Friday, May 11

MCC Palestine Update #22

MCC Palestine Update #22

In conversations over the past couple of months with Palestinian partners and other international workers, the conviction is continually raised that the situation could not get worse. This must reflect a desperate wish rather than reality, because things do seem to keep getting worse. The past two weeks have seen horrific killings: the shell which killed four-month old Iman Hijo in Khan Younis refugee camps while in her mother's arms; Yossi Ishran and Kobi Mendel, two Israeli teenagers from the settlement of Tekoa' bludgeoned to death; eighteen-year-old Kifah Zu'rub who died from wounds received when settlers in the Mawasi region in the Gush Katif bloc of settlements west of Khan Younis unleashed their dogs on him as he returned home from school. Over 410 Palestinians and nearly 80 Israeli Jews have been killed since September 28, 2000. The perpetuation of the occupation is clearly not bringing peace and security, either to Palestinians or to Israelis.

More than ever your prayers and action for justice and peace are needed. MCC has produced worship and advocacy resources for personal and congregational use. These materials are now available on MCC's website at the following URL: Feel free to copy, pass around, plagiarize, etc.

We (Alain and Sonia Epp Weaver and children) will be out of the country on home leave for the coming two months. The Palestine updates will be suspended during this time. The following websites are useful sources of regularly updated information and comment on the situation in Palestine/Israel:

Below you will find an interview with the Rev. Naim Ateek, director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. If you would like additional comments by Israeli journalists Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, please contact J. Daryl Byler in the MCC Washington Office (

Alain Epp Weaver, MCC Jerusalem Office

1. Palestine Report Interview: Rev. Naim Ateek
Palestine Report, 9 May 2001

This week Palestine Report Online interviews director of Sabeel Reverend Naim Ateek on the role of Palestinian and international Christians in the Aqsa Intifada.

PR: How do you see the role of Palestinian Christians in the ongoing Intifada?

Ateek: I see it in a number of ways, both locally and internationally. Locally, I think there have been a number of voices from the Christian community speaking out against the Israeli oppression. This was done through public speeches, through statements from churches and from other non-church organizations, and some of it has been carried out in the media. A person like Archmandrite Atallah Hanna has played a very significant role expressing the voice of the Christian community, especially regionally. I went with him to Morocco to meet with a group of foreign ministers and he has played a significant role in expressing the solidarity between Christians and Muslims and the importance of justice for Palestinians and the fact that Israel is not ready to honor United Nations resolutions. Internationally, I think a number of us have gone out, attending conferences, educating people, updating them on the situation, asking for a greater advocacy, helping people interpret the situation correctly. I think also that there have been a number of Christians getting together, not only by themselves, but also with Muslims and Jews, to strategize. In addition, I think that by and large (although I obviously cannot speak for all Christians and how Christians feel), many Christians know that if they are faithful to the Gospel, any resistance to injustice has to be done through non-violent action. I think that there has been a number of us who have been talking about the importance of nonviolent action and a non-violent resistance. The basic thing that I need to emphasize here is that we as a Christian community cannot sit back and watch things happen. Involvement is very important but our involvement is not in the area of an armed struggle, but in doing whatever we can non-violently towards the ending of the occupation. What all of us agree on is that the occupation must end.

PR: How do you view the Intifada in general? Would you prefer that the entire Intifada were non-violent?

Ateek: Let me begin with the premise that resisting injustice is a legitimate thing for any nation or any people who are living under oppression. I think the world community has legitimized rebellion. Whether we like it or not, resistance usually takes on the form of an armed struggle. Hopefully, there is also a resistance that is done non-violently. Now, this doesn't mean that all Christians believe in non-violence. But thank God there have always been Christians who believe that non-violence is the way to go. I believe that the Intifada is important and the Intifada is legitimate because Israel is not willing to give up its injustice and its control over all of Palestine and implement United Nations resolutions. I would like, personally, that [the Intifada] is conducted on more nonviolent terms. I believe that we will get greater support from the world community, including many Israelis, if we strengthen nonviolent action. There are also Palestinians who do feel uncomfortable with armed resistance, although the general feeling is that armed struggle is a quicker way. Unfortunately, the price is also very high, not only the physical price, but also the psychological, which remains within the community for many years. I am not saying that non-violent resistance does not have its price. It is also costly, but it is somehow the more human way of doing things, I think.

PR: I wanted to ask you about the growing dispute in the Bethlehem area between the local Christian communities and the armed fighters. There were reports in Ha'aretz that Christians were speaking out against the fighters coming into their neighborhoods and firing at the Israeli settlements, after which the Israeli military strikes hard at the neighborhood. It seems that this there has been some name-calling and leaflet-writing in both directions and I wonder if you could give us some perspective on that.

Ateek: I have not read these reports, but I can give you some perspective. I don't think it is right for anyone to shoot between the houses. I don't think this is the right way of resisting. If these people want to resist, they have to know how to do it and they have to do it in an organized way and not jeopardize the lives of civilians. If it is their choice to have armed resistance, they have to be much more mature and organized. I do think there is legitimate criticism there. There are all kinds of other things they can do. I think it is right for us to say to these people, to whoever it is, "Please think about it. If your family is there, would you do it? Think about it in the right way and don't add to the suffering of our people." We are already suffering from all kinds of things.

PR: Some people would say that making such a public outcry about the fighters shooting from certain neighborhoods will only create divisions in the Palestinian people, to be exploited by Israel.

Ateek: I would say that any honest criticism done with integrity is much needed. I think this is a very healthy thing. I would be very upset if we didn't like what is happening and we kept our mouths shut. I think part of the health of the community is to say clearly that this action is unacceptable and must stop. I think that kind of debate in the community, although it might be exploited here and there (and usually there is always exploitation of these things), is a healthier community that really speaks out against injustices. Obviously, it has to be done in the right way, in the right spirit, to the right people and once it is done that way, it will not cause friction in the community.

-Published 9/5/01 (c)Palestine Report

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