(Note: The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) refers to the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem which have been under Israeli occupation since 1967 )
Apartheid Roads and Restrictions on Freedom of Movement
Israel has created a system of extensive roads in the Palestinian territories, primarily in the West Bank, which connect Jewish colonies to each other and to Israel. These roads are largely off-limits to Palestinians even though they are built on occupied Palestinian land. Palestinians are forced to use an alternative road network of inferior and more circuitous roads that run between the Israeli road network. In effect a two-tier road system – Israeli and Palestinian – operates side-by-side.
The first major impact of the forbidden road regime is that it has placed severe restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement, effectively stifling the economy. A scheme of manned checkpoints,the Separation Wall, road blocks and a permit system ensure that Palestinians use the alternate system of sub-level streets, dirt roads and tunnels to by-pass settlements . While Jewish settlers can travel freely without any hindrance on roads, Palestinians are required to present permits and need to be approved by IDF soldiers. They are subject to constant delays, long lines and humiliating searches at check points. Access to receiving and providing medical services is also a serious concern; at least 39 cases of Palestinians dying due to delays at check points have been documented .
The second impact of the apartheid roads is that it has lead to territorial fragmentation of the West Bank, as can be seen here. Each Palestinian Bantustan is surrounded by these roads and is isolated from the neighboring enclave. The occupation forces not only prevent Palestinians from using ‘settler-only’ roads, they also prevent them from simply crossing the roads. As a result, they can’t just drive across a road to the neighboring Bantustan; they have to take long routes to by-pass Israel’s road regime. A 10-20 minute journey now takes 2-3 hours . In addition, each road has a 50–75m buffer zone on each side, where no construction is allowed. As a result, for each 100 km of road about 2,500 acres of West Bank land is confiscated .
Israel defends this road regime on security grounds. However, the security pretext is a racist one as it assumes that all Palestinians are a security risk; indigenous people have to prove their innocence to receive a permit – something rarely granted. Critics have objected to the roads being called ‘Jewish-only’ as they are accessible to anyone with Israeli citizenship. However, the roads are meant to service the settlements which are for exclusive Jewish use. This system resembles the “pass laws” of apartheid South Africa, which required black South Africans to demonstrate permission to travel or reside anywhere in South Africa .
Home Demolitions and Discriminatory Legal Enforcement
In areas of the OPT under its absolute authority(East Jerusalem and 60% of West Bank), Israel exercises complete control over any construction activity that takes place. Any Palestinian construction needs approval from Israeli authorities; else it is deemed ‘illegal’ and is subject to demolition. Thus, when Palestinians construct, repair or renovate homes, schools and hospitals without Israeli permission, they are at the risk of being bulldozed.  
Despite the need to accommodate population growth and rebuild ageing infrastructure, this approval is rarely granted and Palestinians are forced to either renovate without permission or abandon their breaking homes. 94% of permit requests were rejected between 2000 and 2007; over 1600 buildings were bulldozed in this period – effectively displacing thousands of people. The UN reported that Israel demolished at least 25 schools in 2009 alone which served 6000 students .
On the other hand, Jewish colonizers have built buildings, roads – even entire settlement outposts – without Israeli authorization and they have not been demolished . Unauthorized ‘outpost’ settlements are illegal even by Israeli law, yet they are not bulldozed (all settlements are illegal under international law). A few outposts which were demolished were rebuilt and the same number remains today. Settlement infrastructure continues to expand and the permit regime poses no obstacles to it. While settlers have moved to the Palestinian territories from abroad, Palestinians have no choice but to build illegally if they wish to remain in their native land .
Discriminatory Distribution of Resources (Farming and Water)
Israel has placed severe restrictions on agricultural resources available to Palestinians. By the creation of the illegal Separation Wall, Israel has isolated some of the richest and most productive farmland from the West Bank. Despite this ‘seam-zone’ area lying within the OPT, Palestinians farmers require permits to access their own land in the area. Requirements to obtain a permit are extremely stringent; only 40% of farmers were given access in 2006 . Even when access is granted, it is for a very limited time with the gates often closing sporadically – they aren’t allowed to stay overnight. This regime prevents the ploughing, pruning, spraying and weeding required throughout the year that is necessary or optimum yields . Farmers live in constant fear of being totally dispossessed of their land if the restrictions are increased. By contrast, Israelis and Jewish settlers face no such restrictions and do not require any sort of permits. 
Restrictions on farming and fishing are even more severe and brutal in the Gaza Strip, which has been subject to the US-backed Israeli siege. Israel has declared a buffer zone that extends for 1,500 meters into Gaza from the border fence (17% of the Strip); fishing has been restricted to three nautical miles from the shoreline . The buffer zone has taken away 35% of the agricultural land available in Gaza. Farmers, fishermen and even children are shot at if they dare cross into this ‘buffer zone’ – despite this area being within the Palestinian territories. Since March 2010, the IDF has shot 17 children while they collected building gravel in this area . In addition to these extra judicial killings, the Israeli military routinely levels agricultural produce in this area using tanks, bulldozers and fires in order to terrorize farmers and squash any hope they have left .
Discriminatory distribution of water to Jews and Palestinians is one of the most inhuman, yet hidden, policies of this regime. The Mountain Aquifer serves as the sole water source for Palestinians; Israel allocates just 20% of its water for them . As a result, Palestinian per capita water consumption barely reaches 70 liters/ day – this is well below the recommended daily minimum of 100 liters per day set by the World Health Organization (WHO). By contrast, Israeli daily consumption (including settlements) is 4 times that. In some parts of the West Bank, Jewish settlers use 20 times the water consumed by neighboring Palestinians, who survive on 20 liters of water per capita a day. This is the emergency amount set by the WHO in cases of disasters for ‘short-term relief’ in cases such as Darfur and the Haiti earthquake. In the Gaza Strip, 90% of the water is contaminated and unfit for human consumption  .
While settlements enjoy well-watered lawns, swimming pools and large irrigated farms, Palestinians down the road barely have enough water to suit domestic needs. They often have to rely on buying water from portable water tanks which can cost them 1/6 of their income. Like other oppressive policies, Israel also uses water restriction as a means of expulsion. The IDF has attacked and confiscated water tankers and transport equipment from villagers; offering to return them in return for leaving the land. Palestinians, being the resilient people that they are, continue to rebuild their homes and live in dire conditions- refusing to abandon the land which is rightfully theirs.  
Next Post: More Policies and Conclusion
 Ibid , pg 58
 Ibid , pg 70
 Ibid – pg 5
Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good
For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad , are paramount. Each Prophet of God belonged to a community which is termed as their Qawm in the Qur’an. Prophet Lut (Lot) was born in Iraq, but settled in Trans-Jordan and then became part of the people, Qawm of Lut, in his new-found home. All the Prophets addressed those around them as ‘Ya Qawmi’ (O, my people) while inviting them to the religion of submission, Islam. Those who accepted the Prophets’ message became part of their Ummah. So, individuals from any ethnicity or community could become part of the Ummah – such as the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad.
Believers thus have dual obligations: a) towards their own Qawm (country), and b) towards their Ummah (religious companions). As God’s grateful servants, Muslims should strive to give their best to both their Qawm and Ummah with their ability, time and skillset. It is imperative for practising and active Muslims to carry out Islah (improvement of character, etc) of people in their Ummah and be a witness of Islam to non-Muslims in their Qawm and beyond. This in effect is their service to humanity and to please their Creator. With this basic understanding of the concept, every Muslim should prioritise his or her activities and try their utmost to serve human beings with honesty, integrity and competence. Finding excuses or adopting escapism can bring harm in this world and a penalty in the Hereafter.
Like many other parts of the world, Britain is going through a phase lacking in ethical and competent leadership. People are confused, frustrated and worried; some are angry. Nativist (White) nationalism in many western countries, with a dislike or even hatred of minority immigrant people (particularly Muslims and Jews), is on the rise. This is exacerbated through lowering religious literacy, widespread mistrust and an increase in hateful rhetoric being spread on social media. As people’s patience and tolerance levels continue to erode, this can bring unknown adverse consequences.
The positive side is that civil society groups with a sense of justice are still robust in most developed countries. While there seem to be many Muslims who love to remain in the comfort zone of their bubbles, a growing number of Muslims, particularly the youth, are also effectively contributing towards the common good of all.
As social divisions are widening, a battle for common sense and sanity continues. The choice of Muslims (particularly those that are socially active), as to whether they would proactively engage in grass-roots civic works or social justice issues along with others, has never been more acute. Genuine steps should be taken to understand the dynamics of mainstream society and improve their social engagement skills.
From history, we learn that during better times, Muslims proactively endeavoured to be a force for good wherever they went. Their urge for interaction with their neighbours and exemplary personal characters sowed the seeds of bridge building between people of all backgrounds. No material barrier could divert their urge for service to their Qawm and their Ummah. This must be replicated and amplified.
Although Muslims are some way away from these ideals, focusing on two key areas can and should strengthen their activities in the towns and cities they have chosen as their home. This is vital to promote a tolerant society and establish civic roots. Indifference and frustration are not a solution.
Muslim individuals and families
- Muslims must develop a reading and thinking habit in order to prioritise their tasks in life, including the focus of their activism. They should, according to their ability and available opportunities, endeavour to contribute to the Qawm and Ummah. This should start in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on one’s obligations to their neighbour; one that stands out – Gabriel kept advising me to be good to my neighbour so much that I thought he would ask that he (neighbour) should inherit me) – Sahih Al-Bukhari.
- They must invest in their new generation and build a future leadership based on ethics and professionalism to confidently interact and engage with the mainstream society, whilst holding firm to Islamic roots and core practices.
- Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
- They should jettison any doubts, avoid escapism and focus where and how they can contribute. If they think they can best serve the Ummah’s cause abroad, they should do this by all means. But if they focus on contributing to Britain:
- They must develop their mindset and learn how to work with the mainstream society to normalise the Muslim presence in an often hostile environment.
- They should work with indigenous/European Muslims or those who have already gained valuable experience here.
- They should be better equipped with knowledge and skills, especially in political and media literacy, to address the mainstream media where needed.
Muslim bodies and institutions
- Muslim bodies and institutions such as mosques have unique responsibilities to bring communities together, provide a positive environment for young Muslims to flourish and help the community to link, liaise and interact with the wider society.
- By trying to replicate the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, they should try to make mosques real hubs of social and spiritual life and not just beautiful buildings. They should invest more in young people, particularly those with professional backgrounds. They should not forget what happened to many places where the Muslim presence was thought to be deep-rooted such as Spain.
- It is appreciated that the first generation Muslims had to establish organisations with people of their own ethnic/geographical backgrounds. While there may still be a need for this for some sections of the community, in a post-7/7 Britain Muslim institutions must open up for others qualitatively and their workers should be able to work with all. History tells that living in your own comfort zone will lead to isolation.
- Muslim bodies, in their current situation, must have a practical 5-10 year plan, This will bring new blood and change organisational dynamics. Younger, talented, dedicated and confident leadership with deep-rooted Islamic ideals is now desperately needed.
- Muslim bodies must also have a 5-10 year plan to encourage young Muslims within their spheres to choose careers that can take the community to the next level. Our community needs nationally recognised leaders from practising Muslims in areas such as university academia, policy making, politics, print and electronic journalism, etc.
#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives
Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019 at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.
Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.
News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.
Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.
The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.
“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”
MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.
You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar
At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source: DMagazine.com
The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News
“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman
Source: Bend The Arc
“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman
Source: Kera News
Source: The Carter Center
Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred
“My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN
From Sri Lanka – The Niqab Ban and The Politics of Distraction
This article was originally published on Groundviews
As of last Monday, Sri Lanka is taking a seat at the table next to a list of 13 other countries from across the world who have passed legislation banning the niqab or face veil.
Amidst incensed murmurs from certain parliamentarians, and following a discussion with the country’s main Islamic theological body, the All Ceylon Jammiatul Ulema (ACJU), the President’s office has announced that ‘any garment or item which obstructs the identification of a person’s face would be barred.’ Sri Lanka has been under emergency regulations following the Easter Sunday attacks which killed over 250 people. The ban will hold until emergency regulations are lifted.
Ever since the identification of the all-male terrorists behind the massacre as members of militant group ISIS, Muslim women -for some inexplicable reason- were to bear the hardest brunt. Instances of headscarved Muslim women being refused entry at various supermarkets and prominent establishments, was followed by the usual scaremongering via alarmist infographics doing the rounds yet again ‘educating’ the public of the differences between the burqa, hijab, and chador.
A victory indeed for both anti-Muslim voices, as well as to many within the Muslim community seeking to audibly amputate themselves from a supposedly dated form of Islam – one that they claim has no bearing to inherent Sri Lankan Muslim identity. A view that discards the notion that any religious or ethnic identity is fluid, in flux, and subject to constant evolution.
The grand slam however is primarily for the current political establishment, members of whom are probably high-fiving each other as a result of this kneejerk symbol-politics manoeuvre on having supposedly successfully placated the public of their fears of homegrown terrorism. A move that bleeds hypocrisy for it comes at the cost of subliminally ‘othering’ an already marginalized segment of a minority community, while at the same time PSA’ing for peace and coexistence in this time of crisis.
What is most insulting to the intelligence of our society however, is that amidst all this brouhaha, only few have questioned the actual relevance of this new ban to the current state of our security affairs.
No eye witness report nor CCTV footage showed that any of the suicide bombers from any of the coordinated attacks across the country were on that day wearing the niqab/burqa/chador at the time of inflicting their terror. The men were in fact dressed in men’s attire, with faces completely exposed. It might serve to add here also that they weren’t dressed in traditional Muslim man garb either.
How then did the face veiling Muslim woman get pushed under the bus as the most identifiable sign of radicalism?
It is obvious that the government was cornered into passing this legislation, as was the ACJU too in having to support this move. While all communities have only their praises to sing for the exceptional work of the security forces in tracking down the attackers within only just hours, the country’s elected leadership was in dire need of respite following what many experts claim was a massive intelligence failure, a blunder involving the wrongful identification of a terror suspect, and incompetence in the handling of events overall. A distraction was desperately required. Something needed to give, and it just so happened that the niqab-donning Muslim woman was the easiest scapegoat.
To an outsider unfamiliar with Muslim religious symbolism, the face-veil can come across as alien, even unnerving. And while our first instinct is to otherize in an attempt to help deal with the discomfort of dealing with any unknown, a woman out in the street in a niqab is -for as long as anyone can remember- most certainly not an oddity that has compelled anyone to stop and recite their final rites.
The misguided belief that the face veil is a marker of extremism isn’t and hasn’t ever been based on any empirical research. If studies were to be carried out, results would show that Muslim women in general -let alone those with a face cover- have a little role to play, if any, for acts of terror committed in all the countries that have banned them.
Contrarily, there is a clear proven relationship between terrorist attacks and increases in recorded Islamophobic incidents against Muslims, with women being disproportionately targeted. One can then dare infer that being visibly Muslim carries a greater risk to oneself, than to the people around them.
The niqab ban has been put in place as a security measure they say – a flexing of muscles towards any semblance of radicalization that will deter any future acts of terror in the country. Naturally, the perpetuating of this ideological hegemony is doing Muslim women no favors. If anything, the ban is a wholly counterproductive one, in that it ostracizes an already marginalized segment of a minority community – a sliver of a percentage out of the 10% that is the country’s Muslim population.
If -as commonly believed- veiled Muslim women are being hopelessly persecuted, the ban will serve only to increasingly confine these women to their homes, under the control of the men accused of governing their lives, and further disconnected from being able to assimilate with society. Even more dangerous, there are studies which prove that having to live in an environment that is aggressively policed on the basis of belief is more likely to harbour radicalization.
Absurdity of the non-connection of the attacks with the niqab ban aside, this in itself should be a war cry for secular feminists advocating for everyone’s basic right to the civil freedoms of a liberal society. Where now are the proponents and ambassadors so wholly soaked in the ‘Muslim woman saviour complex?’ A segment of Muslim women has been forbidden from wearing what they feel best represents their Sri Lankan Muslim identity. They were not consulted before this legislation was passed, nor were they given the chance to show their willingness to cooperate on instances where identification was required.
Ludicrously, discourses surrounding veiled Muslim women are paradoxically lobbed back and forth according to the convenience of the times. In times of world peace, they are oppressed and subservient to patriarchal whims and fancies, while in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack there are hostile and threatening, capable of devising all kinds of evil. They are either victims of violence or the perpetrators of it.
This age-old preoccupation with Muslim women’s attire is in actuality a gross conflation of conservatism with extremism. In claiming that a strip of cloth holds the answer to combatting a severe global threat is trivialising the greater issues at hand. If there was a direct correlation between the attacks and veiled individuals, legislation forbidding the covering of the face in public would be wholly justified. But there is none.
Muslim women shouldn’t be faulted for the cracks in the state’s china. In not being able to answer the hard questions of accountability, lapses in acting on available intelligence, and general good governance, those at the top should leave well alone and consider hiding their faces instead.