Palestinians led by their top Muslim cleric appealed to Iraqi insurgents Wednesday to release four Western peace activists, saying three of them had spent time in the West Bank aiding the Palestinians. The banner on the right reads in Arabic: “we demands the release of the CPT members” and the banner on the center reads: “CPT are friends of Palastine and the Arabs, release them.”
(AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
On November 30, 2005 the National and Islamic Forces in Hebron held a press conference to ask for the release of four CPTers being held by an Iraqi armed group. The first speaker was Sheikh Najib Al Ja’abri, who hosted the press conference at the Ali Baka’a Mosque in the Haret e-Sheikh neighborhood of Hebron. He spoke of his warm sense of working together with CPTers over the years. The second speaker was Abdul ‘Alim Dana of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, followed by Fahmi Shahin, Coordinator of the National and Islamic Forces in Hebron, representing the Palestine People’s Party.
Naim Daour, Public Relations Director for Hebron University, talked about repeated closures of the university and CPT’s work to help to re-open the university. “Sometimes it is hard to tell who is working for us and who is against us, but really Christian Peacemaker Teams helps us – whoever is holding the CPTers has made a mistake.” Fariel Abu Haikal, Headmistress of Qurtuba Girls’ School, emphasized the difference between CPTers and the American government. “Saif al-Haq (‘Sword of Justice,’ the Iraqi armed group holding the CPTers) I don’t know, but these problems in Iraq, they come from George Bush. He is the problem, not CPT.” She described the accompaniment that CPTers have provided for teachers and students at her school, who are often assaulted by Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Beit Hadassah.
The last Palestinian to speak was Jamal Miqbal of Beit Ummar. Jamal and his family live in the shadow of the Israeli settlement of Karme Tzur, and the Israeli military issued a demolition order on their home. Many CPTers have stayed at their home, both in tense times when the Miqbals feared that the bulldozer would come, and in more relaxed seasons.
At the conclusion of the press conference, CPTers read this message:
“We are very worried about our four friends. We fear that whoever is holding them has made a mistake. They are four men who went to Iraq to work for peace. They oppose the occupation. They are not spies.”