Friday, December 13

MCC Palestine Update #68

MCC Palestine Update #68

December 13, 2002

Below you will find two pieces. The first is an Advent letter from international Christian workers in Palestine/Israel, signed by Sonia and Alain Epp Weaver, among others. Feel free to use as a bulletin or church newsletter insert or post on your church's bulletin board. The second piece is a succinct and sobering analysis by Ha'aretz journalist Amira Hass of how Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is positioning himself as a man of "peace" ready to make "difficult compromises" by accepting a Palestinian "state." This is the final update of 2002 from MCC Palestine. Updates will resume in mid-January. May you and your loved ones have a blessed Christmas season.

--Alain Epp Weaver

1. Advent Letter from Palestine/Israel

Dear Friends, Another season of Advent has begun. For Christians the world over, this means beginning a new year of reflection and action about who and what we are called to be. It is a season of choices, preparation and beginnings.

Scriptures that call us to make choices about where we stand mark the opening days of this season. They point toward Jesus’ call for a ‘new world order’ and highlight our human struggle in choosing between the powers of this world and the power of God. Serving the global church in the Holy Land, we share a joint witness of concern for the choices being made today; choices which too often create change by violence rather than by justice, compassion, or truth.

As we recall the birth of Jesus and reflect on the Biblical town of Bethlehem, we cannot help but think of the Bethlehem of today-- of Jenin, Rafah, Nablus, Hebron-- or of cities in other places which reel from the effects of injustice, hatred and conflict. Living in the midst of a war-torn land, we urgently lift up the call to wage a just peace rather than war.

Advent is a time to renew hope in a God that loved the world so much that a child was sent to proclaim a new heaven and a new earth. Christians find our way by faith in the incarnation. It is what allows us to believe that we have a choice in how to respond to daily violence. It is what allows us to believe that the larger choices of war and its destruction are not out of our hands.
Our choices shape the very reality for which we prepare. We join the leaders of our denominations in their strong opposition to our government’s unwavering desire to go to war in Iraq. Beyond any political considerations, a pre-emptive war simply finds no justification in traditional Christian teaching.

Our deep concern is also with our brothers and sisters here in the Holy Land. A war against Iraq would likely bring continued house arrest for the entire Palestinian population. It would further the severe economic distress Palestinians are already experiencing and would deepen the economic strain within Israel. The transfer of the Palestinian people is also a real fear, whether from villages to cities within the territories to actual expulsion from the country.

Any such attempts will inevitably lead to an increase in Palestinian resistance and would very likely result in heavy casualties to both Palestinians and Israelis. We find all such actions incompatible with our understandings of the Gospel and urge that we prepare for a different future, for a world built on peace and justice.

It is time to truly wrestle with Jesus’ calls to love one another, to love our enemy in both interpersonal and international relationships. It is time to fulfill Jesus’ call to be peacemakers. It is time to counter our ‘Just War Theories’ with ‘Just Peace Theories.’ There may be no more important task for the third millennium of Christian witness.

Having lived through more than two years of destruction and death, we are not naïve about the costs and struggles of such a change. We believe that peacemaking is a more viable choice than war.

Faithful choices and thoughtful preparations create ways for new beginnings. Advent is a time to rejoice that today is not too late to start anew. In the chaos of our world, we hear the angels proclaim, “Do not be afraid; I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

We rejoice, for the world can be a different place, knowing that God will work miracles within us. Come, Lord Jesus.

Douglas Dicks, Presbyterian Church (USA) Liaison Rev. Dr. Mary Jensen, Asst. for Communications to Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, Lutheran Bishop in Jerusalem Janet Lahr Lewis, General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church Catherine Nichols, Global Ministries, UCC/Disciples of Christ Rev. Sandra Olewine, United Methodist Liaison – Jerusalem, GBGM-UMC Missionary Lilian Peters, Quaker International Affairs Representative, Jerusalem Pr. Michael P. Thomas, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, English-speaking Congregation, Jerusalem Alain Epp Weaver and Sonia Weaver, Mennonite Central Committee

2. How Sharon Became a Leftist
Amira Hass
Ha'aretz, December 11, 2002

Between 1994 and 2000, Yasser Arafat would describe every piece of land the IDF evacuated as "liberated." His senior minister sand guides followed suit. Thus, Gaza was described as liberated and so were Jenin, Salfit, and everywhere else that was defined as Area A - under Palestinian administrative and security control. _ _

The process of sanctifying Area A included describing Hebron as "liberated" starting in 1997, even though 30,000 people living in the heart of the ancient city continued to suffer under direct Israeli control, meant to protect the welfare of some 500 Jews living there. _ _

The fact that no Palestinian living in those "liberated" cities of the West Bank could move more than three kilometers outside the city without encountering an Israeli military position, and that from nearly every Palestinian community, residents could see Israeli settlements expanding and encroaching, did not confuse the pubic relations artists of the PA. It did, however, cheapen the stature of the PA's leaders in the eyes oftheir public. _ _

True, Arafat was president of the (virtual) Palestinian state - it said so on the official letterheads of the PA and that is how he was addressed, but the residents of that "state" were dependent on the official stamps of the Israeli Civil Administration for their freedom of movement and their population registry, dependent on information-hungry Shin Bet officers and IDF soldiers at checkpoints to conduct the routine of their lives - no less than they were dependent on the Palestinian officials and the plethora of Palestinian security forces. _ _

The Palestinian government not "only" hid revenues from the PA's treasury, meaning the Palestinian public, and handed out funding to nurture cronies and neglect the majority. It also corrupted the language to make its terminology fit the reality that was promised and never fulfilled: ending the foreign occupation ofPalestinian land and Palestinian society. _ _

Many cooperated with the deception - representatives of the donor countries, UN envoys and Israeli peace camp activists. Symbols of sovereignty (stamps, an airport, uniforms and other perks) made people forget the main issue - that without sovereignty and authority over the land, meaning control over its development and its potential for the future, there was no meaning to the Palestinian civil-administrative responsibility for the people of the West Bank and Gaza. It was very convenient for Israeli public relations overseas, which could argue - and convince the world - that the occupation was over because Arafat controlled 99 percent of the Palestinian population. _ _

Now, and not for the first time, Ariel Sharon is juggling with the term Palestinian state, referring to the Bush framework. Maybe he really thinks it's possible to describe as a "state" a collection of administrative enclaves, which might be connected with a road that makes it possible to talk about territorial contiguity, without control over the borders and the water resources and without evacuating settlements that will continue to separate the enclaves, and as they expand, impose themselves on all the landscape and space of the West Bank and Gaza. _ _

Maybe Sharon really does think the Palestinians don't need any more than that, or that under the pressure of the Israeli military attacks they will accept it as their fate. Maybe he is interested in creating the impression of a debate inside his movement. Maybe he really is so sophisticated that he knows that such a truncated "state" is an impossible project, but that he's really addressing America and he is convinced that George Bush doesn't dwell on details. _ _

People pay attention to the fact that Sharon is speaking of a Palestinian state, not to the fact that this is the castration of a term meant to reflect the principles of the right to self- determination, equality between nations, sovereignty and independent decision- making. And that's the absurdity of our political life - empty talk has turned Sharon into "a leftist" in the Likud. In other words, we've reached the stage where someone who doesn't explicitly preach expulsion or transfer of the Palestinians out of the country or perpetuation of the militaryregime over them, is a "leftist." _ _

As in the Oslo years, with all the talk about a "state," the substance will be forgotten and the shell will be sanctified, when the state is the means, the shell. The essence of the original demand for "two states" was independence for the Palestinian people. But it was also the ability and desire of the State of Israel to be freed from its inherent urge to control the Palestinians and their future and to continue taking over as much of their available lands as possible. That is the inherent urge that sabotaged our ability to live in the region in peace. _ _

The fear is that the "leftist" Sharon's energetic statements and the seemingly sharp debate that he is conducting with his party colleagues over a "Palestinian state" will be enough to give the Labor Party an excuse to rejoin a national unity government and thus lend a hand to perpetuating the bloodshed-ridden conflict with the Palestinians. The fear is that the empty talk will be portrayed as "a political horizon" that requires the Palestinians, in exchange, to give up their hostile activity. And then it will be possible to claim that the Palestinians, once again, missed an opportunity.

No comments: