Tuesday, November 21

MCC Palestine Update #3

MCC Palestine Update #3

The Intifada al-Aqsa is now nearly two months old. Far from receding, the cycle of violence is turning ever faster. The death toll on the Palestinian side mounts daily with numbing regularity, as do the thousands of injured. Israeli missiles have rained down on Gaza and Ramallah, and Palestinian leaders have been assassinated by the Israeli military in Rafah and in Nablus. On the Israeli side, a Palestinian bomb tore apart a bus carrying settler children to school in the Gaza Strip, while another explosion in Hadera killed two Israelis and injured many others.

MCC Palestine mourns the mounting loss of life, Palestinian and Israeli. We desparately hope that political leaders will be granted a vision of justice and peace, a peace which does not depend on occupation and violence for an unstable "security," but a peace based on equality which might lead to reconciliation.

Now more than ever, your prayers for Palestine/Israel are needed. This advent, MCC Palestine will be joining the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Presbyterian Church-USA, the Episcopalian Church, and the United Church of Christ in promoting an ecumenical prayer vigil for peace in the Middle East. MCC Communications will be sending out prayer requests, suggestions for congregational education, and ideas for advocacy and action this coming week. If you have any questions about this effort, see the website of Churches for Middle East Peace, www.cmep.org, or contact Larry Guengerich at MCC Akron, guest.90404@MennoLink.org or Rick Fast in MCC Canada, Rick_J_Fast@mennonitecc.ca.

The update below contains three parts. The first is news about MCC's work in Palestine. The second is an appeal to the Israeli public by a group of 120 Palestinian intellectuals--the statement and signatories can be viewed at www.miftah.org, where you can also sign the statement. The third is an appeal to demonstrate on November 29 to mark the international day of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

1. MCC Work

--MCC covered transportation costs for hundreds of Palestinian volunteers who helped to bring in the olive harvest in the Ramallah and Hebron areas. Military and settler actvitiy had placed severe restrictions on the access of Palestinian farmers to their olive groves. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees organized busloads of volunteers to assist farmers in bringing in their harvests in time.

--MCC is also working with the Union of Agricultural Work Committees at the promotion of backyard gardening. As the economic siege of the occupied territories continues, food security will increasingly become a problem. Backyard gardens will help guarantee a better level of food security.

--MCC's volunteers in the Gaza Strip, James and LeAnn Friesen, have been evacuated. The Friesens have two children, Alex and Kate. They are in Jerusalem for the time being. Please keep the Friesen family in your prayers, as well as the people of Gaza, who are running out of cooking and heating fuel due to the economic siege.

2. An Urgent Statement to the Israeli Public

In February of this year, we, a group of Palestinian academics and activists, addressed an urgent call to the Israeli public. We expressed in it our fear that the Oslo peace process, as it had evolved over the past seven years, was inevitably leading to further conflict -perhaps even war-rather than to our hoped-for goal: a final historic reconciliation that would enable our two peoples to live in peace, human dignity and neighborly relations.

We expressed our concern that the Oslo accords have been used by Israel, despite claims to the contrary, to create unprecedented expansion of settlements, almost double the settler population, and continue the expropriation of Palestinian land. Freedom of movement for Palestinians has been severely curtailed while settler violence against our communities continues without restraint. Against this background, the Palestinian population has had no physical, legal or political means of protection.

While military occupation is a palpable reality that affects us every day, it has been disguised under Oslo in ways that negate international law and the protection it might afford. We now live in a series of small disconnected areas which are being posited as the emerging Palestinian state. The only way to expand these Bantustans according to the distorted logic which has dominated negotiations, is for the Palestinian leadership to make concessions which would legitimize a number of Israeli demands in contravention to international law: to concede our National rights to East Jerusalem, allow settlements to remain in occupied territory and renounce the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The Israeli leadership (be it Likud or Labor) has continued to imagine that, given the massive military balance of force in its favor, it would be able to impose on the Palestinian Authority its unjust vision of a final settlement, and pretend that the conflict is resolved in the eyes of the world. This delusion that a deeply unjust agreement can be made by Israel with President Yasser Arafat alone, who is then expected to force his people into accepting it, is profoundly shortsighted and has inevitably led to the critical situation that confronts us now.

Many of us were in the streets over these recent weeks, holding neither guns nor stones. We were holding candles to commemorate the deaths of our students, neighbors and relatives who tried to make the world hear with their lives what we were unable to with our words. The naive and dangerous notion that Palestinians took to the streets following Yasser Arafat's orders is not only an insult to our intelligence but also a clear sign of the lack of understanding of the reality in which we live.

We are deeply concerned that the conflict has, at times, dangerously spiraled, into an ethnic/religious one, as the pogroms against Arab citizens of Nazareth, the lynching of the two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah and the numerous mob attacks on synagogues and mosques have shown. The profoundly irresponsible and self-serving act of the Barak government in allowing Ariel Sharon onto the Haram al Sharif shows not just an alarming lack of judgement, but also a total disregard for Palestinian, Arab and Muslim sensibilities. The use of live ammunition against unarmed Palestinian civilians at demonstrations there the next day and at protests ever since, shows total contempt for Palestinian life.

The stubborn and escalating use of Israel's overwhelming military power in order to crush the current uprising and terrify the Palestinian population into submission shows a dangerous, will- full refusal to address its underlying causes. Military might may be able to subdue the current wave of protest - at the immediate cost of many lives. But in the long run, it cannot stem the will of a people seeking their just and rightful place in the world. It will also condemn us to re-visit the current crisis again and again.

All of us are firm believers in an equitable and just negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians that recognizes the right to self-determination. However we, like our communities, have lost hope in the possibility of resolving the current inequities in the framework of the Oslo agreements and the exclusive American 'brokerage' of the process. We believe that we must find an equitable basis for peace which must necessarily take the following broad principles as a point of departure:

1. Negotiations must be based on the principles that all the lands occupied by Israel in 1967 are, in fact, occupied territories and that peace will be only be achieved by ending the occupation of these territories and thus enabling Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination and sovereignty.

2. East Jerusalem is part of these Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Consequently, a final settlement must include Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem and the commitment to Jerusalem as the recognized capital of two states.

3. Israel's recognition of its responsibility in the creation of the Palestinian refugees in 1948 is a pre-requisite to finding a just and lasting resolution of the refugee problem in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.

4. Both sides must recognize the spiritual and historical affinities of each other to sites and locations within their own borders and they must affirm and guarantee the access and protection of the other people to these places within their own borders. But in neither case should the existence of such sites be used to advance extra-territorial claims to locations within each other's borders.

We believe that the implementation of these principles will provide for a just and therefore, genuine and lasting peace. The hoped-for co-existence between our two peoples can only become possible if a reconstructed peace settlement is equitable. This requires moral recognition of the historic injustice visited upon Palestinians. Peace and co-existence will not be accomplished by imposing an unjust settlement that goes against the will of the people.

This land is destined to be the home of our two peoples. The need for a solution based on mutual respect and accommodation is dictated not only by the search for security and stability, but also by the quest for freedom and prosperity of future generations. It is our hope that, out of the tragedies of recent weeks, a new and fair vision of peace can emerge between the two peoples.

3. International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
29 November 2000

The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories has deteriorated rapidly over the past 54 days. Israeli forces have escalated and intensified their attacks against Palestinian civilians, infrastructure and the economy, making use of artillery such as tanks, Apache helicopters, missiles and heavy machine guns against Palestinian demonstrators and in populated civilian areas. The use of this weaponry demonstrates that Israel has adopted a military strategy, leading inevitably to more fatalities, serious injuries and destruction of property. The closures and curfews imposed on Palestinian areas are strangling the already weak economy, causing water and food shortages and loss of employment.

The goal of Palestinian demonstrations is to end the Israeli occupation and the illegal establishment and maintenance of Israeli settlements. However, in response to these legitimate demands, the Israeli occupation has acted outside of the permitted legal framework, responding to Palestinian demonstrations with full military force.

Israel continues to ignore United Nations resolutions that call for the end of occupation and the full implementation of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. As long as the international community refuses to take action on behalf of the Palestinians, a just and long lasting peace cannot be established.

It is now time for international activists, religious communities, governmental agencies and non-governmental organisations to demand that strategies for practical solutions for this conflict be initiated to protect the human rights of the Palestinian people. Therefore, in recognition and support of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we urge all human rights activists in the public and private sector to come together on November 29 and demonstrate in solidarity with the Palestinians.


* Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1322, adopted 7 October 2000, which condemns acts of violence, especially the excessive use of force against Palestinians, resulting in injury and loss of human life.

* International protection by the United Nations for the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories.

* Establishment of an independent international team to investigate the initiation of violence and ensuing days of conflict.

* Respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, as a prerequisite to restoring peace and security in the region.

* Commitment on all sides to a just and lasting peace in the region, which includes an end to the illegal occupation, dismantling of settlements, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state according to United Nations Resolution 181.

Friday, November 17

MCC Palestine Update #2

MCC Palestine Update #2

Palestine/Israel continues to be a land starved for justice, peace, and reconciliation. Nearly fifty days of the al-Aqsa Intifada have passed, leaving approximately 200 Palestinians and 20 Israelis dead and around 9000 Palestinians wounded. It is estimated that 1200 of the wounded will be left with permanent disabilities. Statistics, however, do not adequately convey the pervading emotional numbness and wordless sadness that pervade the atmosphere. How to mourn, when funerals become frighteningly routine? How to comfort a family sitting in the ruins of their home, shelled by Israeli rockets?

This update consists of four items. First, news about how the ongoing conflict has effected the work of MCC's partners. Second, a reflection by MCC peace development worker Ed Nyce following a visit to a house in Beit Sahour. Third, a piece by Israeli journalist Amira Hass debunking the notion that Israeli is restraining its military. Finally, a comment by Meron Benvenisti, former Israeli deputy mayor of Jerusalem, on how Israeli settlements in the occupied territories undermine the prospects for lasting peace.

As always, we welcome your feedback concerning these updates.

1. MCC Partner News

The following are but a sample of how the current violence has disrupted MCC's development work.

a. The Marda Permaculture Center southwest of Nablus was vandalized by Israeli settlers. MCC has supported several projects in sustainable, environmentally-friendly agriculture through the center over the past decade. The center lies next to the Ariel block of settlements.

b. Zoughbi Zoughbi, director of the Wi'am Conflict Resolution Center in Bethlehem, was denied a permit to fly from the Tel Aviv airport. Zoughbi had been scheduled to speak at MCC's annual general meetings in Ontario and Saskatchewan this month. MCC has supported the Wi'am Center since 1994; Zoughbi is a prominent advocate of nonviolence and the peaceful resolution of conflict. All of Zoughbi's paperwork was in order, including invitation letters from MCC, a Canadian visitor's visa, and a roundtrip ticket. The Israeli military authorities, however, are refusing to issue airport permits to Palestinians from the occupied territories in an act of collective punishment. MCC then attempted to bring Zougbhi to Canada via Jordan, but since the Israeli authorities are also restricting passage across the bridge between the West Bank and Jordan, this was not possible.

c. The YMCA Rehabilitation Center in Beit Sahour was shelled by Israeli rockets on November 14. MCC began working with the Beit Sahour YMCA in the late 1980s, providing assistance to the YMCA's rehabilitation of persons with disabling injuries related to the intifada. Sadly, with thousands of injuries in the space of less than two months, it appears that long-term rehabilitation of persons with disabilities will continue to be a pressing need.

d. Restriction of movement continues to be a problem for Palestinians working for international development organizations. MCC's economic development officer, for example, lives in Beitunia, next to Ramallah, normally a 20-30 drive from Jerusalem. With the intensified Israeli closure on the occupied territories, however, coupled with a thickened network of roadblocks, the taxi ride from Jerusalem to Beitunia now regularly takes over two hours.

2. Crunch
Ed Nyce, MCC peace development worker

The following is intended to be read slowly, and maybe mumbled aloud; but for sure slowly.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

It's autumn. Back in North America, leaves are falling. Walks in the woods mean the welcome crunch of leaves and twigs underfoot.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

And in some places, there may well be snow. Ahh, the crunch of snow and ice below my boots, hardened by countless tire tracks, or maybe still new.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

This current crunch under my feet will also be unforgettable. I am in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. I am in someone's home.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

I don't see how they're ever going to get all this glass cleaned up. This glass which used to be a window, a mirror, a goblet.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

From the roof we see the nearby Israeli military camp from which came the rocket, the rocket adorned with writing in the English language, into this Palestinian Christian home.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

It's not only in the parents' bedroom, with the twins' cribs placed end to end by the window, where eluding the glass is impossible.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

But I can't quite leave this room yet to traipse elsewhere. Look at all that glass on the two cribs. The one still sports a small, half-full or half-empty bottle of milk. And lots of glass. They said no
One was hurt; maybe the bottle was left there earlier that day.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch

It is unclear at presstime which baby twin committed an act "deserving" such an attack.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch..

Just to turn and look at the parents' bed, I cannot help but crunch.
Look at all that glass. How are they ever going to get it all cleaned up?

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

The hallway, kind of dark because it is not near a window, crunches. Where did all this glass come from? Pretty powerful, those rockets.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Some big pieces, some small pieces, some nigh unto invisible pieces; there's no way anyone could ever clean up all this stuff.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Oh, sure, there's the multiple-wall-penetrating bullets, the sheared blade on the circular saw in the machine shop, the huge holes in the stone walls, the crinkled satellite dish on this or
neighboring buildings.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

And the children who are doubting their parents' ability to protect them from harm.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

But I cannot forget the glass.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

I hope that I shall never forget the crunch of leaves and twigs.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Nor do I want to forget the crunch of snow and glassy ice.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

I will never forget the crunch of the Beit Sahour glass.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

Crunch, Crunch, Cru

3. A different definition of 'restraint'
Amira Hass
Haaretz, 15 November 2000

Israelis are convinced that the IDF is behaving with restraint toward the Palestinians. The Israeli media's coverage strengthens this belief. The bombing of the casino on Sunday night made headlines on the radio and in the newspapers. A 15- year-old boy, Mohammed Abu Naji, was killed on that same Sunday near the Erez industrial area in the northern Gaza Strip, at
a distance of 100 meters or more from the soldiers' position.

That same Sunday, another Gaza boy died of his wounds, three 15- year-olds were wounded by live bullets at the roadblock which separates the Khan Yunis refugee camp from the settlement of Neve Dekalim, eight funerals took place in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the IDF attacked residential neighborhoods in at least six Palestinian towns, with heavy firing of machine guns and tanks, as it has almost every night these past weeks. At best, there was limited coverage of these events - some Israeli media did not report them at all.Two days ago, when two Israeli Civilians and two soldiers were killed in the territories by Palestinian fire, three Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, and one youth died of his wounds.

Correction: The Israelis were murdered, the Palestinians were killed. Israel considers the murder of its citizens an escalation. Four Palestinians killed is an ordinary occurrence, maybe even a de-escalation. Nobody asks if it is logical that an unarmed 15-year-old was hit in the head by the precise bullet of a trained sniper.

Israel's policy of restraint has led to the following results over the past six weeks, up until yesterday morning: 179 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF, 48 of whom were aged 17 or under. About 8,000 have been injured, including some 1,200 who will be crippled for life. Thousands of people can testify to the efficacy of Israeli ammunition: high-speed bullets which crush bones and internal organs, bullets which split heads open, "rubber" bullets which take out eyes, missiles which destroy buildings, houses which go up in flames from the massive shooting, flare bombs which in the middle of the night light up an entire neighborhood spread out naked under the settlement on the hill above. Thousands of people are leaving their homes at night for fear of the shooting and missile attacks, several hundred have already lost the roof over their heads. Thousands of others live in fear, wondering when it will be their turn.

The policy of hermetic closure suddenly cut off about 110,000 day workers usually employed in Israel from their livelihoods. Because of the loss of their wages, for over a month already, all
regular economic activity has suffered, and the Palestinian economy is also plagued by cumulative damages because of the internal closure in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Regular movement between the towns has been frozen, almost the only business for bus companies is the (free) transportation of mourners to the daily funerals, olives are turning black on the trees because the owners of the groves are confined in their villages, thousands of fruit and olive trees have been uprooted in recent weeks so that the IDF could improve its firing and
observation positions, the old city of Hebron and its 40,000 Palestinian inhabitants are under curfew.

It is true that the IDF has much heavier weapons in its arsenal, that the government has not unleashed the full power of the armed forces, even though the settlers and some army officials
are demanding that it be used. But by any normal human standard, the correct assessment of the situation is that about three million Palestinians are living in the shadow of death, increasing economic hardship and the disruption of all the ordinary routines of life. From their point of view, not only is there no "restraint," but since the first day of clashes, Israelis have completely disregarded the political messages of the uprising, and the military response, which includes live weapons, an escalation in their use, and an economic siege, is many times greater than the Palestinian ability to inflict damage.

Let us leave aside the question of the morality of the Israeli reaction. Before it's too late - and maybe it's already too late – we have to ask the question asked by one of the senior Fatah
officials, "Don't they understand in Israel that they are turning us into Hezbollah?

4. Weaving the circle of folly
Meron Benvenisti
Haaretz, 16 November 2000

The colorful concrete blocks dispersed throughout the West Bank in the past two days are much more than a temporary means to enforce an "encirclement" and prevent vehicles moving outside the enclaves the Palestinian Authority rules. They will prove ineffective for this purpose.The blocks actually are symbols of an intention to expropriate the physical space of the West Bank and its public infrastructure, and to transfer them to the exclusive use of Jews.

As to encirclement, nobody can beat the talent of the besieged residents for improvisation, nor top their knowledge of the area. The chief of staff already has had to apologize for not halting
All movement of Palestinians in the West Bank. The blocks were not meant to be simply a security measure - whoever decided to deploy them knows they are of little practical use. The
"encirclement" is also more than collective punishment – it declares that only vehicles bearing yellow [Israeli] license plates are allowed to move.

Any other vehicle moving on West Bank roads is considered a terrorist suspect and must be handled by the army, or by the settlers who are angry over the use of "their" roads. A crucial
element in the security officials' decision ("with political establishment approval") was the need to appease the anger of settlers after the serious incidents in which three Israelis were killed on the roads of the West Bank. It is a response to their demand to "let the IDF win" - or else they would take action themselves.

Since the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada the lives of the settlers have been completely disrupted. Their classic Zionist delusion - "a land without people for a people without a land" - was shattered. The same Palestinian people threatened to turn their settlements into besieged enclaves.

In the past, they tried to preserve their illusions with bypass roads connecting Jewish settlements on which they could travel without being aware of any Palestinian presence. The most pathetic monument to the delusion, the "tunnel road," which was paved above and below the Palestinians, is now closed most of the time.

With their absurdity now exposed they want "not to see" the Palestinians, by having them caged in enclaves while the physical space remains in Jewish hands. Then they can continue their normal routine - "evening classes, visits to friends, entertainment, films, and so on," as the newspapers quoted them. Now it has become clear to everyone who saw the "settlement project" as a mere collection of settlements that actually it is a domination of the entire space.

The demographic facts on the ground were only the tip of an iceberg of a complex system of roads, gas stations, infrastructure, army camps, holy sites, nature reserves, appropriated state
lands, security requirements and the activity of the "civil administration." Together these elements established permanent Israeli domination of the West Bank.

Now that the Palestinians are rising up against the expropriation of their space, the Israeli government is try to regain control by "encirclement." This legitimizes a "normal routine" for 10
Percent of West Bank residents (Jews) at the expense of a living hell for the other 90 percent (Palestinians).

As for those who object to the use of moral standards to judge "security" decisions - let them note that the "normal routine" of 500 Hebron settlers requires putting 40,000 Palestinians under curfew. This is considered reasonable - "dictated by necessity" -because Palestinians "brought it upon themselves," as they did the "encirclement." Among the slogans bandied about these days we hear "the ideology of Greater Israel has disappeared" and "the present violence has no military solution, only a political one."

The colored blocks expose the hypocrisy of both slogans. The expropriation of the physical space they symbolize is proof that a Greater Israel ideology has not vanished, even if it has become "refined" by creating Indian reservations.

The "military" decision to enclave Palestinians proves that the distinction between a military and a political solution is artificial.

A political solution means the Palestinians will give in to military pressure and agree to the expropriation of the physical space -since it already has been "proved" that any area given over to them becomes a terrorist base.

Under these circumstances, there is neither a military nor a political solution. The cement blocks will become tombstones on the route of the march of folly [ End of Original Text ]

Thursday, November 2

MCC Palestine Update #1

MCC Palestine Update #1

2 November 2000

Two times over the past month, MCC Palestine has posted prayer requests and advocacy suggestions over Menno Link. We plan to continue to do this on a semi-regular basis if and as the violence of the occupation continues.

In addition to these worship resources and advocacy suggestions, we now plan to send out semi-regular updates on MCC's work in Palestine along with selected articles on the situation. With the coming of age of the internet, there are many distribution lists which pass around quality sources of alternative views and information on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. While we do not want to inundate anyone with excessive e-mail, we thought that some of the best pieces we receive over the internet might be of interest to the people on this list.

Enough introduction. This first update includes three items. The first is a brief account of how the economic siege imposed by the Israeli government on the occupied territories is effecting
MCC's Palestinian development partners. The second is an article by Amira Hass, correspondent in the occupied territories for the Israeli daily Haaretz. [Hass is also the author of an outstanding book, Drinking the Sea at Gaza, Henry Holt, 1999.] The third is an article by George Abu Zulof, director of Defense of Children International/Palestine Section, addressing the pernicious lie that Palestinians are sending their children as soldiers out to fight the Israelis.

1. MCC Update

The work of MCC's Palestinian development partners has been severely disrupted by the economic siege imposed by Israel on the occupied territories. By setting up an extensive network of roadblocks and checkpoints throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel places severe restrictions on Palestinian movement and the free flow of goods. The following are but some of the ways that the economic siege has hindered sustainable development in Palestine:

a. The al-Mustaqbal Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. has been working to establish a bamboo furniture workshop to provide income for economically disadvantaged Palestinians with visual disabilities. This fall, MCC gave al-Mustaqbal a $15,000 grant to help purchase equipment needed for the workshop. However, because Israel exercises a stranglehold on the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip, al-Mustaqbal has been unable to import the necessary equipment.

b. MCC routinely facilitates the export of olive wood carvings from Beit Sahour and Palestinian needlework from the Hebron area to Ten Thousand Villages fair trade shops in North America.
Currently, a shipment of 16 cartons, weighing 400 kilograms, is being held up at the Ben Gurion airport, as Israel is preventing the export of all products from the occupied territories. This shipment was ready to go out October 15. Many Palestinian Christians in Beit Sahour work as olive wood artisans and are dependent on the income from these carvings. Beit Sahour, it should be noted, has been repeatedly bombed by Israel over the past two weeks.

The daughter of one of Ten Thousand Village's Palestinian producers had her home riddled with Israeli bullets; the home of the sister of another artisan was shelled.

c. Together with the Palestinian Center for Helping Resolve Community Disputes in Gaza, MCC has been sponsoring a teen parliament to empower teenagers trained in conflict resolution to brainstorm how their skills might be used for the benefit of Palestinian society. Many parents of the teenagers, however, are not allowing their children to participate in the parliament, wanting to keep them home as much as possible as they fear for their children's safety when they are out.

d. Trainers with women's development program of the YMCA in Ramallah have been unable to get to villages in the West Bank where they offer training courses in animal husbandry and financial administration for underprivileged women. MCC contributes to a revolving loan fund operated by the YMCA for which promising trainees are eligible.

e. The Hope School in Beit Jala, formerly the Mennonite Secondary School, operates a chicken farm to help cover the costs of running the school. Workers at the school have had repeated difficulty in taking eggs from the farm to market, since the school is in Israeli-controlled Area C, while most of the buyers are in Area A, under Palestinian autonomous control.

The list could go on, as the economic siege and the military campaign against Palestinians in the occupied territories has disrupted all aspects of MCC's work. Future updates will highlight the status of other projects.

2. The Mirror Does Not Lie
Amira Hass
Haaretz, 1 November 2000

How perfectly natural that 40,000 persons should be subject to a total curfew for more than a month in the Old City of Hebron in order to protect the lives and well-being of 500 Jews. How perfectly natural that almost no Israeli mentions this fact or, for that matter, even knows about it. How perfectly natural that 34 schools attended by thousands of Palestinian children should be closed down for more than a month and their pupils imprisoned and suffocating day and night in their crowded homes, while the children of their neighbors - their Jewish neighbors, that is - are free to frolic as usual in the street among and with the Israeli soldiers stationed there.How perfectly natural that a Palestinian mother must beg and plead so that an Israeli soldier will allow her to sneak through the alleyways of the open-stall marketplace and obtain medication for her asthmatic children, or bread for her family. (Sometimes Israeli soldiers do have the guts to disobey orders, although, generally speaking, when encountering such situations, they order the woman to return to her home.)How perfectly understandable that the Israel Defense Forces is seizing control of an ever-increasing number of rooftops atop the homes of Palestinians in the Old City of Hebron and that Israeli soldiers positioned on those rooftops from time to time open fire on other Palestinians, while, down below, at street level, the Jewish settlers are free to show over and over again - at the expense of the windshields, windows and tires of the parked cars of Palestinians - who's really the boss. How perfectly natural that a Muslim house of prayer like the Ibrahim mosque should be shut down and declared "off limits" to thousands of Muslim worshipers.The ease with which a curfew has now been imposed on Hebron and the perception of that curfew as a completely natural occurrence are not the products of the past few weeks. (Incidentally, the residents of the village of Hawara, in whose vicinity and on whose lands the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar was built, have also been placed under curfew; their curfew was imposed more than three weeks ago.)After the massacre carried out by Baruch Goldstein in the Ibrahim mosque, also known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the ones who were punished were the Palestinians, with the punishment taking the form of curfews, closures, "disengagement," the shutting-down of entire streets and the continual, hostile supervision by Israeli soldiers and police officers. And there was an additional punishment that was meted out to the Palestinians: economic disaster.However, Hebron is only a microcosm, an illustration of the general picture. The protracted curfew imposed on Hebron and the way that this curfew has been accepted in Israeli eyes as such a natural event convey, in a nutshell, both the entire story of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in general and the essence of the kind of Israeli thinking that has developed in the shadow of obvious military superiority. The curfew in Hebron and the ease with which it has been imposed only illustrate the entire story of discrimination and uprooting that the Palestinians have suffered at the hands of the Israelis - a never-ending story that unfolded as far back as the Oslo era and the period of the so-called "peace process."Jews live in Hebron today either because of "ancestral rights" or because they can show proof of Jewish ownership of a given property in the not-too-distant past. It is so perfectly natural that Jews should be able to live wherever they want in the Land of Israel - on both sides of the Green Line. It is so perfectly natural that a Jew who was born in Tel Aviv should be able to move to Hebron or to Yitzhar. And it is so perfectly natural that Palestinians cannot enjoy that right and cannot move to Tel Aviv or to Haifa - even if their families own lands and houses there.It is so perfectly natural that, to this very day, Israel is developing and expanding the Jewish community in Hebron, just as Israel is developing all the Jewish settlements in the territories. And it is so perfectly natural that, to this very day, the Palestinians must deal with various limitations imposed on any planned development for their own communities, because most of the lands on the West Bank - which is their primary land reserve - are under Israeli administrative control. No, the Palestinians do not need the kind of legroom that Israelis do.It is so perfectly natural that Palestinians have to obtain a travel permit from the Israeli authorities (only a minority of the applicants are granted the permit) in order to enter East Jerusalem or the Gaza Strip, within the context of Israel's closure policy, which was launched in 1991 and which continues until this very day. On the other hand, Jews are free to travel from the West Bank to Israel and back, using well-built highways that have been constructed on lands that have been expropriated from Palestinian villages.During the summers in Hebron, sometimes days, even weeks go by without running water in the faucets of Palestinian homes. On the other hand, the Jewish neighbors of Palestinian Hebronites - in the Old City of Hebron or in the nearby Jewish quarter of Kiryat Arba - experience no problems or shortages as far as their water supply is concerned.The same situation prevails in many Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank: Whereas the Palestinians have no water, the residents of the Jewish settlements enjoy green lawns. The reason is that Israel has, in effect, imposed a quota on the water that the Palestinians are allowed to consume - that is, on the right to use water resources that are supposed to be jointly accessible for both Israelis and Palestinians in the single land they share.This is a tale that must be recounted over and over again - almost to the point of exhaustion - because it depicts a situation that is so self-understood in the eyes of Israelis that they cannot even see that there is any problem whatsoever. How perfectly easy to regard the Palestinians as a violent and cruel people and to ignore the cruelty that has accumulated day after day for 33 long years and which has been directed during that long period toward an entire community. This is the kind of cruelty that is characteristic of every occupation regime. This is a cruelty that intensified during the Oslo years because of the gap between the fine talk about a "peace process" and the reality.The curfew in Hebron and the fact that this curfew is regarded as a completely natural phenomenon in the eyes of Israeli society reflects the twisted sort of thinking that developed in the minds of Israelis during the Oslo years. According to this warped thinking, the Palestinians would accept a situation of coexistence in which they were on an unequal footing vis-a-vis the Israelis and in which they were ranked as persons who were entitled to less, much less, than the Jews. However, in the end, the Palestinians were not willing to live with this arrangement.The new Intifada, which displays the characteristics of both a popular uprising and a quasi-military one, is a final attempt to thrust a mirror in the face of Israelis and to tell them: "Take a good look at yourselves and see how racist you have become."

3. Children Not Put on the Frontline
George Abu Al-Zulof
Jerusalem Post, 1 November 2000

Do Palestinians send their children to die? No, says George Abu Al-Zulof, Director of Defence for Children International/Palestine Section.

The question of whether or not Palestinian parents send their children to die at the hands of Israeli military forces is one that is receiving increasing attention in the international community.

From articles published in The Jerusalem Post, to the discourse surrounding comments made by Queen Sylvia of Sweden, the theory offered is that Palestinian adults use children as human
shields in confrontations with Israeli military forces.

The fact that the international community is entertaining the issue is disturbing, given its attempt to de-humanize the Palestinian people and divert attention away from the roots of the problem--ongoing and systematic abuses of Palestinian human rights, resulting from the 33 year long Israeli military occupation.

The issue highlights Israel's non-compliance with the obligations it willingly assumed as a party to the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Not only has Israel failed to implement the CRC in the occupied territories, it has failed to submit the required report to the UN.

The notion that Palestinian parents send their children to die is the latest reincarnation of a well-known scapegoating strategy known as "blaming the victim." It is used to shift attention from the real causes of a particular issue or act and direct animosity or suspicion toward the victim, thereby justifying or excusing the violation.

Similar to the rape victim who was wearing a short skirt, or the battered wife who "drove" her spouse to physical abuse, Palestinian adults are blamed for the death and injury of their children. Palestinian parents are accused of placing their children in dangerous situations, the implication being that Palestinian parents do not value the lives of their children in the same way that other parents do.

Such an approach is racist and tends to draw attention from why these children are being killed and wounded. Attention is thus turned towards the parents, and the Israeli soldier who points his weapon and fires at the child, along with the Israeli government that sanctions such actions, escapes all accountability. The end result is that Palestinians are blamed for their own victimization.

SUCH a simplistic and twisted logic provides an easy and palatable explanation for those children who died during demonstrations, but fails to explain the deaths of children who died as they were walking to school or who were seeking medical attention? Are the parents of 12-year-old Samer Tabanja, who was killed by a Israeli helicopter gunship in his backyard on October 1, responsible for his death because he was allowed to play outside that day? Are the parents of 14-year-old Mo'ayyad Al-Jowareesh responsible for his death because they allowed him to walk to school on October 16? Moreover, are the parents of 10-year-old Alaa Hamdan, who died of a severe lung infection on October 13, responsible because Israeli soldiers refused to allow them to take her to the hospital?

Moreover, such logic fails to answer why the overwhelming majority of Palestinian children who died had been hit in the upper body with Israeli ammunition. Are we to believe that Israeli soldiers are such poor marksmen, that they are firing without caution, or that they are implementing a policy of shoot to kill or seriously injure? 43 dead children in one month suggest the latter.

Shifting the blame to Palestinian adults also allows for the downplaying of other violations of children's rights, which are a result of the ongoing Israeli presence in the occupied territories.

Thousands of Palestinian children suffer as a direct result of Israeli military attacks on their cities and towns. Others are virtual prisoners in their homes, due to a curfew in the area of Hebron.

Over 30 Palestinian schools have been closed, and three have been transformed into Israeli military installations, effectively depriving Palestinian children of their right to education. Approximately 13,000 Palestinian students and 500 teachers are unable to reach school because of the closure imposed on Palestinian areas.

IN CONCLUSION, it is worth noting that official statements from the Swedish Consul General in Jerusalem indicate that some press reports concerning Queen Silvia's remarks were inaccurate. Moreover, the Consul General reminded concerned parties of the statement of the Swedish Foreign Minister of Affairs, which noted that "the extreme violence used by the Israeli side goes far beyond the bounds of what is acceptable."

It is indeed regrettable that any child is forced to live in violent circumstances, but the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have made this a fact of life for approximately 1.5 million Palestinian children.

Parents do not send their children to confront soldiers. Such contacts s unavoidable due to a military presence in front of schools, homes and community centers throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As long as this continues, both children and adults will continue to be at risk.

Defence for Children International/Palestine Section is an independent, Palestinian non-governmental organization, established in 1992 to promote and protect the rights of Palestinian children as articulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as in other international instruments.