Tuesday, June 14

MCC Palestine Update #110

MCC Palestine Update #110

14 June 2005

Another Round of Optimism

After a whirlwind tour around the world, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is back in the occupied Palestinian territories. And though his visit with President Bush and many other world leaders provided good visual fodder for speculations about “progress toward peace,” the lack of tangible commitments on the part of the U.S. to ending this occupation and disrupting the oppressive status quo in the territories reveal that nothing could be farther from the truth.

Promises were spoken by the U.S. president but nothing concrete was offered in terms of writing, let alone actions taken. Only a “reminder” to Israel to freeze settlement expansions. The fact that Israel’s illegal colonization of Palestinian territory has increased 83% since last year (http://imemc.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11656&Itemid=1) speaks to the seriousness and political will of the United States and the rest of the “Quartet,” or lack thereof, in their advancement of the “roadmap for peace.”

Though much was said about the $50 million earmarked for the PA, the U.S. had initially talked about giving $350 million. But members of Congress expressed their outrage about money going to “terrorism” and so instead of these funds going directly to Palestinians they will be given instead to Israel, the occupying power (and to some NGO’s; see http://www.palestinechronicle.com/story.php?sid=20050507050457252).

The fear is that instead of benefiting the lives of Palestinians suffering under occupation this money will actually be used to make the occupation look “nicer” to the world by doing things like establishing “maximum contiguity” (a call raised by Bush). How? By returning territory to Palestinians that has been illegally occupied by the state of Israel for the last 38 years? No, by building tunnels to connect the isolated “reservations” that Palestinians are being pushed onto. (Tunnels so that Israeli settlers whipping in and out of their illegal colony-homes on their “Jews-only” roads do not have to see Palestinians so they do not have to feel guilty about the death-dealing status quo their presence in occupied Palestinian territory creates while they drive to the mall in Jerusalem.)

The “special relationship” the United States holds with the state of Israel is revealed in the nature this funding has been designated. While only $50 million will make it to the Palestinians directly, it comes with a long list of requirements and oversight. This compared to the billions of dollars a year the United States provides to Israel with absolutely no requirements or oversight whatsoever alone speaks to the compromised position the United States holds as a “neutral broker” in this peace process.

Again, despite the portrayal of “window of opportunity” during this sensitive “period of hope for peace,” the “facts on the ground” remain the same. Only recently, the Israeli occupation “turned” 38. It was 38 years ago that the “six-day war” ended, resulting in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory—something the international community immediately spoke out against, condemning with the passing of United Nations Security Council resolution 242 calling for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the territories.

The anniversary of the occupation was marked by many Israelis with celebrations over the “liberation” of Jerusalem, which included an armed escort of Israeli settlers onto the Haram al-Sharif or “Noble Sanctuary,” the third most holy site in Islam. The feelings of violation resulting from a display such as this can only be understood against the backdrop of Ariel Sharon’s visit to the same site in 2000 that sparked this current intifada and the threat that many Jewish extremist have presented over the past several months of blowing up the Haram al-Sharif.

The anniversary was marked by other Israelis along with Palestinians with protests against the continued construction of the “Separation” or “Apartheid” Wall and the confiscation of Palestinian land in the West Bank, which included many cases of harassment and beatings of peaceful protesters by Israeli soldiers.

After 38 years of uninterrupted, unchallenged oppression, there is little reason for Palestinians to be optimistic right now.

In pursuit of “Greater Jerusalem”—the Separation Wall and the Israeli Colonization of the West Bank

The construction of the “Separation” or “Apartheid” Wall in occupied Palestinian territory also continues unabated. The situation here in Bethlehem regarding the Wall only worsens. And unfortunately Bethlehem is not the only Palestinian area in this situation. Though pretty much every major city in the West Bank is adversely affected by this Wall, a city in the northern part of the West Bank called Qalqilya is literally enclosed by the Wall, cutting off the inhabitants from all surrounding villages. There is only one entrance / exit in and out of that city. Guess who controls that gate. (For a recent photostory of the Wall in Bethlehem, please visit: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3918.shtml.)

Through the Rural Renaissance Society for Northwest of Jerusalem, Mennonite Central Committee along with Palestinian NGO the Ma’an Development Center assisted with the distribution of 39,000 vegetable seedlings to 43 farmers and their families in 13 villages where Palestinian are increasingly turning to farming after years without work. Palestinians from these villages, unable to work in Israel as they used to, are now cut off from Jerusalem, segregated into an isolated reservation with access only to neighboring Ramallah.

One of these farmers severely affected by the Wall is Musa Taha. Like so many Palestinians, Musa and his family are being severely affected by the separation wall that the Israeli military continues to build, cutting deeply inside occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank. It was only last year that the Israeli military came without warning and confiscated 12 of his 17 dunams of land (1 dunam = ¼ of an acre), uprooting over 100 of his olive and fruit trees to make way for the wall. Every day for 17 years he had cared for these trees that he planted. In just one day they were all taken from him.

Musa continues to work, in spite of these devastating experiences. He looks forward to the day when a justpeace will be known in this land. “We want for this day to come,” Musa says. “Maybe for our children. We want peace.”

In pursuit of “Greater Jerusalem”—House Demolitions and the Israeli Colonization of the West Bank

Another form that this occupation takes is in the demolition of Palestinian homes. Recently it has been reported that 88 more homes in Silwan, a Palestinian village right next to the Old City in Jerusalem, are scheduled to be demolished. This will leave another 1000 people without a home (see Jeff Halper’s article below for more on this and visit MCC partner the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions online at http://www.icahd.org/eng/ for more information on what you can do to help).

These efforts are part of a larger project to create a “greater Jerusalem” that along with such policies as home demolitions are an attempt to create a Jerusalem without Palestinians that will: 1) cut the West Bank in half, isolating the north and south regions and 2) create such a large Jewish majority in this “greater Jerusalem” so that when the time comes to discuss “final status issues” such as the status of Jerusalem at the negotiating table it will have become a “non-issue” due to the Jewish demographic of the area.

For Palestinians like Sami who has to come into Bethlehem from Beit Hanina in Jerusalem every day because he works as an English literature professor at Bethlehem University, this has devastating effects. There are at least two checkpoints he has to travel through everyday using three different legs of public transportation just to get to work. Apart from the time spent, this is a heavy expense.

Though Sami and his wife Hannah are Palestinian, since they live in Jerusalem they have different ID cards than their West Bank family members (Palestinians have to carry around special ID’s wherever they go and can be stopped on the street at any point by Israeli soldiers demanding to see them). Their blue ID’s currently allow them movement in and out of Jerusalem into Bethlehem or Ramallah in the West Bank, whereas West Bank green ID holders cannot leave the West Bank to go to Jerusalem without special permits from the Israeli government. But this is going to change very soon.

Hannah was telling us that later on this summer, possibly July, Palestinian Jerusalem ID holders will begin to have to gain special permits to go into the West Bank. This not only means that these Palestinians will not be able to see their families freely, but that workers like Sami with jobs in Bethlehem or Ramallah (which is a very important center of business for Palestinians) will not only have to jump through all of the hoops of this ridiculous checkpoint system but will have to get special permission (costing even more money) to simply go to work every morning. That is assuming that the soldiers at the checkpoints will feel like allowing them to move through despite their having the “proper” paperwork.

“Security,” one might say in response to this “matrix of control” Israel exercises over Palestinians, “Israel needs to ensure their security.” But Hannah offered an important insight into this weak argument. “They want to make life so difficult for Palestinians living in Jerusalem that they will move to the West Bank. They are trying to ‘Judaize’ Jerusalem,” she says so when the “final status” issues like the status of Jerusalem comes up in negotiations, Israel can say that there are hardly any Palestinians living in Jerusalem, making it a final status non-issue.

But Hannah tells us, “We can’t leave Jerusalem, we have to stay.” The fact that Palestinians like Hannah and Sami chose to stay in their homes, despite walls being built around them, is a powerful form of resistance to this occupation.

Though Sami has a good job at Bethlehem University (a rarity for Palestinians these days), he is going to try to find work in Jerusalem. With the institution of this permit system, it is just going to be too much. Though the occupation might win a little battle like this forcing Palestinians to adjust their lives in ridiculous ways, in the end it is the Palestinians, like Sami and Hannah, with their sabr or patient steadfastness that will persist and overcome this oppression.

Indeed this reflects our own faith confession that believes that despite the death and devastation that surrounds us, death will not have the final word. But rather that life has already triumphed over death through the resurrection and that in such “active patience” justice will one day be had.

MCC Peacebuilding in Palestine/Israel: A Discussion Paper

Following a Mennonite Central Committee advocacy delegation visit to Palestine / Israel earlier this year, the MCC Middle East department drafted a discussion paper to speak to the issues of alternative pressures to struggle against the Israeli occupation over Palestinian life and land. This included a conversation about morally responsible investment. This paper was shared for feedback with MCC's Peace Committee in March and then MCC's Executive Committee in April. Earlier this month MCC's Executive Director, Ron Mathies, sent the discussion paper, along with a cover letter, to Mennonite and Brethren in Christ institutions for their feedback.

We sent this discussion paper with the cover letter to you all recently and hope that you all have received it and have had the time to read through it. As we mentioned in that email, we distributed this paper to you all because we feel it is important to share this with you and widen the conversation. We recognize this is a sensitive issue to be handled with sensitivity within our communities. And as the goal of this discussion paper is to initiate discussion, we very much welcome your feedback on these issues as we all continue to work for a justpeace in this land.

If any of you did not receive this discussion paper, please feel free to let us know and we will be happy to send it to you. And of course, if any of you have comments or questions about this discussion, we would greatly appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Peace to you all,

Timothy and Christi Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee – Palestine


· Jamal Juma, “Israeli Apartheid,” Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 May - 1 June 2005
· Jeff Halper, “The process of transfer continues: The Jerusalem Municipality plans to demolish 88 houses in Silwan, East Jerusalem,” Electronic Intifada, 3 June 2005
· Dr. Bernard Sabella, “Reconciliation with Separation: Is it Possible in the Palestinian-Israeli Case?” Alternatives.ca, 30 May 2005
· Ilan Pappe, “Fortress Israel,” London Review of Books, 19 May 2005
· Danny Rubinstein, “One Jerusalem for two nations,” Haaretz, 10 June 2005
· Eve Sabbagh, “The three monkeys of Israeli media,” Palestine Report, 8 June 2005
· Justine McCabe, “What Indians and Palestinians Share,” PalestineChronicle.com, 30 May 2005


Al-Ahram Weekly
Israeli Apartheid
Jamal Juma on the World Bank, international aid and the Bantustanisation of Palestine

26 May - 1 June 2005

As US President George W Bush had his first White House meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- a summit giving Bush a platform for his phony $200 million "aid" package -- devastating new realities are being constructed in Palestine. The Apartheid Wall and accompanying infrastructure of Jewish-only bypass roads, military zones and settlements, are rapidly moving towards the permanent ghettoisation of the Palestinian people. Bush's "aid" package, however, neither stops these crimes nor helps Palestinians: most of it is destined for occupation projects such as new checkpoints. As part of global "aid" efforts outlined and coordinated by the World Bank, it supports not liberation but Bantustanisation of Palestine.

The Bank's latest publication -- Stagnation or Revival? -- leaves no doubt about these aims as it meticulously maps out a vision of economic development "for" Palestine that serves to provide long-term financial support of the Israeli Apartheid system. It begins by repeating the lie that Israeli "disengagement" will provide Palestinians with a "significant amount of land" and an ideal environment for development. In reality, Gaza will be totally imprisoned, surrounded by a second eight- metre high wall, with all borders, coastline and airspace controlled by Israel…

Read more at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2005/745/re5.htm


The Electronic Intifada
The process of transfer continues: The Jerusalem Municipality plans to demolish 88 houses in Silwan, East Jerusalem
Jeff Halper

3 June 2005

The Municipality of Jerusalem intends to demolish an entire East Jerusalem neighborhood. 88 homes housing 1000 residents in the el Bustan area of Silwan village in East ,Jerusalem close to the walls of the Old City. The reason, (according to the city engineer Uri Shitreet, who issued the orders) is that this area is an important cultural and historical site for the Jewish nation because it stands on the site where King David established his kingdom. The aim, says Shitreet, is to return this "densely populated Palestinian part of the city" to its landscape. "The largest demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem since, 1967's named 'The Cherry in the Crown". The earliest houses in the neighborhood date from the 1940's and '50's though most were built in the 1980s and early '90's on private land belonging to Silwan villagers. Some of the houses in this area were built before 1967. The 1970 first forty houses have already received demolition orders.

Since the Israeli government zoned almost all the unbuilt-upon land of Palestinian East Jerusalem as "open green space" after the 1967 war (and since Palestinians would not be allowed to live in Jewish West Jerusalem), there is little space for them at all. The reasons are political, not urban…

Read more at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3901.shtml


Reconciliation with Separation: Is it Possible in the Palestinian-Israeli Case?
Dr. Bernard Sabella

30 May 2005 For some time now I have been pondering this question. As the Arab-Israeli conflict is coming to a new phase characterized principally by the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, on the one hand and by the construction of the separation wall in the West Bank, on the other the rationale behind reconciliation work, as principally attempted in encounter groups, is in need of some serious examination.

First, some encounter groups are motivated by the wistful thinking that changing hearts, primarily Arab Palestinian hearts, would lead to peace and eventual reconciliation. This assumes that Israeli Jewish hearts have already been changed and won. This changing of Arab Palestinian hearts would accordingly enhance the security of the state of Israel, in the long run. Thus winning Arab Palestinian hearts is an important premise for carrying encounters, exchanges, dialogues and all sorts of activities that would encourage or directly lead into reconciliation.

Second, some encounter groups are motivated by a genuinely common utilitarian concern such as the environment or school children living in a situation of conflict. While these groups are directing their attention to practical subjects and issues, the fact of the coming separation would render their work less feasible particularly if there is a need for regular ongoing face to face encounters…

Read more at http://www.alternatives.ca/article1825.html


London Review of Books
Fortress Israel
Ilan Pappe

19 May 2005

The right of the Palestinian refugees expelled in the 1948 war to return home was acknowledged by the UN General Assembly in December 1948. It is a right anchored in international law and in accordance with notions of universal justice. More surprisingly perhaps, it also makes sense in terms of realpolitik: unless Israel agrees to repatriate the refugees, all attempts to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict are bound to fail, as became clear in 2000 when the Oslo initiative broke down over this issue. Yet only a handful of Jews in Israel are willing to support it, in part because most Israeli Jews deny that ethnic cleansing was carried out in 1948 by Israel.

The aim of the Zionist project has always been to construct and then defend a Western/‘white’ fortress in the Arab/‘dark’ world. At the heart of the refusal to allow Palestinians the right to return is the fear of Jewish Israelis that they will eventually be outnumbered by Arabs in Israel. This prospect arouses such strong feelings that Israelis seem not to care that their actions are condemned throughout the world; the Jewish propensity to seek atonement has been replaced by pious arrogance and self-righteousness…

Read more at http://peaceandjustice.org/article.php?story=20050515024649730&mode=print0


One Jerusalem for Two Nations
Danny Rubinstein

10 June 2005

The scenery in the Old City of Jerusalem has changed in the last few months. After more than four years, we are once again seeing groups of tourists from abroad touring the city. These are not only Christian pilgrims bearing crosses and singing hymns as they walk the Via Dolorosa on their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but rather ordinary tourists trekking through the markets and alleyways inside the walls.

Among the tourists are many Israelis, too. Early on Saturday mornings, it is already difficult to find parking on Mamilla Street, from which stairs lead up to the Jaffa Gate. Until not long ago, the road was empty. The markets are filled with many more shoppers than in the recent past, there are few incidents and tourists feel safe. Are the walls and fences constructed around East Jerusalem the reason? Perhaps.

Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi, the chief kadi (Muslim religious judge) of the Palestinian Authority, said in honor of Jerusalem Day ("Jerusalem Occupation Day," to the Palestinians) last week that the Old City has been turned into a veritable military fortress, with many hundreds of soldiers and police officers constantly on patrol…

Read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/586965.html


Palestine Report
The three monkeys of Israeli media
Eve Sabbagh

8 June 2005

FOR NEARLY 40 years, Israelis have known Haim Yavin’s face. Now they also know his opinions. Whether that is leading to any deeper understanding of his message about the functioning of the Israeli media is less certain.

“Since 1967, we have been brutal conquerors, occupiers suppressing another people.” It is in such terms Yavin has been expressing his disgust for the Israeli occupation in the five-week series of reports “A Land of Settlers” currently being broadcast on Israeli Channel Two.

Known to Israelis as “Mr. TV”, Yavin has been the anchor of “Mabat”, the main news show on Israeli public television, since 1968, and has accompanied Israelis through all major political events since. When this calm and reassuring character “came out of the closet” and affirmed publicly his political views on the occupation it sent shock waves through his audience…

Read more at http://www.palestinereport.org/article.php?article=798


What Indians and Palestinians Share
Justine McCabe

30 May 2005

"Like America's native peoples, Palestinians bear the burden of proof of their existence."

Controversy over Indian rights in Connecticut recently intensified when the federal government reversed its recognition of Stonington's Eastern Pequots and Kent- based Schaghticoke tribes. Overall, officials and the public appear pleased. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said, “One reason this is so historic is because no positive recognition decision has been reversed before. This is a first for the nation, which makes it all the more significant and satisfying,” according to The Litchfield County Times.

Clearly, it's not satisfying for Connecticut's indigenous peoples as their rights and attachment to the land continue to be challenged even centuries after first contact with European settlers.

Due-process arguments put into high relief the irony experienced by America's native peoples in obtaining recognition: they must prove they exist. They must demonstrate that their people and cultures actually survived government intentions to eradicate them and seize land on which survival depended…

Read more at http://www.palestinechronicle.com/story.php?sid=20050530023335186

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