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Copyright 1998 by the authors and PEACE. All materials are the intellectual property of the respective contributors. Unless noted otherwise, they may be reproduced provided that credit is given to the authors, and to PEACE - a Mid-East Dialog Group. Email/Web postings should include these addresses:
Ami Isseroff;
Ameen Hannoun;
Mid East Viewpoints:


August, 13, 1998

House Demolition (Update)/ Friends of Peace/ Initiation Rites


House Demolitions

Good News!

Letter From A Friend of Peace -  Ziad Alkabani

Religious Cultures of the Children of Abraham  - (I) Moslem Initiation Rites - Sa'ida Nusseibeh

Economic Bases of War and Peace-  Nachum Meyers

House Demolitions

House demolitions have not stopped. The Israeli government is pursuing this policy with a vengeance. They have again destroyed the Shawamreh house that was rebuilt with the help of Israeli peace groups, as well as several other houses.
We must write to our government officials and tell them what we think. We must be more stubbornly persistent in our opposition than they are in their determination to carry out this policy. Beyond that, since the government seems to ignore our letters and our protests, we must find effective ways to mobilize public opinion against this senseless policy.

I have sent separately yet another letter to Bibi with copies to officials and public figures in the United States and in Israel, as well as to PEACE members.

Seri Gomberg sent the following letter:

Dear Mr Prime Minister,
I call upon you to cease immediately the inhuman policy of demolishing Palestinian homes. I do not accept your government's claim that these houses are ``illegal.'' It is your policy of forbidding Palestinians to build on their own land while providing Israeli settlers with government-subsidised housing which is manifestly illegal and immoral.

As an Israeli citizen I am concerned with the impact this practice has on our international image, as well as on the morals of all Israelis.  We act like bulldozers on the roads, and the government is very effective at reinforcing that habit.

I will not send my son to protect some imaginary "Israel."  Your policies will lead to the end of the hopes for peace and the beginning of constant bloodshed.   I and other Israelis will not let you turn this country into another Lebanon.   If you do, we will have to rebuild Israel, setting back this great country.   Maybe that is your undeclared goal - to destroy the accomplishements of 50 years of building Israel so Palestine and Israel can grow together, as "sister nations," as equals.

If so, why not start treating them as equals now?

I am afraid the next war will be a "fight to the death" and will include many massacres.  The Palestinians have nothing to lose. Is that what you want?

Seri Gomberg, Jerusalem.


Reminder of Major Addresses:
Israeli Government Officials:
- President Ezer Weizman - Fax: (+972-2) 561-0037
- Prime Minister Netanyahu - Fax: (+972-2) 566-4838 or 651-3955 or 651-2631
- Internal Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani  Fax: (+972-2) 584-7872
- Justice Minister Tzachi HaNegbi      Fax: (+972-2) 628-5438 or 670-8722
- Head of Civil Administration in Occupied Territoriess: General Mandi Or Fax: (+972-2) 997-7356
- MK Shimon Peres (Labor)
- MK Ehud Barak (head of Labor Party)


   ******* Please write now - right now!********
Save these addresses for future reference!


Good News!

Some small bits of good news. It is hard to find, but we try - and get help from friends. If you know of something GOOD that is happening let us know.

- From Sa'ida Nusseibeh (Translated and excerpted from  Al- Quds Newpaper of  London):

- Young People from Jordan, Palestine Meet in Israel -

Sixty young men and women  from Israel, Jordan and the autonomy are having a very special course in an Israeli Kibbutz near West Jerusalem. The course will be helf first for a month  in Israel then one month in Amman Jordan, and the third phase will be in Ramalah.

The students will study about human relations, and the working of the heart, and will receive a  certificate from Harvard University, that is supervising and funding this project.

The Jordanian group came with teachers and doctors  who volunteered to give lectures to the students. The group were guests the day before yesterday of President  Ezer Weizman at his private home in West Jerusalem, and after that
they went to see  open heart surgery in an Israeli Hospital.

The 60 students are guests of Kibbutz Maaleh- Hahamisha, situated on a mountain overlooking Jerusalem from the West.

- From Leah Green

                      Joint Business and Agricultural School

WASHINGTON (AP) - An American college plans to establish a business and
agriculture school in a desert area straddling the border between Israel and
Jordan, supporters of the project announced Tuesday.

Backed by governments of the two countries and the United States, the branch
of Touro College to be located in Jordan's Rift Valley hopes to have 500 students enrolled by 2004. Faculty will come from the three nations, funding from the United Jewish Appeal and instruction will be in English.

``This campus will mark a new, impressive demonstration of the cooperative
and creative potential that awaits the blooming of the peace process in the Middle East,'' Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said at a news conference announcing the new campus.

Bernard Lander, president of New York City-based Touro College, said the
business and agricultural college will help residents of the region, known as the Arava area in Israel and the Wadi Araba in Jordan.

Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben Elissar, making his last official appearance
on Capitol Hill before leaving Wednesday for a new assignment in Paris, said
``the more there are joint ventures of this kind, the more peace in the Middle East is enhanced. There is a direct correlation between the two.

Jordanian Embassy First Secretary, Rania Attalah, standing in for her country's ambassador, said Jordan welcomed establishment of the college as a sign of increasing cooperation between peoples of the two countries.

Let's hope it happens!


Letter From A Friend of Peace- Ziad Alkabani

(Ziad Alkabbani is a Syrian expatriate who fought for democracy in his own country - and paid the price- he now lives in Sweden)

Dear friend Ami, shalom!

I think you have seen my home page(sfol/whoarewe.htm), so know a lot about me and my background. I can say now that I have suffered great pain in Syria in all 29 years of my life there.

But I love my family, friends, people and even the government. I understand them. It doesn't mean that I agree with them. Given my personal experiences  I know that the only way to live with other people is to be tolerant and tolerate them and even thier mistakes. So I think the question is how to make all people in Middle East understand that they all will win with peace, cooperation, friendship, mutual respect and trust.

To me all fanatics are the same thing in different colors. They all are people, who have no yet found the way to understand and feel our human community. Why ? Because they have no  time, and don't know how to do that. They want to live and survive. They have many economic, social and cultural problems.

I, as a Syrian Arab and Muslim, believe in peace, cooperation with you, dialgue with all Israelis, Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Jews.

I agree with you that the peace can only be achieved and maintained if the desire for peace is rooted in the hearts and minds of all inhabitants of our region. It must be based on equality, mutual respect, neighborly friendship and consideration for the needs of all parties to the conflict. I hope do together all we can to help our peoples to live better and understand each other.

I take this opportunity to thank you for your continuing efforts for peace in our region, and to encourage you to continue in this task that is so vitally important to all those living here. I would appreciate it if you will put this letter on your homepage. I am also happy to invite everybody to visit my homepage: Syria's Friends On Line at
All comments are welcome!
Best Regards!
Ziad Alkabbani
Dear Ziad,

Thank you, and I thank you also for your efforts for peace. Each person who speaks out as we do is important - because there are still not that many.

As we both know, the problems standing in the way of peace are formidable, because of the wall of hate and mistrust, but also because there are powerful interests at work against peace in all our countries.

You have taken a courageous stand for democracy in Syria, which is an essential element in any lasting peace.

I too hope that we shall win many new 'converts' to our cause.

Religious Cultures of the Children of Abraham (I)  -  Moslem Initiation Rites - Sa'ida Nusseibeh

(With an view to establishing a knowledge of our common cultural heritage and differences, View Points is beginning a multi-part series on comparative religion and culture by Sa'ida Nusseibeh. The first part of the series discusses initiation rites of the three great religions. The first section deals with Moslem initiation   rites - The editor)

‘Abu Hanifa’’ one of the four Sunni Imams says in his ‘ 'Al-Fiqh Al-Akber’ (a credal statement): ‘God created the creation-humanity- free from beliefs or disbelief. He then spoke to them through his messengers commanding them to believe and
prohibiting them from disbelief. So whoever believed it was also by free choice.’

According to the Qur’an ‘we have truly shown him the way and he may be thankful or unthankful’ (76.3) Again the Qur’an declared ‘and pointed out to him the two conspicuous ways’ ((90.10).

The same idea is expressed in the tradition of Muhammad in his saying ‘Every child is born to the nature, which God had made him conform to- that is, upright. But his parents make him a Jew, a Christian or a Magian’. This means in theological terms that minors are not under any religious obligations until they reach the age of maturity, which is defined in religious legal books as the attainment of manhood or womanhood. At this stage the child becomes entirely independent of the thinking of the parents and is responsible for discovering the right type of faith he or she thinks fit for themself..

This is, strictly speaking, the Islamic point of view and according to this those who die before that age are not accountable for the religion of their parents and community if it turns out to be false or unacceptable one with God.

It is incumbent on a Muslim to obey each and every one of the commands of Allah the Almighty with genuine faith and intensity. It is essential to value time. The Muslim believer must be able to arrange time in strict accordance with discipline, proper principles and codes of life laid down in the Holy Qur’an and explained in the Sunni. He must not neglect or ignore his duties but must carry them out at the correct times, so just as ‘salat’ (prayers) are obligatory for Muslims daily at the stated times, so from birth to death certain rites and ceremonies are solemnised at the appropriate age.

Initiation of children into the folds of Islam is the duty of an adult Muslim and is part of the duty he owes to others, his other duties being to himself and above all to God The Almighty.

From birth to about the age of ten years, the rites of ‘adhan’, (call to prayer) and ‘iqamat’, (start of prayer) shaving of head, naming, circumcision, ‘aqiqa’ (sacrificial offering) and ‘bismallah’ (in the Name of Allah the Almighty), are performed by the parents alone or with the help of a religious leader.

1) ‘Adhan’- After the birth the baby is given a bath. Then the act of ‘adhan ’ is performed, so that the first words he hears will be the words of the call to prayers. The call is said in a normal tone in the right ear with the aid of a hollow reed or any other tubing. The call is then performed in a louder voice. Those hearing the call repeat the call to themselves.

2) ‘Iqamat’ – The ‘iqamat’ that the religious leader recitedsin the left ear of the baby differs slightly from the text of the ‘adhan’. Muslims carry out this practice without exception throughout the world. When the religious leader is not available the father usually discharges this duty.

3) ‘Aqiqa’- On the seventh day of birth, the baby’s hair is shaved and the equivalent weight of gold or silver is given away as charity. The shaving of the baby’s head is a symbolic act to take away the uncleanness of the act of birth as well as to help the hair grow in greater profusion. Olive oil is usually applied to the shaven head. Two goats or sheep in the case of a baby boy, and one in the case of baby girl are sacrificed. The animal must be free from any physical defects and healthy. The meat should be cooked sweet, as an omen that the child will be good natured. One third of the meat is given away in charity to the poor and two thirds distributed among the relatives.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, maintained that by performance of ‘Aqiqa’
the child is freed and made safe from calamities in the future. If this ceremony is missed for any reason, it should be performed at some time in the child’s future life. It is usually performed on the day before the birthday. However this custom has no religious authority to back it, similar to many others cultural rites.

4) Name- Abu Mussa, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had a baby son. He took the baby to the Prophet who gave him the name of Ibrahim. Following this example, parents generally seek help of the religious leaders in naming their children.

5) Circumcision- The Prophet Muhammad said that circumcision of males is the practice of the Prophets of God. Therefore it is an important ceremony of initiation. It is important that it is carried out before the age of ten because after this age the lack of it would constitute a form of shamelessness. Some people make it coincide with the rites of ‘aqiqa’. Some money or alms in kind are given away, but only if the parents can afford it. Profuse spending is against all norms of religious practice.

6) ‘Khatem Al-Qur’an’- For boys and girls who finish reading all of the Qur’an for the first time,  around age thirteen, a ceremony takes place, and a festival is held in their honour (separately) where they recite few verses of the Qur’an.

The Prophet of Islam laid a great stress on the learning and acquisition of
knowledge. ‘To seek knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim man and woman’.
When the child attains the age of discretion- as distinct from maturity- then the first ritual act begins to take place. Although it is considered beneficial to take children to the mosque to familiarise them with what takes place there, the tradition reported from the prophet gives the age of seven from which teaching the performance of the ritual starts. Serious attempts at educating him in the faith and practice of Islam commence from that moment.

The basic Islamic rule is that on attaining the age of maturity, a person becomes legally responsible to make the decision to become a Muslim. It is this decision, and not any other act or confession, which makes them full member of the Muslim


Economic Bases of War and Peace -  Nachum Meyers

The emotional roadblocks to peace, including religious beliefs and mandates from God that stand in the way of rational conflict resolution, play several obvious key roles in preventing the peoples of the Middle East from reaching agreement to end the state of hostility with which they have lived since Zionism brought modern Jews back to Palestine. Homeland, motherland, pride, racism, jingoism, nationalism, patriotism, flags and other symbols of right, might, and glory, all are put around peace like mine fields and barbed wire. The peace-people strive to remove these barriers to peace, but no sooner than one symbol is moved or removed, another replaces it.

What is going on here? After fifty years of war and bloodshed and waste of human and natural resources, can these two intelligent, needy groups of people not find a path to mutual self realization, self-determination and harmony? The polemics, the arguments, the agreements, the demands and counter-demands of land for peace and peace for land, and security or nothing, go on and on with no end in sight.

But we do have guidance through this barbed-wire minefield. It is not as if there is no example for us. Look, Egypt and Israel and now Jordan and Israel have come to terms and made peace. What enabled these momentous events to occur? What enabled Bill Clinton to get elected and re-elected in the face of damaging emotional roadblocks to election, including religious beliefs and mandates from God. Simple; "It's the Economy, Stupid."

Well, it's not quite that simple. The Israeli political right snuck into power on false premises with the assistance of some well-timed terrorist bombs. "Peace With Security" with the emphasis on the "with security" scuttled Shimon Peres and his star-crossed electoral history. The Israeli economy was doing quite well before Netanyahu came to power, the country is open, democratic, westernized, and enjoys a standard of living comparable to the upper tier of modern countries. I am not sure that continued conflict benefits the Israeli economy despite the fact that Jews around the world contribute financially to Israel in light of its perceived precarious military position, i.e. being severely outnumbered in manpower and weaponry though not in war-making capability.

However, the continued conflict does benefit the arms merchants in the United States and in Israel. That benefit should never be underestimated in evaluating the political tactics of the U.S. government and mainly, the Republican Party and, of course, the tactics of Israeli wealth-producing military industries. It simply pays to maintain a state of conflict for those elements. But it is really small potatoes compared to what is at stake in the Arab world.

The Arab power structure in the Middle East is based on a two-class non-democratic model. With an improvement in the economy, with all that represents in its causes and effects; increased literacy and education, technological achievement, democratization, growth of a middle class with substantial economic clout, widespread rapid rise into the information age, continuous and growing demand for ever higher standards of living and improved health care; the power elite is in danger of being overthrown. The essence of an improved broad-based economy is shared wealth. Autocratic oil regimes as exist in Syria/Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the Persian Gulf emirates, Libya, Tunisia and many of the Muslim or Islamic countries of the world, are more fearful of democratization in their homelands than they are of the rise of religious fundamentalism - although in some instances it is a close call. Fear of Westernization leads to a need to contain Israel in a box. First television and now the fruit of computerization are causing ferment in the Arab world. Control of these media are prime goals of the existing power structures. Preventing Israel from contaminating the economies of the Arab world through the back doors of Palestine, Egypt and Jordan underpins the Palestine/Israel policies of the regressive and repressive governments.

Peace with Israel is equivalent in their minds to loss of media control, improved economic conditions for the lower classes, the subsequent rise of democratization and the ousting of the existing power elites. That was why every effort was made to sabotage the election of Shimon Peres as Israeli prime minister. Peres believes that without a Palestinian state there can be no Jewish state. Turn that around to read, "If there is a Palestinian state then there will be a Jewish state." Therefore, the goal of the leaders of the Arab world was and is the prevention of the establishment of a Palestinian state. Get the Jews to vote for Natanyahu and the religious right in Israel. Do not allow peace to spread under any condition. Contain
Egypt's normalization of ties with Israel and ditto with Jordan. Kill tourists and little girls, if necessary. Threaten and then carry out terrorist bombings in Tel Aviv whenever a possibility exists that peace is approaching.

Where do we go from here? How do we who wish for peace attack this problem
realistically? Yes, an Individual Peace Movement must be supported and developed. Yes, the growth in educating Arab and Jewish children must be supported. Yes, we must all vote for true peace-loving politicians. Yes, more and more the peace lovers must write voluminously and speak out and clamor for the end of terrorism and demolitions. But how do we counter the entrenched Arab and Jewish power elites that sabotage peace at every turn? By going around them. By developing economic bases for peace. By fighting for combined infrastructure, water-sharing, electric grid, higher education, health care. By tearing through the economic enclosures and setting up combined industries, joint ventures across real and imaginary borders. By demanding equal pay for equal work for Arab and Jewish workers. By demanding equal access to markets. By combining, Jews and Palestinians, to demand from the world bank the funds to develop industries, demanding the location of plants and factories in the territories as well as in Israel proper. If Israelis had shares in the Gaza Strip airport, it would be bustling by now.
If Haifa could serve Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, and Arabs had shares in the local companies, can you imagine the tonnage that would flow through that port? By combining Jewish and Arab fund-raising activities in the United States and around the world to support, not military strength, but economic development in the lands of Israel and Palestine. We need to build an economic brotherhood of Jews and Arabs in the Middle East and around the world. We must wage peace the same way the war-mongers wage war; with propaganda, with calls to motherland and patriotism, with drums, bugles and flags and appeals to God. But all for the war against poverty, ignorance, oppression, greed and power. Then we will approach peace with a reasonable chance of getting there. Without an economic drive for peace, there is no hope for peace. Take note Madeleine and Dennis.
Comment by A.I.:  Money May Not Be Everything

Dear Nachum,

You have presented the case for peace through economic development well; I think though, that it is sometimes presented the other way around: peace will bring economic development.

I would not say that all Arab leaders are against a Palestinian State, though I certainly would not take them all at their word that they are for it!

You must realize however, that some of the fears of our neighbors, not necessarily those of the ruling class, is that peace will bring with it "Israeli economic hegemony." In our eyes, we are Mickey Mouse. In their eyes, we are at least Mighty Mouse. They are afraid that the relation between Israel and its neighbors will be
like, for example, the relation between the U.S. and Mexico. Given the current relation between Israel and the Palestinians who come to work here, we cannot say that this fear is entirely unfounded.

There is also a big fear of cultural domination. Let us leave, for a moment, the problem of religious zealotry, which is certainly not confined to our Arab neighbors, much to my sorrow. France is proud of her culture, and the government tries to control by regulation out what they consider American culture. Our Arab neighbors have the same right. Fawzi Mansour, an Egyptian anti-Israel intellectual is afraid of Israeli plumbing fixtures. It is an absurd example perhaps, but in his way he has a point. Moreover, in a two-class economy, what the WMF calls prosperity is often a process in which the rich get richer and the poor get babies. Even at the hieght of prosperity in Asia, it was still possible for visiting sex maniacs to get twelve year old girls who had been sold for a pittance because of the desparate poverty of their parents.



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