the covenant of Omar

GAZA CITY, March 2, 2006 ( & News Agencies) – Palestinian Christians in the Gaza Strip poured cold waters on claims and reports making the rife in western media that the stunning rise of Hamas to power would
undermine their religious rights.

"For Christians who read the Qur'an carefully and with an open mind there is no fear," asserted Shubaiber, a 68-year-old doctor who studied in England. He counted as friends Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdulaziz Rantissi, both assassinated by Israel, and points to a spot on his sofa where they used to sit.

Covenant of Omar

Father Artemios Dimitriades agreed.

"We are not afraid of anything, because the Muslims and the Christians here, from the time Islam came, are living in peace and love," said Artemios.He cited as a case in point a recent mass demonstration against Danish cartoons mocking Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).

Father Dimitriades went down of the Greek Orthodox church of Saint Perfilios to meet hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators, scores of whom were Christians.The cartoons, one of them showing the Prophet with a bomb-shaped turban, were first published in Denmark last year, and have been reprinted by newspapers, triggering massive protests across the Muslim world.The Christian cleric was not afraid that the church would be stone or set on fire during the march because Palestinian Christians were as much offended as their Muslim compatriots.

During the march, one of the Muslim protestors carried a framed copy of the Al-Uhdah Al-Omariyah (Covenant of Omar) signed in 683 by Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab.In the historical document, Omar promised Sophronios, the patriarch of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) to protect the lives, property and churches of Christians.The Covenant also guaranteed that the Christians would "not be coerced in their religion."Both Christians and Muslims see the document as having the force of law, even after more than 13 centuries.

Today, the Palestinian Basic Law, or constitution, reflects that.It stipulates that "freedom of belief and performance of religious rituals are guaranteed (unless) they violate public order or public morals."


Christian MP Hosam al-Taweel, 42, also rebuffed claims that Hamas would seek to impose Shari`ah once the government takes shape."Hamas knows that Palestinian society contains many different shapes, ideas and political colors, and knows also that if it were to try to force the whole of society to act against their beliefs and against their will, it will lose in the long run," he said.

Taweel was elected as one of the six Christians guaranteed seats in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council.Enjoying the backing of Hamas and other nationalist groups, he scored the highest among the six."As Christians, we are sharing the same problems, the same suffering from the (Israeli) occupation, the high rate of unemployment, the bad economic situation," Taweel maintained."We are living in a united society; there is no kind of division, or any kind of discrimination by Muslims."

The Right Way to Pressure Hamas

Published: February 15, 2006

Dear Editor

Just before you ask the Russian President to provide a warning to Palestinian Arab resistance and tell them to recognize the Zionist state, and give up resistance, why don't you in the West who created Zionism to get rid of your Jewish compatriots, stop for a few seconds and ask your self a simple question about the Zionist/Arab struggle: Who is the occupier and who is the occupied? Who are the indigenous inhabitants of the land around which this struggle goes around? Who displaced and replaced the other in their own land and homes? Who is committing targeted assassinations victimizing in the way hundreds of minors (791 kids between zero days and 18 years old killed and 28,822 wounded between 28 September 2000 and end of 2005), old people and women at night in their beds? Who is demolishing the homes, grazing the fields and uprooting the old olive trees (symbol of peace) of the other? Who is building walls and fences around the cities, towns and villages of the other and creating ghettos for them? Who is impoverishing the other to make life impossible for them in the hope of forcing them to commit self transfer thus leave their land to the invaders? Who doesn't recognize the existence of the other? etc. etc.... 

Who came from abroad to revenge themselves from a third party for the terror that the West used against them?

Simples questions, isn't it? Why don't you stop using double standards?


Adib S. Kawar          

An uprooted Christian Palestinian Arab 

Beirut - Lebanon - Tel. 00961 3 261422



The Right Way to Pressure Hamas

Published: February 15, 2006

America and Israel have to walk a very narrow line in defining their relations with a democratically elected Palestinian government built around Hamas, a party that not only endorses terrorism but also commits it. They cannot possibly give political recognition or financial aid to such a government. Neither can any country that claims to oppose terrorism. That defines the right side of the line.

On the wrong side lies the kind of deliberate destabilization that, according to a report by our Times colleague Steven Erlanger, Washington and Jerusalem are now discussing. That would involve a joint American-Israeli campaign to undermine a Hamas government by putting impossible demands on it, starving it of money and putting even greater restrictions on the Palestinians with an eye toward forcing new elections that might propel the defeated and discredited Fatah Party back to power.

Set aside the hypocrisy such a course would represent on the part of the two countries that have shouted the loudest about the need for Arab democracy, and consider the probable impact of such an approach on the Palestinians. They are already driven to distraction by fury, frustration and poverty. Is it really possible to expect that more punishment from the Israelis and the Americans, this time for not voting the way we wanted them to, would lead them to abandon Hamas?

In the long, sorry history of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, there is not a shred of evidence to support the notion that pushing the Palestinian population into more economic desperation would somehow cause them to moderate their political views. In fact, experience teaches the exact opposite.

Fatah lost last month's election because its incompetence and corruption drove Palestinian voters into the arms of the more austere, social-services-oriented Hamas. If the new government fails to deliver because it puts continued terrorism over the well-being of the Palestinian people, it may indeed be booted out of office. But a Hamas that could explain continued Palestinian misery by a deliberate American-Israeli plan to reverse the democratic verdict of the polls would be likely to become only stronger.

Washington publicly asserts that no such plan is being discussed. A far wiser course for the United States to pursue would be to step back and desist from deliberately provoking the Palestinians, and give Hamas a chance to reconsider its own options. Some hints about its intentions may emerge from the way its leaders respond to overtures by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Last week, Mr. Putin indicated that he intended to invite them to Moscow for a visit.

Mr. Putin's move was controversial in the West, and perhaps he should have provided more warning. But that would be a minor snub indeed if he prods Hamas toward renouncing terrorism, accepting Israel's right to exist and reviving the peace process.

The Palestinians betrayed by Arafat's hitman, Abbas

The outgoing Palestinian parliament has voted to give new presidential powers to Mahmoud Abbas, ahead of the swearing in of a new militant-led legislature.

The Palestinian leader will be able to appoint a constitutional court that can cancel future legislation.

Hamas - the militant Islamic movement which won a landslide in January polls - called the move illegitimate.

The outgoing parliament is dominated by members of the mainstream Fatah faction which is led by Mr Abbas.

BBC World Service