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News from France: Resistance Library…Palestine in Paris

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  • Zafar Khan
    Resistance Library…Palestine in Paris By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent Thu. Apr. 24, 2008
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 26, 2008
      Resistance Library…Palestine in Paris
      By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
      Thu. Apr. 24, 2008


      PARIS — The shelves are massed with books on the
      Palestinian cause, the walls are decorated with maps
      of Palestinian towns and villages in what later became
      Israel and the famous Nablus soap and Palestine olive
      oil are on sale.
      But make no mistake, you are not in Palestine.

      Welcome to the Resistance Library in Paris.

      The 300-square-meter place, equipped with computers
      and a lecture room, is dedicated to the Palestinian
      cause, offering information on the conflict, the
      occupied territories and the Israeli aggressions.

      "The place was originally a garage," Olivia Zemor, the
      library's Jewish director, told a recent seminar at
      the library.

      "Now it's a platform for supporting the Palestinians
      and their just cause."

      Once inside the library, you will be greeted by a
      powerful display of information-packed maps
      illustrating the lost Palestinian land from 1946 to
      present day.

      The shelves are filled with books on the intifada,
      resistance groups and the refugees' plight.

      Taking a central stage at the library's main hall is a
      picture of a young man.

      "This is Saleh al-Hamouri," says Zemor.

      "He has been detained by Israel for three years now
      without trial. We just learned that an Israeli
      military court has sentenced him to seven years in

      Know Palestine

      The library has become a destination for supporters of
      the Palestinian struggle from around the world.

      Zemor, the director, is one of France's main advocates
      of the Palestinian cause.

      Born in Paris to Jewish parents, she is President of
      CAPJPO, the committee for just peace in the
      Middle-East, which was created in 2002 to bring
      together people who share the aim of defending the
      Palestinian rights.

      The library is preparing a big event in solidarity
      with the Palestinian people.

      Gilad Atzmon, a leading Israeli jazz musician and
      Palestinian solidarity activist, will be performing at
      the library next month.

      "Atzmon will be coming from London, where he is living
      in self-exile to protest the oppression practiced by
      his country against Palestinians," Zemor said.

      "All the revenues of the concert will be dedicated for
      aiding the Palestinians."

      Last week, the Resistance Library hosted Palestinian
      writer and researcher Khaled al-Hroub.

      The UK-based academic introduced to the audience the
      French version of his latest book, Hamas for
      Beginners, in which he warns against allowing the
      Gaza-West Bank separation to continue.

      The library is currently hosting an exhibition of
      French photographer François Legeait.

      The exhibition, titled Palestine 141, showcases photos
      of 141 Palestinian children killed by Israel in 2006

      The Resistance Library also aims at helping
      Palestinians survive the harsh economic conditions
      imposed by the Israeli occupation.

      Traditional Palestinian cultural heritage items, like
      Nablus soap, olive oil, and al-Khalil's handmade
      pottery, are on sale.

      "The price you will pay will go for the people who
      need it back in Nablus," reads the label on the soap
      bars and oil bottles.

      "Made in Palestine."

      Jewish Official in French Mosque
      By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
      Thu. Apr. 17, 2008


      PARIS — Bernard Koch, a Jew, will be striving to
      bridge gaps between Jewish and Muslims in France from
      his office in the Islamic center in Drancy, a commune
      in the northeastern suburbs of Paris.
      "I will do my best to serve both minorities and bring
      them closer," a moved Koch told IslamOnline.net.

      Koch has been appointed by the Islamic Cultural
      Society in Drancy as foreign relations officer.

      He will have his office in the second floor of the
      two-story building that also houses the society's

      "I will have an office affiliated to the mosque from
      where I will manage Muslim-Jewish relations," said in
      excited Koch.

      "My goal is to project the true image of Islam as
      opposed to the misconceptions propagated in the

      Drancy, a commune located nearly 10 kilometers from
      the center of Paris, has 12,000-Muslim and
      2,000-Jewish communities. It has a total population of

      Koch recognizes that the appointment could upset some

      "I'm sure there will be obstacles along the way not
      just from Muslims but Jews as well. But I plan to keep
      an open mind."

      France is home to the biggest Muslim minority in
      Europe, estimated at 5-6 million.

      It also has 600,000 Jews, Western Europe's biggest
      Jewish community.


      The appointment of Koch to such a post was warmly
      welcomed by all parties.

      A special ceremony held on April 15 was attended by
      Drancy municipal chief Jean-Christophe Lagarde, the
      head of the Jewish community Jacques Aboucaya and
      Islamic Cultural Society chairman Hassan Chalghoumi.

      "We see no problem in appointing Koch for the post,"
      Chalghoumi, also the mosque imam, told IOL.

      "He is a man of high caliber and is known for his
      devotion to work and ability to work with others."

      He indicated that Koch will have his office, just like
      the Society's other administration officials, in the
      second floor of the meeting.

      "The first floor is kept for the mosque."

      Chalghoumi recognizes that the unprecedented step
      coincides with increasing tension in the Middle East
      and mounting Israeli attacks against Palestinians.

      "Our aim is to improve the image of the Muslim
      minority and highlight Islam's openness to followers
      of other faiths."

      A galaxy of prominent Muslim scholars and interfaith
      experts issued in February an open letter for the
      world's Jewish community calling for a dialogue to
      improve relations between Jews and Muslims who have
      common ground of shared beliefs.

      "Drancy has a symbolic importance in the history of
      French Jews," notes Imam Chalghoumi.

      The area is home to an infamous prison camp that was
      used to hold Jews before being deported to the
      extermination camps under Nazi Germany.

      Imam Chalghoumi said Muslims and Jews in Drancy enjoy
      good, friendly relations.

      "A Jewish delegation visited our mosque a week ago,"
      he recalled.

      "I had earlier paid a visit to Drancy synagogue and
      delivered a speech on tolerance and coexistence in

      France Gets New Islamic School
      By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
      Tue. Mar. 4, 2008


      PARIS — A fourth private Islamic school in France is
      to be inaugurated next week to meet the growing needs
      of the Muslim minority amid a boom in faith-based
      schools in the strictly secular European country.
      "The government has recently granted us the license to
      start operation," Mahmoud Awwad, the sponsor and
      director of the "Education et Savior" school, told
      IslamOnline.net Tuesday, March 4.

      Starting on March 10, in the middle of the academic
      year which started in September, the school will open
      just one primary class for 10 students to complete the
      academic year.

      "As of the coming academic year 2008/9, we will open
      secondary classes accommodating 40 students," noted

      He said the new school, located in the southern Paris
      suburb of Vitrerie, will follow state curricula in
      addition to two mandatory subjects on Arabic and

      "Education et Savior" is the second the school to be
      opened in Paris after the Reussite school in the
      northern Paris suburb of Aubervilliers, and the fourth
      of its kind in France.

      The two other private Islamic schools are Ibn Rushd in
      the northern city of Lille and Al-Kindi in the central
      city of Lyon.

      There had been a strong desire among French Muslims,
      estimated at six to seven million, to have private
      Islamic schools after Paris banned hijab and religious
      symbols in state schools four years ago.

      French Muslim students who adhered to their hijabs had
      been expelled by principals and their future appeared
      largely at stake.

      They heaved a sigh of relief after the opening of such
      Islamic schools, which are recognized by the state.

      No Obstacle

      Awwad said the new school faced no obstacle in getting
      the operation license.

      "Unlike Al-Kindi secondary school, we faced no
      obstacles," he said.

      The opening of Al-Kindi in Lyon hit several snags when
      it tried to start operation in 2006.

      The Academy of Lyon, the highest state educational
      body in the city, denied the school the needed
      operation license and closed the fledgling seat of
      learning, arguing that it failed to meet hygiene and
      safety standards.

      But the Administrative Court in Lyon overturned the
      closure last February, opening the way for the school
      to start anew in March 2007.

      French Muslim leaders say the Al-Kindi incident has
      encouraged Muslim societies to open similar schools.

      "The Al-Kindi controversy has helped break barriers of
      fear among the Muslim minority to have more schools,"
      said Lhaj Thami Breze, chairman of the Union of
      Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF).

      "The French people and institutions have come to terms
      with the establishment of faith-based schools in the

      Awwad, the director of the new Islamic school in
      Vitrerie, said the main obstacle facing his school is

      "We need 250,000 euros to meet the school needs next
      year," he said. "This year we started with 100,000
      euros because we have only one class."

      Awwad urged French Muslims to donate generously to
      keep the nascent school running.

      "We, like other Muslim schools in France, depend on
      (Muslim) donations as tuitions only cover 15 percent
      of the cost," he said, noting that every student pays
      1,500 euros a year.

      The finance problem facing Muslim schools came to the
      fore last year when the Reussite school in
      Aubervilliers nearly closed due to the lack of

      The Ibn Rushd school will be the first Muslim school
      to get state finance as of next school year.

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