Friday, December 9

MCC Palestine Update #116

MCC Palestine Update #116

9 December 2005

MCC Palestine partners with…

For many years, MCC Palestine has partnered with the YMCA of East Jerusalem ( on a number of projects. The Women’s Training Program is one of these projects in which women from across the occupied West Bank who, upon the completion of a YMCA job training course, receive a loan to implement a small-scale project.

For example, Fadwa Zuraina from Beir ‘Unah near Bethlehem received training in sheep raising. She purchased five goats with the loan she received, which has since increased to fifteen goats. The area of Beir ‘Unah has a special status as it is considered part of the Jerusalem municipality though most of the Palestinians there are West Bank ID holders. This means that they still pay taxes to the Jerusalem municipality but yet are not allowed to build houses in that area nor are they allowed entry into Jerusalem without permission. Instead, the people there are often subject to harassment by the Israeli military with a big portion of their lands confiscated for the construction of the Wall. Fadwa Zuraina is the mother of eight children, five of whom are minors and three who are unemployed young men. Unfortunately, her husband is also unemployed, thus making Fadwa the only provider and this project the main source of income for her family.

Another beneficiary of this program is Su’ad Da’jneh. Su’ad lives in al-‘Azza refugee camp in Bethlehem with her husband and six children. Su’ad participated in the YMCA’s training course in sewing and design. She purchased a sewing machine with the loan she received and started working at home. As a very talented embroider, very creative with new designs, and a highly motivated woman, Su’ad has since become the main designer of the organization that nominated her to take part in the training. As part of her work with this organization, she fills orders for markets as far away as Italy!

MCC Palestine has also partnered for several years with the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ). Currently MCC is supporting a new water management project in the west Bethlehem village of Nahalin. This village, situated in a beautiful landscape, is going to be completely surrounded by the Wall. And as if that is not enough, it is plagued by the large and rapidly growing Israeli colony of Beitar Ilit, butting up against this small village, effectively strangulating it. This project will treat waste from the village and provide treated water to irrigate surrounding flora (like olive trees) addressing two problems for the residents of Nahalin: 1) the problem of water shortage that villagers experience, especially in regards to plant irrigation; and 2) the problem of waste contaminating village water sources (such as springs and wells).

This is currently only a test project, but if it is successful it has the potential to be an incredibly helpful resource for self-sustainability for such communities across the occupied West Bank cut off and strangulated by the Wall and by further colonization of Palestinian land. To learn more about ongoing construction of the Wall and the expansion of Israeli colonies, please visit ARIJ’s website at or visit the Stop the Wall Campaign website at

A New Entrance to the Bethlehem Reservation

You have heard us talk about this huge, 8-meter or 27-foot high concrete Wall or “separation barrier” that has been has built around Bethlehem and other parts of the West Bank that effectively creates several isolated islands of land or “reservations.” Now, a new and “improved” checkpoint has been built to get in and out of this prison with. It is a huge processing facility. And it just happened with out any notice. An incredible display of the systematic and sterile banality of the evil that pervades (note the tragically ironic reference to Hannah Arendt). We went to meet a colleague visiting from Jordan at the Wall one morning a few weeks ago, to see that where we normally go in and out of the Wall and Bethlehem was now gated shut! We had to then go up to another opening in the Wall where this new checkpoint is positioned, making life even more ridiculous for Palestinians (and everyone else) that can move in and out of Bethlehem.

The new processing facility is huge and we knew it was being prepared; we just did not know when it would be opened (that is how the Israeli military works, do something without prior announcement and hope the world does not notice; unfortunately, it often works). And so, Israel chose Tuesday November 15 to open it up—the same day that Palestinians remember as “Independence” Day, remembering back to 1988 when the Palestinian National Council in exile declared the State of Palestine independent.

Several nights ago, we drove over to the Wall to drop off some friends who were staying in a village right on the other side of the wall. We get to where there should have been an entrance in the Wall, and it was closed. Nothing, completely caged in. It was a pretty disturbing feeling. Fortunately an entrance in the wall opened up for somebody coming through and our friends ran over before they closed it again. (For more on this new development, please see “The Terminal” at

As Christmas approaches, the fear is even more heightened that this new checkpoint will prevent visitors from coming to the birthplace of Jesus (“Pilgrims complain of exhausting security checks at Bethlehem crossing” ; “Bethlehem gets a wall for Christmas”,,251-1878695,00.html ; “Checkpoints, Walls Make Bethlehem an ‘Open-Air Prison,’ Christians Say” ; “Security Drives Tourists from Bethlehem” In a community that is already devastated from these closures, the continued construction of the Wall and this new checkpoint only contributes to the feelings of forsakenness that the people of this land feel. Several more similar facilities are being built within the West Bank, cutting up the West Bank into several isolated “reservations” or “bantustans” and solidifying Israeli domination over Palestinian life and territory.

But resistance to these forces continues. In an attempt to counter these death-dealing developments, a group here in Bethlehem has begun a campaign called “Open Bethlehem.” “Open Bethlehem was established last May with the aim of defending Bethlehem and confronting the racist separation wall” with the goal “to market Bethlehem as a major tourist destination and to confront Israeli schemes to strike at Bethlehem’s tourism, namely by imposing a tight siege around it and closing off its entrances…Its goal was to remind the world that Bethlehem refuses to live in the shadow of the wall.” (“Bethlehem passport launched to protect city from wall”

The Advent Candle—A Light in the Darkness

The season of Advent is meant to be a time of somber preparation and yet at the same time filled with joyful expectation and hope. During the service at the Lutheran Christmas Church here in Bethlehem this past Sunday, we sat staring at the two Advent candles that had already been lit hearing the words from the celebrant

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

But sitting in reflection, we also recognized that there were still two candles that were not lit—still more light to be shone, still more darkness to be dispelled…expectation and hope…

We continue to hope that the voices of these Palestinian sisters and brothers that are so often dismissed, silenced, and dehumanized speak loudly to you this Advent season, providing both a meaning and a challenge for your own celebration of the incarnational presence of “God with us” this Christmas season, and that you would all prayerfully reflect on what the incarnation means for you and for all of us who claim to carry the name of “God with us.”

And we would again ask all of you to keep our CPT colleagues being held in Iraq in your thoughts and prayers as well as their families and all of those suffering as a result of these occupations.

Peace to you all,

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

Attachments and Links:

1. Gideon Levy, “The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime,” Haaretz, 9 December 2005
2. Gerald Kaufman , “No peace with Sharon: The Gaza withdrawal has been a veil for continued persecution and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians,” The Guardian, 7 December 2005
3. Donald Macintyre, “Sharon ‘sees wall as Israel's new border,’” The Independent, 2 December 2005
4. Meron Benvenisti, “In the hope that Jerusalem will wait,” Haaretz, 1 December 2005
5. The Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, “The Eastern Wall: Closing the circle of our ghettoization,”28 November 2005
6. Amira Hass, “EU slams Israeli moves in East Jerusalem,” Haaretz, 27 November 2005
7. Chris McGreal, “Sharon rejects land for peace approach, says aide,” The Guardian, 23 November 2005
8. Amira Hass, “The border of the state of Ramallah,” Haaretz, 23 November 2005
9. Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, “The Miserable Occupation on a Miserable Morning,” ICAHD, 21 November 2005
10. Stephanie Koury, “West Bank Road Vs. Peace,” Washington Post, 19 November 2005
11. Rabbis for Human Rights, North America, “Weeping in Jerusalem: Rabbis witness Home Demolitions,” Occupation Magazine Online, 9 November 2005


The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime
Gideon Levy

9 December 2005

You go to sleep securely in your home. At 1 A.M. you wake up in horror to the sound of a voice on the loudspeaker calling you to go out into the street immediately. After the soldiers instruct you to return home, suddenly a frightening dog enters your apartment, grabs your child, who is sitting on his bed in shock, bites him hard in his leg and drags him down the 20 steps that lead from the second-floor apartment to the street.Can you imagine the nightmare in which the Kassam family found itself last week in the Jenin refugee camp? It's very doubtful. The members of the family didn't believe it either. Their 12-year-old son, Mohammed, who suffers from epilepsy, shouted with fear, until he fainted. His mother grabbed him by the head, so he wouldn’t hit himself on the stairs. His father ran downstairs, helpless, pleading with the soldiers. All the children in the house were shouting in fear. Imagine.Apparently it was "an operational mishap." Maybe the dog, a fighter in the Oketz trained dogs unit of the Israel Defense Forces, overstepped the bounds. Maybe it was a mistaken address. It was certainly an "exceptional case," not "human error," but "canine error." The dog entered the wrong apartment and grabbed the wrong person. It happens to the best of dogs. But anyone who, in the dead of night, sics a dog on a peaceful apartment where children are asleep for the night, cannot plead innocence afterward.

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The Guardian
No peace with Sharon
Gerald Kaufman

7 December 2005

The Gaza withdrawal has been a veil for continued persecution and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians

I know the attractive Israeli seaside resort of Netanya well, having stayed several times at my niece's flat there. Not long ago I heard on BBC radio a series of interviews with residents of Netanya, which has in the past suffered a number of terrorist attacks. They rejoiced at how much easier the situation had become following the building of the Israeli separation wall, designed specifically to protect places like Netanya, located at the narrow neck of Israel's pre-1967 border. Two days ago five people were killed in a suicide bombing in Netanya.

All terrorist attacks are unjustifiable atrocities. Five Israelis are the latest victims. Over the past months, 15 Palestinians, two of them children, have been killed by Israeli troops. Their deaths attracted no headlines, but they are dead just the same.

I recently returned from leading the first British parliamentary delegation to the Palestinian Authority. What we saw is never seen by ordinary, decent Israelis, like the citizens of Netanya - who, since they dare not venture into the occupied territories, have no idea of the persecution of Palestinians being carried out in their name.

Last there two years ago, I was appalled at how an already unacceptable situation has deteriorated. There are now more than 600 fixed checkpoints in the tiny Palestinian area, which, with so-called flying checkpoints, make free movement almost impossible. In Bethlehem, which used to be crammed with tourists, we saw just two groups in Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. The Old City of Nablus, which I knew for a quarter of a century as a hub of commercial activity, is also desolate. Heavily-armed Israeli troops man walls, gates and huts, all preventing Palestinians from moving about.

Please read more at,2763,1660589,00.html


The Independent
Sharon 'sees wall as Israel's new border'
Donald Macintyre

2 December 2005

A senior ally of Ariel Sharon has given the most explicit indication yet that the Israeli Prime Minister envisages the 425-mile separation barrier as the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Government spokesmen frequently claim that the barrier was built solely for security reasons and could be removed or rerouted.

But the Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, who is helping prepare the programme of Mr Sharon's new Kadima party, told a legal conference in Caesarea: "One does not have to be a genius to see that the fence will have implications for the future border. This is not the reason it was built, but it could have political implications"…

A member of Israel's Supreme Court, Mishael Cheshin was said by the daily Haaretz to have cited the security arguments used by government lawyers facing challenges to the barrier route and told Ms Livni at the conference: "That is not what you have contended in court."

The high court decided two parts of the barrier should be brought closer to Israel's pre-1967 borders than it had planned. Other sections - especially that which threatens to encircle Jerusalem and cut the occupied Arab east of the city from the West Bank - still present massive stumbling blocks to negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. Haim Ramon, another prominent member of Mr Sharon's new party who deserted from Labour, has already said the section around Jerusalem was built for political rather than merely security reasons.

He said the route "also makes Jerusalem more Jewish", adding: "The safer and more Jewish Jerusalem will be, it can serve as a true capital of the state of Israel."

The Palestinians have made it repeatedly clear that east Jerusalem, seized by Israeli in the 1967 war, must the capital of any future Palestinian state.

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In the hope that Jerusalem will wait
Meron Benvenisti

1 December 2005

In East Jerusalem, processes are under way and facts are being established on the ground that will affect the future of Israel-Palestine relations more than any declaration about sticking to the road map or even verbal support for a Palestinian state. According to the writers of the report, "Jerusalem is already one of the trickiest issues on the road to reaching a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But several inter-linked Israeli policies are reducing the possibility of reaching a final status agreement on Jerusalem that any Palestinian could accept."

The completion of the separation fence; the establishment of the arrangements at the border crossings; the beginning of the earthworks in Area E1 and the accelerated construction in the Jewish settlements surrounding Jerusalem; the cutting off of the Palestinian residents who live on the other side of the fence from the centers of their lives within the city; the increased demolition of "illegal" buildings; the harassment of Palestinian institutions and the disruption of the election races in East Jerusalem - all of these are making a population of about a quarter of a million people into a besieged community in the grip of despair, which is nurturing feelings of anger and revenge.

This population - which is discriminated against in the allocation of municipal budgets, cut off from its natural environment and holy sites, prevented from make use of land resources for construction, whose per capita income amounts to one-fifth of that of the Jewish population - cannot be considered a good neighbor to the Jewish community, with which it shares the city, its streets and workshops. Indeed, it is those who trumpet the "unity" of the city who should be fighting against the discrimination, the oppression and the siege; but the xenophobia that borders on racism, fear and flocking to demagogues and witch doctors are causing the establishment of a divided and violent population in Jerusalem, and the reports that expose this bleak reality are greeted with yawning boredom…

The illusion of "a continuation of the disengagement" - which must not be disturbed - is acting as a shield that is absorbing any criticism and is enabling the creation of a consensus behind which all the elements that define themselves as a liberal "center" are coalescing and defending a regime of discrimination and oppression.

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The Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign
The Eastern Wall: Closing the circle of our ghettoization

28 November 28th, 2005

More than a year has passed since the Occupation Forces declared the first section of the Apartheid Wall - running from Zaboba near Jenin to Masha in the Qalqiliya district - complete. Today rapid construction marks the second phase of the project surrounding Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron. Meanwhile, away from public attention, the Occupation has started the third phase of the Wall project and begun annexing and ethnically cleansing the Jordan Valley. Under the official title of “development”, the Jordan Valley has become a “Major Governmental Project” for settlement expansion. The result has been the destruction of Palestinian land, fresh house demolitions, and the expulsion of Palestinian Bedouins. This week the Occupation closed two of the four “terminals” that control Palestinian movement in or out of the Valley and begun the isolation of northern areas. In the South, “flying checkpoints” make any presence of Palestinians without Israeli permit – including landowners, Bedouins or family members – impossible…

While the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem takes away the urban and commercial center of Palestinian life, the annexation and isolation of the Jordan Valley is aimed at depriving Palestinians from the bulk of their land, water resources, agricultural and cattle production.

In the face of this reality, the frenzied debates on whether the world has found in new Labor leader Peretz a “peace dove” within the Zionist camp - to promise once again a “Palestinian state” - seem outlandish. They serve to avert the worlds attention from the current conquest of Palestinian land, a process that has always been carried out with a fervent rampage be it Labor or Likud administrations, and to sooth the urgent Palestinian calls to isolate Apartheid Israel. At this stage, a two state solution theoretically might be controversial; practically it is simply an impossible aim to achieve. Negotiations for statehood without borders, its capital and land are a deception towards our own people and the rest of the world.

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EU slams Israeli moves in East Jerusalem
Amira Hass

27 November 2005

Europe must resume ministerial-level meetings with representatives of the Palestinian Authority in East Jerusalem, as part of other political meetings that should be held there, a new European Union report recommends.

The publication of the report, prepared by European heads of mission in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, was initially delayed, as Aluf Benn reported in Haaretz on November 23.

The report, a copy of which has been obtained by Haaretz, states that "Israeli policies are reducing the possibility of reaching a final status agreement on Jerusalem that any Palestinian could accept."

The report also concludes that Israel is striving to reduce the Palestinian population in Jerusalem. But the report is mainly a detailed summary of Israeli actions in Jerusalem: expanding settlements, housing settlers in Palestinian neighborhoods, continued construction of the separation wall/fence, limiting Palestinian construction, etc. Most of the information has previously appeared in the Israeli press.

The Palestinians, the end of the report states, "fear that Israel will `get away with it,' under the cover of disengagement." Israel's actions in Jerusalem also contravene both its road map commitments and international law.

The report reiterates the European position that annexation of East Jerusalem is illegal, and any construction there is illegal, therefore they are careful to define what Israel considers "neighborhoods" as illegal settlements (such as Gilo, Pisgat Ze'ev, Ramot and French Hill).

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The Guardian
Sharon rejects land for peace approach, says aide
Chris McGreal

23 November 2005

Ariel Sharon no longer regards big compromises over land as being crucial to setting up an independent Palestinian state, says one of the Israeli prime minister's closest political advisers.
The day after Mr Sharon broke from the ruling Likud party to launch a new political movement ahead of a general election on March 28, the adviser, Eyal Arad, said the Israeli leadership had repudiated the central belief of years of negotiations to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - that giving up land would buy peace.

Mr Arad, the prime minister's strategic policy adviser who was among those who urged the leader to quit Likud, said that Mr Sharon considered the 1993 Oslo accords, which sought peace based on Israel surrendering the territories occupied in 1967, as failed and discredited. Mr Arad said the Israeli leadership had interpreted the US-led "road map" for peace as laying out an alternative philosophy of "security for independence", meaning a "total end of the terrorist war" in return for a "Palestinian national home" but not necessarily based on the 1967 borders.
Palestinian officials described Mr Arad's view as an attempt to assert that Israel's efforts to impose de facto borders, using the West Bank barrier and settlement expansion, were not jeopardising peace. It was also in line with Mr Sharon's contention that the core of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians was not the occupation but Islamic terrorism.

Please read more at,2763,1648629,00.html


The border of the state of Ramallah
Amira Hass,

23 November 2005

In contrast to the "big bangs," or the election of MK Amir Peretz as Labor Party chairman and the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from the Likud, the establishment of the southern border of the state of Ramallah is happening with nary a whimper.

Like the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, it is a unilateral Israeli move. Unlike the disengagement from Gaza, it is totally unilateral: There are no negotiations, and there is no involvement by the World Bank and quartet envoy James Wolfensohn to determine the transit arrangements.

The gradualness in the unilateral process of the establishment of the state of Ramallah makes each stage imperceptible, invisible and, in effect, trivial…

Until further notice, West Bank inhabitants are allowed to go through this crossing point on foot. South of the roadblock, they enter taxis that will take them to their homes, so near and yet so far, over winding and secondary roads. Only Palestinians who are residents of Jerusalem can go through this crossing point, either on foot or in a vehicle (after a long wait). The concrete blocks that were positioned there initially have given way gradually to a monstrosity, the construction of which is now being completed: continuous watchtowers of reinforced concrete that purport to be an international "terminal" - a roofed structure, barbed wire that stretches from west to east and from north to south, separating kinfolk, separating people who until not long ago were neighbors who popped over to borrow sugar or play backgammon. All deep inside the West Bank.

Unlike the unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Jewish settlements are not being evacuated from inside the area of the state of Ramallah. The disengagement from Gaza respects the Green Line. But the establishment of the Qalandiyah and Bitunia as "international" crossing points in the heart of the occupied West Bank entails the de facto annexation to Israel of a fat strip of territory from Modi'in to the Jewish settlements of Geva-Adam and Psagot. It means Israel is scoffing at and disregarding any international decision in the matter of a solution to the conflict. But Europe and America, which have signed these decisions, are behaving as though this were rain.

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Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
The Miserable Occupation on a Miserable Morning
ICAHD staff

21 November 2005

Yesterday, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) received information that the Israeli government was planning on demolishing houses in Anata, Beit Hanina and Silwan. Although the demolition of Palestinian homes was supposed to end with the first phase of the Road Map, Israel insists disingenuously that we are only in a "pre-Road Map" phase – even though the Road Map was initiated in mid-2003. This means, in Israel's interpretation, that the Palestinians must carry out all their responsibilities under Phase 1 and even Phase 2 (reform the Palestinian Authority, end violence, etc.), while Israel is free to pursue its goals of strengthening its hold on the Occupied Territories without any interference whatsoever – a clear violation of the principle of "mutuality" that underlies the Road Map Process.

Indeed, for Israel, house demolitions are merely "business as usual." The Jerusalem Municipality has a million and a half unused shekels ($300,000) in the demolition line of its annual budget. Whatever is left at the beginning of the year is lost. Since such an amount pays for about 70 demolitions, the Municipality is under pressure to demolish as many homes as possible in the next month and a half. Add to this the policy of demolishing Palestinian homes situated too close to the route of the Wall. This was one of the reasons given for demolishing the homes in Anata – even though the Wall has not yet been built.

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Washington Post
West Bank Road Vs. Peace
Stephanie Koury

19 November 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's brokering of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on border crossings into the Gaza Strip is a good step for the economic development of Gaza and a positive sign of American engagement in the peace process. But the real test for the U.S. administration's commitment to this peace process isn't the Gaza Strip -- it's Israel's settlement expansion and its separation plan for the West Bank.

After a shooting attack on Israeli settlers in the West Bank last month, Israel responded by banning Palestinian movement in private vehicles on main roads in the West Bank. The United States called for lifting of these restrictions but has failed to grasp their implications as a sign of how Israel plans to separate itself from a Palestinian state and how this separation will affect Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's efforts on security reforms.

The restriction on Palestinian use of West Bank roads shows how Israel plans to separate Palestinians from Israeli settlers while maintaining many settlements scattered throughout the occupied West Bank. In September 2004, Israel launched a roads-and-tunnels plan consisting of approximately 24 tunnels and 56 roads that will shift Palestinian traffic away from Israeli settlements and off settler roads.

Under this plan, Israel's 410,000 settlers will enjoy the use of main roads and good highways, while many of the roads or tunnels planned for the 2.2 million Palestinians will be narrow and indirect and will traverse hilly areas -- making them ill suited for building an economically viable Palestinian state. The plan enables Israel to remove checkpoints and thus claim that it is improving the lives of the Palestinians, even as it tightens the noose around Palestinian areas and diminishes the land remaining for a future state.

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Occupation Magazine Online
Weeping in Jerusalem: Rabbis witness Home Demolitions
Rabbis for Human Rights, North America

Six rabbis and a cantor spent last week in Jerusalem on a rabbinic mission to rebuild the home of the Dari family in Issawiyeh. While in Jerusalem we not only started rebuilding the Dari home but we also were eyewitnesses to the demolition of a Palestinian home. It was a shocking and transformative experience. Please read Rabbi Ellen Lippmann`s letter about our experience which appears below and take action clicking here.

Jerusalem November 9, 2005

I have been weeping all week here in Jerusalem, first as I stood on the site of a home demolished two years ago and again as I stood in the rubble of a home demolished as we watched. I am here as a member of the RHR Mission to rebuild the home of the Dari family and to learn about the Israeli home demolition policy and the work of RHR in Israel. But now, having witnessed the destruction of Israel`s home demolition policy, I am really writing you to ask, no urge, you to write to the U.S. Secretary of State, to ask her to use her influence to end this discriminatory policy. This policy is a great threat to the security of the Israelis, as well as violating all I and so many of you hold dear about Israel and Judaism.

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