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Posts Tagged ‘Islamic group

Killing of Israeli Settlers Rattles Leaders

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JERUSALEM – The killing of four Israeli settlers, including a pregnant woman, in the West Bank on Tuesday evening rattled Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the eve of peace talks in Washington and underscored the disruptive role that the issue of Jewish settlements could play in the already fragile negotiations.

Bullet holes riddled a car in which four Israeli settlers were killed Tuesday near Hebron, West Bank. Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility.

The military wing of Hamas, the Islamic group, claimed responsibility for the attack – in which gunmen fired on a vehicle carrying two men and two women at a junction near the city of Hebron – and described it on its Arabic Web site as a “heroic operation.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the “atrocious murder,” which Israeli officials said seemed calculated by Hamas to upset the negotiations, which it virulently opposes. Mr. Netanyahu, en route to Washington at the time, said, “Terror will not determine the borders of Israel or the future of settlements.” He ordered Israel’s security forces “to pursue the attackers without any diplomatic restraint,” his office said.

The Palestinian Authority also condemned the attacks, which occurred just before its president, Mahmoud Abbas, met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. A Palestinian spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said the attack by Hamas, the authority’s rival, underlined “the need to proceed quickly toward a just and lasting peace agreement,” which he said would “put an end to these acts.”

Even before the attack, settlements were looming as a potential deal-breaker in the peace process. Mr. Netanyahu has steadfastly refused to commit to extending a partial moratorium on construction in the West Bank, which expires Sept. 26, while Mr. Abbas has said it will be very hard to keep talking if construction resumes. Mr. Netanyahu has not struck any private deals with President Obama or anyone else on the moratorium, American and Israeli officials said.

Still, the Obama administration, according to officials, is calculating that once the two leaders are in face-to-face negotiations, neither side will be willing to take actions that would capsize the talks in the first month. Mr. Netanyahu, this thinking goes, will offer a compromise that, while it may fall short of an extension of the moratorium, will satisfy the Palestinians that construction will be curbed.

The White House said in a statement: “This brutal attack underscores how far the enemies of peace will go to try to block progress. It is crucial that the parties persevere, keep moving forward even through difficult times and continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace.”

Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas are scheduled to meet Mr. Obama for dinner on Wednesday at the White House, and formally begin negotiations on Thursday in a meeting with Mrs. Clinton. If that goes well, officials hope for a second meeting, possibly in Egypt, in mid-September. Mrs. Clinton may take part in that session, officials said.

A senior Israeli official said that the West Bank attack, the deadliest on Israeli citizens in more than two years, would inevitably heighten the emphasis on Israel’s security in the negotiations. But Palestinian officials noted that the attack took place in an area of the West Bank that is under full Israeli security control, and where the Palestinian security forces have no responsibility and are not allowed to operate.

The victims came from Beit Hagai, a small settlement in the hills south of Hebron, an area known for particularly militant settlers. Israeli forces were combing the area looking for suspects.

Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, said in a statement, “We condemn this operation, which contradicts Palestinian interests and the efforts of the Palestinian leadership to garner international support for the national rights of our people.”

Hamas controls Gaza, while Mr. Abbas’s authority is limited to governing the Palestinians of the West Bank.

The claim of responsibility was unusual in that Hamas had refrained from taking responsibility for attacks in recent years. But with a sharp decline in rocket fire from Gaza against southern Israel, some in Gaza have been questioning Hamas’s commitment to fighting Israel.

Hamas said the attack was “a natural response to the crimes of the Israeli occupation and its settlers.” It said the killings demonstrated that the “armed Palestinian resistance is present in the West Bank despite the war to uproot it,” referring to the crackdown by Israeli and Palestinian Authority forces against Hamas in the West Bank.

In the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, hundreds of Hamas supporters took to the streets after the evening prayer to celebrate the news of the attack, urged on by the calls of an imam over the loudspeaker even before Hamas had officially said it was behind the killings.

Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas lawmaker, criticized Mr. Abbas during the rally, saying he was going to the negotiations “representing only himself.” The attack “was the Palestinian people’s response to the talks,” Mr. Masri said.

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said the shooting followed a two-year period of stability in the West Bank, during which Israel eased many restrictions on the movement of Palestinians. Roadblocks in the area of the attack were removed two years ago.

Settlers, many of whom have little faith in the Palestinians or the prospects of peace, were enraged by the attack. Tzviki Bar-Hai, the chairman of the South Mount Hebron settlers’ council, told Israel Radio, “For the past 100 years there has been a link between the Jewish people’s desire to live and the Arab people’s desire to kill us.”

In July, Israeli security officials said they had arrested several members of Hamas’s military wing who were responsible for the fatal shooting of an Israeli police officer south of Hebron in June.

The stop-and-go Israeli-Palestinian peace process has often taken place in the shadow of bloody attacks. Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who led the Oslo peace process in the early and mid-1990s, said his philosophy was “to fight terror as if there were no negotiations and conduct the negotiations as if there was no terror.” Mr. Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli right-wing extremist in 1995.

‘Ground Zero mosque’ Imam thanks U.S. Jews for support

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By: Natasha Mozgovaya

ADL says plan to build mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is ‘counterproductive’; Jstreet collects over 10,000 signatures in support of plan.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the main force behind a plan to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero in New York, thanked on Tuesday the American Jewish supporters who backed the proposed center amid a widespread contoversy.

“I express my heartfelt appreciation for the gestures of goodwill and support from our Jewish friends and colleagues”, he said. “Your support is a reflection of the great history of mutual cooperation and understanding that Jewish and Muslim civilizations have shared in the past, and remains a testament to the enduring success of our continuing dialogue and dedication to upholding religious freedom, tolerance and cooperation among us all as Americans.”

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, executive director of the Cordoba Initiative

Tempers have been heating up in the New York City area over the plans by the American Society for Muslim Advancement and another Islamic group known as the Cordoba Initiative to build a $100 million, 13-story, Islamic cultural center and mosque just two blocks from Ground Zero.

Other provocative aspects include the fact that the majority of the money will allegedly come from the Saudis and the Ford Foundation, as well as the plan to inaugurate the new center on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

On Saturday, the Anti Defamation League condoned the plan, calling it “counterproductive.”

The Cordoba Initiative N.Y.C project, which became known as the “ground zero mosque”, stirred heated national debate in the US, which shifted since the last Wednesday to the Jewish organizations, following the statement on the controversial project.

The ADL stressed its commitment to the freedom of religion and rejection of bigotry – but, regarding the sensitivity of the site chosen for the new Islamic center, ADL defined the insistence of the Cordoba initiative to build the 13 storey Islamic community center, including the mosque, two blocks away from the 9/11 attacks site as “counterproductive,” adding that “proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam”, said a statement.

Yet, the liberal Jews were quick to slash the ADL on its “hypocrisy” and the harm the latest decision caused to their declared mission. The pro-Israeli lobby JStreet collected over 10,000 signatures in support of the center that were delivered to the Landmarks Preservation Commission ahead of its vote on the Cordoba House (the commission unanimously voted Tuesday to deny landmark designation to the site).

“Appalled by the opposition to plans by American Muslims to build a community center in lower Manhattan modeled after Jewish Community Centers all over the country, J Street is collecting petitions in support of religious freedom and against anti-Muslim bigotry”, J street announced on their website.

Liberal “Tikkun” magazine editor Rabbi Michael Lerner called ADL’s decision a “shame,” adding that “ADL leader Abe Foxman presented the position of this organization that claims to oppose discrimination by reading a formal statement that seemed to be a perfect example of shooting and crying.”

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, the founder of The Shalom Center, supported the center along with about 30 rabbis and Jewish leaders, and asked the supporters to contact Foxman’s office to make him change his organization’s position.

AJC also declared Tuesday that the Cordoba Islamic Center “has a right to be built – but urged the founders of the center “to address concerns about funding and support for terrorism”.

The Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman called to impose some conditions on the center construction – basically, to stop the project “until there is further evaluation of its impact on the families and friends of victims of the 9-11 attacks, the intention of the center’s sponsors, and their sources of funding”.

Sharif el-Gamal, lead developer of the Park 51 project and member of the Jewish community center in upper Manhattan told Haaretz he did not expect the attention they have been receiving as he had been trying to buy the building for five years with this intention to build the center. “I’ve been looking for almost 10 years within this vicinity. It’s not easy to find real estate in New-York.”

El-Gamal, who has a Jewish sister-in-law, added that “the mosque will be a small component of a larger facility and it will be run as a separate non-profit. There will be a gym, a pool, restaurant. A spa, multi-use facilities, and also a September 11 memorial space to honor the victims.”

Critics of the mosque have raised the fact that Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf went on record as telling CNN, right after the 9/11 attacks, “U.S. policies were an accessory to the crime that happened. We (the U.S.) have been an accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. Osama bin Laden was made in the USA.”

Responding to the critics, Abraham Foxman told “Haaretz” that his statement was distorted by “all kinds of groups and people with political agendas.”

“ADL’s position is very clear and simple – it is about location and sensitivity, it is not about religious freedom and prejudice. When the Catholic Church wanted to build a prayer center near Auschwitz, we said no and called the world to confront it,” Foxman said.

“We were labeled anti Christians, until Pope John Paul said they can build their center one mile away. And it’s been there for the last 15 years, without any conflict,” he added.