Gaza and the Ghetto

David Lloyd, Professor of English, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

In September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland in what it termed initially a “defensive war”. The invasion was in part justified by the Nazi desire to reunify what it considered historic German territory and to claim Lebensraum for a race that considered itself superior to those that surrounded it in Central and Eastern Europe. Not only the Jews, but the Slavic races, were considered inferior, less than human, and regarded as populations that could be transferred to make room for Aryans.

It was, of course, the Jews who bore the brunt of Nazi racism. By 1940, the Nazis had begun to concentrate Poland’s Jewish population into ghettos in the main cities prior to their planned transport to the camps. In Warsaw, the largest of these ghettoes, three or four hundred thousand Jews were enclosed in less than 5% of the city, walled in by a 10-20 foot high wall, and gradually strangled by starvation and the shortage of all goods, including fuel and power. Malnutrition and disease was rampant and the exits and entrances of the ghetto were closely controlled. Resistance was subject to collective punishment: tens of Jews could be murdered in retaliation for the least act of defiance.

In 1943, in the face of imminent transportation and annihilation of the Jewish population, the remaining Jews in Warsaw organized combat brigades. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began. Despite the overwhelming force of the German Army and the utter inadequacy of their own weaponry, they fought a desperate struggle in the name not only of the Jews of Poland but of Poland’s right to resist fascism and occupation. “It is a fight”, they proclaimed to the Poles beyond the ghetto walls, “for our freedom, as well as yours; for our human dignity and national honor, as well as yours….”

Though crushed by German armor and military power in hand-to-hand and street-to-street fighting, the Jewish resistance in Warsaw stands as a symbol of the right of an oppressed people to resist occupation, collective punishment, genocide and ethnocide. ...

Gaza too is a ghetto. One and a half million Palestinians, most of them refugees dispossessed of the lands and homes that were theirs for centuries, inhabit the most densely populated square miles of the Middle East, if not the world. They are hemmed in by security walls and barbed wire fences, unable to move in or out without the permission of Israel, the occupying power. They have lived in a permanent state of siege, unable to conduct free trade with the rest of the world, virtually unable to visit the West Bank, unable even to fish in the sea off their coasts, subject to perpetual surveillance and control by land, sea and air. Their hospitals lack even the most essential medicines. Power and water are controlled by the Israeli government. All goods that enter or leave this virtual prison camp do so by permission of the occupying power.

The siege of Gaza has been one long collective punishment inflicted upon the population for their temerity in having elected, in free and open elections, a party, Hamas, that Israel and their allies, the United States and European Union, condemn as terrorists. Their principal crime is to deny the right to exist of a state that has dispossessed their people, occupied their lands, denied their historical existence, subjected them to ethnic cleansing, torture and collective imprisonment, destroyed their olive groves, walled them in behind a “security fence” designed to impede movement and access to farm land, schools, universities and places of work. And all these measures have been openly declared, by an Israeli minister in government, to be designed to suffocate Gaza into submission.

All this ... was ongoing before the current Israeli assault on the population of Gaza — its police force as well as old people and school children, infants and invalids. This is not an act of “defense” on the part of Israel, but a bloody continuation of a war of offense, differing only in the intensity and publicness of its brutality and in its abrupt, bloody and systematic nature. It is a war of collective punishment against a population whose resistance is less in its occasional and mostly harmless retaliatory rocket attacks than in its simple refusal to give in. It is an offensive war ... against a people whose right to resist occupation is inscribed in international law.

It is a war whose crimes, once again, include the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, including infants and children, attacks on non-military institutions including mosques, a university and a television station, and the deliberate planning of an assault whose proclaimed ends far exceed the suppression of the purported casus belli, the rocket launching sites. It is a war designed to destroy the civil infrastructure of Hamas and to break the will of the Palestinians in Gaza to continue their resistance.

The right of the Palestinian people to resist is as indubitable as the right of the Jews of Warsaw to resist the Nazis, or of the Polish or French people to fight against their occupation by the Nazis. Israel is not the West’s proxy in the so-called global war against terrorism. It is a state that itself inflicts terror, and does so with a force and brutality far exceeding anything available to the most violent of terrorist organizations. It is a state whose colonial aim, to occupy and to settle land historically occupied by another people in order to provide unlimited Lebensraum for its own ethnic group, is evidenced every day in the continuing expansion of the illegal settlements on the West Bank. It is an apartheid state, whose self-declared constitution as a “Jewish State for a Jewish People” should have no more international legitimacy than South Africa’s “white state for a white people” or Northern Ireland’s “Protestant State for a Protestant people”, both of which finally fell to a combination of military and civil resistance and international opprobrium.

It is long beyond time for Israel ... be held accountable to the norms of international law. It is time for Israel to be subjected to the same scrutiny as any other state that bases its polity on sectarianism and racism, that has established one set of laws for one ethnic group and another for the rest. It is time for Israel to by judged by the international law that everywhere condemns extended occupation, condemns collective punishment, war against civilians, population transfers or ethnic cleansing, dispossession of the occupied people and the settlement of their lands. It is time for us to name Israel what it is ... a colonial, apartheid state with neither legitimacy nor a deserved place among the community of democratic nations.

It is time for us to cease the appeasement of Israel. Even the most ardent of appeasers of Nazi Germany never supplied Germany with arms or foreign aid, with fighter planes with which to bomb civilians, never labeled the resistance to Nazism “terrorism”, never actively participated in the German stranglehold on the ghettoes where it confined its subject populations. ...

Numerous U.N. General Assembly resolutions that have expressed the virtually unanimous international condemnation of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its wars against its neighbors have not worked. It is time for the truth about Israel to be disseminated, even against the most effective control of the western media by Israel’s lobbyists. It is time for all who care about justice and peace, for human rights, for the fate of the innocent and the oppressed, the stateless and the dispossessed, to make our voices heard. Let it not be said that in their most extreme hour of need, the Palestinian people were abandoned by the world, as the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto were abandoned in 1943.

Professor Lloyd has published primarily in the field of Irish literature and culture and on colonialism and nationalism.
– PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2009

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)


Israeli settlers attack Palestinian children

Israeli settlers from the illegal Havat Ma’on settlement outpost attacked Palestinian children walking to summer camp four times during one week in July. Settlers chased the children, ages 6-12, with sticks, yelled and swore at them, hurled stones at them and pursued them with dogs. One masked settler hit Joel Gulledge, a member of the organization Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), in the leg with a rock and then beat him in the head, inflicting injuries that required stitches. The children escaped without physical harm, but some stayed home from camp because they were afraid of being attacked on the way.

The assaults occurred on days when the Israeli army refused to escort the children from their homes in the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed past the settlement to the summer camp in At-Tuwani. The military’s failure to protect the children signals complicity with Israeli settler violence and ensures that Palestinian children will continue to be victimized.

In 2004, the Israeli Knesset recommended that the Israeli military carry out a daily escort of the school children because settlers repeatedly attacked them. In 2006, the Israeli Minister of Defense stated that the Havot Ma’on outpost should be dismantled because of the settlers’ violence toward the children. During the 2007-2008 school year, settlers used violence against the children on at least 14 occasions.

On August 2, more than one hundred children and their parents, accompanied by a few Israelis and internationals, marched from At-Tuwani to Tuba in response to the previous week’s settler attacks. They called for an end to settler violence and settlement expansion in the area, and drew attention to the Israeli army’s failure to protect the children.

At first, the Israeli military declared the whole area a closed military zone and restrained the march with force, targeting leaders. A member of CPT tried to intervene when an Israeli soldier attacked a Palestinian man. The soldier knocked them both down and started choking the CPTer. Other marchers then intervened nonviolently and stopped the attack. One Israeli activist and another CPTer were arrested.

After Palestinian organizers negotiated with soldiers, the march proceeded. A number of settlers harassed the marchers, but Israeli military and police prevented them from attacking the group.

On the morning of Nov. 15, approximately fifteen masked Israeli settlers from Havat Ma’on attacked three Palestinian shepherds who were grazing their flocks in a valley south of the illegal outpost. The settlers came running down from a ridge above the shepherds, hurling rocks. The shepherds were able to get their flocks away before the rocks injured them. During the incident, however, the settlers were able to steal two of the shepherds’ donkeys. The settlers killed one donkey with a knife wound in the chest area and slashed the other across the throat, but the donkey survived.

Editor’s note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are also considered illegal under Israeli law.

Christian Peacemaker Teams practices unarmed intervention in crisis situations and militarized areas around the world. At the invitation of local peace and human rights workers, CPT places violence-reduction teams of committed peacemakers ready to risk injury and death to transform lethal conflict through the nonviolent power of God’s truth and love.

– edited from Signs of the Times, Fall 2008, and Christian Peacemaker Teams website
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2008

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Pull out of West Bank: Olmert

JERUSALEM — In a ground-shaking interview published on Sept. 29, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asserted that Israel must withdraw from nearly all the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem in order to attain peace with the Palestinians. He further stated that any occupied land Israel held onto would have to be exchanged for the same quantity of Israeli territory. He also dismissed as “megalomania” any thought that Israel would or should attack Iran on its own to stop it from developing nuclear weapons, saying the international community and not Israel alone was charged with handling the issue.

In an unusually frank interview in the Yediot Aharonot newspaper after he resigned to fight corruption charges, Mr. Olmert discarded longstanding Israeli defense doctrine and called for radical new thinking. He said traditional Israeli defense strategists had learned nothing from past experiences and seemed stuck in the considerations of the 1948 Independence War.

Over the last year, Mr. Olmert has publicly castigated himself for his earlier right-wing views. On Jerusalem, for example, he said, “I am the first who wanted to enforce Israeli sovereignty on the entire city.” But now he said Israel’s security would be reduced by main-taining sovereignty over an undivided Jerusalem because it would involve bringing 270,000 Palestinians inside Israel’s security barrier.

Reaction from the Israeli right was swift. Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the Yisrael Beiteinu party, said on the radio that Mr. Olmert was “endangering the existence of the State of Israel irresponsibly.” Palestinian negotiators, on the other hand, said it was satisfying to hear Mr. Olmert’s words, but they said the words did not match what he had offered them so far.

Mr. Olmert remains interim prime minister while his expected successor, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, tries to build a coalition government.

– edited from The New York Times, Sept. 30, 2008
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2008

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Hamas and the Palestinians

by Jimmy Carter

Innocent Palestinian people are being treated like animals, with the presumption that they are guilty of some crime. Because they voted for candidates who are members of Hamas, the United States government has become the driving force behind an apparently effective scheme of depriving the general public of income, access to the outside world, and the necessities of life. Overwhelmingly, these are school teachers, nurses, social workers, police officers, farm families, shopkeepers, and their employees and families who are just hoping for a better life.

It is almost a miracle that the Palestinians have been able to orchestrate three elections during the past 10 years, all of which have been honest, fair, strongly contested, without violence, and with the results accepted by winners and losers. Polls conducted after the January parliamentary election show that 80% of Palestinians still want a peace agreement with Israel based on the international road map premises. Although Fatah party members refused to join Hamas in a coalition government, nearly 70% of Palestinians continue to support Fatah’s leader, Mahmoud Abbas, as their president.

One clear reason for the surprising Hamas victory for legislative seats was that the voters were in despair about prospects for peace. With American acquiescence, the Israelis had avoided any substantive peace talks for more than five years, regardless of who had been chosen to represent the Palestinian side as interlocutor. With all their faults, Hamas leaders have continued to honor a temporary cease-fire during the past 18 months, and their spokesman told me that this “can be extended for two, 10, or even 50 years if the Israelis will reciprocate.”

The day after his party lost the election, Abbas told me that his own struggling government could not sustain itself financially with their daily lives and economy so severely disrupted, and access from Palestine to Israel and the outside world almost totally restricted. They were already $900 million in debt. The additional restraints imposed on the new government are a planned and deliberate catastrophe for the citizens of the occupied territories, in hopes that Hamas will yield to the economic pressure.

It is unconscionable for Israel, the United States, and others under their influence to continue punishing the innocent people of Palestine. The Israelis are withholding approximately $55 million a month in taxes and customs duties that, without dispute, belong to the Palestinians. Although some Arab nations have allocated funds for humanitarian purposes to alleviate human suffering, the U.S. government is threatening the financial existence of any Jordanian or other bank that dares to transfer this assistance into Palestine.

It would be a tragedy for the international community to abandon the hope that a peaceful coexistence of two states in the Holy Land is possible. Like Egypt and all other Arab nations before the Camp David Accords of 1978, and the Palestine Liberation Organization before the Oslo peace agreement of 1993, Hamas leaders have refused to recognize the state of Israel while their territory is being occupied. However, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has expressed approval for peace talks between Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel. He added that if these negotiations result in an agreement that can be accepted by Palestinians, then the Hamas position regarding Israel would be changed.

The international community needs to probe for an acceptable way out of this quagmire. Israelis and Palestinians both want a two-state solution, but depriving the people of Palestine of their basic human rights to punish their elected leaders is not a path to peace.

Former President Jimmy Carter is founder of the Carter Center, Atlanta, a nonprofit organization working for peace and health worldwide. Edited from International Herald Tribune 7 May 2006.

– PeaceMeal, May/June 2006

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Israeli captain who killed Palestinian schoolgirl ‘not guilty’

iman_al-hams.jpg (14423 bytes)An Israeli army officer who fired the entire magazine of his automatic rifle into a 13-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl was acquitted Nov. 15 on all charges by a military court. Identified only as “Captain R,” the soldier — who said he would have done the same even if the child were three years old — had been charged with relatively minor offenses for the killing. Iman al-Hams was shot 17 times as she ventured near an Israeli army post near Rafah refugee camp in Gaza a year ago.

The army’s official account said that Iman was shot for crossing into a security zone carrying her schoolbag, which soldiers feared might contain a bomb. It is still not known why the girl ventured into the area but witnesses described her as at least 100 yards from the military post, which was in any case well protected. At no point did the Israeli troops come under attack.

The manner of Iman’s killing, and the revelation of a tape recording in which the captain is warned that she was just a child who was “scared to death,” made the shooting one of the most controversial since the Palestinian intifada erupted five years ago.

A recording of radio exchanges between Capt. R and his troops obtained by Israeli television revealed that from the beginning soldiers identified Iman as a child. In the recording, a soldier in a watchtower radioed a colleague in the army post’s operations room and described Iman as “a little girl” who was “scared to death.” After soldiers first opened fire, she dropped her schoolbag, which was then hit by several bullets establishing that it did not contain explosive. At that point she was no longer carrying the bag and, the tape revealed, was heading away from the army post when she was shot.

Although the military speculated that Iman might have been trying to “lure” the soldiers out of their base so they could be attacked by accomplices, Capt R made the decision to lead some of his troops into the open. Shortly afterward he can be heard on the recording saying that he has shot the girl and, believing her dead, then “confirmed the kill.” Palestinian witnesses said they saw the captain shoot Iman twice in the head, walk away, turn back and fire a stream of bullets into her body.

Capt. R claimed that he had only fired the shots near the girl. But Dr Mohammed al-Hams, who inspected the child’s body at Rafah hospital, counted numerous wounds. “She has at least 17 bullets in several parts of the body, all along the chest, hands, arms, legs,” he reported shortly afterwards. “The bullets were large and shot from a close distance. The most serious injuries were to her head. She had three bullets in the head. One bullet was shot from the right side of the face beside the ear. It had a big impact on the whole face.”

That Iman al-Hams died so violently was not in itself remarkable. Since the conflict began five years ago, Israeli troops have killed 529 unarmed Palestinian children, an average of two every week. Many were shot dead during “clashes” with soldiers, in which stones and sometimes gasoline bombs are exchanged for tear gas, rubber bullets, and live rounds. Others died in supposedly safer environments — even at their desks in U.N.-run schools like Iman’s.

On the other side, about 100 Israeli children, including two toddlers, have been killed by Palestinians since the conflict began.

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published in Dec. 2004 photographs and testimony from unnamed soldiers suggesting troops sometimes mutilate and play with the bodies of dead Palestinians, that the supposedly banned “confirmation of kill” is accepted practice, and that some soldiers at least are not particularly concerned about whether the Palestinians they kill are innocent or guilty.

Capt. R’s lawyers argued that the “confirmation of kill” after a suspect is shot was a standard Israeli military practice to eliminate terrorist threats. The military court cleared Capt. R of illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer, and perverting the course of justice by asking soldiers under his command to alter their accounts of the incident.

After the verdict, Iman’s father, Samir al-Hams, said the army never intended to hold the soldier accountable. “They did not charge him with Iman’s murder, only with small offenses. And now they say he is innocent of those, even though he shot my daughter so many times,” he said. “This was the cold-blooded murder of a girl. The soldier murdered her once and the court has murdered her again. What is the message? They are telling their soldiers to kill Palestinian children.”

      – edited from The Guardian (U.K.) and The Age (Australia)
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)


Israel’s wall proves failure of militarism

Proof that the traditional approach to national security — amassing armies and weapons — doesn’t work is appearing in front of our eyes. For years we have seen photos of unarmed Palestinian boys throwing stones at Israeli tanks. Now we are seeing construction of an Israeli security barrier, which includes an electronic fence, concrete walls, trenches and other obstacles intended to block Palestinian suicide bombers and other attackers. Planned to be more than 400-miles long and 25-feet high in places — complete with gun turrets (see photo) — it’s twice as high and, if completed as planned, will be five times as long as the Berlin Wall.Israeli_wall.jpg (5632 bytes)

Why does Israel need this to protect themselves from the Palestinians?

After 30 years of U.S. military aid — currently $2 billion a year — Israel has amassed an armed force of 600,000 troops, including reserves, 4,000 tanks, almost 11,000 other armored vehicles, helicopter gunships, F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, three submarines equipped with nuclear capable cruise missiles, and an arsenal of about 200 nuclear weapons.

The Palestinians have no army. They have no tanks. They have no helicopter gunships. They have no fighter jets. They have no submarines. And they have no nuclear weapons.

But Israel needs the wall precisely because the traditional approach to national security doesn’t work. The hardline policies of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his right-wing Likud party have forced them to regress into a Middle Age siege mentality. All those weapons and armed forces Israel has amassed can’t protect it, just as our gargantuan military machine costing a billion dollars a day couldn’t protect us from a small band of determined terrorists armed with $2 plastic box cutters.

What happens when you back a dog into a corner and then start kicking it? It bites back — right?

That’s exactly what’s happening between Israel and Palestine. Israel backed the Palestinians into two enclaves — the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Then it started kicking them by erecting Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territory, by enforcing oppressive curfews and controls on travel, and by bulldozing Palestinian homes — sometimes with the inhabitants inside. Is it any wonder the dogs began biting back?

And now to construct their protective barrier, according to a United Nations report released November 11, Israel is going to further disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and take 15 percent of the their West Bank land. The barrier under construction will be entirely inside Palestinian borders — dividing Palestine from itself and seizing Palestinian territory in violation of the internationally recognized 1967 boundaries. In many cases the barrier separates villages from their water supplies, children from their schools, workers from their jobs, and farmers from their land.

The barrier will create 12 (twelve!) separate enclaves in which the Palestinians will be surrounded by the barrier on all sides and can exit only through gates controlled by the Israeli military forces, according to the U.N. report. In an undeniable understatement, the Palestinians contend that the de facto borders would make it difficult to establish a viable Palestinian state.

The barrier’s route deviates markedly from the "Green Line" boundaries established under the 1949 Armistice between Israel and Palestine. And in October, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for Israel’s barrier project to be halted. The action came as part of the long-running tenth emergency session, which began in 1997, on illegal Israeli activities in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories. But Israel said it would ignore the nonbinding measure.

An official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the occupied territories, Francois Bellon, told Israeli Defense Force generals that the Palestinian Authority area is on the verge of an "explosion ... the worst ever humanitarian crisis." The ICRC says the blame for the impending disaster is Israel’s. In spite of the crisis, the ICRC is canceling its food program for the Palestinians in the occupied territories because the relief was only "designed to assist in a humanitarian emergency, not to address the longer-term problems caused by curfews, closures, and the collapse of the economy," which is due to the Israeli policies. For now, the badly strapped World Food Program of the United Nations is stepping in to help the Palestinians. But the Israelis, as the occupying power for three generations, fear that all the relief organizations might leave, and the food would cost them $1.6 billion a year.

Pope John Paul II, in his Sunday prayers on November 16, denounced the government of Ariel Sharon for its apartheid wall. The pope said, "The Holy Land does not need walls, but bridges. The construction of the wall between the Israeli people and Palestinian people is seen by many as a new obstacle on the road leading to peaceful cohabitation."

In a speech in London on November 19, President Bush toughened his stance over the barrier, saying Israel must not prejudice final peace negotiations "with the placement of walls and fences."

The military policy of today’s real-politik, "peace through strength," continues the policy of the ancient Roman Empire: preserve the peace by constantly preparing for war. And it doesn’t work — especially in this day and age when the world has metaphorically shrunk because of increased population and the speed of modern communication and transportation. It doesn’t work because it’s not based on cooperation but domination. It’s the law of the jungle — predator and prey. It’s "might makes right," which is not a code of morality but a code of immorality.

"If you want peace, work for justice." Work for realization of the ideals enshrined in our Declaration of Independence. Work for the realization of unalienable human rights for all people.

When the cornered dog is given the respect due a person, when his unalienable rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are respected and met, he won’t have any reason to bite back.

It’s widely recognized today that national security depends on international security. Only a just peace agreement that honors the existence and rights of both nations will provide real enduring security for Israel and Palestine alike.

– Jim Stoffels, chairman and editor
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2003
with information from Sojourners, The Independent (U.K.), The New York Times, and U.N. News Center

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)


A failed Israeli society is collapsing

by Avraham Burg, Jerusalem

The Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep. There may yet be a Jewish state in the Middle East, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly. There is time to change course, but not much. What is needed is a new vision of a just society and the political will to implement it.

Yes, we Israelis have revived the Hebrew language, created a marvelous theater and a strong national currency. Our Jewish minds are as sharp as ever. We are traded on the Nasdaq. But is this why we created a state? The Jewish people did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer security programs or antimissile missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto the nations. In this we have failed.

It turns out that the 2,000-year struggle for Jewish survival comes down to a state of settlements, run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers who are deaf both to their citizens and to their enemies. A state lacking justice cannot survive.

It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements such as Beit El and Ofra. The biblical landscape is charming. From the window you can gaze through the geraniums and bougainvillea and not see the occupation. Traveling on the fast highway that takes you from Ramot on Jerusalem's northern edge to Gilo on the southern edge, a 12-minute trip just west of the Palestinian roadblocks, it's hard to comprehend the humiliating experience of the despised Arab who must creep for hours along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned to him. One road for the occupier, one road for the occupied.

This cannot work. Even if the Arabs lower their heads and swallow their shame and anger forever, it won't work. A structure built on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself. Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism.

They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.

We could kill a thousand ringleaders and engineers a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below — from the wells of hatred and anger, from the "infrastructures" of injustice and moral corruption. If all this were inevitable, divinely ordained and immutable, I would be silent. But things could be different, and so, crying out is a moral imperative.

Here is what the prime minister should say to the people:

The time for illusions is over. The time for decisions has arrived. We love the entire land of our forefathers and in some other time we would have wanted to live here alone. But that will not happen. The Arabs, too, have dreams and needs.

Between the Jordan and the Mediterranean there is no longer a clear Jewish majority. And so, fellow citizens, it is not possible to keep the whole thing without paying a price. We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew. We cannot keep the territories and preserve a Jewish majority in the world's only Jewish state — not by means that are humane and moral and Jewish.

We must remove all the settlements — all of them — and draw an internationally recognized border between the Jewish national home and the Palestinian national home. The Jewish Law of Return will apply only within our national home, and their right of return will apply only within the borders of the Palestinian state.

Do you want democracy? No problem. Either abandon the greater Land of Israel, to the last settlement and outpost, or give full citizenship and voting rights to everyone, including Arabs. The result, of course, will be that those who did not want a Palestinian state alongside us will have one in our midst, via the ballot box.

That's what the prime minister should say to the people. He should present the choices forthrightly: Jewish racism or democracy. Settlements or hope for both peoples. False visions of barbed wire, roadblocks and suicide bombers, or a recognized international border between two states and a shared capital in Jerusalem.

But there is no prime minister in Jerusalem. The disease eating away at the body of Zionism has already attacked the head. Polls published two weeks ago showed that a majority of Israelis do not believe in the personal integrity of the prime minister — yet they trust his political leadership. In other words, Israel's current prime minister personally embodies both halves of the curse: suspect personal morals and open disregard for the law — combined with the brutality of occupation and the trampling of any chance for peace. This is our nation, these its leaders. The inescapable conclusion is that the Zionist revolution is dead.

Why, then, is the opposition so quiet? Perhaps because it's summer, or because they are tired, or because some would like to join the government at any price, even the price of participating in the sickness. But while they dither, the forces of good lose hope.

This is the time for clear alternatives. Anyone who declines to present a clear-cut position — black or white — is in effect collaborating in the decline. It is not a matter of Labor versus Likud or right versus left, but of right versus wrong, acceptable versus unacceptable. The law-abiding versus the lawbreakers. What is needed is not a political replacement for the Sharon government but a vision of hope, an alternative to the destruction of Zionism and its values by the deaf, dumb and callous.

Israel's friends abroad — Jewish and non-Jewish alike, presidents and prime ministers, rabbis and lay people — should choose as well. They must reach out and help Israel to navigate the road map toward our national destiny as a light unto the nations and a society of peace, justice and equality.

Avraham Burg was speaker of the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, from 1999 to 2003 and is currently a Labor Party member of the Knesset. His article, edited here, appeared in the International Herald Tribune (Paris), September 6, 2003.

– Peacemeal, Sept/October 2003

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)


Israel and Palestinians pledge first steps to peace

At the Mideast summit in Jordan on June 4, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas took the first tentative verbal steps toward a peaceful resolution of their longstanding and bloody conflict. Under pressure from President Bush, Mr. Sharon pledged to begin dismantling some "unauthorized outposts" of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and Mr. Abbas declared for the first time that "the armed intifada must end."

In a prepared statement, Mr. Abbas promised "a complete end to violence and terrorism," as well as the collection of illegal weapons and a stop to any encouragement of violence by Palestinian institutions — an apparent reference to schools and the news media. But he did not spell out how he would achieve those aims.

Mr. Sharon delivered a more cautious statement that fell short of the sweeping remarks American diplomats had previously drafted and then negotiated, word by word, with Israeli officials. He did pledge to begin dismantling some clusters of trailers and tents that have been set up by Jewish settlers, but he implied that action would be taken only against a relatively small number of those outposts that Israel considers to be illegal.

On his part, President Bush pledged to send a team of American monitors to the Middle East to help carry out the new peace plan, called the "road map," and to try to keep both parties talking. Mr. Bush has now thrust himself into the often treacherous role of Middle East peace broker that American presidents have played for the last quarter century, but which he himself had avoided until now.

Drawn up by the "Quartet" of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia, the highly optimistic destination of the road map is a final and comprehensive two-state resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict by 2005. The new plan is far more explicit about its overall goals and more ambitious about reaching them than the Oslo accords of 10 years ago. It calls for Israeli withdrawal from territory it captured in the 1967 Mideast war — the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and east Jerusalem — and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem.

Those goals are vehemently opposed by the Israeli right wing. Mr. Sharon has stated previously that he envisions a Palestinian state in about half the West Bank, with no Palestinian foothold in Jerusalem and Israel in control of its borders and airspace.

For decades Mr. Sharon was Israel's most prominent hawk, arguing that a Palestinian state would pose a mortal danger to Israel. He helped engineer the settlement movement, which since the 1967 war has moved more than 200,000 Israelis into the West Bank and Gaza Strip to thwart future land concessions to the Palestinians.

Thwarting Bush administration hopes, Mr. Sharon omitted any reference to ending Israel's "occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Sharon shocked and infuriated his right-wing allies the week before the summit by using the word "occupation" to describe the status of the West Bank, territory that his Likud Party has always referred to as disputed. Instead, Mr. Sharon reiterated his previous statement that Israel could not continue to control 3.5 million Palestinians: "It is in Israel's interest not to govern the Palestinians, but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state."

The words and their meanings were intensely parsed by both sides. Nonetheless, Mr. Bush said he was highly satisfied with the commitments. "Some amazing things were said," he told reporters. "The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority talked about the suffering of the Jewish people. The prime minister of Israel talked about a Palestinian state."

However, doubts weigh heavily about the depth of commitments made on each side of the three-way summit. Tanya Reinhart, a professor at Tel Aviv University, is skeptical if not outright cynical about the prospects for peace brokered by the United States. In the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, May 14, she points out that the Israel-Palestinian conflict in practice is a classical conflict over land and resources (water) and that the road map document "manifests complete absence of any territorial dimension."

Opposition on both sides could impede or abort the plan in its first stage. Jewish settlers denounced the summit as a "humiliating ...surrender to Palestinian terror," and at least 10,000 gathered for a protest rally in Jerusalem. And Islamic militant groups reiterated their opposition to the plan, saying it was meant to trick them into disarming. Mr. Abbas has been trying to negotiate a cease fire with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other violent groups, rather than to arrest those intent on violence, and to confiscate arms.

Palestinian officials said that they had achieved their chief goals for the summit, reviving a relationship with the United States that has been all but dead for more than a year, and gaining what they saw as a clear American commitment to the peace plan.

Taken at face value, Ariel Sharon is hopeful. He said, "If we are united and we act quietly, we can, in my opinion, achieve security and, with God's help, peace."

– compiled from Associated Press, Reuters, and New York Times
PeaceMeal, May/June 2003

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)


Peace of Jerusalem God’s test of mankind

by Janet Griffin

The Tri-Cities has many houses of God, many people of faith. But Washington is one of the most unchurched states in the nation. Lots of our neighbors, coworkers and even relatives look upon church, synagogue, mosque and templegoers as clueless or deluded folks.

As a Christian and a preacher, I study traditional texts as I try to proclaim Good News to people in 21 st century situations. One ancient statement still speaks to us in new and urgent and often tragic ways: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: `May they prosper who love you. For my brethren and companions' sake, I pray for your prosperity.' " (Psalm 122)

Throughout the Bible, the proclaiming of God's teaching is centered in Jerusalem. In Micah, it says the nations will learn peace and come together in the holy city, drawn by "the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."

In the Gospel of John, Jesus instructs his disciples "that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem."

How can repentance and forgiveness be taught to the nations from Jerusalem as it is now, seething with hatred and revenge on all sides? How can the teachings about God's ways — the beating of swords into plowshares — come from a Jerusalem in a constant state of war?

Nonbelievers may think religious people are wasting our time on old ideas and irrelevant issues, but the ancient imperative of peace for Jerusalem is at the heart of today's disease. Every dime spent on homeland security shows us how tied we are to the peace of Jerusalem.

Is God giving us a challenge we cannot fulfill in placing Jerusalem at the heart of our peace? If we simply try to manage Jerusalem, then, yes, this city that is supposed to stand for peace always will be the center of strife. There are too many claims on its  territory, too many people who think they love her but actually covet her and desire to be her exclusive master.

Perhaps Jerusalem is God's exam, an ancient one we eventually have to pass to begin an age of true peace, reconciliation, harmony and prosperity. Perhaps we will pass that exam the day when people of many faiths and cultures, all with roots in Jerusalem's past and all with claims upon her future, can work together for the good of the city.

Psalm 122 concludes: "Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do you good."

Three powerful faiths have important houses of God in , Jerusalem. When we think of God as ours and the others' holy places as irrelevant or idolatrous, we do not seek the good of Jerusalem, we only seek Jerusalem for ourselves.

This holy city is a place where God calls us to take off our shoes and bow our heads. A place where all ground is holy ground and belongs to God alone. A place to learn humility and celebrate humanity, for our brethren and companions' sake and for our sake.

- Janet Griffin is rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Richland, Washington.
Her article appeared in the Tri-City Herald, May 24, 2003

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)


Israel-Palestine conflict an epic tragedy

It is difficult to remember what went on before March 27 - the date of a suicide attack near Tel Aviv that killed 15 people and wounded 50. The attack prompted Israel's military invasion and occupation of Palestinian territories in a search-and-destroy operation that escalated the continuing cycle of violence.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is centered in territories that have been under harsh military occupation for 35 years.

A year ago, Israeli academic Ze'ev Sternhell noted that the Israeli leadership was engaged in "colonial policing, which recalls the takeover by the white police of the poor neighborhoods of the blacks in South Africa during the apartheid era." He could also have cited Chaim Weizmann, first president of Israel, who held that the fate of the "several hundred thousand negroes" in the Jewish homeland "is a matter of no consequence."

Sternhell stressed the obvious fact that there is no balance of power between the two groups in this conflict. According to a recent BBC report, Israel has 134,000 army troops, 32,000 air force, 7,000 navy and 8,000 border police, with an additional 425,000 reserves. In addition, Israel has 3,900 main battle tanks, 1,440 combat aircraft, 30 helicopters, 9,600 artillery tubes and 100 or more nuclear bombs.

Since the Palestinians have no army, no air force, no navy, no tanks, no aircraft, no helicopters and no nuclear weapons, Israel's claim that it is fighting for its existence rings hollow.

There was a time when the United States was the unquestioned military superpower in the Middle East and drew obedient, if grudging, respect from all sides. But because the U.S. has given Israel some $2 billion a year in military aid since the late 1970s, Israel is now the region's superpower. Israel can field more ground troops, more tanks, and more fighter jet sorties in the region than the United States. Where it once looked to the U.S. not just for diplomatic support but for military rescue, now Israel can thumb its nose at Washington, go its own way, and get away with it.

"We have created an 800-pound gorilla," said Kenneth Brower, an independent military consultant in Washington, assessing decades of U.S. military aid to Israel.

Following March 27, Israel unleashed its gorilla with tanks and bulldozers in a devastating invasion of the Palestinian territories. Following a 13-day battle at the Jenin refugee camp, the devastation was "horrific beyond belief,"according to United Nations Middle East envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen. Preliminary evidence showed that homes had been bulldozed on people. And for 11 days, the Israeli army refused to allow medical teams in to evacuate and treat the wounded.

As he gazed at the scene, Roed-Larsen called it a "blot that will forever live on the history of the state of Israel."

The Bush administration abetted the Israeli aggression with a hands-off policy until things got too far out of control. Their belated attempts to rein in Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon were undiplomatically rebuffed. The curious spectacle of the tail wagging the dog brought a banner headline of "IMPOTENT" in the London Daily Mirror.

As Ariel Sharon continued to dismiss President George W. Bush's repeated call for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank ("withdraw now, means withdraw now," Bush had said), Israeli envoys in America went on the offensive. Sharon's envoy Benjamin Netanyahu went to the U.S. Senate on April 10, and amid applause denounced the declared policy of the President of the United States!

Members of Congress of both parties rushed to assert their solidarity with Israel, which has strong support from two influential political constituencies - Jewish Democrats and Christian conservatives. The House and Senate on May 3 overwhelmingly passed strongly worded resolutions of support for Israel in its recent military operations. The Senate voted 94 to 2 in favor of its resolution and the House voted 352 to 21 for a tougher-worded measure. Twenty-nine House members voted "present" as a protest that the resolution was too tilted toward Israel.

In response to Palestinian claims of a massacre in Jenin, a resolution was proposed in the United Nations security council establishing a full investigative commission. But Israeli prime minister Sharon opposed the move. "No nation in the world has the right to bring Israel to court," he said.

The U.S. ambassador to the UN John Negroponte distanced himself from the idea and UN secretary general Kofi Annan "read the writing on the wall and pulled the plug."

Arab news coverage gives a different perspective of the conflict between Israel and Palestine than mainstream U.S. media, but it is not much more one-sided than America's gung-ho coverage of the Persian Gulf war. As Max Rodenbeck, Middle East correspondent for The Economist (London) observed, "[I]t does not really require subtle manipulation to frame the ongoing tragedy as an epic struggle of the weak against the strong. The imagery saturating Arab [television] screens of tanks crushing ambulances and helicopters rocketing refugee camps is, alas, all too real."

The death toll over the past year and a half is approximately 400 Israelis and 1,300 Palestinians — 84% of the Palestinians being civilians. Israelis injured in the intifada also number in the hundreds compared with over 15,000 Palestinians injured, thousands of them sustaining permanent, crippling injuries from Israeli high-tech weapons. And thousands of them are children under 18.

Who is primarily responsible for this current violence?

Human Rights Watch states that, "Israeli security forces have committed by far the most serious and systematic violations." Israel's leading human rights group, B'tselem, concluded early on that, "Israel uses excessive and disproportionate force in dispersing demonstrations of unarmed Palestinians. ... Collective punishment, in the form of Israel's severe restrictions on Palestinians' movement in the Occupied Territories, makes life unbearable for hundreds of thousands with no justification." Collective punishment is illegal under international law.

Various minority voices are increasingly protesting Israel's occupation and military actions as immoral and illegal. The voices include university professors, rabbinical students, and conscientious objectors in the Israeli military itself.

The list is growing of universities being pressured by faculty and students to sever ties with Israeli companies and U.S. firms that sell weapons to Israel. Professors at Harvard and MIT signed a petition calling for the universities to cut off investment until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian territories, ceases violation of United Nations resolutions, and puts a stop to alleged human rights abuses.

"What we have witnessed in the last months is a spiral of violence that cannot have a good ending unless we arrest it," said Paul Hanson, a House Master at Harvard. "I think now is a time when the citizens of the United States must speak from their consciences."

- compiled from various sources
PeaceMeal, May/June 2002

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)