Tuesday, July 12

MCC Palestine Update #111

MCC Palestine Update #111

12 July 2005

Separation and Apartheid

The “Separation Barrier” or “Apartheid Wall” continues to creep across the Palestinian landscape. As we have mentioned in several previous updates, the “little town” of Bethlehem, where we live, has been almost completely closed off, surrounded by this barrier that in places manifests itself as a thirty-foot / nine-meter high concrete wall.

It is important to reiterate that the construction of this wall is a unilateral move by an occupying power in violation of international law. Palestinian livelihoods continue to be devastated in the process as more land is being expropriated for the construction of this 430-mile / 700-kilometer barrier that has little to do with security and terrorism, built not on the internationally recognized boundary referred to as the “Green Line” but instead on Palestinian land, cutting deeply into the West Bank.

It is equally important to reiterate that this wall is a concrete indicator of the larger injustice of occupation that continues to plague the daily existence of both Palestinians and Israelis, denying them both of true peace and security.

It was one year ago, on July 9, 2004, that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague handed down its ruling that this wall is illegal. Shortly thereafter, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to recognize and affirm the ruling in the Hague (which was overwhelmingly approved 150 to 6 with 10 abstentions). Despite this ruling, Israel shows no sign of complying with international law. (For more information on the ICJ’s ruling visit http://stopthewall.org/news/internationallaw.shtml)

In fact, one year after the international community raised its voice in protest, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that the construction of the wall “was taking too long” and instructed the defense establishment to speed up its construction (“PM orders acceleration in work on West Bank barrier” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/596778.html). In particular, he has ordered the acceleration of the wall’s construction with specific priority for construction around Jerusalem, which will eventually cut off some 55,000 Palestinian residents in four neighborhoods from their city (while including some 30,000 Jewish West Bank settlers and their illegal colonies on the Jerusalem side).

Home demolitions, settlement-building, and Apartheid Wall construction have all accelerated during the run-up to the Gaza disengagement. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has made it clear that both the disengagement and the Apartheid Wall are about strengthening Israel’s hold over the West Bank, and not about peace or security…The Wall, of course, makes a just and negotiated peace process impossible. It is by definition a unilateral action designed to incorporate as many illegal Israeli settlements and Palestinian land as possible into Israel while excluding as many Palestinians as possible. (“Apartheid Wall Construction Accelerates during Time of ‘Disengagement’” http://www.palestinemonitor.org/nueva_web/updates_news/updates/

To mark the one-year anniversary of the ruling in the Hague, protests against the wall persist by Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals. And reports continue to come out of harassment, beatings, and even the killing of protesters by soldiers in response (“Palestinian teenager shot dead by West Bank fence guard” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/597724.html).

The consistent justification for the construction of this wall given by the Israeli government has been for “security”—an abstract and ahistorical assertion not easily challenged in this current global climate of fear propagated by the so-called “war on terrorism.” However, recent statements made by Israeli officials betray the deeper political intentions behind this wall’s construction. A recent article in the Israeli daily Haaretz stated:

"Minister Haim Ramon (Labor) said Monday the Jerusalem fence is meant to ensure a Jewish majority in the capital as well as keep out terrorists, contradicting government statements that it is solely a temporary security measure." (“EU's Solana slams J'lem fence; PA: It makes pullout useless” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/598676.html; also see “State Prosecution concedes political aim for Jerusalem fence” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/590557.html)

The truth of another consistent assertion made by the Israeli government, namely that the wall is a “temporary” solution, has also recently been unmasked by statements made in the Israelis courts:

"Israel has again made fundamental changes in its legal justification for the West Bank separation wall, acknowledging that “security” wasn't the only consideration in determining its route and dropping its previous contention that the project is only a temporary expedient…Responding to a petition to the Israeli High Court by the residents of the Palestinian village Azun, in the northern West Bank near Qalqilia, the state asked the court to leave the wall in its current location because it would be very expensive to move - even though the court has already ruled that the wall's route in the Azun area is inappropriate." (“Israel to court: Wall not just for security, too expensive to move” http://www.imemc.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12305&Itemid=0)

Unfortunately, though the state of Israel denies it, this wall will become the de facto border of a “Palestinian State” composed of about five to ten isolated “reservations” or “bantustans” on roughly forty to fifty percent of the West Bank. Palestinians will be confined to these reservations, which will be rendered “contiguous” by a new network of tunnels accommodated to the existing network of “Jews-only” colonist roads for “outposts” and “settlements.”

Earlier this year, the MCC Washington Office finished up an advocacy campaign called “Bridges Not Walls” to encourage advocacy regarding these issues. To learn more about this campaign and how you can still become involved visit the “Bridges Not Walls” website at http://www.mcc.org/us/bridges. Such advocacy continues to be needed, especially now. Please consider writing your U.S. senator or representative, urging them to uphold international law and hold the state of Israel accountable as a member of the international community.

MCC Resources

Last summer, MCC released a documentary called The Dividing Wall. This video explores the humanitarian, social, and political implications of this 430 mile / 700 kilometer barrier. This past month, The Dividing Wall was awarded a CINE Golden Eagle Award (the same award that MCC video on Iraq Emerging Voices won last year). If you are interested in seeing this documentary, please contact your local MCC regional or provincial office or you can order it online at http://www.mcc.org/catalog (search keywords: “The Dividing Wall”).

Some additional resources that MCC has recently produced related to the Wall and the situation here:

· Peacebuilding in Palestine / Israel: A Discussion Paper:

· What Is Palestine/Israel?: Answers to Common Questions by Sonia Weaver:

· MCC Peace Office newsletter “Walling Off the Future for Palestinians and Israelis”:

· Last fall’s a Common Place issue profiling the Occupied Palestinian Territories:

For more information from MCC, you can visit the MCC Washington Office “Bridges Not Walls” campaign website at http://www.mcc.org/us/bridges as well as MCC United Nations Liaison Office focus on Israel / Palestine website at http://www.mcc.org/un/israelpalestine/.

How do we respond?

Due in large part to the seemingly ineffective nature of traditional political or legal mechanisms to find a justpeace for this land, alternative mechanisms to pressure the state of Israel and resist this occupation have increasingly come to the fore. One of these continues to be the consideration of economic pressures.

Recent actions taken by the United Church of Christ (UCC) reflect this ongoing discussion. The UCC is the sixth Protestant church to pass a resolution regarding selective divestment from corporations that contribute to this illegal occupation. The Presbyterian Church USA, the World Council of Churches, the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church, have all passed similar measures at their annual meetings (“Mideast divestment movement picks up steam” http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0707/dailyUpdate.html).

For more on economic pressures and the separation barrier from a Palestinian Christian perspective, please read the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center document “A Call for Morally Responsible Investment: A Nonviolent Response to the Occupation” at http://www.sabeel.org/documents/A%20nonviolence%20sabeel%20second%20revision.pdf as well as “The Hafrada Wall” at http://www.sabeel.org/documents/Statement%20-%20the%20Wall.htm.

Peace to you all,

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

Attachments and Links:

· Gideon Levy, “A world path not followed,” Haaretz, 10 July 2005
· Amira Hass, “There's a settler in every Israeli,” Haaretz, 6 July 2005
· Andrew Rubin, “We are no longer able to see the sun set,” Al-Ahram Weekly, 7-13 July 2005
· Samar Assad , “Israel's wall is simply another 'fact on the ground,'” The Daily Star, 11 July 2005
· Daniel Bar-Tal and Akiva Eldar, “Right of Reply / The meek and the mighty,” Haaretz, 8 July 2005
· Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, 9 July 2005
· Fredrick Nzwili, “Kenyan Anglican church backs Israel divestment call,” Episcopal News Service, 5 July 2005
· Chris McGreal, “Snipers with children in their sights,” The Guardian, 28 June 2005


A world path not followed
Gideon Levy

10 July 2005

The world is treating the wave of terror attacks in London as a deterministic event, a necessary product of absolute evil, an act of Satan's emissaries.

The world's media were immediately inundated with countless "terrorism experts," who self-assuredly explained how to combat the scourge: "Dry the swamp," "destroy the infrastructure," raise the efficiency of intelligence organizations and reinforce security arrangements.

The world will now upgrade its means of combating terrorism: Security on subways will be increased. Victoria Station in London will look like Heathrow Airport, like barracks. And, ultimately, there will be another war to overcome the affliction.

Our foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, who never misses an opportunity to appear on screen, added his own assessment. "This is a war between the children of darkness and the children of light - groups of lunatics, whose only goal is to prevent the dissemination of the values of democracy and freedom in the world," explained the person responsible for disseminating freedom in Palestine.

Black and white, bad guys and good guys. Everything is perfectly clear to us, the children of light, the seekers of freedom and progress.

Nonetheless, a certain doubt arises. Perhaps it is not just pure evil? Perhaps we should ask what the "children of darkness" want? What impels them to commit such cruel acts? How is it that so many people lend a hand to such acts? Is it really true that the only way to combat them is through exerting more and more force?

The undeniable fact that after two cruel and unnecessary wars - in Afghanistan and Iraq, which were ostensibly designed to combat terror - and after installing the strictest security measures, the world has not become a safer place, should raise doubts about the validity of those unchanging mantras.

Read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/597868.html


There's a settler in every Israeli
Amira Hass

6 July 2005

The hunting season is at its height, and the settlers are the prey. They have become a target for criticism in the media to an extent whose like is hard to remember. They are criticized for sending their children to block roads, for hitting and cursing soldiers, for the disappearance of blue-and-white ribbons on cars (and sometimes the antennas, as well), for occupying a Palestinian house in Muasi and for throwing stones at a Palestinian youth.

The neighborhood's spoiled brat, who feels he should get it all, has suddenly lost his temper, and the neighbors are losing patience. But the child is spoiled because the entire neighborhood has spoiled him, and he is convinced he should get it all because for years all the neighbors have proved through their actions that this is so.

It began with the tolerance displayed by all Israeli governments, as well as the legal establishment, for the settlers' behavior toward the Palestinians. It reached a peak with Yitzhak Rabin's leniency in 1994, when instead of evacuating the fundamentalist Hebron settlers in light of the general disgust for the massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein, he imposed a lengthy curfew on Palestinian Hebron. He thereby gave a green light to incessant criminal acts of persecution and expulsion, long before the lynching in Muasi.

Read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/596329.html


Al-Ahram Weekly
We are no longer able to see the sun set

On 9 July last year the International Court of Justice issued its opinion on the apartheid Wall Israel is constructing in the West Bank. The opinion, argues Andrew Rubin, should open up other arenas of resistance

7-13 July 2005

The Israeli wall -- the so-called security fence -- is daunting and ominous matrix of social control and demographic separation that is currently planned to be 670km long. It is thick and concrete, eight metres high, and at some points 104 metres deep. It is three times as high and twice as wide as the Berlin Wall. It is surrounded at a distance by nests of barbed wires, rolled up like stacks of hay piled high around it. High voltage circuits run through the so-called "smart fences", three metres tall, that line the perimeter of the barrier. Between the fence and the wall is trench, over two metres deep, studded with piercing metal spikes.

Outside the smaller fence, the Israeli military has paved a path of finely ground sand that is groomed to make footprints visible. At certain intervals, there are 10m vertical steel poles housing highly powered stadium lights and surveillance cameras. Adjacent to the wall, on the Israeli side, stand huge and foreboding turrets and watchtowers where Israeli observers and snipers are stationed. The Israeli military has defined the area of the wall to be a "military zone", and soldiers have orders to shoot to kill upon the discretion of the commanding officer.

As part of the ongoing process of settlement that began in the Occupied Territories after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the wall dramatically alters the conditions of life in the Occupied Territories of Palestine by establishing and consolidating a set of territorial arrangements that attempts to physically ensure that most of the existing and illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are there to stay. By virtue of its route, which is not along the internationally recognised borders of 1967 (the Green line), the wall annexes 58 per cent of the West Bank and confines the Palestinians to a ghetto-like existence. Extending from the north of the West Bank area around Jenin and far southwest to Tulkarm, it essentially closes off the entirety of the Palestinian town of Qalqilya. Winding its way south towards East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, it physically encloses over 78 Palestinian and Arab communities, such as Battir, Nahhalin, Ras Al-'Amud, Ras Atiya, Abu Farad to cite only a few.

Read more at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2005/750/focus.htm


The Daily Star
Israel's wall is simply another 'fact on the ground': Barrier construction accelerates in defiance of ICJ ruling, while illegal settlement expansion continues
Samar Assad

11 July 2005

One year after the International Court of Justice found that Israel's construction of the separation barrier in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and East Jerusalem contravenes international law Israel continues construction of the wall and expansion of settlements, particularly around East Jerusalem.

On July 9, 2004, the court found that Israel was obligated to stop construction and dismantle the wall, to terminate its breaches of international law involved in the wall regime, and to nullify all related legislation and policies. It ruled that Israel must "return the land, orchards, olive groves and other immovable property seized from any natural or legal person for purposes of construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" (par.153).

The court also determined that to build the wall, Israel destroyed or confiscated Palestinian property in violation of international law (par. 132). It found that Israel's severe restrictions on Palestinian movement violates human rights and humanitarian law (par.134), that the wall impedes Palestinians' right to work, health, and education (par.134), and, the wall severely impedes the exercise by Palestinians of their right to self-determination (par. 122).

According to a July 6, 2005 report by the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon complained that the construction of the wall was moving at a slow pace and ordered his defense department to speed up construction. Israel's Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz reportedly gave orders as well to accelerate construction of the wall around Jerusalem.

Read more at http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=16634


Right of Reply / The meek and the mighty
Daniel Bar-Tal and Akiva Eldar

8 July 2005

It's not every day that a journalist is given an important platform for presenting his plan for ending one of the oldest national conflicts in the world. Unfortunately, Ari Shavit has missed his opportunity. His program is constructed on the shaky foundations of outdated myths, imprecise assertions and a selective choice of facts. This is the same narrative that was common in the 1950s, and up until the late 1970s.

Shavit's basic assumption is that "the threat [to Israel] is the generating element of the conflict." There is no doubt that the sense of threat and fear is the formative experience of the Jewish public. Shavit places the responsibility for creating this feeling on Arab pathology, and ignores the possibility that this is the central pathology of Jewish society. Innumerable studies and evidence demonstrate the constant nurturing of the sense of fear in our society. This is carried out through a variety of channels - including textbooks, cultural products, the mass media, religious dogmas and political speeches. The collective memory that has been transmitted to the public beginning in antiquity, and continuing through the period of exile and up to the Arab-Israel conflict, has been focused on constructing a siege mentality and a sense of victimization.

The distance between Shavit's claim, that isolated Israel is confronting an existential threat, and the reality, is like the distance between the shtetl's sewing workshop and Dimona's nuclear plant. Israel itself boasts of being a regional power with a modern army, a developed economy and the almost-unlimited support of the strongest power in the world. It is self-evident that we cannot ignore the fact that Israel has not rid itself of all the security threats, but studies have proven that most of the wars were not necessarily meant to distance these threats.

Read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/597737.html


Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights

9 July 2005

One year after the historic Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which found Israel’s Wall built on occupied Palestinian territory to be illegal, Israel continues its construction of the colonial Wall with total disregard to the Court’s decision. Thirty eight years into Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights, Israel continues to expand Jewish colonies. It has unilaterally annexed occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and is now de facto annexing large parts of the West Bank by means of the Wall.

Israel is also preparing - in the shadow of its planned redeployment from the Gaza Strip - to build and expand colonies in the West Bank. Fifty seven years after the state of Israel was built mainly on land ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian owners, a majority of Palestinians are refugees, most of whom are stateless. Moreover, Israel's entrenched system of racial discrimination against its own Arab-Palestinian citizens remains intact.

Read more at http://jai-pal.org/content.php?page=104


Episcopal News Service
Kenyan Anglican church backs Israel divestment call
Fredrick Nzwili

5 July 2005

Nairobi -- The Anglican Church of Kenya has backed a call from a top committee of the 75 million-member Anglican Communion urging churches to divest from companies whose activities contribute to the occupation of Palestinian land or to violence against innocent Israelis.

"No person who believes in justice and human dignity can really support Israel in whatever it is doing," Kenyan Bishop Gideon Ireri, who heads the church's peace and justice network, told journalists on 1 July at the end of a synod meeting. "You only have to go there and [you will] sympathise with the Palestinians especially when it comes to the separation wall."

A June meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham, England, unanimously recommended the divestment policy to Anglican churches around the world. The resolution followed a visit to the region in 2004 by members of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network.

"What you see there is the atrocities committed by the Israel government in the occupied Palestine territories and the mistreatment of the * women and men at the road blocks," said Ireri, who represented the Kenyan church in the 2004 fact-finding visit.

Read more at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_63421_ENG_HTM.htm


The Guardian
Snipers with children in their sights
Chris McGreal

Palestinian civilians have been killed by the army with impunity

28 June 2005

It was the shooting of Asma Mughayar that swept away any lingering doubts I had about how it is the Israeli army kills so many Palestinian children and civilians.

Asma, 16, and her younger brother, Ahmad, were collecting laundry from the roof of their home in the south of the Gaza Strip in May last year when they were felled by an Israeli army sniper. Neither child was armed or threatening the soldier, who fired unseen through a hole punched in the wall of a neighbouring block of flats.

The army said the two were blown up by a Palestinian bomb planted to kill soldiers. The corpses offered a different account. In Rafah's morgue, Asma lay with a single bullet hole through her temple; her 13-year-old brother had a lone shot to his forehead. There were no other injuries, certainly none consistent with a blast.

Confronted with this, the army changed its account and claimed the pair were killed by a Palestinian, though there was persuasive evidence pointing to the Israeli sniper's nest. What the military did not do was ask its soldiers why they gave a false account of the deaths or speak to the children's parents or any other witnesses.

When reporters pressed the issue, the army promised a full investigation, but a few weeks later it was quietly dropped. This has become the norm in a military that appears to value protecting itself from accountability more than living up to its claim to be the "most moral army in the world".

Read more at http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1516268,00.html

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