From Khalid Amayreh in al-Khalil, occupied West Bank
21 October, 2009
Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, had an unpleasant experience Tuesday, October 20th, when during a visit to the ancient Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, a young Palestinian worshiper shouted at him "you are a terrorist, you are not welcomed in Palestine."
The mosque, the most ancient in occupied Palestine, was the site of a 1994 massacre when an Israeli settler terrorist from the nearby colony of Kiryat Arba, murdered 29 Muslim worshipers as they were praying at dawn during the holy month of Ramadan.
Blair, the special Quartet envoy to the Middle East, was touring the southern West Bank town as part of his efforts to reactivate the Palestinian economy, effectively paralyzed by stringent Israeli restrictions.
However, his efforts seem to have so far achieved no concrete results on the arduous road of Palestinian independence from the enduring Israeli military occupation.
Nonetheless, Blair's failure to make any real progress in Palestine doesn't seem to be the main source of the nearly universal anger at him among Arabs and Muslims. The pivotal role he played in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and his close collaboration with the Bush administration earned him widespread indignation amongst Muslims all over the world.
"You are a terrorist, you are not welcomed in Palestine, go home, you are a war criminal," shouted Ali Hasan Hamdan, a young communications engineer from a small hamlet called Khursa, located 15 kilometers south west of Hebron.
The young engineer, 23, was praying when Blair and his entourage, which included several Palestinian officials, entered the Mosque. He says he had not pre-planned his verbal protest as he didn't know beforehand that Blair was coming to the Mosque.
"It was a spontaneous reaction to seeing this war criminal enter the Holy place. I didn't do it as a Palestinian nationalist, but rather as a Muslim who has been deeply offended by the huge crimes that Blair committed against Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine," Hamdan intimated to this writer.
Hamdan was immediately subdued by Blair's Palestinian guards who dragged him to a corner inside the Mosque before taking him to the offices of the local Preventive Security headquarters where he was badly beaten.
During the fracas, Blair maintained his composure telling Palestinian security officials and reporters that the man had the right to protest.
"You know, he's made his protest, and that was fair enough."
However, the Quartet envoy remarked that what happened was an individual behavior and didn't reflect the views of the whole Palestinian population.
But Hamdan strongly disagrees.
"I think I was reflecting the feelings and views of the vast majority of Muslims. After all this is the man whose policies led to the destruction of two sovereign Muslim countries and caused the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. He is more than a war criminal. He is satanic."
Hamdan says that had he been allowed to speak further, he would have made Blair angrier.
"I wanted to tell him that the Islamic Umma (worldwide community) is waking up and that Muslims will be soon emancipated from enslavement to West. I wanted to tell him that Arab and Muslim regimes didn't represent the Muslim masses and that Muslims were seething with anger toward criminal western powers such as Britain and the United States. I wanted to tell him that sooner or later Muslims will reinstitute the political authority of Islam and re-establish the Caliphate."
Hamdan, said that his outburst against Blair was not particularly motivated by the former British prime minister's pro-Israeli stance.
"I think he is one of the most evil tormentors of Muslims in our time. He played a key role in the American-led invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. And in Palestine it is amply clear that he is conspiring and conniving with Israel against the Palestinians."
"What has he done for the Palestinians? Nothing."
When Hamdan was dragged to the Preventive Security building nearly three kilometers from the Ibrahimi mosque, he was asked to sign a pledge stating that he wouldn't indulge in such behavior again.
"Four officers ganged up on me, beating me savagely on the head and on my hands. I know the identity of three of them. They told me that if I didn't cooperate with them, they would let me bleed a pool of blood."
"They told me that what I did insulted and embarrassed the Palestinian Authority. I retorted by telling them that I didn't recognize the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority, which made them very angry."
After five hours of threats, beating and verbal abuse, Hamdan was released, apparently following intervention by local notables.
During the interview, I asked Hamdan if he didn't fear for his life when he booed Blair, he said he didn't think about it.
"We are Muslims, and as a Muslim, I believe that one's life expires only when God decides."
Blair, who travels in the West Bank, in a bullet-and-bomb proof Jeep provided by the United Nations, normally avoids holding press conferences, probably in order to avoid being asked embarrassing questions pertaining to his erstwhile alliance with the Bush administration.
Several months ago, during a visit to the Hebron City Hall, this journalist asked him how he thought future Arab and Muslim generations would view him in light of his role in the American-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Noticing that the question was a little "fishy," Blair said he apologized for not answering the question because he didn't have enough time for a detailed answer.
Blair had refrained from speaking up against Israel 's genocidal invasions of Lebanon in 2006 and the Gaza Strip in winter.
He also has been reluctant to challenge Israel on the settlement-expansion issue, perhaps in order to keep his good-paying job for as long as possible.
I asked a Palestinian shopkeeper, not far from the Ibrahimi Mosque where Blair was visiting, what he thought of the "British guest."
The elderly man, after a moment of silence, said the following:
"We have to constantly remember that it was Blair's country that gave our homeland to the Jews on a silver platter. That was the original sin."
"As to Blair, I think he has more Muslim blood on his hands since Hulagu and Gengiz Khan. He is an evil man."