August 25, 2012
Posted: 1027 GMT
Over 8000 people live in the Palestinian town of Allar. A number, 15 year old Bashaer Othman says is manageable to govern.
Othman has probably spent the best summer of her life. She ran the town…Literally.
Othman became the youngest girl in the world to serve as a mayor, when she was chosen as part of an educational youth program for the position.
“The real challenge is when I become a minister, I will deal with all Palestinians, not only 8000 people” says Othman.
For this ambitious leader this position has made her “fall in love” with political and social work and even made her consider a major in international studies upon graduation.
“Palestinians need a true leader and I want to be part of this leadership.” She says.
Othman tells CNN, she has been attending meetings and giving speeches and even signing off on projects for her town.
No shying away for this girl. She has been working at the municipality for almost a month and half and is already making some changes.
She wants to start a local civil defense unit.
“When there’s a fire, people used to wait for firefighters to come from a nearby town. Am currently working on opening a fire department with 6 branches across my town.”
Out of 255 members at the Local Youth Council in Allar, 12 boys and girls were elected to work as members of the municipality and Othman was elected to become the mayor for 2 months.
In the little time that she has this young mayor is hoping to give back to her fellows. And her friends are hopeful she will start a change that will make their future better.
The dearest project to her heart is renovating the town’s library. She says “I think it all starts with education.”
Othman, a usual contender in poetry and reading competitions in her town, thinks youth can start by reading.
“The library has been sitting there for years. The books are old and no one wants to go there.”
Othman has all the support she needs from Allar’s regular mayor, Sufian Shadid, who handed the power to her for two months
The youngster says she meets with the mayor everyday for an hour and they go over the projects she is working on.
January 20, 2012
Posted: 1727 GMT
It was slightly before midnight last Friday when Mahmoud Abu Rahma was walking home from his office at the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza City. But before he made it to his house he was set upon by three masked assailants. The men stabbed Abu Rahma multiple times in the leg and shoulder while screaming that he was an "atheist" and a "collaborator".
Even as the attack began Abu Rahma says he knew what it was about.
Three weeks ago, on New Year's eve, he published a scathing article on a Palestinian news website titled "The Gap Between Resistance and Governance." In it he took Palestinian political factions to task for their lack of tolerance, rampant corruption, and liberal use of torture and arrests to harass those who criticize them.
"Power and authority with a poor moral foundation are doomed to fail. They will destroy themselves and lead their people to corruption and injustice," Abu Rahma wrote in the essay.
"The people of any nation have a responsibility to criticize those who lead them. We must look in the mirror before we can see ourselves clearly. "
Mahmoud Abu Rahma
Abu Rahma also criticized armed militant groups for endangering the lives of civilians.
The unsparing critique on the powers-that-be in the West Bank and Gaza brought an immediate reaction.
Abu Rahma says he was quickly subjected to a series of threatening email and phone calls and three days after publication a group of masked men entered his building and beat him up.
During the course of the second attack Abu Rahma was able to escape his assailants and get home where family and friends got him medical attention.
The Hamas-controlled Information Ministry in Gaza said in a statement the government was investigating the circumstances of the attack on Abu Rahma and called it a violation of human rights. It also said Gaza authorities respected the right of political expression as long as it conformed with "national responsibility."
But international rights organizations like Human Rights Watch say the governments in both Gaza and the West Bank are complicit in the abuse and harassment of Palestinian critics using both detention and torture as a means of repression.
"Hamas's failure to protect Abu Rahma, who has been a leading voice for human rights in Gaza, sends a chilling message to other human rights defenders," says Human Rights Watch's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.
"Hamas needs to investigate the attacks against him promptly and thoroughly and to appropriately punish those found responsible."
Speaking on the phone from Gaza, Abu Rahma says he does not know who is behind the "cowardly attack" but says the attempt to silence those looking to improve Palestinian society will not work.
He remains unbowed and said the tremendous outpouring of support following his article and subsequent attacks has only stiffened his resolve.
"I am confident that the Palestinian people will stand together for human rights and self freedom of expression"
January 13, 2012
Posted: 1441 GMT
This week a court in the West Bank City of Ramallah overturned a government ban on the broadcast of a highly popular Palestinian satirical television show called "Watan Ala Watar".
Described as a Palestinian version of the American show, "Saturday Night Live", "Watan Ala Watar" or "Nation on the Edge" served up a weekly offering of cutting political and social satire which spared no one in Palestinian society and angered more than a few in the Palestinian Authority.
Sketches on the shows routinely featured parodies of Palestinian political factions including Fatah and Hamas and offered send-ups of sensitive cultural issues like the enforcement of veils for women in Gaza.
Speaking to CNN about the show in 2009, writer and actor Imad Farajin said that when it came to subject matter there were no sacred cows.
"We talk about Abu Mazen, the Palestinian president, and for Arab people to talk about their president through comedy show is not easy, but we did it and I am proud of it," Farajin remarked
The program was pulled off the Palestinian Authority controlled television station in August during the heavy viewing period of Ramadan after a number of Palestinian officials complained that the show unfairly misrepresented them and did damage to their reputations.
January 11, 2012
Posted: 1632 GMT
As Israelis and Palestinians attempted to give peace a chance this past week with a second Jordanian sponsored meeting of the two sides, a new report issued by an Israeli settlement watch dog organization is likely to further dim the unlikely prospect of any breakthrough between the parties.
Tuesday, the anti-settlement activist group Peace Now released a new report citing a 20% increase in the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in 2011. The report found that the number of plans for new Jewish homes in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem was at its highest number in a decade with over 3,600 housing units approved and preliminary plans made for another 2660.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Peace Now director, Yariv Oppenheimer, said, 2011 "will be remembered as the 'year of the settlers' regarding construction in the West Bank" and claimed the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was jeopardizing the possibility of a two-state solution.
The Israeli government described Peace Now’s figures as exaggerated and spokesman Mark Regev offered this pointed retort:
"The current Israeli government has been attacked by the leadership of the settlement movement for being the "worst government in Israel's history" when it comes to settlement construction. And it is indeed true that we have shown more restraint on the issue of settlement than any previous Israeli government. We initiated the unprecedented ten-month settlement moratorium and even since the conclusion of that moratorium we continue to exercise great restraint."
July 13, 2011
Posted: 941 GMT
March 18, 2011
Posted: 1505 GMT
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out the possibility that his government would ever negotiate with a Palestinian government that included the Islamist group Hamas.
“Can you imagine a peace deal with Al Qaeda? Of course not.” Netanyahu told Morgan in Jerusalem. “What am I going to negotiate with them? The method of our decapitation? The method of their exterminating us? Of course not"
The vocal opposition from Netanyahu comes amidst Palestinians efforts to end the bitter political divide between their two main political parties.
Wednesday Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he was ready to visit the Gaza Strip immediately in an effort to end the internal political division between his Fatah party and the Hamas faction which rules in Gaza.
That move followed an invitation from Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh who extended the invitation to Abbas as tens of thousands of protestors both in the West Bank and Gaza took to the streets demanding political unity.
Israel has long rejected the idea of direct negotiations with Hamas which it regards as a terrorist organization but Netanyahu’s comments signal what appears to be a new Israeli push to prevent Abbas from striking deal that would include Hamas in any future Palestinian government.
Friday’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Israeli officials were working to convince the United States and other nations that any Hamas role in a government would attest to the Palestinian’s lack of interest in peace.
The division between Fatah and Hamas began in 2006 when the Islamist party won parliamentary elections and worsened a year later when Hamas seized power in Gaza from Fatah in a violent coup. Repeated attempts at negotiating a political rapprochement have failed .
While few are holding their breath that this latest effort at reconciliation will bear fruit there is considerably more pressure being brought to bear on both factions. Taking a page from protestors in Egypt and Tunisia internet savvy Palestinians have been using social media to organize increasing numbers to demonstrate publicly for reconciliation.
Independent lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti says recent demonstrations represent a new and important youth movement in Palestinian society.
"What you see is the beginning of change, what you see is the voice of the young people and the silent majority among the Palestinians which are pressuring both Fatah and Hamas to end this terrible division, to end this internal competition about an authority which does not exist because it is all under occupation," Barghouti said. "You see the voice of the Palestinian majority asking for democracy back and asking for unity, which is the only way to end occupation and the suffering of the people."
February 13, 2011
Posted: 815 GMT
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat has stepped down from his post, saying he did so because he felt responsible that controversial documents were stolen from his office but not because of how Middle East peace talks have unfolded.
January 27, 2011
Posted: 724 GMT
We did this interview with the Quartet's envoy Tony Blair the day after Al-Jazeera released new leaked documents detailing British involvement in supporting the development of Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank, some of which have been involved in human rights abuses including torture of prisoners according to various human rights organizations. Blair also takes aim at the Qatar-based news network for the way the documents have been released.
November 9, 2010
Posted: 1523 GMT
Fresh off the success of his controversial visit to Lebanon, it appears that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will now be weighing whether or not to make another diplomatic visit – this time to the Gaza Strip.
According to semi-official Iranian news agency Fars, the Hamas government in Gaza has extended an official invitation to the Iranian leader to visit the coastal strip in order to "boost resistance moral" of the territories 1.5 million Palestinian residents.
Hamas official Ahmed Yousef told Fars “We invite (President) Ahmadinejad to pay a visit to the Gaza Strip, and we are confident that the visit will have extraordinary importance”
Yousef told Fars he hoped that a trip by the Iranian leader would inspire Gazans in the same way it did for Lebanese.
Lacking the same enthusiasm would be Israel which has long accused the Iranian regime of providing weapons and cash to Hamas which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
"Perhaps he could be smuggled in through the tunnels with weapons" deadpanned Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor who said he did not expect an Ahmadinejad visit to take place, despite the invitation.
Israel and Egypt control the land, sea and air approaches to the territory and it would be unlikely that the Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak , which has not enjoyed the friendliest of relations with Iran, would allow such a visit.
For his part Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who represents a rival Palestinian political faction, will not be supporting a visit either. He recently told CNN that both Iran and Hamas were impeding the peace talks with Israel.
"Hamas and whoever is standing behind Hamas – meaning Iran – is slowing the peace process. Yes, yes, Iran is pressuring Hamas not to be part of any agreement, so that they can use Hamas as a negotiations card in their talks with the international community and especially with the United States."
October 29, 2010
Posted: 1726 GMT
A UN agency's decision to identify a Jewish holy site in the West Bank as a mosque and define it and another shrine as Palestinian has prompted cries of bias and distortion from Israel.
"The attempt to separate the nation of Israel from its cultural heritage is absurd," said Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement released Friday.
"It is unfortunate that an organization that was established with the goal of promoting the cultural preservation of historical sites around the world, is attempting due to political reasons to uproot the connection between the nation of Israel and its cultural heritage."
The harsh words stem from a decision earlier in the week by the executive board of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which read:
"The Palestinian sites of al-Haram, al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem: the Board voted 44 to one (12 abstentions) to reaffirm that the two sites are an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories and that any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law..."
It was, according to UNESCO spokeswoman Susan Williams, the first time the U.N. agency's executive board had referred to the religious site in Bethlehem as a mosque . The one vote against came from the United States.