In these times hope springs eternal. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Professor Mohammed Dajani, director of Al-QUds University in East Jerusalem, has begun a new religious political party. His hope is to build a movement like Hamas in the sense that it will have both a social and a political wing, creating jobs and economic opportunities, and fostering volunteerism. He is attempting to woo votes from those who will not vote for a secular political party, but who are tired of violence.
Wasatia — Arabic for “moderation” — is the first Islamic religious party to advocate a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a tolerant, democratic society at home.
In common with the mainstream Fatah movement, the Wasatia platform calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital. But in contrast to all other major Palestinian parties, it does not endorse the return of the estimated 4 million Palestinian refugees to their homes in what is now Israel.
“I would say to the refugees: ‘Move on with your life.’ We cannot let the past bury the future, even though it should always be remembered,” said Dajani.
Among the founders of Wasatia is Bashar Azzeh, a doctoral student in conflict system management who spent seven years studying and working in Kentucky before returning to the West Bank to work for a Palestinian development organization.
“The image of Islam in the United States is that it is extremist, but we have found that hardliners are not the majority among Palestinians,” Azzeh said. “I have been to the villages and talked to people. There is a feeling that people have tried violence, they have tried everything, and this is what we need now. People want a moderate political culture and an end to violence and ignorance. They want a reflection of what we are.”
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