Saturday, November 14, 2009

City at the crossroads on road to peace

FOR all the talk of road maps and roads to peace, if ever harmony comes to the Middle East, it will need to travel along Highway 60 -- the road that winds north from Jerusalem towards the troubled Palestinian city of Nablus.

It is in Nablus, one of the oldest and most important cities on the West Bank, that so many of the tensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intersect.

A frail ceasefire exists between three Palestinian factions -- Hamas, Fatah and the Islamic Jihad -- while the Israeli Defence Forces stand at the main checkpoint into Nablus.

This city of about 200,000 people still has many problems but it has made great progress. During the worst of the second intifada, in 2002 and 2003, this was a war zone.

Palestinian youths clashed nightly with Israeli troops.

Nablus is rebuilding after the disaster of the intifada. These days, its youths seem more interested in turning up to An-Najah University than confronting Israeli soldiers.

Markets were doing well, building was going ahead and if the standard of cars -- four Mercedes in one block -- is anything to go by, at least some people were doing well.

It is impossible not to notice on the top of a mountain overlooking Nablus the palace of the wealthiest man in the West Bank, billionaire Munib al-Masri, whose company Padico owns the lion's share of the Palestinian Securities Exchange.

Cities such as Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah have become important beacons for two key players -- the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

The PA points to Nablus to argue that their more moderate positions -- which include doing business with Israel -- lead to economic benefits as opposed to Hamas's "armed resistance" model under which 1.5 million Gazans live in despair.

The Israelis point to Nablus to argue that for any peace to hold, Palestinians need to have a stake in economic benefits.

There are some bright spots, such as the first new cinema in Nablus in 22 years. Cinemas were closed during the first intifada, in 1987, as people stayed at home at night to avoid the fighting.

Cinema director Bashir al-Shakah says opening such a complex five years ago would have been impossible. "No one will invest money in a war zone," he says.

Attendances at the 175-seat cinema have been good and it has already hosted a film festival. Nudity is a no-no on screen but violence is permitted.

Shakah says since the cinema opened in June, Muslim women, dressed in hijabs, have come to see what it's like watching a film in public.

Many businesses, he says, closed during the second intifada. Whom do those people blame? "Both sides," he says.

Today, Nablus is improving but the recovery is tenuous.

Palestinian businessman Ahmad Aweidah wastes no words when asked the state of the Palestinian economy: "It's in tatters."

Aweidah, 38, runs the Palestinian Securities Exchange, which has more than $US7 billion in deposits and $US2bn in loans.

The stock exchange receives 15 per cent of its funds from foreign investors.

Aweidah is contemptuous of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim he is trying to bring peace by boosting the Palestinian economy.

"It's bull," he says. "It's just for media consumption.

"Netanyahu doesn't want to pay the price for peace. He's not interested in removing settlements, he's not interested in a two-state solution but he has to say something. What he actually believes in is that Palestinians should pick up and go to Jordan."

Aweidah says contrary to a professed desire to assist the Palestinian economy, Israel has introduced obstacles.

"If Israel wants to see economic development on the West Bank, why do they keep all those restrictions on the Palestinian economy and the Palestinian Authority to do business?

"If Israel is so interested in helping the Palestinian territories, why was the biggest direct investment into the Palestinian economy -- $US700 million for another phone system -- delayed for three years by Israelis?"

The theme of deliberate obstruction is echoed in another meeting with a deputy mayor of Nablus, academic Hafez Shaheen.

He says the world soccer federation, FIFA, has told Nablus it will pay the entire construction cost of a new football and sports stadium on the edge of the city.

But Shaheen says the site approved by FIFA is part of "Area C" of the West Bank, which means that under the Oslo accords it is under Israeli army control. Nablus has paid for the site to be levelled but Israel, he says, has refused to approve the soccer stadium.

"We are still under occupation," Shaheen says. "The Israeli army are only 10m from Nablus.

"I can't leave the country without their permission, I need their permission to dig a well, I need their permission to construct a football field."

But nor does Shaheen speak well of the Palestinian Authority.

PA security officers turned up to the council one day and took him away, detaining him for two days. They also took away two of his sons.

One son was held for months and still will not tell his father what happened in detention.

Somehow, through all of this, Nablus and the West Bank more broadly need to find peace in their own ranks before they can bring about a peace with Israel that will hold.

The Australian

Blog Archive

FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed


Copyright Muslims Against Sharia 2008. All rights reserved. E-mail: info AT
Stop Honorcide!

Latest Recipients of
The Dhimmi Award
Dr. Phil
George Casey

The Dhimmi Award

Previous Recipients of
The Dhimmi Award

Latest Recipient of the
World-Class Hypocrite Award
Mainstream Media

World-Class Hypocrite Award

Previous Recipients of the
World-Class Hypocrite Award

Latest Recipient of the
MASH Award
Dr. Arash Hejazi

MASH Award

Previous Recipients of the
MASH Award

Latest Recipient of the
Yellow Rag Award

Yellow Rag Award

Previous Recipients of the
Yellow Rag Award

Latest Recipient of
The Face of Evil Award
Nidal Malik Hasan

The Face of Evil Award

Previous Recipients of
The Face of Evil Award

Latest Recipients of the
Distinguished Islamofascist Award

Distinguished Islamofascist Award

Previous Recipients of the
Distinguished Islamofascist Award

Latest Recipient of the
Goebbels-Warner Award

Goebbels-Warner Award

Previous Recipients of the
Goebbels-Warner Award

Muslm Mafia

Latest Recipient of the
Evil Dumbass Award
Somali Pirates

Evil Dumbass Award

Previous Recipients of the
Evil Dumbass Award

Insane P.I. Bill Warner
Learn about
Defamation Campaign

by Internet Thugs

Latest Recipient of the
Retarded Rabbi Award
Shmuley Boteach

Retarded Rabbi Award

Previous Recipients of the
Retarded Rabbi Award

Latest Recipient of the
Mad Mullah Award
Omar Bakri Muhammed

Mad Mullah Award

Previous Recipients of the
Mad Mullah Award

Stop Sharia Now!
ACT! For America

Latest Recipient of the
Demented Priest Award
Desmond Tutu

Demented Priest Award

Previous Recipients of the
Demented Priest Award

Egyptian Gaza Initiative

Egyptian Gaza

Note: majority of users who have posting privileges on MASH blog are not MASH members. Comments are slightly moderated. MASH does not necessarily endorse every opinion posted on this blog.


Muslims Against Sharia
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Hasan Mahmud

Tewfik Allal
Ali Alyami & Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
Zeyno Baran
Brigitte Bardet
Dr. Suliman Bashear
British Muslims
for Secular Democracy

Center for Islamic Pluralism
Tarek Fatah
Farid Ghadry &
Reform Party of Syria

Dr. Tawfik Hamid
Jamal Hasan
Tarek Heggy
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser &
American Islamic
Forum for Democracy

Sheikh Muhammed Hisham
Kabbani & Islamic
Supreme Council of America

Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh
Nibras Kazimi
Naser Khader &
The Association
of Democratic Muslims

Mufti Muhammedgali Khuzin
Shiraz Maher
Irshad Manji
Salim Mansur
Maajid Nawaz
Sheikh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi
& Cultural Institute of the
Italian Islamic Community and
the Italian Muslim Assembly

Arifur Rahman
Raheel Raza
Imad Sa'ad
Secular Islam Summit
Mohamed Sifaoui
Mahmoud Mohamed Taha
Amir Taheri
Ghows Zalmay
Supna Zaidi &
Islamist Watch /
Muslim World Today /
Council For Democracy And Tolerance
Prominent ex-Muslims
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Magdi Allam
Zachariah Anani
Nonie Darwish
Abul Kasem
Hossain Salahuddin
Kamal Saleem
Walid Shoebat
Ali Sina & Faith Freedom
Dr. Wafa Sultan
Ibn Warraq

Defend Freedom of Speech

Islamists claiming to be Moderates
American Islamic Group
American Muslim Alliance
American Muslim Council
Al Hedayah Islamic Center (TX)
Canadian Islamic Congress
Canadian Muslim Union
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Dar Elsalam Islamic Center (TX)
DFW Islamic Educational Center, Inc. (TX)
Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (Closed)
Ed Husain & Quilliam Foundation
Islamic Association for Palestine (Closed)
Islamic Association of Tarrant County (TX)
Islamic Center of Charlotte (NC) & Jibril Hough
Islamic Center of Irving (TX)
Islamic Circle of North America
Islamic Cultural Workshop
Islamic Society of Arlington (TX)
Islamic Society of North America
Masjid At-Taqwa
Muqtedar Khan
Muslim American Society
Muslim American Society of Dallas (TX)
Muslim Arab Youth Association (Closed)
Muslim Council of Britain
Muslims for Progressive Values
Muslim Public Affairs Council
Muslim Public Affairs Council (UK)
Muslim Students Association
National Association of Muslim Women
Yusuf al Qaradawi
Wikio - Top Blogs