Monday, August 1

MCC Palestine Update #112

MCC Palestine Update #112

1 August 2005

Changing seasons

Many of MCC’s partners have been very active during the summer season. For example, the Holy Land Trust ( recently finished up a summer camp that brought together both Palestinians and internationals for about a week and a half of trainings and workshops on communication, conflict analysis, and nonviolence. This camp was based in a village west of Bethlehem called Nahalin. It is a beautiful place but also very sad and disturbing because this little village is completely surrounded by about three Israeli settlements. And in addition to this, the Separation Wall will completely surround Nahalin, leaving only one entry / exit point.

In addition to this, Holy Land Trust’s Summer Encounter Program has brought dozens of internationals to live and learn in Palestine for the summer (“Summer program offers students a different view of Palestinian life,” 15 July 2005, and their media project the Palestine News Network recently received its license (“First Independent Palestinian News Agency Receives License,” 29 July 2005

The Zochrot Association ( recently made the news due to its efforts to raise awareness about the realities of dispossession that Palestinians experienced, and continue to experience, in the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe” between 1947 and 1949. In particular: “The Civil Administration in the territories is to place signs in Canada Park, near Latrun, to commemorate two Palestinian villages that were destroyed in 1967, the state prosecution announced recently. Canada Park is located where the villages Imwas and Yalu used to be…The prosecution decision comes in the wake of a High Court of Justice petition filed by Zochrot, an Israeli nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the destruction of Palestinian communities and advancing the Palestinian refugees' return to Israel” (“JNF marks destroyed Arab villages,” 26 July 2005

Another of our partners, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD;, also just finished up a camp of their own in Anata, a Palestinian town in northeast Jerusalem. This one was a worker camp where a group of internationals (with some occasional Israelis) came for two weeks to help rebuild a Palestinian home that was demolished a few months ago (“Building to resist,” 30 July 2005 This continues to be a serious problem for Palestinians in the Jerusalem area, as the state of Israel continues with their efforts to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem of Palestinians, enlarging it into a “greater Jerusalem” that will effectively cut the West Bank and two.

Only recently, a mother of a family who witnessed the demolition of their home, whose belongings were thrown into the street, cried out, “Is the world blind?”, as she displayed the now ruined pictures that had been drawn by her son. (For more on home demolitions: “‘Is the world blind?’ Two more families lose their homes in East Jerusalem,” 7 December 2005 and “‘Where shall I go now?’ A new wave of house demolitions in East Jerusalem,” 4 July 2005


MCC partner the Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA; in Khan Younis in southern Gaza also held their summer camp this past month. Unfortunately MCCers were unable to visit due to closures that prohibit mobility and access inside Gaza.

We would continue to ask for prayer for our friends at CFTA and for all the people of Gaza. With threats of a “major Israeli ground offensive” and “major collateral damage” (“Army prepares a plan to shell Gaza if the PA does not control it,” 25 July 2005, and the continuation of extra-judicial assassinations that often leave many innocent civilians killed (“Israel Renews Assassination Policy,” 14 July 2005, fear and uncertainty as to post-disengagement realities continue to abound.

Legitimizing apartheid under the smokescreen of “Disengagement”

In our last update, we discussed in-depth the situation that the ongoing construction of the Separation Barrier continues to create for Palestinians living under occupation, especially in light of the one-year anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling. A little over a week ago, the United Nations Security Council “rejected a request to debate the West Bank security fence, saying the Gaza disengagement plan trumps all other issues in the region at the moment. France and Russia joined the United States and Great Britain in rejecting both al-Kidwa’s proposal to hold an emergency debate on the subject, and his request to raise the fence issue during the council’s monthly debate about the Middle East. Al-Kidwa, the Palestinians' long-time U.N. representative, requested the debate to mark one year of the decision by the International Criminal Court at the Hague declaring the fence illegal.” (“Security Council rejects fence debate,” 22 July 2005,7340,L-3116465,00.html)

Once again, the state of Israel’s intransigence in the face of international law stands with impunity. It is for this very reason that alternative, mainly economic pressures to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory are being pursued.

Robust Colonization and Colonist Violence

Despite their illegality under international law and despite the requirements of the U.S.-backed “Road Map” peace plan, settlement construction has only picked up pace in the occupied Palestinian territories.

A few examples of these ever-burgeoning “facts on the ground” include recent calls by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (made incidentally while U.S. Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice was visiting Jerusalem) to boost West Bank settlements—saying he does not intend to discuss partition of Jerusalem—by expanding the West Bank settlement of Ariel, creating a contiguous territorial connection between the town and the Green Line, and constructing new homes in the settlement of Maale Adumim, proclaiming that “this (settlement) bloc will forever be an inseparable part of the State of Israel and enjoy a contiguous territorial connection to it” (“Sharon woos rightists,”,7340,L-3116333,00.html and “Sharon: Time to expand Ariel,” 21 July 2005,7340,L-3116191,00.html).

To ensure Israeli hold on Jerusalem, recent reports tell of plans to build a settlement right in the midst of the Old City, in the Muslim quarter (“Israel Plans Jewish Colony in Palestinian Heart of Old City,” 27 July 2005

In addition to this, the economic ministerial council at the Knesset approved a plan to provide 97 million shekels in aid to improve infrastructure, agriculture and for settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley area, considered by some as “Israel’s eastern defense wall.” Israeli mister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “The Jordan valley will be under Israeli control…for ever.” This reinforced the claims that such settlements “represent the success of our dream of keeping large settlement blocs in the West Bank.”

“As Israel continues its plans to expand settlements in the Jordan Valley, in Ariel, north of the West Bank and Kfar Aztion settlement in the south, in addition to its plans to expand the Maali Admum settlement in order to connect it to Jerusalem, the geographical continuity of the Palestinians areas will be destroyed. This in turn destroys any chances of establishing a viable Palestinian state with the required geographical continuity.” (“97 million to expand settlements in the Jordan Valley,” 22 July 2005

While the current “Disengagement” garners intense media coverage, showcasing settlers and providing a platform for their perceived experiences of injustice, violence against Palestinians goes grossly unreported.

This is diplayed in a recent, and largely unreported, incident in which a Palestinian child was killed in a hit-and-run by an Israeli settler:

“The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported Tuesday night that a child from Beit Ummar village near Hebron was killed after an Israeli settler struck him with his car at a high speed. The child, Mousa Jamal al-Alamah, 14 years old, died of severe injuries sustained after the settler rammed his car into him at 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday on the Hebron-Jerusalem road east of the village. A similar incident took place on July 15, when an Israeli settler rammed Adel Azmi al-Jamal, 15 years old, with his car near Hebron and then sped off. The child sustained fractures to several parts of his body.” (“Three Palestinian Teenagers Dead in Past Three Days,” July 28, 2005

Another example of settler violence was in the Gaza Strip in which Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian youth from Muwassi with stones as he lay unconscious on the ground, apparently attempting to kill him. The Palestinian youth was eventually saved from the assault by Palestinians, Israeli journalists, and Israeli soldiers. The attack was filmed by TV cameramen and photographers and the video and photos from the attack were shown widely on Israeli television, reported as an attempted “lynching.” But the failure of other major news outlets to report and highlight this major news story reveals by some a “disturbing pattern…of selective reporting, by ignoring or minimizing Israeli violence and human rights violations while emphasizing Palestinian violence.” (“New York Times covers up brutal settler attack on Palestinian,” 2 July 2005

Moving toward action: New resources for advocacy

The July-September 2005 edition of the MCC Peace Office Newsletter looking at Christian Zionism is now available online at It is titled “Christian Zionism and Peace in the Holy Land” and features articles by Palestinian Christians Cedar Duaybis and Rev. Alex Awad as well as biblical reflections by Patricia Shelly, Dorothy Jean Weaver, and Loren L. Johns.

The current issue of Sojourners magazine ( takes a look at the situation here and is now available online at Featuring articles by Jeff Halper, director of MCC partner the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, and profiling MCC partner the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center (, this is a helpful resource for learning more about the situation and especially about the conversation surrounding the use of economic pressure to end the occupation.

As we have mentioned in past updates, MCC has produced a discussion paper to help facilitate this conversation in communities back in North America. “Peacebuilding in Palestine / Israel: A Discussion Paper” can be found online at

Prayerfully consider these issues that continue to weigh heavily in this broken land with discussion and dialogue in your own communities using MCC’s discussion paper as a resource and guide for discussion. Suggestions for steps for moving towards action by advocating for a justpeace for Palestinians and Israelis can be found at MCC’s “Bridges Not Walls” website: Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a DC-based working group to which MCC is a member, has also provided advice on steps towards advocacy, especially during the summer recess:

A word of hope in the midst of despair

Sabeel director Na’im Ateek, who is profiled in the current issue of Sojourners magazine, encourages us all when he tells us,

“But I never lose hope. My hope is not built on changing, fluctuating circumstances. Ultimately my faith and hope is in a God who would see to it that the situation would change.”

This encouraging word reminds us that if our Palestinian brothers and sisters can have hope in this manner in a God of Life in the midst of death, how much more should we hope in the midst of despair and faithfully struggle so that our hope would be translated into a change that the God of Life would desire for all of creation, where “the fruit of justice shall be peace” (Isaiah 32:17), where “justice and peace embrace” (Psalm 85:10).

Peace to you all,

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

Attachments and Links:

· Jeff Halper, “The Narrow Gate to Peace,” Sojourners, August 2005
· Amira Hass, “On the slope of Jewish democracy,” Haaretz, 21 July 2005
· Gideon Levy, “They broke the public's heart,” Haaretz, 3 July 2005
· Mohammed Khatib, “Help us stop Israel's wall peacefully,” International Herald Tribune, 12 July 2005
· Don Wagner, “Should Churches Divest?” Sojourners, August 2005
· Diana Buttu, “Israel's Unilateral ‘Disengagement,’”, 31 July 2005
· “Economic Occupation,” MIFTAH, 30 July 2005
· Remi Kanazi, “The Expanding Wall: Annexing Justice in Palestine,”, 30/31 July 2005
· Meron Benvenisti, “90 years of unilateralism,” Haaretz, 28 July 2005


The Narrow Gate to Peace
The "facts on the ground" are troubling, but there's still hope for building a just peace in Israel-Palestine.
Jeff Halper

August 2005

Those of us who live in Palestine-Israel find ourselves at a fateful crossroads. From Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s point of view, Israel has won its conflict with the Palestinians. Surveying the landscape - physical and political alike - Sharon can feel a great deal of satisfaction. He has finally fulfilled the task with which he was charged in 1977 by Menachem Begin: to ensure permanent Israeli control over the entire Land of Israel while foreclosing the emergence of a viable Palestinian state.

With almost unlimited resources and the enthusiastic complicity of the Labor Party when his party, the Likud, was out of power, Sharon set out to establish irreversible "facts on the ground" that would pre-empt any process of negotiations. He oversaw the establishment of some 200 settlements on land expropriated from Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza; these settlements are home today to almost half a million Israelis.

During the Oslo "peace process," Israel doubled its settler population and constructed, with the permission and financial backing of the United States, a system of 29 major highways intended to irreversibly incorporate the settlements into Israel proper. In the meantime, 96 percent of the Palestinians were locked into what Sharon calls "cantons," deprived of the right to move freely. They are now being literally imprisoned behind concrete walls and electronic fences. Although comprising half the population of the country west of the Jordan, the Palestinians - including those with Israeli citizenship - are today confined to some 70 desolate, crowded, and disconnected enclaves on a mere 15 percent of the country.


On the slope of Jewish democracy
Amira Hass

21 July 2005

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not dividing Jerusalem. Neither is Minister Haim Ramon. They have simply found a faster and more efficient way than those tried before to get rid of tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem - after the process of robbing them of their lands for the benefit of the Jewish residents has been exhausted.

At the beginning of last week, the government decided to speed up the construction of the separation fence in the Jerusalem area, which will also surround and imprison the residents of three East Jerusalem neighborhoods: the Shoafat refugee camp, and the Salaam and Dar Khamis neighborhoods in Anata. For more than a year and a half from the time the route was set, the state was in no hurry to build, and it delayed replying to the petitions filed by attorney Danny Seideman on behalf of neighborhood residents. Now, when all the spotlights are on the incidents surrounding the disengagement, the state is rushing to construct a concrete wall and watchtowers, which have cut off the residents from their city and their entire way of life.

The Ministry of Defense has promised that the route was determined according to security considerations alone and that it took into consideration the overall interests of the residents. But Haim Ramon said last week on Israel Radio, without mincing words, "[The decision of] the government reinforces the security of Jerusalem, and also makes it more Jewish. The government is bringing security to the city and will also make Jerusalem the capital of a Jewish and democratic State of Israel." In other words: Clear demographic considerations are determining the route - as much land as possible in the hands of Israel, as few Arabs as possible.


They broke the public's heart
Gideon Levy

3 July 2005

The media is to blame: For months, it portrayed the story of the "great sacrifice" the evacuated settlers must make. For years, it ignored the injustices they inflicted on their neighbors and thus helped portray the settlers in a false light. The result: broad public sympathy for their bitter fate and shock over their brutal behavior, as if blocking roads or even the lynching of a Palestinian teenager is something new or unusual. But in the territories, the settlers have been violently blocking roads for years, and harsh brutality toward Palestinians is also nothing new. The only novelty is that suddenly they are showing this on television.

If the media had exposed the full scope of the settlers' deeds over the years - the dubious ways in which they took over land, the huge budgets they received, their violent behavior - perhaps they would have been denounced long ago, as should be done by a healthy society. If their full story had been told, perhaps we would not have blindly subscribed to the distinction between "moderate" and "extreme" settlers, to their portrayal as modern day pioneers and to the sugary and hypocritical preaching for dialogue with them. Israeli society chose to be led by their cynical manipulations, and we journalists lent a hand to this. "A leftist mafia?" What a ridiculous contention. Never has there been such an impressive media success here as that of the right. An enterprise that was criminal from the outset was depicted as one of high principles, even by people who favor compromise with the Palestinians. It was portrayed as an enterprise worthy of sympathy and appreciation, mainly comprised of idealists - and even if some stray weeds sprouted there, they were just an exception.



International Herald Tribune
Help us stop Israel's wall peacefully
Mohammed Khatib

12 July 2005

BILIN, West Bank While the international media has been focusing on Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, in my village of Bilin, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, we are living an equally important but overlooked story. Though Israeli forces plan to withdraw from Gaza, they are simultaneously expanding their West Bank settlements. On our village's land, Israel is building one new settlement and expanding five others. These settlements will form a city called Modiin Illit, with tens of thousands of settlers, many times the number to be evacuated from Gaza. These settlements consume most of our area's water. Throughout the West Bank, settlement and wall construction, arrests, killing and occupation continue.

One year ago, the International Court of Justice handed down an advisory ruling that Israel's construction of a wall on Palestinian land violated international law. Today, Palestinians in villages like ours are struggling to implement the court's decision and stop construction using nonviolence, but the world has done little to support us.


Should Churches Divest?
The Presbyterian Church (USA): A case study.
Don Wagner

August 2005

The Presbyterian Church (USA) began a process last year to scrutinize the church’s investments in selected U.S. corporations doing business in the Israeli Occupied Territories. Now that other U.S. denominations (and universities) are discussing similar proposals, the Presbyterian experience offers a useful model concerning its content, timing, ethical dimensions, and the opposition it has generated.

Within a month of the PC (USA) decision, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz attacked the church in a L.A. Times article, claiming the "Presbyterian Church (USA) has committed a grievous sin" with its decision that "effectively calls for the end of Israel." Chicago Tribune writer Ron Grossman placed the decision in the context of the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Holocaust.

By fall 2004, a climate of mistrust and tension had developed between the Presbyterian Church and mainstream Jewish organizations, despite national and regional discussions where the church sought to explain all aspects of the decision. In early October 2004, denomination headquarters and churches nationwide received an arson threat that claimed churches would be targeted on a particular weekend. Fortunately, there were no terrorist attacks, and several Jewish organizations condemned the threat.

The Presbyterian Church has issued resolutions on the Middle East since 1948, when it affirmed the creation of the State of Israel while calling for justice for the Palestinians. Since 1967, the church has called for a diplomatic solution based on two states and an end to Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Repeatedly, the church has affirmed Israel’s right to exist while condemning violence by both sides. It has also called for an end to Israel’s occupation and settlement strategy, calling the latter "illegal" and an obstacle to peace.

Israel's Unilateral "Disengagement"
Diana Buttu

“[The] formula for the parameters of unilateral solution are: To maximize the number of Jews; minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem.” – Ehud Olmert, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister

31 July 2005

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the Israeli "Disengagement" Plan?
The Israeli "disengagement plan" (unveiled by Israeli PM Sharon in December 2003) is a unilateral two-part plan: (1) the evacuation of all Israeli colonies from the Occupied Gaza Strip (with a total settler population of 7,300) and four small colonies in the northern Occupied West Bank (with a total settler population of 475); (2) the ongoing colonization of the West Bank and its ancillary construction of the Wall, designed to fragment Palestinian communities.

The term "disengagement" is a misnomer: it implies that Israel will no longer control the Palestinians. Yet, under the terms of Israel’s plan, Israel will retain complete control over the Occupied Gaza Strip as it will control all borders and crossing points (thereby controlling the movement of goods and people), Palestinian airspace and water space. Israel has also reserved itself the right to reinvade the Occupied Gaza Strip at will thereby ensuring its military control over the area. In effect, what Israel aims to isolate the Occupied Gaza Strip and cut it off from the rest of the world.


Economic Occupation

30 July 2005

Get to the land through disintegration of the economy, repress hope and starve the spirit; call it a ‘peace process.’

The world watches breathlessly for Israel to heroically disengage from Gaza, successfully painting the Palestinian people with the brush of terrorism such that ignorant individuals across the world consider the Annexation Wall, a warranted shield from the ‘infidels of violence’ relegated to the other side of it. Nations sit back and watch and slowly the economy of Palestine shrinks and the Palestinian people force themselves to find yet another way by which to stretch the resources they still have in their possession further still. Prolonged occupation pushes more and more people into poverty. Today, 2,213,000 Palestinians live below the poverty line which is subsistence on less than $3.1 dollars a day. The West Bank and Gaza’s total population is 3,600,000, meaning that 61.5 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line.

Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, would have the world believe that, “poverty does not cause terrorism; terrorism causes poverty.” But the violence between Palestine and Israel only began because of the lack of productive dialogue for a cooperative solution, creating a situation of great frustration to the ‘ordinary’ Palestinian. Nigel Roberts World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza states that, “Too often in the course of this conflict, economic considerations have been dealt with as a residual element in diplomacy. Given the depth of the economic crisis in the West Bank and Gaza, securing work and a future for one’s family features very high on the agenda of the ‘ordinary’ Palestinian, and needs to be catered to as [the] top priority.”

The Expanding Wall: Annexing Justice in Palestine
Remi Kanazi

30 / 31 July 2005

After 38 years of unwarranted occupation, the Palestinian people deserve to live peacefully in the remaining 22 percent of historic Palestine. The expansion of the Annexation wall is the newest obstacle in the Palestinian's quest for legitimacy. The Israeli cabinet has finalized plans to surround Jerusalem with this encompassing barrier, a deliberate attempt to secure the "Jewishness" of Jerusalem, while isolating the 200,000 Palestinian residents of the city from the West Bank. In its proposed entirety of nearly 700 km, the Wall will carve out more West Bank land and will dissect Jerusalem to tip the demographic scale in the favor of Israeli Jews, reinforcing Israeli demands for full sovereignty over Jerusalem. The barrier will include 30,000 illegal Jewish settlers from the Maale Adumim settlement in the West Bank.

Keeping out Palestinian neighborhoods and ensuring a Jewish plurality is a tactical ploy to redraw the borders of Israel, rather than a measure to maintain security. Israeli minister for Jerusalem Haim Ramon stated, "The government did well in determining the fence route without including Shuafat and Qalandia in Jerusalem I don't think anybody is sorry about this." He also admitted that the barrier "makes [Jerusalem] more Jewish."

The incendiary design will cut off 55,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians from hospitals, school, work, and farmland in the West Bank. Eleven barriers will be setup in East Jerusalem to strain any consistency and contiguousness in Palestinian life. While the 55,000 Palestinians have residency rights and pay municipal taxes, the consideration of their fate has been absent in the matrix of Jerusalem.


90 years of unilateralism
Meron Benvinisti

28 July 2005

The strangest claim for justifying the disengagement plan incorporates an interesting metaphor from the world of tow-trucking. Those who employ it describe the plan as a unilateral towing effort to retrieve a broken vehicle, known as "the Palestinian Authority," from the "mud of violence" and move it "in the direction of dialogue."

The metaphor could be dismissed as an unsuccessful attempt to camouflage the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza because of Palestinian violence and to present the evacuation as a so-called unilateral initiative. The unilateral aspect, however, is not a matter of camouflage or an excuse; rather, it goes back to the roots of the effort to return to the tried-and-true route taken by Israel (and the Jewish yishuv before the establishment of the state) for almost 90 years, from which it deviated for a short and tragic period - that of the Oslo era and its aftermath.

It is clear why Ariel Sharon (and his yes-men) stress the "unilateral" aspect, for in this way he destroys the last vestige of the Olso process, which is based on recognition of the Palestinians as a legitimate entity that represents a collective with the right to determine its own needs and aspirations and the ways of obtaining them. The "unilateralism" is an attempt to turn back the wheel to the period when Israel tried to rob the Palestinians of the ability to decide their future on the grounds that they were not a legitimate collective entity but rather "terrorists."

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