Copyrighted material


by Jalal Ghazi

on Muslim cartoon protests

(PNS) -- There's no question that most of the demonstrations throughout the Islamic world against the Danish cartoons of Mohammed are genuine; however, according to Arab media, there's strong evidence that the violent reactions in Gaza, Lebanon and Afghanistan were deliberately planned and provoked by politically motivated groups.

Abu Dhabi Television reports that Afghani police believe that Taliban and Al Qaeda armed groups infiltrated the masses of protesters in Maimana and then opened fire, killing at least one person. This pushed the demonstration into a violent confrontation with police, who fired live rounds to control crowds and killed at least four people.

Meanwhile, the Taliban has followed the example of Al Qaeda in Iraq by escalating its suicide bombings, which totaled 14 in the past three months. The latest was the attack on the Norwegian military base in Miamina, north of Afghanistan, which killed four Afghanis.

This came only a few days after a similar attack was carried against the Bagram U.S. military base, which killed another three people. The Taliban want to escalate violence by taking advantage of anger over the Mohammad caricatures in order to foil recent NATO plans to deploy forces in northern areas. The Taliban's long-term goal is to force out the American and NATO forces so it can re-establish a Salafist government.

Violent reactions in Gaza were also allegedly preplanned to serve narrow political interests. The Fatah-affiliated Yasser Brigades and Islamic Jihad's Jerusalem Brigades raided the European Union Headquarters in Gaza City, closed it to the public and threatened to target nationals of European countries if the caricatures were republished.

On Feb. 2, a masked man who spoke for Fatah's Yasser Brigades told Abu Dahbi television, "We confirm the following: First, the closure of the European Union office in Gaza until further notice. Second, we give Danish, French and Norwegian governments 48 hours to make an official apology or else, if Islam is defamed by next Saturday, we will shell the headquarters of the European Union offices and European churches in Gaza."

This happened only a few days after the Quartet committee, which includes the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia met in London and pledged to keep money flowing into Palestine after the landslide victory of Hamas. Fatah and Islamic Jihad are clearly trying to undermine the money flow to the Hamas-led government by inciting violent reactions to the insulting cartoons.

Hamas' landslide victory was a big shock to the Islamic Jihad and Fatah, which have dominated the Palestinian Authority for the last decade. Since the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993, the two groups never agreed on anything. Islamic Jihad is based on radical religious ideology and Fatah on nationalism. However, they now find themselves, for different reasons, sharing common goals: undermining Hamas' efforts to gain international legitimacy and keeping out foreign aid.

For the Islamic Jihad, the success of Hamas is a big blow to its ideological foundation, which calls for using all means necessary, including violence, to achieve their political goals. They did not expect Hamas to win after it agreed to a year-long ceasefire and cessation of suicide bombings with Israel. The Islamic Jihad, which refused to participate in the elections, feels isolated.

For Al Fatah, the Hamas victory begins the days of reckoning for many corrupt Fatah leaders who had dominated the Palestinian authority since its establishment in 1993. They want to foil Hamas' efforts to form a new government for fear that they will be tried for corruption and asked to give back corruption money.

According to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, 25 five people have already been arrested and the Interpol is helping the Palestine Authority find 10 others who fled the country. Following the victory of Hamas, the missing $700 million from the Palestinian Authority's treasury became the focus of Arab media, including Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi televisions.

In Lebanon, there also strong evidence that the violent reactions, including the burning of the Dutch Embassy and the damaging of a Mormon church, were pre-meditated. The head of the Lebanese superior Sunni Court, Sheikh Abdel Latef Darian, told Abu Dhabi Television, "What happened was in violation of our peaceful demonstration, which was intended to condemn the Dutch media for defaming the messenger, peace be upon him. But some elements infiltrated the demonstration giving it and the Muslims of Lebanon bad rap."

According to Al Hayat newspaper, the Lebanese security arrested 174 individuates, including 76 Syrians and 35 Palestinians mainly from the Popular Front Central Command, which is strongly affiliated with the Syrian regime.

In the minds of many Lebanese citizens and officials, Syria was behind the violence. "The violence and burnings in Lebanon were the work of Syrian soldiers and workers dressed in civilian clothes," said the head of Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt.

Jumblatt explained that Assad used the protests to stir violence and create divisions between Lebanese Christians and the Sunni Muslims who organized the peace demonstrations. Assad's long-term goal is to re-establish a pro-Syrian government in Lebanon by creating fear among Christians and giving them the impression that they need Syria's protection.

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Albion Monitor   February 7, 2006   (

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