Monday, August 13

MCC Palestine Update #24

MCC Palestine Update #24

It is difficult to find words to express the numb sadness we at MCC have felt this past week. The suicide bombing by a Hamas activist of a pizza restaurant in West Jerusalem was shocking, if, sadly, not unexpected.

Not unexpected because the anger, despair, and humiliation felt by Palestinians living under siege in the occupied territories--people confined by roadblocks and checkpoints to their villages, almost daily burying new dead (a frighteningly large number of them children), coping with thousands of injured persons who will be forever disabled, facing constant confiscation of land for the construction of illegal Israeli colonies, and now dealing with the takeover of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem--was bound to find expression. Noting the fundamental violence of the Israeli occupation is, of course, not to excuse horrific attacks against civilians, such as the pizza restaurant bombing; nor is it even to excuse attacks against Israeli soldiers, even as international law allows for an occupied people to resist an occupying force militarily within the standard norms of warfare.

For pacifist Christians such as ourselves, violence can find no excuse. We at MCC deplore the use of violence by Israeli and Palestinian alike and yearn for the justice which will allow both to live in peace. Below we have included two pieces. The first is by Ghassan Andoni, director of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between Peoples, a long-time MCC partner. Ghassan's outline of a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a helpful antidote to voices who would portray this conflict as an eternal, insoluble struggle. The other piece is the prayers of the people offered by MCC country co- representative Alain Epp Weaver at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer on August 12. Two additional pieces are available by contacting the MCC Washington Office ( The first, by British journalist Robert Fisk, highlights how the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a type of war not dissimilar from other anti-colonialist wars. Fisk's article usefully underscores the choice facing Israel: does it wish to continue its colonization of the occupied territories (which of necessity involves violence) and live with the violent reaction, or can it decide to end the occupation and thus create the conditions for peace? The second, by Israeli commentator Meron Benvenisti, explores how the use of language can mask certain forms of violence.

1. Make no mistake; it is solvable, yet the interest of some stands against a solution.
Ghassan Andoni

The Palestinian problem is solvable. Both Palestinians and Israelis can live with peace without changing their beliefs or relinquishing their rights. Some want us to believe that there is no solution to this problem and that another option is inevitable. Someone is preparing us for an ideological war in which all of us except the ideological fanatics will lose. Someone wants to reverse history, bring it back to the forties of last century. Some fanatics are dreaming of genocide and forced transfer as the ultimate solution to the problem.

Yes, with all the magnified problems such as Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, and the creation of a state for Palestinians, the crisis is solvable. With all the incitement, fear, and racist education, the problem is solvable. We need not to forget this even for one minute. Many have lost their lives and the queue is long. We need not allow fanatics to wage the war until the last one of us.

So, how it is solvable? In territorial terms, dividing the land around 70% Israel, 30% Palestine is not only possible but will help both sides to preserve the main characters of their state and sovereignty and solve their major national problems. Israel can continue being Jewish and Palestine can become integral, sovereign, and able to solve, within its territory, the refugee problem. As the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza is 22% of the total area of Mandate Palestine; it is evident that an additional 8% is required to insure the Palestinian state integrity and to solve the Palestinian refugee problem. I know for sure that if racist education, incitement, and fear are put aside, there exists a reasonable majority on both sides that supports the idea of sharing the country between two nations.

The major obstacle, which stands in the way, is the misconception that "the land is already shared according to established realities." Established realities are only pointing towards racial segregation and apartheid, and can only serve the ones who want to continue with the bloodshed. Sharing the land between the two nations is very different from segregating both societies.

The only two options available for a peaceful solution are living in one country with equal rights, or sharing the country between the two nations and creating two separate sovereign states. Anything in between is not only inhuman but as well insures the continuity of the conflict.

In security terms, the best solution available and tested to insure the security of both is a peace treaty signed between two sovereign states. People tend to forget that a peace treaty between Israel and both Jordan and Egypt granted a level of security never encountered from before. Israelis have to remember that from the Jordanian borders many Israeli sensitive areas are within the reach of conventional weapons that both Jordanians and others have. While, the difficult situation in the north is primarily due to the lack of a peace treaty between Israel and both Syria and Lebanon.

There is no way to keep the conflict alive, unresolved, and enjoy peace and security. There are limitations to how much the utilization of military superiority can achieve. Examining the events of the past 10 years will make my point self-evident.

The only way to insure a state security is through working out a solution to the crisis with its surrounding, sign a peace treaty, and with years work out good relations based on common interests. This is what is attempted all over the world and the Middle East is not exceptional. But, what if there are groups among Palestinians who will not be satisfied with such a solution and still demand mandate Palestine as their final goal? Evidently there will still be such groups in both sides. They exist all over the world. Yet, communities are established to live and work for prosperity and better living conditions. Such groups on both sides will become more isolated, self-focused, and marginal when the majority decide on peace and create the proper education for peace.

All attempts to establish a peace environment and education prior to a peace treaty have failed, not only here but also worldwide. How would such arrangements end the refugee problem? What about the right to return? The additional 8% mentioned as part of the territorial dimension represents, more or less, the Palestinian built up area prior to 1948. So, in principle refugees will regain their property claims. As the right of return will be applicable within the context of a two state solution, Palestinian refugees can be rehabilitated on the territories provided as an exchange for their original and at the same time enjoy their own national identity and state. Such formula will be acceptable by the vast majority of refugees.

What about settlements? If Israelis want to stick to residential and territorial claims in the West Bank and Gaza strip, then there is no point in even attempting to solve the problem. Public opinion polls indicate that there exists a reasonable majority that stands against such claims. As a result of the Camp David negotiations, I have no doubts that a practical solution to this issue is possible.

What about Jerusalem? In Camp David summit, it was evident that both parties were very close to an agreement on Jerusalem. So, and without more arguing, if the religious side of the problem is dealt with more wisely, Jerusalem will not stand as the hard nut of the whole crisis.

The ones who want us to believe that the problem is not solvable are actively preparing the ground for using all of us as a fuel for their ideological war. The way to do so is to convince all of us that this problem is not solvable.

2. Prayers of the People, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Jerusalem
Alain Epp Weaver
12 August 2001

We gather together this morning before God, hearts filled with anger, bitterness, despair, cynicism, lament.

We come before God, wishing to offer praise and thanksgiving, but finding our tongues numbed by grief.

We approach God with righteous indignation at the violence and injustice perpetrated by others, but find ourselves painfully reminded of our own complicity, in spirit and in deed, with the powers of domination and violence.

With these burdens which we bring before God, it is truly a miracle of grace to be empowered to pray, be it with words spoken aloud or held before God in our hearts.

And so we welcome you to share your prayer requests, your joys and concerns, so that we may lift them up to God. Let us join together in prayer:

Gracious and merciful God, Creator of heaven and earth, of olive and sage, desert and forest, ocean and sky, we approach you humbled and awed by the works of your hand.

The land, the sea-- all is a gift of your creative bounty. Give your children new hearts to accept this gift, not with a spirit of hoarding and domination, but with an eagerness to share it with others.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Sovereign God, you rule over the nations in truth and in justice, yet your rule is often obscured to our prideful and arrogant eyes. Curb our warring madness, calm our lust for domination, break our prideful insistence to justify oppression and violence on the pretexts of security, liberation, or revenge. Spur in all leaders a thirst for justice and righteousness. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Healing God, we come before you with broken bodies. Our political bodies are torn apart by lies, injustice, and violence. Once more this week fragile human bodies have been torn apart, caught in a cycle of violence and revenge. We pray for Israelis and Palestinians who were killed and injured this week. We don't want these, your precious children, to be reduced to statistics in mind and soul- numbing lists of dead and injured. And yet pondering each loss of life, each life-altering injury, threatens to overwhelm our hearts and paralyze us. Help us to memorialize death in a way that moves us to action, action on behalf of justice and peace so that no more lives are lost. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Sustainer God, we ask for your encouraging Spirit to bind together your broken church. You have called us your own and made us your people; now embolden us to live as prophetic, embodied signs of your boundary-breaking Kingdom. Bind up our bodies and spirits, Lord. Be with those struggling with illness, fear, and isolation. Make us as a congregation and as individuals a part of your healing Spirit. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

O Lord, you know us in our inmost hearts, and have heard our prayers spoken and unspoken. Loosen our tongues, strengthen our feet and hands, embolden our hearts, so that our lives might be ones of unceasing prayerful action. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

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