Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Third Intifada!

Dear Friend of Palestinians and Israelis,

Tensions continue to rise in and around Jerusalem. Acts of extremists on both sides invite retaliation by other extremists. Accusations of “incitement” are heard from both sides. Finger-pointing and the Blame Game are now the rule.

The truth is that underlying offenses and their redress have not been attended to – for years, and are coming back to haunt both the Israelis and the indigenous people, the Arab Palestinians. With provocations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, there is now a dangerous “religious” dimension. The murders of four Israeli rabbis with injuries to at least 12 others happened Tuesday, November 18, 2014, at a synagogue in Har Nof (aka, Deir Yassin). Ah, Deir Yassin! That infamous place. Read up on it!

A paragraph in the Nov. 18, 2014 morning edition of the Washington Post caught my eye: The synagogue is located in a neighborhood, Har Nof, popular with Americans and others undertaking studies in Judaism. But Palestinians refer to the area by its former name, Deir Yassin, an Arab village they say [as though it might not even have happened!] was attacked by Jewish paramilitary units in April 1948 shortly before Israeli statehood. Palestinians say scores of civilians were killed, but Israel denies such accounts.

Wikipedia gives the Israeli-slanted version of what happened in Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948:

The Deir Yassin massacre took place on April 9, 1948, when around 120 fighters from the Zionist paramilitary groups Irgun Zevai Leumi and Lohamei Herut Israel attacked Deir Yassin near Jerusalem, a Palestinian Arab village of roughly 600 people. The assault occurred as Jewish militia sought to relieve the blockade of Jerusalem by Palestinian forces during the civil war that preceded the end of British rule in Palestine.[1]

Around 107 villagers were killed during and after the battle for the village, including women and children—some were shot, while others died when hand grenades were thrown into their homes.[2] Several villagers were taken prisoner and may have been killed after being paraded through the streets of West Jerusalem, though accounts vary.[3] Four of the attackers died, with around 35 injured.[4] The killings were condemned by the leadership of the Haganah—the Jewish community's main paramilitary force—and by the area's two chief rabbis. The Jewish Agency for Israel sent Jordan's King Abdullah a letter of apology, which he rebuffed.[1]
The deaths became a pivotal event in the Arab–Israeli conflict for their demographic and military consequences. The narrative was embellished and used by various parties to attack each other—by the Palestinians against Israel; by the Haganah to play down their own role in the affair; and by the Israeli Left to accuse the Irgun and Lehi of violating the Jewish principle of purity of arms, thus blackening Israel's name around the world.[5] News of the killings sparked terror among Palestinians, encouraging them to flee from their towns and villages in the face of Jewish troop advances, and it strengthened the resolve of Arab governments to intervene, which they did five weeks later.[1]

Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada has Dina Elmuti recounting the story of what happened to her grandmother, a resident of Deir Yassin on the morning of April 9, 1948:

Fathers, grandfathers, brothers and sons were lined up against a wall and sprayed with bullets, execution style. Beloved teachers were savagely mutilated with knives. Mothers and sisters were taken hostage and those who survived returned to find pools of blood filling the streets of the village and children stripped of their childhoods overnight.
The walls of homes, which once stood witness to warmth, laughter and joy, were splattered with the blood and imprints of traumatic memories. My grandmother lost 37 members of her family that day. These are not stories you will read about in most history books.

The Deir Yassin massacre was not the largest-scale massacre, nor was it the most gruesome. The atrocities committed, the scale of violence and the complexity of the methods and insidious weaponry used by Israel against civilians in the recent decade have been far more sadistic and pernicious. But Deir Yassin marks one of the most critical turning points in Palestinian history.
A bitter symbol carved in the fiber of the Palestinian being and narrative, it resonates sharply as the event that catalyzed our ongoing Nakba (catastrophe), marked by the forced exile of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, creating the largest refugee population worldwide with more than half living in the diaspora.

Deir Yassin is a caustic reminder of the ongoing suffering, struggle and systematic genocide of the Palestinian people, 65 years and counting. When the village was terrorized into fleeing, tumultuous shockwaves of terror ran through Palestine, laying the blueprint for the architecture of today’s apartheid Israel. . . .

After all, we are the children of generations of strength. Our grandparents and parents are refugees and survivors, and the blood of Deir Yassin courses through our veins. We are like the olive tree with its tenacious roots in the ground, remaining unshakable and determined to stand its ground with patience and a deeply-rooted desire to remain.

We will see a free and just Palestine because we will have a hand in making it so. Deir Yassin may have catalyzed our catastrophe but 65 years later it also continues to catalyze our devotion and enduring love for a people, a cause and a home that will never be relinquished or forgotten (from Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada, by Dina Elmuti, April 8, 2013).

Dear Friend, My point is, the two Palestinian murderers were probably remembering the massacre of as many as 250 villagers in Deir Yassin by Israeli forces in 1948. Remember what our guest Fr. George Makhlouf reported to me last week: “I was five years old and remember the Public Address system blaring out in our neighborhood. “GET OUT, or the fate of the villagers in Deir Yassin will HAPPEN TO YOU”. Fr. George’s family heeded the warning and left their home to the Occupying Force.

Matters have never been “put right”, not only for the family of Fr. George, but for (now) millions of those dispossessed and degraded.

There has been no redress, no confession of wrong-doing, no restitution, no right to return to their homes. The refugees have multiplied into the millions. Dispossession of property, demolition of homes, destruction of olive orchards, factories and businesses, and humiliating check-points are just a few of the injustices suffered by the Palestinians.

And now, right-wing Zionist religious settlers are threatening to worship on the plateau on which stands the Muslim Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. PM Netanyahu is trying to maintain the Status Quo, which denies Jews the opportunity to worship at these Muslim shrines/houses of worship. Palestinians fear being displaced from their places of worship, held very sacred by Muslims in Jerusalem. There have been consultations with Jordan’s officials, “custodians” of the worship places on the plateau.

We tend to listen to Ghassan Khatib more than the official Israeli viewpoint: “Somebody needs to think of removing the causes for this, and the causes are rooted within the Israeli policies and practices in East Jerusalem,” said Ghassan Khatib, vice president of Birzeit University in the West Bank. Whether the escalation continues, he added, “depends on the way Israel is going to handle this wave.”

“They can handle it in the same arrogant way of using force, and if it doesn’t work, you go to more force,” he said. “This is the recipe that accelerated all previous waves of violence into full-fledged intifadas.”

Mr. Khatib pointed out that poverty, unemployment, addiction and many other socioeconomic plagues were far worse in East Jerusalem than in the West Bank; To give one stark example, he said 40 percent of Palestinian students in Jerusalem drop out of high school, compared with 0.4 percent of their West Bank counterparts.

“The two sides need to do things, but the Israelis need to do more because the Palestinian officials do not have any say in East Jerusalem,” he argued. “In West Bank, things seem to be calmer, under the Palestinian Authority, so I think Israel is to be blamed more than the Palestinian side in this particular situation” (NY Times report, Nov. 19, 2014, Jodi Rudoren).

Unattended offenses that have been allowed to fester are coming to a head. Changes are required. More repressive violence from the Israelis can and will spiral into all-out war, with dire consequences for all of us.

Pray for the leadership of both peoples that underlying issues may (finally) be addressed. Matters seem to be spiraling out of control. Bloodshed is NOT the way forward. Respectfully yours, JRK

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jerusalem: The First and Last Battleground!

Dear Friend,

Rami Khouri is a trusted (Christian) observer residing in Beirut, Lebanon. Here is his assessment of what is really happening right now on the ground, as tensions mount throughout I/P and especially in Jerusalem.

Let me preface his comments by thanking our son-in-law Jim and the Lake Michigan Presbytery for granting me a private audience with Fr. George Makhlouf, an Antiochian Orthodox priest, now living in retirement with his son in Atlanta, Georgia. (He spoke at various venues throughout the Presbytery over the last few weeks).

The most striking memory of my visit with him (last Saturday) was his recollection, as a five-year old boy, of an announcement over the PA system where he and his family were living in W. Jerusalem (yes, W. not E): "Unless you leave [your homes], you will share the fate of the residents of Yeir Dassin". (This was in 1948. He was born in 1943)

Background: The Hagganah (predecessors of the Israeli Defense Forces - IDF) massacred 250 of the villagers in that community, terrorizing Arab Palestinians so that, in fear for their lives, they fled and became refugees. Over 450 villages were destroyed!

Of course, Fr. George's family fled.

With that as a personal reference, please read Rami Khouri's commentary on the situation on the ground as we speak. One last caveat: I strongly dislike Rami's conclusion, as though there is NO hope for a different outcome than MAD - Mutual Assured Destruction. Our better natures, our "second nature" insists there is a better, nonviolent way. We need to be about planting seeds that will grow to fruition to bring about a joint harvesting of liberty and justice for all. JRK

Rami G. Khouri| The Daily Star (Jerusalem as the Last Battle) (Nov. 12, 2014 edition)

The escalating isolated incidents of violence between Israelis and Palestinians during the past few months have focused heavily on Jerusalem, and for good reason. The reason is not only the religious significance of the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount area that is holy to both people; it is that Jerusalem today is a microcosm of the whole Zionism-Arabism conflict, and a replay of the nationalist contestation that Zionism won in the period from the 1930s to 1948.

Jerusalem today is more than a major symbol of identity and sovereignty for Israelis and Palestinians. It is the place where all the key elements of conflict, identity and national rights converge and where the two battling communities are most closely intertwined with one another, thus heightening the sense of vulnerability that defines both sides.

Clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian demonstrators have occurred virtually daily in the past few months, and reached a peak in the past week after Israeli troops stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque last Wednesday. On Monday, Palestinians killed an Israeli soldier and a woman and wounded two others in stabbing incidents in Tel Aviv and the occupied West Bank. Jerusalem is the emotional focal point of the Palestinian attacks against Israelis, but such incidents have occurred across Palestine, including Jerusalem, the West Bank Israeli settlement of Alon Shvut and Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem today for Palestinians is about the battle between Israel’s attempts to Judaize the city after formally “annexing” it (which virtually the whole world does not recognize) and the Palestinian insistence on resisting the Zionist efforts to control and own the land of mandated Palestine. This battle has been taking place for nearly a century now. Israeli settlers have been trying for years to move into Arab areas of Jerusalem, like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, either by buying homes surreptitiously or forcibly by inhabiting real estate that Israel declares to be state-owned. Because the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization (the two overlapping but moribund leadership agencies for Palestinians) are not present in Jerusalem, the Arab residents of the city are on their own in defending their homes and lands.

The absence of forces under the control of President Mahmoud Abbas also means that the PA cannot quell Palestinian demonstrations against Israel, as happens in all other parts of the West Bank, where PA forces more often than not act to defend Israel as much as to keep peace among Palestinians, unfortunately. Arab Jerusalemites are essentially ungoverned and unrepresented politically, because they do not fall under Palestinian authority and they are under-served by an Israeli state that also keeps building new settlements on lands surrounding the holy city. Because of this condition of living in a political vacuum, Palestinians in Jerusalem have only themselves to rely on to defend their lands and rights, and in cases of extreme threats and violence used against them, they resort to violence such as we are witnessing these days.

The intense symbolism of Jerusalem for Palestinians includes two dimensions: the holy sites of the Noble Sanctuary, especially the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, but also the city as the capital of Palestine, even though a Palestinian state does not exist yet. If Jerusalem is allowed to fall to Zionist colonialism and become fully Judaized, the entire Palestinian national cause would have been dealt a fatal blow. Jerusalem has always been a central battle in the Arab war with Zionism – but for many Palestinians it is now also the last battle.

Typically, Israeli leaders misinterpret the reasons why Palestinians defend themselves by attacking Israelis who are eating up the remaining Arab parts of Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told parliament after the attacks against Israelis in Tel Aviv that, “Terror ... is being directed at all parts of the country for a simple reason: The terrorists, the inciters, want to drive us from everywhere. As far as they are concerned, we should not be in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or anywhere.”

This brazen lie by Israel’s top leader reflects a widespread sentiment among Israelis and some Western Jews that Palestinians are violent anti-Semites who want to drive all Jews out of Israel and Palestine, and that the Palestinian leadership under Abbas incites ordinary Palestinians to attack and kill Israelis. This is a bizarre thing for Israelis to say, after they have been directly negotiating with Abbas and Yasser Arafat before him for 20 years now, to achieve a two-state solution that sees Israeli and Palestinian states living peacefully side by side.

The historic struggle for the land of Palestine has now symbolically boiled down to Israeli settlers and soldiers with guns, and Palestinian young men with knives, stones and cars, trying to kill, dominate or expel the other.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly in THE DAILY STAR and can be followed on Twitter @ramikhouri.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 12, 2014, on page 7.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Columnist/2014/Nov-12/277298-is-jerusalem-the-palestinians-last-battle.ashx#ixzz3Is6MVkCW

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There is no PEACE without JUSTICE; there is no justice without LOVE.

Monday, October 27, 2014

ILAN PAPPE at the Isr/Pal Mission Network

Friend,
I attended the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) last week.
Here is a summary of what Ilan Pappe said (in his new book) and at the conference. JRK

Ilan Pappé on I/P

Isr/Palestine Mission Network Conference, 2014
(summary by John Kleinheksel Sr)

Today’s headline in the NY Times screams: Benjamin Netanyahu Expedites Plan for 1,000 New Homes in East Jerusalem. JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Monday expedited the planning for more than 1,000 new apartments in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, a move certain to ignite international outrage as well as to exacerbate fissures in Mr. Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

The announcement, along with a parallel push for new roads and other infrastructure projects in the occupied West Bank, came amid escalating protests and violence by Palestinian residents of Jerusalem that many see as the stirrings of a third intifada, or uprising (Jodi Rudoren, 10/27/14).

This is but one more consistent step in the Israeli government’s clear (but disguised) attempt to expand into every square inch of I/P at the expense of the minority Palestinians.

The 80 + or – attendees of the Isr/Pal Mission Network at the Cenacle Retreat Center (Oct. 23-25, 2014) had come to hear Professor Ilan Pappé, one of the celebrated “New Historians” in Exile in the UK from his homeland, Israel. He spoke as an historian and observer of the current state of affairs in I/P.

First a word of background: He has just finished publishing The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge. In it he debunks the idea that there can be an “objective” history of the land and the people. He shows how the “aliens” the Jews found in the land became “terrorists” when they demanded their land back. In Part II he outlines Israel’s “Post-Zionist moment” when he and other “new historians” called into question the official “idea of Israel” as a “just, democratic movement of national liberation” (p. 7).

He outlines the eclipse and co-opting of the Post-Zionist period (roughly 1990 – 2000) with what he calls the “Triumph of New Zionism” (chapters 11, 12) and the “branding” of Israel as “a war of liberation against inexplicable Arab barbarism” (p. 296).

The first words out of his mouth (at the conference) were, “We need to challenge [the above] common view”. “Every day is worse than the day before. The suffering [of the Palestinians] gets worse day by day”.

He then proceeded to describe how early Zionists dreamed of a Jewish democracy that would exclude the natives, from the beginning of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century. By the 1930s, the settlers began creating the infrastructure for the future state. It was to include as much land as possible with as few Arabs as possible.

By enthroning Holocaust memory and forbidding any mention of the Nakba (the Arab version of what happened in 1948), they disallowed any Palestinian history of suffering. When the Occupation really established control over virtually all of the land in 1967, discontent from Arab Palestinians intensified. Since then, it has been virtually impossible to contain the rebellion.

Then the speaker, Ilan Pappé, went on. Granting full citizenship rights to the 20% Palestinian minority in Israel was unthinkable. Nor would they would be free to join with West Bank Palestinian Arabs. The refugees in Gaza would be their prison. The River Jordan would be the non-negotiable national border for the Israeli State.
From 2000 (and the 2nd Intifada), the Israeli public has turned decidedly to the right, desperately seeking to keep the lid on the boiling pot of acid that is Palestinian rebellion against the takeover of their land and their rights.

On the next day, a four-person panel discussed issues the IPMN should address in the coming years. Mr. Pappé gave three or four suggestions:

1. Disregard hysterical Israeli criticism of BDS (boycotts, divestment & sanctions) and embrace it

2. Use the word “Colonialism” in regards to what Israel has wrought and renounce it

3. Use the word “Apartheid” and insist on equal rights for all the inhabitants of the land

4. Be aware of Israeli attempts to curb Muslim worship in Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques and resist it

(Today, Yusef Munayyer, of the Jerusalem Fund) reports: In recent weeks, tensions have been ratcheting up because of circumstances on the ground,” Munayyer said. “You’re seeing much stricter Israeli policies when it comes to who gets to go where, including Muslims going to pray in Al-Aqsa mosque. Increasing visits by Jewish groups to the precincts of Al-Aqsa, while keeping the Palestinians out of the compound, is adding “fuel to the fire,” [Daniel] Goldenblatt said. (Oct. 27, 2014).

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Obama's UN speech in re I/P: a Critique

Friend,
A lot has been commented on in re broader US Middle East policies. Little about how the American President articulated the US position in re I/P. What follows is a summary, a critique and tentative conclusion. JRK

The Barack Obama Declaration on Middle East (I/P) “Peace”

(Excerpts from the President’s UN speech, Sept. 24, 2014)

. . . .We deeply believe it is in our interest to see a Middle East and North Africa that is peaceful and prosperous; and will continue to promote democracy, human rights, and open markets, because we believe these practices achieve peace and prosperity. But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action – particularly with military action. Iraq shows us that democracy cannot be imposed by force. Rather, these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community, and with the countries and people of the region.
What does this mean going forward? In the near term, America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: 1) Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, 2) and the Arab-Israeli conflict. While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace. . . . [then follows a section on the US and Iran. . . .Then, the following paragraphs in re I/P]:

We are also determined to resolve a conflict that goes back even further than our differences with Iran: the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. I have made clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state. Earlier this year, in Jerusalem, I was inspired by young Israelis who stood up for the belief that peace was necessary, just, and possible, and I believe there is a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state. But the children of Israel have the right to live in a world where the nations assembled in this body fully recognize their country, and unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes or incite others to hate them.

Likewise, the United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state. On the same trip, I had the opportunity to meet with young Palestinians in Ramallah whose ambition and potential are matched by the pain they feel in having no firm place in the community of nations. They are understandably cynical that real progress will ever be made, and frustrated by their families enduring the daily indignity of occupation. But they recognize that two states is the only real path to peace: because just as the Palestinian people must not be displaced, the state of Israel is here to stay.
The time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace. Already, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks. President Abbas has put aside efforts to short-cut the pursuit of peace and come to the negotiating table. Prime Minister Netanyahu has released Palestinian prisoners, and reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state. Current talks are focused on final status issues of borders and security, refugees and Jerusalem.

Now the rest of us must also be willing to take risks. Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depends upon the realization of a Palestinian state. Arab states – and those who have supported the Palestinians – must recognize that stability will only be served through a two-state solution with a secure Israel. All of us must recognize that peace will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists, and embolden those who are prepared to build a better future. Moreover, ties of trade and commerce between Israelis and Arabs could be an engine of growth and opportunity at a time when too many young people in the region are languishing without work. So let us emerge from the familiar corners of blame and prejudice, and support Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are prepared to walk the difficult road to peace.

Real breakthroughs on these two issues – Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli-Palestinian peace – would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa. But the current convulsions arising out of the Arab Spring remind us that a just and lasting peace cannot be measured only by agreements between nations. It must also be measured by our ability to resolve conflict and promote justice within nations. And by that measure, it is clear to all of us that there is much more work to be done.

Summary:
1. The US is determined to “resolve a conflict” between Arab Palestinians and Israelis

2. The US will continue to support the existence of the (present) Jewish (democratic) State

3. The “Occupation” is “tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish State”

4. The US (Pres. Obama) reiterates our commitment to the “Two State” solution to the “conflict”

5. Israel has the right to secure state, defined borders. So do the Palestinians (as declared during my I/P visit)

6. Leaders from both sides must show a “willingness to take risks” to achieve this goal

7. There are current talks “focused on final status issues” to accomplish this goal

8. “Friends of Israel” need to realize the Two State solution is vital for the security and viability of the Jewish State

9. Arab States (and pro-Palestinians) must recognize that STABILITY will only be served when the Two State solution is realized (with a “secure Israel”)

Critique:

1. It is beyond US power to resolve any “conflict” between Palestinians and Israelis. We’ve tried that. A lot

2. The US’s unqualified support of the present Status Quo militates against any incentive to make the necessary changes toward Two State solution by either party, especially by the Israelis

3. Israel has never publically faced up to their being an Occupying Power in land that “belongs” to Palestinians, who have long been denied basic rights as full citizens, right of return, compensation, etc

4. Neither the present extremist Zionist government, nor the HAMAS extremists desire a Two State “solution”

5. Israel has never shown any willingness ever to “define its borders”; rather it insists on open-ended, evolving land use for the development of their ethnocentric (Jewish) state (that excludes non-Jews)

6. The self-preservation instincts of both Israeli and Palestinian leadership militate against “taking risks”

7. There is no reason to believe the “current talks” will lead anywhere, certainly not toward the Two State

8. Friends of Israel, especially in the US, insist on the right of Israel to pursue its present One State agenda

9. Arab States have long realized the futility of reaching the “Two State” solution (and are less than enthusiastic about a “secure” Israel, given the systematic discrimination against Palestinian citizens and refugees)

CONCLUSION:
The President’s prescription/outline takes us nowhere. It is a non-starter. It is “same old, same old”

This “Declaration” puts all the burden on failed leaders whose inclinations are to take NO RISKS for resolution!

It is a reiteration of failed US policies that have not “worked” in the past, and will not “work” into the future

Progress will depend on the grassroots/groundswell that the President and Congress begin questioning and withholding unqualified support for the Status Quo.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

IT'S ALL OURS!

There can no longer be any doubt of Israeli intentions in the West Bank. We have conquered your land. You have no right to it. It is ours by Military Might and Divine Right. You have NO rights to it whatsoever. International (and US) opinion be DAMNED. Accept it. Submit to it. Get used to it.

Here is the proof: the latest evidence, especially since the successful 1967 war: JRK

Israel Claims Nearly 1,000 Acres of West Bank Land Near Bethlehem
By ISABEL KERSHNER

AUG. 31, 2014 (NY Times)

JERUSALEM — Israel on Sunday laid claim to nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land in a Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem — a step that could herald significant Israeli construction in the area — defying Palestinian demands for a halt in settlement expansion and challenging world opinion.

Peace Now, an Israeli group that opposes the construction of settlements in the West Bank, said that the action on Sunday might be the largest single appropriation of West Bank land in decades and that it could “dramatically change the reality” in the area.

Palestinians aspire to form a state in the lands that Israel conquered in 1967.

Israeli officials said the political directive to expedite a survey of the status of the land came after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in June while hitchhiking in that area. In July, the Israeli authorities arrested a Palestinian who was accused of being the prime mover in the kidnapping and killing of the teenagers. The timing of the land appropriation suggested that it was meant as a kind of compensation for the settlers and punishment for the Palestinians.

The land, which is near the small Jewish settlement of Gvaot in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, has now officially been declared “state land,” as opposed to land privately owned by Palestinians, clearing the way for the potential approval of Israeli building plans there.

But the mayor of the nearby Palestinian town of Surif, Ahmad Lafi, said the land belonged to Palestinian families from the area. He told the official Palestinian news agency Wafa that Israeli Army forces and personnel arrived in the town early Sunday and posted orders announcing the seizure of land that was planted with olive and forest trees in Surif and the nearby villages of Al-Jaba’a and Wadi Fukin.

The kidnapping of the teenagers prompted an Israeli military clampdown in the West Bank against Hamas, the Islamic group that dominates Gaza and that Israel said was behind the abductions. The subsequent tensions along the Israel-Gaza border erupted into a 50-day war that ended last week with an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire.

The land appropriation has quickly turned attention back to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and exposed the contradictory visions in the Israeli government that hamper the prospects of any broader Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the announcement and called for a reversal of the land claim, saying that it would “further deteriorate the situation” and that all settlement was illegal.

Though Israel says that it intends to keep the Etzion settlement bloc under any permanent agreement with the Palestinians and that most recent peace plans have involved land swaps, most countries consider Israeli settlements to be a violation of international law. The continued construction has also been a constant source of tension between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel and its most important Western allies.

The last round of American-brokered peace talks broke down in April. Israelsuspended the troubled talks after Mr. Abbas forged a reconciliation pact with the Palestinian Authority’s rival, Hamas, which rejects Israel’s right to exist. American officials also said that Israel’s repeated announcements of new settlement construction contributed to the collapse of the talks.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister, who has spoken out in favor of a new diplomatic process, told reporters on Sunday that he “was not aware of the decision” about the land around Gvaot and had instructed his team to look into it. “We are against any swift changes in the West Bank right now because we need to go back to some kind of process there,” he said. He added that the Israeli government was now talking to the Palestinian Authority about the situation in Gaza, “and this is a good thing.”

But Yariv Oppenheimer, general director of Peace Now, said that instead of strengthening the Palestinian moderates, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel “turns his back on the Palestinian Authority and sticks a political knife in the back” of Mr. Abbas, referring to the latest land appropriation. “Since the 1980s, we don’t remember a declaration of such dimensions,” Mr. Oppenheimer told Israel Radio.

Israeli officials said that the land declaration Sunday was open to judicial review and that interested parties had 45 days in which to register objections.

And the US is expected to "go along" with this latest outrage. Guess what? We will. Congress is bought and paid for. The White House is thinking of this year's election, and will express "emphatic disappointment" at best. It's one more vote for BDS, IMHO. And for One, Pluralist, Democratic State, with liberty and justice for all. The Two State "solution" is DEAD, DEAD, DEAD. JRK

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Escaping the Cycle of Hatred

Dear Friend,
Now that an "open-ended" truce is declared in Gaza, I'm spiritually, mentally and emotionally exhausted. What heartache. What waste. What wickedness in high places and low.

Of all the hundreds of things crossing my screen, these words by friend Sami Awad (Holy Land Trust) stand out. We must eat these words and digest them. The "war" that has to be waged must be against demonizing of "The Other" that justifies killing him. We need strategies that will humanize "The Other"; make room for the other, find our common humanity in each other.

Thank you Sami Awad for all you and your friends are doing to create an environment where respectful listening and empathy replaces the virulent stereotypes of bigotry and racism. JRK

A statement of Holy Land Trust regarding the current situation in the Holy Land [July 22, 2014]

Fear, anger, hatred, demonizing and dehumanization have for decades been boiling like hot lava in the belly of the Holy Land. This lava has been concealed and restrained from full eruption by a thin layer of illusions made by the political elite in both the Palestinian and Israeli communities. We have been told year after year that that our conflict is mostly a political conflict between two nation-states and that all that is needed is to reach a political agreement through a diplomatic mechanism referred to as a “peace process”. Once an agreement is reached, two independent states will be established and peace will prevail.

This illusion not only concealed the underlying issues mentioned above but also concealed the power dynamics of the conflict by presenting it as a symmetrical one. Even referring to it as a “peace process” (a process of peacemaking between two equal parties) negated the reality of what was happening on the ground. The world began to ignore the fact that there is a stronger power that controls everything it wants to control and a weaker one that is only allowed access to what is granted by the stronger. The world forgot that every individual who lives in the Holy Land has to adhere to laws issued by the State of Israel and within that there are two different sets of laws: one for Israeli citizens (civil laws) and one for non-Israeli Palestinians (Israeli military orders and regulations). The world also forgot that there is something called the “occupation” in this conflict, which means there is an occupier and an occupied and this practically translates into land confiscation; detention of individuals without trial, uneven distribution of water, denial of self-determination, restrictions on freedom to movement, denial of freedom to worship, etc.

The political rhetoric of “peace making” remained on the surface but was limited from progress within Israeli society through the calculated infusion of that lava (fear, hatred, anger, demonizing, etc) by the establishment itself. The occupation was justified, the denial of human rights was neglected, and the recognition of Palestinian historic wounds and/or fighting for Palestinian rights became treason. Through indoctrination and public responses to even Palestinian actions (violent or not) “security” became for the most part the only language spoken. Mistrust, fear, demonizing, and hatred became the mechanisms to lead Israeli public opinion and discourse.

Within the Palestinian community, the political elite continued to insist on the negotiated process as the “only way” to attain Palestinian rights; the Palestinian public began to perceive this as continuous compromise by the victim to the victimizer. At the same time focus by most political leaders was on fighting over leadership of the Palestinian Authority or maintaining it rather than putting everything on line for resisting and ending the occupation (despite the rhetoric). The repeated failures of the peace negotiations made the community lose its trust and the occupation itself continued to deepen its roots and aggression. All this led to greater infusion of the lava (fear, hatred, mistrust, etc.) in Palestinian discourse. Of course we cannot ignore voices that also perpetuated hatred, revenge and retaliation towards the other.

The recent violence has once and for all shattered all illusions. The volcano has erupted exposing the reality that many have denied and did not want to acknowledge let alone confront. The reason why we have not been able to reach a “political peace agreement” in over two decades of negotiations and over sixty years of conflict–and may never reach–is due to the continuous, systemic process of building, indoctrinating, manipulating and multiplying fear, hatred and incitement, of a sense of superiority, racism, victimization, demonization, and dehumanization of the other.

The sad reality is that it is far easier to motivate people by fear and hatred than by peace, compassion, and love. We have history (selective or not), that we can refer to that proves that the other is to be feared, mistrusted, hated, and even retaliated against–but when it comes to peace, respect, equality, etc., we have very little to show regarding the intentions and actions of the other. Worse, we have lots of rhetoric that has not only abused, but has even deformed these words and their meaning. Palestinians and Israelis, for the most part, have now fallen into an uncontrolled downward spiral of hatred towards the other.

As the volcano erupts, it is upsetting and angering to see what is happening in this land, especially to our own beloved community and families in the Gaza Strip who are facing the brunt of it all. There is no doubt that we must all stand strong against the killing of any human being, despite his or her identity, wherever they live, whatever their affiliation, or even their past actions.

We can easily and justifiably go into blaming, complaining and analyzing: "Who started it and who is responsible," but there are other options.

First: all acts of violence and aggression must cease, as well as the language of incitement and hatred used by the political, religious and economic elite as well as the media (locally and internationally). Peace, security, and freedom will never come from killing or terrorizing others. No matter how just a cause might be, violence undermines it.

Second: Leaders (no matter what party they represent, what nation they belong to, and what ideology or religion they adhere to) must acknowledge their failure to bringing any sense of peace to the land or to its people (even their own). If they were true leaders–with courage and vision–they would repent publicly, to their peoples and then to others for having failed all these years and decades.

Third: Civil society organizations need to acknowledge our own entrapment in the “political illusions” and thus our inability to create any real change at the grassroots level. For years, millions of dollars have been spent in programs, training, and activities that have barely scratched the surface. We have convinced ourselves that we have been creating change by highlighting the few (but limited) activities that take place but have never reached (for whatever reason) the masses on both sides who continue to be swayed by the language of victimization, hatred, and fear. Grass roots organizations now need to develop programs to address these issues–rather than looking into “political solutions” only. Politicians need to follow their communities and not the other way around.

Fourth: It is time that a nonviolent movement emerges which transcends political processes and illusions: a movement of Palestinians and Israelis as communities addressing all aspects of injustice in this land; to work together in building a new vision and model for what peace, justice and equality mean in the Holy Land (socially, economically, environmentally, spiritually) and link it with a strategy that breaks down all the physical and psychological barriers that perpetuate hatred, anger and thus separation and violence–even if the removal of such barriers challenges the core political assumptions and ideological beliefs we carry and whose existence we think we need for our own survival.

Finally: a core component of the movement will need to focus on working internally and separately within each community in order to create the space for healing and transformation: to address the challenges from within. Peace work is not what happens between two as much as what happens within one.

This is a call to action, a call to create a new paradigm in understanding and addressing the challenges facing the communities of the Holy Land, from within and in relation to others. It is a call for a new leadership to emerge that breaks ties with old patterns, assumptions and expectations and creates new and viable alternatives and models that bring true peace, justice, dignity and equality to all.

Holy Land Trust stands committed to such a vision. Even in the midst of violent atrocities and incitement to hatred. The peace we seek is not about political solutions and frameworks; it is not about compromising for the sake of agreement; it is not seeking the peace that neglects to address the core issues and challenges of the oppression and the suppression of communities based on their ethnic, religious or national background. It is that peace whereby all the rights of all the communities of this land are recognized and honored as being equal and respected despite whatever political framework is created.

Statement written by Holy Land Trust Founder and Executive Director Sami Awad.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Beauty and the Beast

It’s a war out there!

Let’s admit it. A large part of our nature is to view life in black and white terms. We’re uncomfortable dealing with shades of gray, especially if we are oblivious of the beastly black streaks besmirching our phosphorous-white, now gray armor. You don’t embrace the Beast, you shun it, deny the Beast is in you and kill it in someone else.
We crave the certainty of being in the “right” and will act in the interest of “the right” even if we have to use force, sometimes deadly force!

When others don’t see “the right” as I do, it is natural for me to see them not only as “wrong” but as “The Enemy” to be sidelined and not addressed as a fellow human being. It’s totalitarian. The Enemy is totally, completely wrong and deserves no sympathy whatsoever. Never. Ever. End of discussion.

It gets more complicated in Israel/Palestine.

If The Enemy’s view of “right” prevails and our existence/survival is at stake, we will destroy The Enemy with the only truly effective option left, the might of the military to make things right: rockets, missiles, tanks and guns! Both the Israelis and HAMAS (in Gaza) see their survival at stake and are using the world’s weapons to keep their vision of reality alive. HAMAS won’t stop shooting their pathetic, unguided rockets and Israel won’t stop building settlements on Arab land.

The Likud-led Israeli government rules all of the land. The HAMAS-led Gazans aspire to rule all the land. It is a mismatch. There are no people in the Israeli government working for an American or European-style democracy (one person, one vote, with liberty and justice for all). Israel wants Jews in the majority, with Arabs as a minority; HAMAS want a Muslim majority with Jews in the minority.

Many citizens of the world lament the lack of human rights for the original people of the land. Most are also outraged at the disproportionate response to HAMAS militarism in the death of so many women, the elderly and children in the killing of combatants. And that of course, is the fault of HAMAS as well.

Israel (and their Christian Zionist supporters) is deeply convinced that the only true face of Islam is the Extremist face. Any and all efforts by “moderate” Arab leaders to accede to Israeli demands are met with suspicion, further efforts to separate from them, divide them into warring factions, demonize and ultimately destroy them (if they will not be “pacified”). “They-are-only-intent-is-destroy-us” is so deeply ingrained in the Israeli psyche as to be virtually irremovable. Vulnerability can never be permitted. To give the Arabs any shred of credibility as to the rightness of their vision (say, of an autonomous Palestinian State) puts a hole in the dyke which, unchecked, will destroy Israel in the Deluge. The Extremist view of Islam is the only true view. “There are no moderates. There are none willing to share the land with us. Besides, it is all our land. All of it will be under our exclusive control, even the 20% of our citizens that are Arab Palestinian must remain second class citizens.”

Nothing that the US, the Russians, the UN or the Europeans have said or done in the last 60 years has changed this Israeli vision of what is “right”. And “by God” (yes, the religious dimension is at work too), “we shall defend ‘the right’”, no matter the cost in human life”.

What is further maddening is that basic US values are compromised as The US gives full, unqualified support to this Israeli ethnocracy, even though it has meant disenfranchising, degrading, and dehumanizing our other friends, the Arab natives.

Efforts to ethnically cleanse the One State of non-Jews seem to have failed, although our Israeli friends keep trying to make it work. “Be pacified or die” are the only two options they will consider. The Israeli military superiority will not bring about change. Dependent as they are on Israeli money to keep their seats, change will not come from the US Congress. The White House doesn’t even dare to threaten withholding our financial largesse, even though we should. No change coming from there. So the Palestinians continue to suffer. . .and resist, the vast majority, nonviolently, but unheeded by the opinion makers in our media. Support for the Israeli State is unwaveringly strong and unbending, despite cracks appearing in the Wall, the younger generation, Jews and Gentiles, here and around the world giving leadership.

There is no longer any chance for a Two State solution, with the two peoples living side by side in peace and security. That option came and went when Israel decided to colonize all the land after defeating the Arabs in 1967 and giving the middle finger to UN insistence on the rule of international law. Human rights are in.
This is why many of us now see the boycott, divestment and sanction movement (BDS) as about the only way to get the Israelis to open their State to their Arab neighbors. Even that option is iffy. Seven Nobel winners and a host of public figures in the UK are calling for “an international arms embargo on Israel” because of what’s happening in Gaza now. More entertainers, educators, pension planners and the travel industry will join the boycott. Only grass-roots efforts by hundreds, now thousands, of common people, banding together to identify and boycott companies that are profiting from the Occupation of historic Arab land will bring any significant change. It “worked” in South Africa and many believe it will work in Israel/Palestine.

The extremists on both sides now insist that Rachel and every mother must weep for their children (Jer. 31:15, Matthew 2:18). They must be sacrificed for the greater good (John 11:49, 50). Jealous Pharoahs and cruel Herods demand the death of children. What we need is more Shiphrahs and Puahs (Ex. 1:15-22) who refuse to kill the children (Breaking the Silence anyone?).

To see ourselves as The Enemy is impossible. It is this self-hating, self-righteous mask behind which the Phantom hides that must be peeled away. The major religions of the world (think Judaism, Christianity and Islam), declare that only love for neighbors in distress can unmask self-righteous hypocrisy. The Princess will need to kiss the Frog. Beauty will have to embrace the Beast. The Lamb will have to lie down with the Wolf. This truly is a tall order to fill. It goes against our “nature”. We will need a “second nature”, a rebirth.

When winning at any cost is the goal, no matter how many innocents are killed, you know that World Empire is dominant. When hearts remain cold, expect more violence. When hearts warm to the plight of neighbors in distress, expect justice. Without justice there will be no peace; without love there will be no justice. When we get in touch with the Beast in each of us, change has a chance. Respectfully, JRK