11 December 2003

Israel News : Jerusalem Post Internet Edition
Hamas wins student election race on Israeli bodycount ticket

Khaled Abu Toameh
Dec. 11, 2003

At Beir Zeit University's student election, which focused on which party had killed the most Israelis, Hamas swept to victory Wednesday, defeating Yasser Arafat's Fatah.

The campaign at the campus near Ramallah featured exploding models of Israeli buses and claims of prowess based on Israeli casualties.

In voting Wednesday, Hamas won 25 seats of the 51 on the council, Fatah took 20, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - a radical PLO faction - won five and the lesser-known People's Party got the remaining seat.

In the last election, just before Palestinians started their armed uprising, Hamas won with a two-seat margin over Fatah, emphasizing its armed struggle against Israel.

This time, Fatah focused on its military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, which has carried out dozens of attacks against Israelis. "Now we have our struggle. We have the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades striking the occupation every day," said Fatah candidate Khaled Samara, a black-and-wife headscarf like Arafat's wrapped around his neck.
During a two-day campaign, the parties debated, marched through campus with war drums reminiscent of the Prophet Muhammad's instrument and waved party flags.

At a debate, the Hamas candidate asked the Fatah candidate: "Hamas activists in this university killed 135 Zionists. How many did Fatah activists from Bir Zeit kill?"

The Fatah candidate refused to answer, suggesting his rival "look at the paper, go to the archives and see for yourself. Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades have not stopped fighting the occupation."

Fatah set up models of Jewish settlements and then blew them up with fireworks. The display was meant to emphasize the group's focus on attacking settlers and their communities - considered by Palestinians to be one of the most provocative elements of Israel's occupation of territory they claim for a state.

Hamas countered by blowing up models of Israeli buses, a tribute to the dozens of suicide bombings its members have carried out in the past three years, killing hundreds of Israelis.

Activists straddled on their shoulders samples of the group's homemade Qassam rockets - often fired at Gaza Strip settlements and Israeli towns that border the coastal area.

Student issues were barely touched on because the Palestinian's main problem is the Israeli occupation, candidates said.

"We have been living under hard conditions. Our students are going through checkpoints, many of them have been scared and arrested, so this is our life now. Our life is resistance," Samara said.

Hamas said fighting Israel is the only issue. "We are a resistance movement and without resistance we have nothing to do," said Moussa Kiswani, a prominent university Hamas activist.

The campaign was so focused on violent activities that officials at the university - considered the most liberal of the Palestinian higher education institutions - were nervous.

"We were worried ... the atmosphere seems very dangerous," said Ludna Abdel Hadi, a university spokeswoman.

She said the student elections have wider significance. "The Bir Zeit elections are like a barometer to measure the political mood on the Palestinian street."

This is the sixth time over the past decade that the Islamic groups won the most seats in student council elections at Bir Zeit University. Fatah's Shabiba won control of the student council twice.
French Report Backs Ban on Veil, Kippa, Cross
Thu December 11, 2003 08:19 AM ET
By Tom Heneghan
PARIS (Reuters) - France should ban Muslim veils, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses from its public schools, but also create new holidays to respect holy days of its minority religions, an official report said on Thursday.
The long-awaited report on church-state relations, the center-piece of a national debate over integrating Muslims into French society, advised Paris to stand firm against militant Islamists trying to undermine official secularism.
At the same time, it urged traditionally Catholic France to respect "all spiritual options" in a society becoming ever more diverse through immigration.
President Jacques Chirac said he would announce next Wednesday whether he would seek a law banning the veil, now a major issue in France amid concern of failed Muslim integration and growing Islamist influence. He has hinted he backs a ban.
"Secularism essentially means respect for differences," commission chairman Bernard Stasi told a news conference.
But he added: "We must be lucid -- there are in France some behaviors which cannot be tolerated. There are without any doubt forces in France which are seeking to destabilize the republic and it is time for the republic to react."
Do ya think France gets it?
Christian, Muslim and some Jewish religious leaders have urged Chirac not to seek an outright ban on religious symbols in public schools. Muslims have been outspoken in defending the veil as a religious obligation they have a right to wear.
The commission proposed barring "conspicuous signs of political or religious affiliation," but said discreet medals -- such as a small cross or Star of David -- were acceptable.
It also suggested adding Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and the Eid al-Kebir festival at the end of Islam's Ramadan fasting month to a list of school holidays.
Companies were advised to consider ways of allowing employees to take off the religious holiday of their choice.
France, once so Catholic it was called "the eldest daughter of the Church," is now eight percent Muslim. Islam is its second-largest religion.
Its five-million-strong Muslim community and its 600,000 Jews are both the largest minorities of their kind in Europe.
Apart from the veil, the commission also investigated issues such as Muslim women refusing treatment by male doctors, pupils challenging teachers about the Holocaust and a "new anti-Semitism" among disaffected Muslim youths.
Ok to me, women refusing treatment by male doctors out of modesty is a whole different animal than Holocaust revisionism in schools. Does this report point out the difference? I haven't seen it yet, and I don't trust my French comprehension, so this is merely a question for now.
"This anti-Semitism is real in our country," commission secretary Remy Schwartz said. "We found children have to leave public schools in some areas because they are not physically secure... This has profoundly shocked the commission."
Yes it must be a shock after Chirac told you there is no anti-semitism in France. Boy I hope somebody threw that up in his face. "Next time keep your cakehole shut, Jacques."
The commission was also shocked by cases of discrimination against women and said sexual equality was one of the guiding principles it used for reaching its conclusions.
They're going to have a hard time championing equality for women while allowing the kind of diversity that demands women be second-class. Can Derrida think us out of this one?
Schwartz said Muslim girls said they were pressured into wearing veils by family and "outside groups" -- a reference to activists officials say are promoting strict religious practices among French Muslims, who are of mostly North African origin.
It's those "activists" that can turn into terrorists at the blink of an eye. If France is truly going to be lucid, they should look that reality in the eye.
"Many asked for protection from the state, that the state forbids the wearing of religious symbols in school to guarantee their protection and their individual freedom," he said.
Kamal Kabtane, head of the Grand Mosque of Lyon, said Muslims would respect an anti-veil law but added: "This decision will resolve nothing at all. It will only add to the confusion."

07 December 2003

There is a manuscript museum in Egypt that tries to recreate something of that important center of learning of ancient times, the Alexandria Library. This new museum was renovated by the Egyptian and Italian governments with the help of UNESCO:
Sixteen centuries after it disappeared, the biggest library of ancient times is coming back to life in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. The library where the Bible's Old Testament was first translated from Hebrew into Greek and where Euclid invented geometry.
"It's wonderful that amid so many wars around the world, and when people are talking about the 'clash of civilisations,' that a few metres from where the old library was, a new and wonderful institution is rising that’s also dedicated to universal knowledge, understanding and tolerance," says its director, Ismail Serageldin.
The November 17, 2003 issue of the Egyptian weekly Al-Usbu' reported that the museum had added "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to the display case of the holy books of the monotheistic religions, next to a Torah. According to MEMRI's translation, the museum's director, Dr. Yousef Ziedan, (note: Yousef Ziedan is Head of the Manuscripts Department, not director of the museum) explains in the article why he decided to add the "Protocols" to the exhibit:
"When my eyes fell upon the rare copy of this dangerous book, I decided immediately to place it next to the Torah. Although it is not a monotheistic holy book, it has become one of the sacred [tenets] of the Jews, next to their first constitution, their religious law, [and] their way of life. In other words, it is not merely an ideological or theoretical book.
"Perhaps this book of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' is more important to the Zionist Jews of the world than the Torah, because they conduct Zionist life according to it… It is only natural to place the book in the framework of an exhibit of Torah [scrolls]."
An AP story dated December 5 said that UNESCO planned to denounce The Protocols and had asked the Alexandria Library about allegations that the Protocols was displayed inappropriately. It also said "No one could be reached for comment at the library Friday because it was closed."
However Ismail Serageldin himself already had an answer ready the day before. A December 4 statement on his website says "The book was never displayed alongside the Jewish Torah, nor has it ever been stated that it is a holy book or the basis for a Jewish constitution. The book is well-known as a 19th century fabrication to foment anti-Jewish feelings.
The book was promptly withdrawn from public display, but its very inclusion showed bad judgment and insensitivity, and an internal administrative hearing is underway to determine whether further actions are to be taken."
Dr. Ziedan's site also has a disclaimer: As civilized people, we totally renounce racism and call for tolerance and constructive interaction between people. We believe that fundamentalism would lead to the eclipse of civilization, while tolerance ushers the way to enlightenment."
Ziedan says, "A month before, a journalist from the aforementioned newspaper interviewed me concerning the recent refurbishment of the manuscript and rare book museum. I handed her a written statement, as was the case with other journalists who covered the same news. Although, she concluded her article with my exact words, she started it with fabricated, groundless lies."
On a related note, Khaled Abu Al-Fadl also says that the story in which he warns against reelecting George Bush was fabricated.
The Egyptian publication 'October' quotes Commissioner Khaled Abou El Fadl predicting that America may invade Syria and Iran if Bush is re-elected and describing American soldiers in Iraq as mentally-ill nervous wrecks who wet their beds out of shock that the Iraqi people did not greet their invasion with flowers.
"'I didn't say any of this crap,' Mr. El Fadl told The New York Sun in a telephone interview from Yale Law School, where he is a visiting professor teaching national security law and immigration law. . . .
"'I can't vouch for the translation, but the stuff that they have me saying is pure fabrication. It is not a case of tweaking what I said in a different way, or emphasizing or de-emphasizing what I said,' he said.

This raises the question of how much the Egyptian press fabricates, doesn't it? And why?