Wednesday, September 1

MCC Palestine Update #101

MCC Palestine Update #101

1 September 2004

It has been several months since the last MCC Palestine Update went out, and since then much has happened. Unfortunately, this update goes out at a very sad time. As many of you have most likely heard, this past week saw two bombings in the city of Beer Es Saba / Beersheba with subsequent demolition of homes in the West Bank city of Al Khaliil / Hebron. We are reminded of something Dr. King once said

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.…Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.…Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

As the families of so many are experiencing pain today, please pray for them and for a love that will one day put an end to this cycle of hurt and violence.

A Season of Change

The summer has since arrived and the fall is fast approaching, and these past months have indeed been a season of change here in the MCC Palestine program. After living in Palestine for nine years, Alain, Sonia, Sam, and Kate Weaver have settled nicely into their new home in Amman, and into their new positions as MCC regional representatives for the Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq programs. We welcomed Sri Mayasandra to the region at the end of July to begin his new assignment as Jerusalem Representative, assuming most of the day-to-day administrative duties there in Jerusalem. Ed Nyce has been enjoying his time back home with family after five years here in Bethlehem as Peace Development Worker. He is preparing for a speaking tour that will take him once again around the United States, telling the stories of the people here in Palestine. Tim and Chris Seidel arrived here in late June to pick up where Ed left off. We all miss Ed greatly but are happy for the continued presence of Alain and Sonia in this program.

“Bridges Not Walls”—MCC’s New Advocacy Campaign

The Separation / Apartheid Wall continues to creep across the Palestinian landscape. Despite the ruling in July by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that condemned the wall as illegal, Israel shows no sign of acquiescing to international law. As was displayed in the UN General Assembly, Israel and only a handful of other states voted against the UN General Assembly resolution to recognize and affirm the ruling in the Hague (which was overwhelmingly approved 150 to 6 with 10 abstentions). Unfortunately, that handful of member-nations included the United States. In keeping with such a position, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own resolution condemning the ICJ’s ruling earlier this summer. The U.S. Senate is considering its own resolution to be voted on this month (within weeks). For more information on the ICJ’s ruling visit And also for a Palestinian Christian perspective on the Wall from one of our partners visit

In response to these recent activities, the MCC Washington Office has launched an advocacy campaign called “Bridges Not Walls” to encourage advocacy regarding these issues. To learn more about this campaign and how you can become involved visit the “Bridges Not Walls” website at Such advocacy is needed, especially now. Please consider writing your U.S. senator, urging them to oppose their pending resolution condemning the Hague’s ruling.

New MCC Resources

As was mentioned in the last update, MCC of late has produced many items related to the situation here in Palestine. You can check out some of these on the web, including:

· The most recent MCC Peace Office newsletter “Walling Off the Future for Palestinians and Israelis” at

· Preview the current a Common Place issue profiling the Occupied Palestinian Territories at

· A recent booklet by Sonia Weaver entitled Palestine/Israel: Answers to Common Questions is soon to be released and can be found at

· The new DVD The Dividing Wall can be ordered online at

A Busy Summer

As we mentioned summer is coming to an end, and school has already started this past week in Bethlehem. This summer saw many camps here with many of our partners involved in children’s lives. We had the pleasure of visiting a camp in Beit Sahour that our partners at the Wi’am Conflict Resolution Center were putting on. Earlier this summer we had the great opportunity to visit with other partners at the Culture and Free Thought Association as they held a race for children on the streets of Khan Younis in Gaza. At a time of such incredible stress in people’s lives there is seldom the opportunity for children to just be children. It was great to catch these small glimpses of life in the smiles of small children as attempts to resist the shadow of death cast by this occupation continue.

Nonviolent direct actions against the occupation were also stepped up during the summer season. Whether in the form of demonstrations in Beit Jala against the destruction of olive trees (some as old as two-thousand years) uprooted for the purpose of making way for the Separation / Apartheid Wall or in the visit of Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who participated in demonstrations in Ramallah, Abu-Dis, and Bethlehem—Palestinians, Israelis, and international activists have made their presence known this past summer.

One of the most poignant displays of late has been a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in jails all over Israel, protesting the inhumane treatment they continue to receive as “non-persons” inside the state of Israel. For more information on this hunger strike, see the statement published online by the our partners at the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center at

Reflection and Action

Recent approval of the expansion of colonies / settlements within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in violation of several UN resolutions, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and even the recently touted “Roadmap for Peace,” only brings more despair to a people who already feel as if the rest of the world has forgotten about them. And now especially with tacit approval of these expansions by the White House (not to mention this administration’s mishandling of the refugee issues), Palestinians are not only asking “Where in the international community?” they are asking “Ween Allah?”…“Where is God?”

This is a challenge to us. May the following pieces offer an opportunity for reflection about our own identity as followers of the God of Life who was made known and continues to be made known to humanity through the “least of these” (Matthew 25.40). But not only reflection, may we all be challenged to move beyond our positions of privilege to action, participating in the coming of the justice of the kingdom of God here and proclaiming the reality of the resurrection now in this time on earth (Matthew 6.10).

Peace to you all,

Timothy and Christi Seidel.
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee - Palestine


Washington Post
Letting Israel Self-Destruct

By Daniel Seidemann

Thursday, August 26, 2004; Page A23

JERUSALEM -- Take a run down the four-mile stretch of road that leads from Jerusalem to Maleh Adumim, which, with its 31,000 residents, is the West Bank's largest settlement. As you hit the "T" junction at the old road to Jericho, look to your left, up the wooded hill. The few Caterpillar earthmovers cutting into the terrain seem benign in comparison to the frenetic construction taking place elsewhere in the West Bank. Looks deceive. These earthworks may portend the end of the state of Israel as we know it.

The excavations represent the commencement of work on the plan known as E-1, which will create a continuous built-up area connecting Maleh Adumim to Jerusalem. If the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City is the center of a clock face, and with Maleh Adumim due east of the city, E-1 seals Jerusalem on its 12 o'clock-3 o'clock quadrant.

The ramifications of this could hardly be starker. E-1 will cut East Jerusalem off from its environs in the West Bank, virtually ruling out the possibility of East Jerusalem ever becoming the national seat of Palestine. Given the topography, it will dismember the West Bank into two cantons, with no natural connection between them. If implemented, the plan will create a critical mass of facts on the ground that will render nearly impossible the creation of a sustainable Palestinian state with any semblance of geographical integrity. And denying the possibility of a sustainable Palestinian state leaves only one default option: the one-state, bi-national solution that signifies the end of Israel as the home of the Jewish people.

There is nothing new in the E-1 plan; it has been on the planning boards for a decade. Until now, each successive U.S. administration has made it clear that E-1 is the quintessential, unilateral act that predisposes the outcome of final status. As such, implementation will not be tolerated. The fate of E-1 is to be determined around a negotiating table, not by bulldozers.

Until now. The work on E-1's infrastructures has commenced, and the plans for building the neighborhoods proceed apace, only months from execution. And Jerusalem is interpreting the messages it is receiving from Washington, their style and substance, as a green light to proceed.

E-1 may be the most dangerous example of recent trends, but it is hardly alone. Schemes abound -- some embryonic, some well advanced -- to "line" the security fence being erected around Jerusalem and in its environs with new settlements. On its own, the fence is an eminently reversible defensive measure. Dovetailed with settlement activity, it threatens to create the critical mass of political fact that further undermines the feasibility of the two-state solution.

For the past 13 years, I have gotten up in the morning, scanned the horizon here and asked: "What the hell can go wrong today?" What can happen that will undermine the stability of this delicate ecosystem in Jerusalem? What facts created today will deprive us, or our children, of the possibility of arriving at a final status agreement in the future? Dealing with the most sensitive, primordial materials of Israel's conflict with the Palestinians has often been lonely work. But I have never been alone.

Throughout, three consecutive U.S. administrations have engaged Israel in "reality-principle diplomacy," closely monitoring these "facts on the ground" and discreetly applying the brakes. Diplomatic pressure? On rare occasions, yes, but more often just a pointed inquiry to the Israeli authorities has sufficed to prevent the more detrimental actions -- and at little or no political cost in Israel or in the United States. Discreet, nonpartisan diplomacy has contributed significantly to the stability of Jerusalem and kept the prospect of a political resolution of the conflict alive -- however remote that prospect may seem at the moment.

But now all that appears to have changed. It is not only that the current administration has disengaged from micromanagement of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. The Bush administration is turning a blind eye to Israel's disingenuous representations regarding settlement expansion, indicating to Ariel Sharon's government that so long as it proceeds with plans to withdraw from Gaza, Israel is at liberty to consolidate its hegemony over the public domain in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The discreet braking mechanism has all but disappeared -- and, silently, trends have been unleashed that will soon make the two-state solution impossible.

All this takes place under the auspices of an administration that professes unprecedented support for Israel. If that is the intent, it is hardly the result. Nothing undermines the feasibility of President Bush's two-state vision more than President Bush's abandonment of reality-principle diplomacy. As such, the president is neither friend nor supporter of the Jewish state -- because friends don't let friends drive drunk. And that is precisely what this administration is doing.

The next administration -- be it a second-term Bush or a first-term Kerry -- will in all likelihood reengage. Too much is at stake. The dynamic that has been created does not signal the emergence of a new equilibrium in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and vital U.S. interests are jeopardized. Whether this reengagement takes place in time to save the two-state solution remains to be seen.

The writer is a lawyer in Jerusalem and legal counsel to Ir Amim, an Israeli organization concerned with the future of that city.


The beginning of the start of the end

By Gideon Levy

Sunday, August 29, 2004

How long can the costume ball go on? How long can we pretend the spit in our faces is rain? There are now signs that it can't go on forever - it is not the beginning of the end, but it looks like the beginning of the start of the end of the occupation.

Some of the criticism we are absorbing is beginning to have an impact. It may not happen tomorrow, but it is possible to notice a flicker of hope. First cracks have started to appear in the mask of self-righteousness we have worn for 37 years.

The bad news is that the cracks are only the result of international pressure; the good news is that this pressure is mounting. After hope ran out that we would manage to come to our senses on our own, now we need to hope the world doesn't give up until we return to being a just state. Those anxious for the future of Israel must hope the world will move from vehement words to no less vehement action.

The apartheid regime was finally brought to an end through sanctions and by excommunication from the family of nations. That, regrettably, is apparently the only way to ending the Israeli occupation.

After long years of ignoring international criticism, apparently the fear of the world taking action - sometime between the festivities of A Star is Born to the festivities over the medals at Athens - has started to take root in Israeli society.

It began with the disengagement plan and the prime minister's comments on the impossibility of permanent occupation - no matter how hollow they sounded. It continued with the High Court ruling against the separation fence - no matter how partial. And now, it ended with the recommendation by the attorney general to "thoroughly reexamine" applying the Fourth Geneva Convention to the territories - no matter how belatedly.

All these developments show that the occupied land is beginning to burn beneath our feet. For all the years of the occupation, Israel brutally trampled over the Fourth Geneva Convention, one of the most important and enlightened international documents that the world, including Israel, adopted.

But Israel made a mockery of the spirit of the treaty on the baseless argument that the territories were not captured from a sovereign power - as if that would change the act of occupation and its ramifications for the occupied population and its rights.

Israel violated and continues to violate Article 27 of the treaty that says: "Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honor, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity."

It violates this by controlling the Palestinians with military orders, imposing collective punishments, damages their property and puts severe limits on their freedom of movement, with all that implies for their lives.

Article 32, prohibiting causing physical suffering to the residents of the territories is not applied, nor is Article 47, which prohibits moving prisoners from the occupied territories to the state of the occupation power, and it certainly does not abide by the Article that prohibits moving civilian population from the occupying country to the occupied territories.

By the way, it's not only the Palestinians who are taught that the Geneva Conventions don't apply to them, Israeli children are also taught that. Civilized countries world-wide, though not our country, have long since become fed up with all of these.

But there's U.S. support and Europe hesitation about taking more aggressive steps. Now there is a bit of hope that the rope has been stretched too far. There are no more international bodies, from the World Health Organization and the World Bank through the European Union and the Organization of Non-Aligned countries, let alone UN agencies, which have not recently laid harsh accusations against Israel.

It's very easy to ask Menachem Mazuz, what happened? What's different from one more day of occupation to two more days? It is depressing to think that his eyes only began to open when UN sanctions are at the door, as he lately warned. And the Supreme Court's eyes opened only when the ruling at The Hague was at the door.

It is tempting to condemn the awful tardiness of adopting what should have been applied from the start of the occupation. But it is certainly better late than never. The worries that have hit Mazuz about the world are indeed good tidings.

We have no Israeli leader capable of acting, we have an army that has been corrupted beyond all recognition, we have a Supreme Court that stays away from occupation issues like they were fire. So, who knows - maybe it will be an attorney general whom nobody suspected of greatness, who will be the one who brings the good tidings home from out there.


London Review of Books, Vol.26 No.9
As long as the plan contains the magic term 'withdrawal', it is seen as a good thing
Ilan Pappe warns that Israel is heading for disaster
By Ilan Pappe
May 6, 2004

The day after the assassination in Gaza of the Hamas leader, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, Yuval Steinitz was interviewed on Israeli radio. Steinitz is the Likud chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee in the Knesset. Before that he taught Western philosophy at the University of Haifa, where his epistemological world-view was shaped by romantic nationalists such as Gobineau and Fichte, who stressed purity of race as a precondition for national excellence. The translation of these European notions of racial superiority to Israel became evident as soon as the interviewer asked him about the government's plans for the remaining Palestinian leaders. Interviewer and interviewee giggled and agreed that the policy will be, as it should be, the assassination or expulsion of the entire current leadership: namely, all the members of the Palestinian Authority - about forty thousand people. 'I am so happy,' Steinitz said, 'that the Americans have finally come to their senses and are fully supporting our policies.'

On television, Benny Morris of Ben Gurion University repeated his support for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, claiming this as the best means of solving the conflict in Palestine. The New York Times and the New Republic were among the many stages on which Morris was invited to rehearse his views.

Opinions that used to be considered at best marginal, at worst lunatic, are now at the heart of the Israeli Jewish consensus, and disseminated by establishment academics on prime-time television as the only truth. Israel in 2004 is a paranoid society led by a fanatical political elite, determined to bring the conflict to an end by force and destruction, whatever the price to its society or its potential victims. Often this elite is supported only by the American administration, while the rest of the world watches helpless and bewildered.

Israel nowadays is like a plane flying on autopilot. The course is preplanned, the speed predetermined. The destination is the creation of a Greater Israel which will include half of the West Bank and a small part of the Gaza Strip (almost 90 per cent of historical Palestine): this will be a Greater Israel without a Palestinian presence, with high walls separating it from the indigenous population of Palestine, who will be crammed into two huge prison camps in Gaza and what's left of the West Bank. Palestinians inside Israel can either leave and join the millions of refugees languishing in the camps or submit to an apartheid system of discrimination and abuse. In many parts of the Western world the media still describe this as the only safe route to peace and stability. The discourse of peace employed by the Quartet - the US, the EU, Russia and the UN - since the Road Map came into being seems to blind many reasonable observers, who still seem to believe that this course makes sense. But it should have long been clear that Israel is heading for disaster.

Ariel Sharon's latest proposal - yet another destructive ploy masquerading as a peace plan - fits very naturally into the history of peace-making in Palestine since Oslo. The process began with a genuine effort to create two independent states in Palestine and Israel, but turned into a way for the Zionist centre in Israel to impose its vision of a Greater Israel with a Palestinian Bantustan alongside it, and no rights of restitution and return for Palestinian refugees. In the summer of 2000, Israel and the US demanded that the Palestinians back this vision of their future.

Sharon's 'peace' plan may not deviate much from previous Zionist schemes, and yet it seems that things have got worse in Israel during the last few weeks. The assassinations of Sheikh Yassin and Rantissi, with America's support for Sharon's plans in the background, are terrifying landmarks. The feeling is of being trapped on a plane which is following a course that will end in catastrophe for the Israeli citizens onboard, and will also annihilate the Palestinians in our way.

Yet this course has now been sanctioned by Washington, and is no longer questioned in Israel. Dissenting voices inside and outside the country seem to have weakened or disappeared. Past attempts to impose the vision of Greater Israel under the pretext of a peace plan were challenged: many used to shun such policies, or at least hesitate before supporting them publicly. This has changed: the critical instincts of both intellectuals and journalists have petered out in the last four years. There is an ethical void which allows the government to go on killing unarmed Palestinians and, thanks to curfews and long periods of closure, starving the society under occupation. Even worse, it also encourages mainstream politicians and intellectuals to call for ethnic cleansing and the further ruin of Palestine and its people.

Previous American governments supported Israeli policies, as long as they represented Jewish consensual positions, and regardless of how they affected, or were perceived by, the Palestinians. This support, however, used to require negotiation and some give and take. Even after the outbreak of the second intifada in October 2000, some in Washington tried to distance America from Israel's response to the uprising. For a while, Americans seemed uneasy about the fact that several Palestinians a day were being killed, and that a large number of the victims were children; there was also unhappiness about Israel's use of collective punishments, house demolitions and arrests. But they got used to all this, and when the Israeli Jewish consensus sanctioned the military assault on the West Bank in April 2002 - an unprecedented episode of cruelty in the unsavoury history of the occupation - America objected only to the unilateral acts of annexation and settlement that were expressly forbidden in the Anglo-American sponsored Road Map. Now, exactly two years later, Sharon has asked for American and British support for the colonialist settlement of the West Bank, and got it. His plan, which passes in Israel for a consensual peace plan, was at first rejected by the Americans as unproductive (the rest of the world condemned it in stronger terms). The Israelis, however, hoped that the similarities between American conduct in Iraq and Israel's policies in Palestine would cause the US position to change.

Sharon's plane stood on the tarmac for three hours while, inside, Sharon refused to allow it to take off for Washington until he got American approval for his new plan. He said he wouldn't be able to unite the Israeli Jewish public behind his disengagement programme without American support. It used to take a while for the US finally to submit to Israeli politicians' need for a consensus (and in this case Sharon's need to persuade the Israeli public to trust him in the face of a pending court case in which he might be found guilty of widespread personal corruption). This time it took only a few hours.

It ought to have taken the American administration much longer than that. In essence, Sharon was asking Bush to forgo almost every commitment the Americans have made over Palestine. The plan offers an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza (although the Israelis left it in 1993), and the closure of the handful of settlements which remain there, as well as several others in the West Bank, in return for the annexation of the majority of the West Bank settlements to Israel. This will happen only after Israel has cordoned off the entire West Bank with a wall which will take years to complete and which most countries believe constitutes a violation of the Palestinians' human rights. Sharon also demanded a clear American rejection of the Palestinian right of return - a right which was recognised by the UN in December 1948. For the first time, Washington gave its support to a road map that leaves most of the West Bank in Israeli hands and all of the refugees in exile.

Bush is influenced by Christian Zionists who see in the present Israeli ploy yet another step towards the fulfilment of a doomsday scenario that will bring about the Second Coming of Christ. His more secular neo-con advisers are impressed by the war against Hamas which accompanies Israel's promises of eviction and peace. The seemingly successful Israeli operations are a proof by proxy that America's own 'war against terror' is bound to triumph. Israel's 'success', trumpeted every day by the defence minister, is a cynical distortion of the facts on the ground. The relative decline in guerrilla and terror activity has been achieved by curfews and closures, by imprisoning more than two million people in their homes without work or food for protracted periods of time. Even neo-conservatives should be able to see that this is not going to provide a long-term solution to the hostility and violence provoked by an occupying power, whether in Iraq or Palestine.

Sharon's plan has been approved by Bush's spin doctors, who can present it as another step towards peace and a distraction from failures in Iraq. It is probably also acceptable to more even-handed advisers, who are so desperate to see something change that they have persuaded themselves that the plan offers a chance for peace and a better future. These people long ago forgot how to distinguish between the mesmerising power of language and the reality it purports to describe. As long as the plan contains the magic term 'withdrawal', it is seen as essentially a good thing by some usually cool-headed journalists in the United States, by the leaders of the Israeli Labour party (bent on joining Sharon's government in the name of the sacred consensus), and even by the newly elected leader of the Israeli Left party, Yossi Beilin.

Two senior political scientists from Tel Aviv University, one on the radio this morning, the other on the TV news this evening, explained that Hamas has moved its headquarters to Damascus, and so - they have this on good authority - Israel will have to act there as well (Haaretz carried a similar report). They also estimated that since it would take years to complete the wall around the West Bank, there would be no real withdrawal from the Gaza Strip for a long time. The good news was that the intifada had been broken and Israel has time to decide, without any outside pressure being put on it, especially not by the US, how best to construct its future state now that Palestine is gone for ever.

The key term is 'outside pressure'. The governments of Europe and the US are unwilling or unable to stop the occupation and prevent the annihilation of the Palestinians. Those Israelis who are willing to take part in an anti-occupation movement are outnumbered, demoralised and crippled in the face of the consensus and its hegemony. The onus is on civil society in Europe and the US to do all it can to make the Israelis understand that policies such as Sharon's have a price. From academic boycott to economic sanctions, every possible means should be considered and employed in the West: their governments are no less responsible than Israel for the past, present and future catastrophes of the Palestinian people. This should be done not only for moral or historical reasons, but also for the sake of Europe's security and even survival. As the violence that has followed the events of 11 September 2001 has so painfully shown us, the Palestine conflict is undermining the delicate multicultural fabric of European society, as it pushes the US and the Muslim world further and further into a nightmare. Putting pressure on Israel is a small price to pay for the sake of global peace, regional stability and reconciliation in Palestine.

19 AprilIlan Pappe teaches political science at Haifa University, and is the head of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies in Israel. A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples was published by Cambridge in 2003

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