Saturday, December 29, 2007

Abbas' Interesting Omission

This article appeared in the Deccan Herald, published in Bangladore, India. One of the interesting aspects I found was in the last paragraph, in which Abu Mazen expressed hope for security, stability and economic prosperity. He didn't mention anything about peace.

Of course, Neither he nor the Palestinian Authority has shown any interest in peace, although it's unlikely the Palestinian Arabs will see much security, stability or prosperity until they start pursuing peace rather than the destruction of Israel.

Hope, cheer replace gloom in the Holy Land

Bethlehem/Jerusalem, PTI:
Cheerful celebrations broke the years-long gloom as thousands of Christian pilgrims thronged the Holy city of Bethlehem, Jesus' birthplace, to participate in the midnight mass.

The manger square in front of Church of Nativity was abuzz with activity as tourists jostled for space and vendors tried to sell inflatable Santas, peanuts, items of traditional craftsmanship and 'strong Arabic coffee'.

The streets, which remained forlorn for the past seven years because of the deadlock over Jerusalem, showed signs of revival with Palestinian scouts adorning colourful outfits marching through them, and vendors scattered all around.

Children in Santa Claus outfit could be seen strolling all over the place shaking hands with tourists and wishing them 'Merry Christmas'.

"In the past two days I have managed to earn what I sometimes earn in a month. The hotels look very lively with tourists deciding to stay in Bethlehem this time instead of coming from Jerusalem only for the mass", Hisham Abdelrahim, a taxi driver, said.

"I have been extremely busy, but am worried that it will not last long", he added.

Jae Young, a youngster from South Korea said "I feel very happy participating in the celebrations this year. My earlier visits to Bethlehem for the midnight mass were depressing as I didn't see any cheerfulness on the faces of the locals. It is certainly different this time".

On the auspicious occasion, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud said that he expected his talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will help in establishing an independent Palestinian state next year.

[He'd better start getting ready to compromise, instead of just waiting for more concessions from Israel, if he expects the de facto Palestinian Arab states in Judea, Samaria and Gaza to turn into legitimate states anytime soon.]

Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Roman Catholic Church's highest official in the Holy Land, also made a strong plea for peace in the conflict-ridden region.

"The Holy Land is (today) a land of war and conflict, a land of humiliation of one people at the hand of another", Sabbah, the first Palestinian to hold the position, said.

"God wanted this land to be a land for all - Jews, Christians and Muslims. Every state that is established in this land, be it Israeli or Palestinian, must understand the sweeping nature of this Holy Land, in order to be able to host whoever lives here," he added.

[Perhaps the Palestinian Authority might begin moving towards that vision by repealing the law making it a capital crime to sell land to Jews and by welcoming the Jewish residents of the disputed territories rather than demanding ethnic cleansing.]

Meanwhile, the tourists also lauded Israel's efforts to facilitate the movement of the tourists.

"No questions were asked. We just showed our passports and were let in without any hassle", Nancy, a tourist from Philippines said.

A city hall official in Bethlehem said that about 65,000 people flocked to the Holy site for midnight mass this year, four times more than last year.

"We made a fervent plea to the locals to let the tourists go inside the church before them. Even then it was almost impossible to accommodate everybody there", he said.

However, some of the people did not look very enthusiastic about the changed mood calling it a 'two-day affair'.

"The tourists will enjoy all the festivities and go back without understanding the pain locals have to go through every day", a Bethlehem resident Raja Zachariah said

"We hope this year (2008) will be the year of independence for the Palestinian people. God willing, this will be the year of security and stability and economic prosperity for the Palestinians," Abbas said.

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