Palestinian Americans Push for Separation of Religion and Government

February 17, 2006

Source: The Forward

On February 17, 2006 The Forward reported, "Palestinian American activists are vowing to lobby Hamas against turning the West Bank and Gaza into an Islamic theocracy.

Anxious about the victory of the Islamic fundamentalist group in last month's Palestinian parliamentary elections, Palestinian American leaders say that they will push for laws favoring American-style church-state separation, pluralism, equality and inclusiveness.

'We are at the time when defining decisions may very well be made in Palestine,' said Ziad Asali, president of the American Task Force on Palestine. The task force is a prominent pro-Palestinian advocacy group in Washington.

'All sides' � including Palestinians residing outside of the West Bank and Gaza � 'should be represented with equal degree of vigor' in the debate over the future of the Palestinian society.

'We do not feel less qualified here to discuss this issue than anybody in Palestine,' he said, adding, 'We will use our influence' both in Washington and with the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza.

Asali spoke at recent Washington press conference during which his organization introduced a new document, 'A Vision for the State of Palestine.' The document lays out the core values and principles on which the organization believes a future Palestinian state should be founded. Among other things, the document asserts that a future Palestinian state ought to be secular and de-militarized. The five-page declaration was prepared by the group well before last month's Palestinian elections, with the expectation that it could serve as appropriate guidelines for a legislative council dominated by the secularist Fatah movement."