoods in Lyd, we passed roads bearing the names of Herzl, Jabotinsky, and other Zionist leaders. None of the old Arabic street names remain. Even large cities with considerable Palestinian populations are now seeing Arabic names officially erased from signs. In Arabic script, “Yaffa” will become “Yafo,” “Nasra” will become “Natzeret,” and “Al Quds” will become “Yerushalayim.”

Lack of security goes beyond denial of identity and history as visually expressed through signs. A Palestinian friend with Israeli citizenship told me he has heard a rumor that a huge piece of land in Jordan is being cleared and built up for the eventual arrival of the Palestinian population of Israel after they are transferred from their homes. “It may be conspiracy theory,” he said, “but I don’t know.”

“I’d like to think that Israel couldn’t get away with that,” I responded.

“Of course they can,” another friend from Lyd said, “and if the conditions are right, they will.”

Imagine living day to day thinking you might be expelled from your country in the near future. Or in Gaza, wondering if you will be killed tomorrow, or if you will ever be able to come in and out of your country at will. Or in the West Bank, if your son will be arrested, or if you will be able to get through the checkpoint in the morning to get to work. Or in Jerusalem, if your residency will be stripped or your house destroyed.

Imagine little correlation between choice and consequence, an arbitrary relationship between cause and effect. If you are just as likely to get shot and killed sipping tea in your doorway, or sitting in your fourth grade classroom, or participating in a demonstration, or joining the armed resistance, is it any surprise that some choose each?

A friend of mine from the West Bank once told me that she never feels safe, so safety is not a consideration for her in making decisions. As much as I may try, I cannot truly imagine this lack of control.

I met a woman in Jerusalem who was displaced from her home by settlers, physically removed from her house by dozens of Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night. Twice a refugee (1948 and 2008), Um Kamel currently lives in a tent near her house that has been destroyed and re-pitched six times in the past six months. This is perhaps the height of insecurity, yet Um Kamel stays strong and determined. Many in Palestine would call it sumoud, or steadfastness.

This kind of strength is seen remarkably often in Palestine, and indicates a deeper security that comes in part from faith. Faith in God, sometimes, but also faith in each other, in the justice of one’s cause, in the tide of history that has shown that no single occupation in Palestine lasts forever. This, of course, is also Israel’s deepest fear. That no matter how many walls they build, how many people they imprison, how many homes they destroy, how many signs they erase, and how many people they expel, true security will remain elusive, and eventually, Zionism will fail. As many older Palestinian people have said to me, with security, “We have lived through many occupations. This too shall pass.”

— Hannah Mermelstein is co-founder of Birthright Unplugged and Students Boycott Apartheid. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and works with the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel and the Palestine Education Project. She can be reached at hmermels@hotmail.com. This article appeared in CounterPunch.org.

Source: Middle East Online

Nuclear Iran: A headache for USA by USA?

29/07/2009 06:30:00 PM GMT   Comments (show_art_comments_count(‘255380’);9)     Add a comment     Print     E-mail to friend
(payvand.com) The history of the Iranian nuclear programme has to be understood

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By Sohail Parwaz

The foundation of Iran’s nuclear programme was laid in 1960 during the Shah of Iran Reza Pahlavi’s era under the patronage of the U.S. within the framework of a bilateral accord between the two countries. The late Shah had a plan to build a couple of nuclear power reactors.

The most interesting thing is that the Tehran Nuclear Research Centre (TNRC) was equipped with a U.S.-supplied 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor in 1967 and was run by the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI). Iran signed and ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968.

Since Iran’s atomic agency was established and the NPT was signed, the Shah of Iran planned to construct 23 nuclear power stations across the country with the help of the U.S.. by the year 2000.

The Iranian nuclear programme faced setbacks twice and was brought to a standstill. When the Shah of Iran was deposed after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and during the Iran-Iraq war, two unfinished power reactors were bombed and ruined by the Iraqis in Bushehr on the coast of the Persian Gulf.

Although all the nuclear activities were suspended after the 1979 revolution, the work was resumed on a modest scale subsequently. Iran always claimed that it was trying to establish a complete nuclear fuel cycle to support a civilian energy programme, but U.S. and the European countries feared that the same fuel cycle would be applicable to a nuclear weapons’ programme.

Iran appears to have spread its nuclear activities around a number of sites to reduce the risk of detection and attack. It is generally believed that Iran’s efforts were focused on uranium enrichment.

Interestingly, the issues on which the U.S., France, and the UK are making a hue and cry were once hatched and sponsored by them. How could one forget that it was the U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who had signed the National Security Decision Memorandum 292 titled, ‘U.S.-Iran Nuclear Cooperation’ in 1975, which very generously laid out the niceties of the sale of nuclear energy equipment to Iran to bring home more than $ 6 billion as revenue? This cooperation did not stop in the following year (1976) when U.S. President Gerald Ford signed a directive offering Tehran a chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel.

The deal was for a complete nuclear fuel cycle. Besides this, numerous other contracts were signed with various Western firms, including a German firm that began the construction of the Bushehr power plant. Work was halted after the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the German firm withdrew from the project.

Shortly afterwards, Iraq invaded Iran and the nuclear programme was stopped until the end of the war. In 1990, Iran began to look towards partners for its nuclear programme. Due to a radically different political climate and punitive U.S. economic sanctions, few candidates existed at that time. In 1995, Iran signed a contract with Russia to resume work on the incomplete Bushehr plant. It was not until 2002 that the U.S. began to question Iran’s nuclear intentions after Masud Rajavi’s Mujahideen-e-Khalq Organisation of Iran revealed the existence of the Natanz and Arak facilities.

The Iranian nuclear programme has become the talk of these days. It appears that the Western world has come together to oppose Iran’s right to enrich uranium for vested interests best known to Europe and the U.S. It is an open secret now that Iran’s nuclear programme was founded during the Shah of Iran’s rule. After seeing the lows and highs of the time, it has reached a stage where it is not acceptable to the Western world.

Things were sailing smoothly when on one fine morning of February 9, 2003 the then Iranian President Mohammad Khatami disclosed publicly the existence of Natanz and some other nuclear facilities on Iranian television and invited the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit them. He revealed the details about the Iranian programme for enriching uranium at Natanz and other locations. On the Iranian president’s invitation, Dr Muhammad El-Baradei, the head of the IAEA, accompanied by a team of inspectors visited Iran somewhere in late February 2003. Since then the IAEA’s experts and inspectors have visited Iran many times.

On the basis of the observations made during these visits, the IAEA released a prelude in July the same year with a follow-up report on August 26, 2003. These reports were sufficient for the IAEA authorities to be convinced about Iran’s nuclear activities. Thus on September 12, 2003, a formal ultimatum was handed over to Iran by the IAEA to reveal all details on the proceedings in the field with a deadline of October 31, 2003. The Bush administration objected to Iran’s nuclear programme asking why a country that has vast oil and natural gas reserves is striving for nuclear energy.

The most interesting thing is that the logic given now did not strike the American minds back in the 60s when the TNRC was equipped with a first ever U.S.-supplied 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor in 1967. It was before 9/11. The history of the Iranian nuclear programme has to be understood besides finding reasons about what has actually started bothering the West, especially the U.S.

— Sohail Parwaz is columnist, media strategist, and playwright in Pakistan.

Source: Middle East Online

A tale of two murdered women

A tale of two murdered women

16/07/2009 11:30:00 PM GMT   Comments (show_art_comments_count(‘251937’);63)     Add a comment     Print     E-mail to friend
(AFP) A memorial service for Marwa al-Sherbini is held outside the city hall in Dresden on July 11.

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By Walid El Hourican

  • Neda and Marwa: One becomes an icon, the other is unmentioned

On June 20th 2009, Neda Agha Soltan was shot dead during the post-election protests in Iran. The protests occupied the largest news segments around the world, with analysts and commentators predicting the fall of the Iranian regime and the dawn of freedom breaking in “the axis of evil.”

Neda’s death became an icon of the Iranian opposition and a symbol for millions of people of the injustice of the Iranian regime and the defiance of the protesters. Neda’s death was put in context. It was taken from the personal realm of the death of an individual to the public realm of the just cause of a whole society.

On July 1st Marwa El Sherbini, an Egyptian researcher living in Germany, was stabbed to death 18 times inside a courtroom in the city of Dresden, in front of her 3-year-old son. She had won a verdict against a German man of Russian descent who had verbally assaulted her because of her veil. Her husband, who rushed in to save her when she was attacked in the courtroom, was shot by the police. Marwa’s death was not reported by any Western news media until protests in Egypt erupted after her burial. The reporting that followed focused on the protests; the murder was presented as the act of a “lone wolf,” thus depriving it of its context and its social meaning.

The fact that media are biased and choose what to report according to their own agenda is not the issue in this case. What the comparison of the two murders shows, is that European and Western societies have failed to grasp the significance and the importance of the second murder in its social, political, and historical context.

The “lone wolf” who stabbed Marwa 18 times inside the courtroom is the product of the society he lives in. If anything, the murder of Marwa should raise the discussion about the latent (perhaps not so latent anymore) racism against Muslims that has been growing in European societies in the last few decades, and noticeably so since the mid-90s.

It would be difficult to avoid relating the crime to the discussions about the banning of the Niqab, or the previous discussions about the wearing of the veil. These issues and others pertaining to the Muslim immigration in Europe have been occupying large parts of the public debates in several European countries. It would also be difficult not to notice the rapid rise of right wing populist parties to power in several European countries in the last decade, all of which have built their discourse on the fear of Islam and the “immigration problem.”

The absence of reporting, or adequate reporting of the murder, and the alarm bells that did not ring after this murder, reflect the denial in which European societies and public discourse are immersed.

While Europe preaches freedom of expression and the need to accept otherness, and while Europe preaches about the dangers of racism and sectarianism in third world countries, and while Europe warns about hate speech and anti-Semitism, we see race-driven crime, prejudice, and hate speech gaining both legitimacy and power in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Denmark and other democracies in the old continent. Race-driven crimes are constantly presented as exceptions within a tolerant society. However, the recurrence of exceptions puts in question their exceptional nature.

The absence of Marwa’s story from the mainstream media and the failure to start a debate about the immediate dangers of present European anti-Muslim racism shows the depth of the problem and draws us to expect a gloomy future for Muslims in Europe. Muslims like Neda only get to the news if their story serves the dominant narrative that presents Islam as the primary threat to freedom, while Muslims like Marwa who expose the pervasive racism of the West and challenge the existing stereotypes fail to get their story told.

What is significant to note is that in Neda’s case the media accused the Iranian regime as the authority responsible for the context in which the crime was committed rather than looking for the person who actually shot her. The accused is the establishment or the institution rather than the individual shooter. However, in the case of Marwa’s murder the media were persistent in stressing on the individuality of the murderer, calling him a “lone wolf”, implying that he is a social outcast who holds no ties to the society he lives in. The murderer was given a name “Alex W.” and the institution, the society, and the establishment he lives in were taken away from the picture.

While Neda’s death enjoyed wide arrays of interpretations and readings in context, Marwa’s death was deprived of its context and was presented as a personal tragedy, featuring a madman and his victim. Meanwhile Europe keeps shifting to the right at an accelerating pace, and cultural stereotypes, failure to integrate (read: social and political alienation), miscommunication, and a growing financial crisis only nourish this trajectory and support the populist and chauvinistic discourse of various newborn and resurrected right wing parties.

In the 1930s, following the big economical crisis of the 1920s, a young populist right wing party suddenly rose to power in Germany and few predicted what was to follow. There is no realistic proof to say that Europe is a more tolerant society than any other, or to say that people necessarily learn from their history, or even that some societies are exempt from racist behavior. All the evidence points to the end of the European myth of post-war tolerance; and the media have yet to connect the dots before history repeats itself.

— Walid El Hourican be reached at: walid@menassat.com. This article appeared in CounterPunch.org.

Six Imams ‘Flying While Muslim’ Case Goes to Trial

CAIR ACTION ALERT #583:

Action: Six Imams ‘Flying While Muslim’ Case Goes to Trial
Minn. judge sides with imams on key issues in discrimination lawsuit

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/27/09) – CAIR is urging members of the Muslim community and other people who value a diverse and inclusive society to support justice in the case of the six American imams who say their rights were violated in 2006 when they were removed from a US Airways flight in Minnesota and arrested.

On Friday, CAIR released the breaking news that a judge in Minnesota sided with the imams on key issues in their lawsuit against those involved in their removal from the plane. U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery cleared the way for a trial by denying several motions to dismiss the case and ruling that a law passed by Congress after the incident does not grant protection from lawsuits to those sued by the imams.

SEE: Imams Can Pursue Claims Against Police, Judge Rules (Star Tribune)
SEE ALSO: Judge Says Imams Booted from Flight Can Sue Police (MPR)

Judge Montgomery also ruled that the actions of the imams prior to their flight did not justify their detention. She noted that the imams were subjected to “extreme fear and humiliation of being falsely identified as dangerous terrorists.”

Read the entire ruling here.

“The six imams ‘flying while Muslim’ case is a landmark in our nation’s civil rights movement, like other historic cases that have defined the struggle for equality and constitutional rights,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We urge all those who value freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination to support the imams in the final phase of their case.”

He said justice in this case will, inshallah, set a positive precedent against religious and ethnic profiling for travelers of all faiths. Awad noted that CAIR receives a number of reports each year from those who believe they were singled out for “flying while Muslim.”

Earlier this month, CAIR called on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to investigate an incident in which a disabled Muslim traveler from Pennsylvania was forced to undergo a “humiliating” search by airport security personnel in Ohio.

IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUESTED TO MAKE THIS EFFORT SUCCEED:

1. Pray for the success of the case and the protection of the civil and religious rights of the traveling public.

2. Help make history by supporting the imams in the final phase of the case, the trial in August.

To donate, click here:

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In AP’s budget of Rs 1 lakh crore, share of Muslims is less than 0.25%

By Mohammed Siddique, TwoCircles.net,

Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh’s budget for the year 2009-10, with a
total outlay of more than Rs 1 lakh crore, has come as a big
disappointment to the Muslim minority as the state’s Congress
government has not increased a single rupee in its last year’s
allocation of Rs 177 crore.

In the budget presented by the state finance minister K Roshaiah in
the state assembly, the total budget of minority welfare department has
been retained at Rs 177 crore. But the total figure has been shown as
Rs 222 crore by adding the Rs 45 crore of central government’s schemes
for the minorities.

The allocation of Rs 177 crore out of the total budget of Rs 1 lakh
three thousand crore means that the share of the minorities was less
than quarter of a percent. On the contrary, the government has
allocated Rs 702 crore for the backward classes welfare and Rs 309
crore for the tribal welfare.

According to the Census 2001, Muslims constitute 9.17% of the state population of 762,10,007.

An amount of Rs 700 crore will be spent on the educational
scholarships and fee reimbursement of BC students and Rs 83 crore on
tribal students.

The minority welfare budget, which was Rs 120 crore in 2007-08, was
increased to Rs 177 crore in 2008-09 crore. As the support of the
Muslim minority had played a crucial role in bringing Congress back to
power both in the state and the center, the minority community was
hopeful of being rewarded with a handsome increase in its budget. But
they were in for a big disappointment as the allocation for some of the
schemes was drastically reduced.

The state government has earmarked an amount of Rs 153 crore for the
educational scholarships and fee reimbursement and the central
government has provided another Rs 45 crore for the scholarships to the
minority students of Andhra Pradesh. This will take the total fund for
educational programs to Rs 198 crore.

There has been a big change in the component of scholarship and free
reimbursement. The budget for pre and post metric scholarship has been
reduced from last year’s Rs 80 crore to Rs 75.09 crore, the allocation
for fee reimbursement for the higher education and professional courses
has been increase from Rs 35 crore of last year to Rs 72.75 crore. Rs
10 crore is provided for the minority girls residential schools.

However the budget for the mass marriages, which was Rs 5 crore last
year has been reduced to mere Rs 1.25 crore Similarly the budget for
the repair of mosques and churches was reduced from Rs 5 crore to Rs 1
crore. The government retained Rs 2 crore subsidy for the Christians
going on pilgrimage to Bethlehem.

Voicing the dejection and unhappiness of the Muslim minority over
the budgetary allocation Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen described the
budget as “ridiculous and disappointing”.

“Several representations were made to the state government for the
welfare and over all development of minorities specially Muslims. But
the decision of the government shows that it only wants to use Muslims
as a vote bank”, said MIM floor leader Akbaruddin Owaisi.

Warning the Congress party to change its attitude, Owaisi said that Muslims can not be placated by offering the lollypops.

“The state government is making a lot of noise about allocations for
the educational scholarships and fee reimbursements, but the fact is
that still there are thousands of minority students at every level who
are not getting the scholarships”, he said.

Apart from causing the disappointment all around, the budget will
also have a crippling impact on various minorities institutions
including the AP Urdu Academy, Waqf Board and state Haj Committee. The
petty allocations made include Rs 34.62 lakhs for minorities
commission, Rs 36 lakhs for Urdu Academy, Rs 2.80 lakh for Dairatul
Maarif, 8.61 lakh for Waqf properties administration and Rs 15.68 lakh
for Waqf Tribunal.

Demand for higher allocations for the minorities also echoed among
the Muslim leaders of Congress party. The state Congress general
secretary Abid Rasool Khan said that while an amount of Rs 6000 crore
was allotted for the welfare of all the sections of society, the budget
for minority welfare should be increased to Rs 1000 crore.

He pointed out that Muslims will also benefit from the budgetary
allocations made for various other schemes like free health insurance
and Indiramm Housing.

Gaza’s top judge: Lawyers to wear Muslim headscarf

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Gaza’s top judge says he has ordered female
lawyers to wear Muslim headscarves when they appear in court.

The
move is the latest sign that Gaza’s Islamic militant rulers are
increasingly imposing on residents of the coastal strip their strict
interpretation of Islamic law.

Supreme Court chief justice
Abdul-Raouf Halabi says he issued his headscarves order to conform with
Islamic law, which says it’s forbidden for a woman to show her hair in
public.

Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007 and vowed never
to force its conservative values on others. But it has taken a series
of steps in recent months that appear to be aimed at forcing residents
to accept its Islamic-oriented social agenda.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Morocco challenges Mideast Holocaust mind-set

RABAT, Morocco — From the western edge of the Muslim world, the King
of Morocco has dared to tackle one of the most inflammatory issues in
the Middle East conflict — the Holocaust.

At a time when Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s dismissal of the Holocaust has made the
biggest headlines, King Mohammed VI has called the Nazi destruction of
the Jews “one of the most tragic chapters of modern history,” and has
endorsed a Paris-based program aimed at spreading the word among fellow
Muslims.

Many in the Islamic world still ignore or know little
about the Nazi attempt to annihilate the Jews during World War II. Some
disbelieve it outright. Others argue that it was a European crime and
imagine it to be the reason Israel exists and the Palestinians are
stateless.

The sentiment was starkly illustrated in March after a
Palestinian youth orchestra performed for Israeli Holocaust survivors,
only to be shut down by angry leaders of the West Bank refugee camp
where they live.

“The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a
similar massacre by the Jews themselves,” a community leader named
Adnan Hindi said at the time. “We lost our land and we were forced to
flee.”

Like other moderate Arab leaders, King Mohammed VI must
tread carefully. Islamic fervor is rising in his kingdom, highlighted
in 2003 by al-Qaida-inspired attacks in Casablanca on targets that
included Jewish sites. Forty-five people died.

The king’s
acknowledgment of the Holocaust, in a speech read out in his name at a
ceremony in Paris in March, appears to further illustrate the radically
different paths that countries like Morocco and Iran are taking.

Morocco
has long been a quiet pioneer in Arab-Israeli peace efforts, most
notably when it served as a secret meeting place for the Israeli and
Egyptian officials who set up President Anwar Sadat’s groundbreaking
journey to Jerusalem in 1977.

Though Moroccan officials say the
timing is coincidental, the Holocaust speech came at around the same
time that Morocco severed diplomatic relations with Iran, claiming it
was infiltrating Shiite Muslim troublemakers into this Sunni nation.

The
speech was read out at a ceremony launching the “Aladdin Project,” an
initiative of the Paris-based Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah
(Holocaust) which aims to spread awareness of the genocide among
Muslims.

It organizes conferences and has translated key
Holocaust writing such as Anne Frank’s diary into Arabic and Farsi. The
name refers to Aladdin, the young man with the genie in his lamp, whose
legend, originally Muslim, became a universally loved tale.

The Holocaust, the king’s speech said, is “the universal heritage of mankind.”

It
was “a very important political act,” said Anne-Marie Revcolevschi,
director of the Shoah foundation. “This is the first time an Arab head
of state takes such a clear stand on the Shoah,” she said in a
telephone interview.

While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict often
aggravates Arab sentiment toward Israel, Morocco has a long history of
coexistence between Muslims and Jews.

The recent Israeli military
offensive in the Gaza Strip has further inflamed resentment at Israel’s
treatment of the Palestinians. But Ahmed Hasseni, a Casablanca cab
driver, echoes a widely held view that it shouldn’t affect relations
with Morocco’s Jews.

“We’re not dumb,” he said. “We don’t confuse the Israeli army with the Jewish people,” he said.

Jews
have lived in Morocco for 2,000 years. Their numbers swelled after they
were expelled from Spain in 1492, and reached 300,000 before World War
II, when yet more fled the German occupation and found refuge in
Morocco, then a French colony.

Today they number just 3,000, most
having emigrated to France, North America or Israel, but they are free
to come back to explore their roots, pray at their ancestors’ graves
and even settle here.

Simon Levy heads the Jewish Museum in
Casablanca, a treasure trove of old Torah scrolls, garments and jewelry
illustrating the rich culture of Moroccan Jewry.

“That I still run the only Jewish museum in the Arab world is telling,” he said.

Andre
Azoulay, a top adviser to the current king, is Jewish and one of six
members of the king’s council in a monarchy that oversees all major
decisions. Considered one of Morocco’s most powerful men, he views his
country as “a unique case” for the intensity of its Jewish-Muslim
relations. “We don’t mix up Judaism and the tragedy of the Middle
East,” he told The Associated Press in an interview.

A founding
member of the Aladdin project, Azoulay says part of the program’s goal
is to show the West that Muslims aren’t hostile to Jews, and that
Morocco was among countries that resisted Nazi plans to exterminate
their Jewish populations. He points to king Mohammed V, the current
ruler’s grandfather, who is credited with resisting French colonial
anti-Semitic policies.

Such actions were rare, but not unique in
North Africa during World War II. In Tunisia, the late Khaled
Abdelwahhab hid Jews from the Nazis on his farm, and was the first Arab
to be nominated as “Righteous Among the Nations,” a title bestowed by
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, on those who risked their
lives to save Jews in the Holocaust. His case is still under study.

The
Aladdin project is only just beginning. Its work has yet to reach
schools or bookstores in Morocco, although the Shoah foundation’s
Revcolevschi said Anne Frank’s diary is among Holocaust memoirs
available in Arabic and Farsi on the Internet, and is being sold under
the counter in Iran.

“People speak of a clash of civilizations, but it’s more a clash of ignorance,” she said. “We’re countering this.”

Hakim
El Ghissassi, an aide to the senior Islamic Affairs official who
delivered Mohammed’s speech, said the king is uniquely positioned to
promote Islam’s dialogue with Judaism, because his titles include
“Commander of the believers” — meaning he is the paramount authority
for Moroccan Muslims.

“What the king has said on the Holocaust
reflects our broader efforts,” said El Ghissassi, listing such reforms
as courses to reinforce Morocco’s tradition of tolerant Islam by
familiarizing local imams with Jewish and Christian holy books.

“We want to make sure everybody can differentiate between unfair Israeli policies and respect for Judaism,” he said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Related articles

China, Uighur Groups Give Conflicting Riot Accounts

China, Uighur Groups Give Conflicting Riot Accounts

More than 150 people have been killed in rioting in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, with the government blaming exiled separatists for the traditionally Muslim area’s worst case of unrest in years.

Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, July 25, 2009

BEIJING — Three weeks after the riots that left nearly 200 people dead and more than 1,700 injured in the capital of the far western Xinjiang region, the Chinese government and Uighur exile groups have been circulating dueling versions of what happened, in an emotional global propaganda war with geopolitical implications.

This Story

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According to the version of events offered by China’s Foreign Ministry and state media, the ethnic unrest that erupted in Urumqi on July 5 was a terrorist attack by Uighur separatists. Women in black Islamic robes stood at street corners giving orders, and at least one handed out clubs, officials said, before Muslim Uighur gangs in 50 locations throughout the city simultaneously began beating Han Chinese.

In the account being circulated by Rebiya Kadeer, a U.S.-based Uighur leader who has emerged as the community’s main spokesman, Chinese security forces were responsible for the violence that night. According to Kadeer, police and paramilitary and other troops chased peaceful demonstrators, mostly young people protesting a deadly factory brawl elsewhere, into closed-off areas. Then they turned off streetlights and began shooting indiscriminately.

Clear Details Absent

Chinese authorities have allowed foreign reporters access to the area where the clashes occurred and unusual freedom to conduct interviews, and they have provided evidence verifying the brutal attacks on Han Chinese. But few details are clear, and many witnesses who might be able to answer other questions — Who set off the initial violence? Why were the police unable to stop the attacks? — are either in jail or dead.

“The narratives of both the Chinese government and outside observers about what happened are hobbled by the lack of independent, verifiable accounts,” said Phelim Kine, a researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch, which is calling for a U.N. investigation into the incident.

Both sides face huge obstacles in trying to convince the world of their stories.

The Chinese government, after decades of covering up and denying such incidents, has a major trust problem, many analysts say. Chinese officials have said they will release video footage of the attacks, phone records and other evidence to support their view of the events in Urumqi, but have not yet done so.

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For Kadeer, a 63-year-old former business mogul from Xinjiang who was exiled in 2005 and now lives in the Washington area, observers say the main challenge is convincing people that she can give an authoritative account of events that happened in a country she has not visited in years. Uighur exile groups have declined to provide information about their sources in China, saying they fear that those people will be arrested or worse if they speak out.

Resentment has been building for years between Han Chinese, who make up 92 percent of China’s population and dominate its politics and economy, and Uighurs, who once were the majority in the far west, but whose presence there has shrunk in recent decades because of migration by Han Chinese.

Although the Chinese government says its policies have improved Uighurs’ educational and job opportunities, some Uighurs say its goal is to assimilate them at the expense of their language, religion and culture.

In the past, the government has linked Uighur separatism to a group known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which it characterizes as a terrorist organization and blames for some recent attacks. Some analysts say that China exaggerates the influence of this group.

When it comes to the events of July 5, Dong Guanpeng, director of the Global Journalism Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said he thinks China is being honest this time, but that doubts have been cast on the information it is releasing because Kadeer is “doing a better job than the Chinese government in public relations.”

“Of course, Rebiya’s statements have won sympathy in foreign countries,” Dong said. “They contain beautiful lies.”

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Kadeer’s version of events appears to have gained traction abroad. In
Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed solidarity
with China’s Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking minority group, and described
the riots as “a kind of genocide.” Protesters in Tokyo, Washington,
Munich and Amsterdam have descended on Chinese embassies and consulates
demanding a full account of what happened to Uighurs. A top Iranian
cleric condemned China for “horribly” suppressing the community, and
al-Qaeda’s North African arm vowed to avenge Uighurs’ deaths.

Zhan Jiang, a professor of journalism and mass communications at the
China Youth University for Political Sciences, contends that the
Chinese government inadvertently elevated Kadeer’s status and gave her
an audience that she does not deserve. Beijing has accused Kadeer of
being the “mastermind” behind the clashes in Urumqi, accusations she
denies.

“The government should haven’t portrayed her as a hero by condemning
her. She was unknown at first, and she is a well-known person in the
world right now,” Zhan said.


Gaps in Both Stories

Meanwhile, China has hit back by assigning some blame to third
parties. The Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper said that the
United States backed the “separatists” who launched the attacks. It
also said that Kadeer’s organization received funds from the National
Endowment for Democracy, which in turn is funded by the U.S. Congress.
Separately, the official China Daily has played up the terrorism angle,
saying that the riots were meant to “help” al-Qaeda and were related to
the continuing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

Some analysts say there are holes in both sides’ narratives.

For instance, according to Kadeer’s timeline of events, the violence
was triggered by police who “under the cover of darkness . . . began to
fire” on the protesters. But witnesses have said the rioting began
about 8 p.m. Beijing time, when the sun was still up in Urumqi, 1,500
miles west of Beijing.

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Chang Chungfu, a specialist in Muslim and Uighur
studies at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan, said “the two
parties — the government and Kadeer — are choosing the parts of the
stories that favor their own agendas,” in efforts to win foreign
sympathy.

He said he considers it “unlikely that a peaceful protest turned
into violence against innocent people just because of policemen
cracking down,” suggesting at least a measure of organization to the
Uighurs’ attacks on Han Chinese that night.

On the other hand, Chang said, he is skeptical of the government’s
assertions that Kadeer instigated the attacks because she lacks that
kind of power. Furthermore, he said, “the government hasn’t released
detailed information of those who were killed, such as their ages and
identities, so even the number of dead is in doubt.”

Li Wei, a terrorism expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary
International Relations, which is affiliated with China’s national
security bureau, dismissed allegations by state media of involvement by
outside terrorist groups. “I have not found any proof that points at
linkage between the riot and other terrorism groups, including
al-Qaeda,” he said.

Li did say, however, that he believes Kadeer is in contact with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based terrorism expert, blamed some of
the tension on Beijing’s failure to differentiate “between terrorists
who attack and the political activities of separatists.”

“If China is too hard on the Uighur people, then support of
terrorism will grow,” Gunaratna said. “The Chinese government must be
hard on terrorists but soft on the Uighur people.”

Researchers Liu Liu, Wang Juan and Zhang Jie contributed to this report.

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