Wednesday, November 1

MCC Palestine Update #128

MCC Palestine Update #128

1 November 2006

Greetings to you all. We have just finished up a storytelling tour in the U.S. and Canada that had us traveling quite a bit. It is due to our absence that an MCC Palestine Update has not been sent out for two months. We apologize for this. We greatly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to see some of you and share a little in person about the situation here and the work of MCC Palestine. And if we did not get the chance to see you, maybe next time around!

Much has happened while we were away. For both Jews and Muslims, there were important holy days that were remembered. And now with the close of Ramadan, our Palestinian Muslim neighbors are celebrating the ‘Eid al-Fitr. This ‘eid, or feast, is a celebration of the achievement of enhanced piety and is a time of forgiveness, moral victory, peace of congregation, fellowship, brotherhood and unity. Not only is the end of Ramadan fasting being celebrated, but also thanking God for the help and strength that they believe was given them throughout the previous month to help them practice self-control.

Unfortunately, Ramadan as well as the ‘eid this year has been a difficult time for Palestinians (“Bleak Ramadan in Palestine,” and the situation continues to be bleak for many (“UN human rights expert reports on 'appalling' conditions for ordinary Palestinians,” A recent concern for many is a stepped-up campaign to deny entry into the Occupied Territories to Palestinians with international passports, resulting in uncertainty and separation from families (please visit for more information as well as a B’Tselem report at, “Israel’s visa freeze,” and “Even Palestinian-Americans are being turned back at the border,”

The situation in Gaza continues with Israel’s ongoing offensive there unabated (“Gaza’s poor struggling to survive in the face of an economic blockade,”
article1603672.ece; “Gaza’s Darkness,”; “Palestinian children pay price of Israel's Summer Rain offensive,”,,1866460,00.html).

And Palestinian dispossession due to the construction of the Wall, increased closures, and stepped up colonization shows no sign of faltering (“UN: Roadblocks in W. Bank up 40 percent in past year,”; “Settlements grow on Arab land, despite promises made to U.S.”,; “Peace Now: Building in illegal outposts stepped-up during war,”

It is in the context of such experiences of dispossession and occupation that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently delivered a speech where she voiced her “personal commitment” to the goal of a “Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel” (

Yet due to these ongoing realities, it is difficult to interpret exactly what goal is being discussed here. The extent to which these words echo past commitments, especially from U.S. officials, one cannot help but feel guardedly cautious if not a little pessimistically disappointed. The first question that comes to mind is similar to the one Palestinians, upon whom demands are placed to recognize the state of Israel, voice—namely “Which Israel are we to recognize? Israel within the borders of the Green Line or Israel with a colonizing presence in and absolute control over Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem?” In that same vein one might ask Secretary Rice, or any representative of the “quartet” for that matter, “Which Palestinian state are you committed to? Is it a state secure on all territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, or a cantonized joke of a state with Palestinians isolated in large open air prisons?”

A response such as this speaks to an uncertainty that affects both Israelis and Palestinians and can be posed another way: “What does the ‘two-state’ solution mean in the context of Israeli unilateralism?”

Regardless of where one stands in the “one-state solution” vs. “two-state solution” debate, what is abundantly clear and what is important to see is what the language of “two-states” has come to actually mean, realistically, on the ground, and what its consequences will be for Palestinians. Due to the dynamics of power, etc., what matters at this point in the conversation is the meaning that the state of Israel gives to the language of “two states,” and that has been articulated by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his goal to unilaterally set the borders of Israel by 2010—which will also, to speak to another language problem, essentially “end the occupation” in a manner not unlike that one used to describe the situation in Gaza post-“disengagement,” described by many as the largest prison in the world. (“One Big Prison: Freedom of Movement to and from the Gaza Strip on the Eve of the Disengagement Plan,”

In this version of the language of “two states”: “the state of Israel” essentially equals formally annexing all major colonies in the West Bank, including “greater Jerusalem” and the Jordan Valley, with control over all of historical Palestine (fulfilling the vision of Ariel Sharon, et al, of “maximum territory, minimum Arabs”) and “the state of Palestine” essentially equals several isolated islands of land on roughly 40 to 50 percent of the occupied West Bank with Palestinians confined to these “reservations,” which will be rendered “contiguous” by a network of tunnels—completely unrealistic, completely unviable, and completely lacking any sense of human security for the people here. (For a recent report on this, see the “The Zionist Plan of Stages” at along with the map “A Settlers’ Plan for Palestinian Autonomy – 2006” at

In this context, it is difficult to find anything terribly comforting about Secretary’s Rice’s words until they are backed up by tangible actions on the part of the United States. But looking back on how the U.S. has postured itself in the past regarding moves Israel has made, there is little that indicates any movement away from a trajectory that will lead to the concretizing of apartheid in this land. It is this lack of a realistic perspective of events that clouds the language of “two states.” And language is very important here to maintaining a status quo that will continue to mean “insecurity” for Israelis and dispossession and death for Palestinians.

Recommended Resources: Websites

While we were away, the thought occurred to us that it would be a good idea to offer some suggestions on sources of news and analysis that you and your communities can access yourselves. The following is a list of websites that we regularly check and that we typically recommend to people interested in learning more about the situation here (the websites of groups that MCC has partnered with are in italics):

Middle East News:
· Haaretz (Israel):
· International Middle East Media Center (Palestine):
· Jerusalem Post (Israel):
· Maan Independent News Agency (Palestine):
· Palestine News Network (Palestine):
· Today in Palestine (Palestine):
· YnetNews – Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel):,7340,L-3083,00.html

Middle East Commentary and Analysis:
· Americans for Middle East Understanding:
· Churches for Middle East Peace:
· Foundation for Middle East Understanding:
· If Americans Knew:
· Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP):
· U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation:
· UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):
· Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA):

Palestinian Sites:
· Al-Awda - The Palestinian Right of Return Coalition:
· Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign:
· Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem:
· BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugees’ Rights:
· The Electronic Intifada (ei):
· Holy Land Trust:
· MIFTAH – Palestine Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy:
· Open Bethlehem:
· Palestine Chronicle Weekly Journal:
· Palestine Monitor:
· Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People:
· PLO Negotiations Affairs Department:
· Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center:
· Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center:

Jewish Sites:
· Bat Shalom – Women with a Vision for a Just Peace:
· B’tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights:
· Gush Shalom – Israeli Peace Bloc:
· Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions:
· Jewish Voice for Peace:
· Machsom Watch:
· New Profile:
· Not in My Name:
· Occupation Magazine:
· Rabbis for Human Rights:
· Refuse Solidarity Network:
· Women in Black:
· Yesh Gvul:
· Zochrot Association:

Joint Palestinian-Israeli Sites:
· The Alternative Information Center:
· – Palestinian-Israeli Crossfire:
· – Middle East Roundtable:
· The Coalition of Women:
· Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information:
· Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salaam
· The Parents’ Circle – Families Forum:
· Ta’ayush:

We hope this list may be helpful. In future updates, we also hope to share with you more resources for further learning.

MCC Palestine Online: Tools for Advocacy

Many of you have already noticed MCC’s new and improved website at Perhaps you have also noticed the updated MCC Palestine website at, containing additional links to MCC resources such as news service pieces and other publications we have mentioned in the past such as Sonia Weaver’s What Is Palestine/Israel?: Answers to Common Questions, MCC Peace Office Newsletters, a Common Place magazine, the “Bridges Not Walls” Campaign, DVD’s like Children of the Nakba, The Dividing Wall, and more. Check out to access these resources to assist in education and advocacy in your home communities on behalf of the people of this land. Also, for current and back editions of the MCC Palestine Update, as well as additional links to MCC partner organizations, you can also visit

Peace to you all,

Timothy Seidel

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

Attachments and Links:

· Amira Hass, “Not only the right to worship is sacred,” Haaretz, 25 October 2006
· “Christian Leaders on Status of Jerusalem: City of Two Peoples and Three Religions,”, 21 October 2006
· Meron Benvenisti, “Little left to save,” Haaretz, 20 October 2006
· Rima Merriman, “Denial of entry,” The Jordan Times, 19 October 2006
· Amira Hass, “What are 20 tons of explosives?,” Haaretz, 18 October 2006
· Gideon Levy, “Lieberman to power,” Haaretz, 16 October 2006
· Amira Hass, “Forbidden to settlers, not the state,” Haaretz, 11 October 2006
· Gershom Gorenberg, “Building Nowhereland,” Washington Post, 1 October 2006
· B. Michael, “No repentance, prayer or charity,”, 1 October 2006
· Raja Khalidi, “It can only get worse,” The Guardian, 22 September 2006
· Patrick Cockburn, “‘Gaza is a jail. Nobody is allowed to leave. We are all starving now,’” The Independent, 8 September 2006
· “Statement of Church Related Organizations on the Current Situation in Lebanon and Palestine,” VOX Newsletter, Issue 35, July 2006


Not only the right to worship is sacred
Amira Hass

25 October 2006

The collective daring of the last few Fridays illustrates the characteristic lack evident in the Palestinian struggle for liberation today: a collective defiance of the Israeli policy on restrictions of movement.

The main Israeli control method, and the most effective with respect to the occupier, is the limitation of Palestinian freedom of movement to a minimum: within the occupied territories, between district and district, between town and village, village and its lands, between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, between going abroad and coming back.

This is not just a system: This is a policy no less destructive than the bombings and the bombardments, and it preceded the current intifada and developed under the aegis of the Oslo process. Every Palestinian is injured by this policy, and many Palestinians dare to look for individual ways to defy and challenge it.

But as a collective entity, the Palestinians have not turned the demand for the restoration of freedom of movement into an exalted goal, worthy of shared and organized effort.

Please

Christian Leaders on Status of Jerusalem: City of Two Peoples and Three Religions

21 October 2006

With the construction of the wall many of our faithful are excluded from the precincts of the holy city, and according to plans published in the local press, many more will also be excluded in the future. Surrounded by walls, Jerusalem is no longer at the center and is no longer the heart of life as she should be.

We consider it part of our duty to draw the attention of the local authorities, as well as the international community and the world Churches, to this very grave situation and call for a concerted effort to search for a common vision on the status of this holy city based on international resolutions and having regard to the rights of two peoples in her and the three faith communities.

In this city, in which God chose to speak to humanity and to reconcile peoples with himself and among themselves, we raise our voices to say that the paths, followed up till now, have not brought about the pacification of the city and have not reassured normal life for her inhabitants. Therefore they must be changed. The political leaders must search for a new vision as well as for new means.

In God's own design, two peoples and three religions have been living together in this city. Our vision is that they should continue to live together in harmony, respect, mutual acceptance and cooperation.

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Little left to save
Meron Benvenisti

20 October 2006

No one mentions the fact that the "demographic balance" is fundamentally fictitious. It was created through a manipulation of Jerusalem's borders in 1967, based on the principle of preserving a minimum of Arabs and a maximum of land for Jews. In the name of this principle, more and more exposed or dispensable hilltops have been annexed to the city since 1967 and anointed with the holy oil of the Eternal City…

The separation fence annexes more land to the city's area (the bureaucratic-municipal definition is meaningless here) than the land that constitutes the municipal territory of Jerusalem today. There is room for more than an additional quarter of a million people in the territory within the area of the separation fence. The potential for populating the area is based on Jerusalemites who have moved and will move to "settlement blocs" in the east thanks to the generous grants supplied by the government, which make life in Jerusalem relatively expensive.

Thus does the Israeli government encourage migration from Jerusalem with the aim of taking over West Bank land, then using this negative migration ("which worsens the demographic balance") to justify the annexation of territory in the west, to attract Jewish migration. But heaven forfend that the issue of "the settlements" be mixed with the issue of preserving nature in "sovereign Israel."

Even the environmentalists hold their peace when it comes to the massive destruction that has already been caused to the desert landscape and biblical scenery in the territory beyond the Green Line. Why destroy the Coalition for the Preservation of the Jerusalem Hills by raising issues that are considered to be political? In this way, the dispute over two hilltops in western Jerusalem, which is important in its own right, overshadows the need to save what remains of the urban fabric of the capital, which has already mostly dissolved.

Soon the debate over the Safdie plan will cease being relevant; there will simply be nothing left to save.

Please


The Jordan Times
Denial of entry
Rima Merriman

19 October 2006

The good news that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “wants the Israeli government to explain restrictions on Palestinian-Americans travelling on US passports in Israel and the Palestinian territories” spread like wildfire in the occupied Palestinian territories. Rice has apparently listened to something from the Palestinian side.

Maybe she saw the ads that the Palestinian grassroots Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry into the occupied lands had placed in all the local papers during her most recent visit — a photograph of her and President Mahmoud Abbas with the caption “Wish we could be there to help you!”, meaning that Americans, and Palestinian-Americans especially, are being denied entry into the occupied Palestinian territories, and so are also denied the opportunity to play a role in the peace making she was seeking.

But elation must be tempered with caution, because the experience of Palestinians with the Israeli government from whom Rice is asking “an explanation” is never straightforward. The Israeli government’s response so far is as follows: “We are aware of this issue, and we are looking into it at senior levels,” an Israeli official said yesterday. “We are waiting to receive additional information from the administration.”

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What are 20 tons of explosives?
Amira Hass

18 October 2006

Finally, in contrast to Palestinian weaponry, which is quantifiable, it is impossible to quantify the amount of "explosives" in Israel's hands - all the different types of shells and bombs, all the weapons that Israeli soldiers use or will use. The IDF Spokesman's Office does not volunteer that information, but in any case, the quantities are enormous, and they are constantly being restocked, whether through imports or through the flourishing Israeli arms industry. Before the recent war in Lebanon, did anyone calculate how many millions of cluster bombs Israel had in its warehouses (of which 1.2 million were fired during the war, as Meron Rapoport reported in this newspaper on September 12)?

And therefore, what exists in Israelis' consciousness is not the millions of cluster bombs - that is, the flying mines - or the tens of millions of bombs and shells and lethal bullets stored in our arms warehouses and our gun barrels and the bellies of our helicopters and planes. Although the amount of such explosives is measured in the millions of tons, it is the 20 tons of explosives and the few thousand rifles that permeate the Israeli consciousness.

Israelis are convinced that we are facing an existential danger. But what has been erased from the Israeli consciousness is that Israel is a weapons superpower, and that the weapons this state has, as is the nature of all weapons, are lethal and frightening.

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Lieberman to power
Gideon Levy

16 October 2006

Peace-seekers should support the move to bring Avigdor Lieberman into the government. It is impossible to understand the opposition of several Labor party ministers to having Yisrael Beitenu join the government after all, just what precisely are they afraid will happen? That Israel will embark on an unnecessary war? That the settlement enterprise will be reinforced? That the government will reject Syria's peace proposal? That racism toward Arab citizens of Israel will increase, or that the occupation army will be cruel to the Palestinians?

Indeed, the government in its current constellation is already providing all of this, abundantly, and Lieberman's participation would only remove its camouflage. An extreme right-wing government with Lieberman and without camouflage is preferable to a government without Lieberman that masquerades as center-left. As with the ridiculous struggle against the "illegal" outposts, which in effect legitimizes all of the other "legal" settlements, the struggle against bringing Lieberman into the government is also designed solely to accord a semblance of enlightenment to an extreme right-wing government and to legitimize Labor's participation in it. The opposition of Amir Peretz and some of his colleagues to Lieberman's joining the government is thus tainted with self-righteousness: They are already today members of a government that embarked on a worthless war, that says no to Syria, that is cruel to the Palestinians and fortifies the settlements.

Lieberman says what many people think. His racism and extreme nationalism are already out of the closet, while among many others, those qualities are still concealed deep within, even though they operate according to their spirit. They have no moral advantage over Lieberman. An openly racist and extreme nationalist is preferable to a closet racist and extreme nationalist.

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Forbidden to settlers, not the state
Amira Hass

11 October 2006

The Israel Defense Forces and the Civil Administration did well to inform the Israeli public about the steps being taken to ensure that the olive harvest is conducted properly; the season began last week. Well-trained Israeli ears are quick to locate the matrices of that well-guarded harvest: any village that might serve as the target of settlers' attacks on Palestinian farmers, their orchards or their crops.

In contrast to the limited military and police protection that Palestinian harvesters received in the previous two years, this year, the protection is expected to be especially serious, and the IDF talks of "harvesting to the very last olive." This implies that attempts by settlers to attack or intimidate the harvesters will be averted. Rabbi Arik Ascherman, director of Rabbis for Human Rights, is under the impression that, at least at the command level, the IDF is determined to protect the welfare of the harvesters and the harvest.

Harassment and attacks by settlers, who tried to terrify the villagers, existed even before 2000, but they grew more prevalent after the second intifada began. The army and the police turned out to be either absent, helpless or apathetic. The military commanders found an easy way out: They closed vast areas of farmland to their owners, the Palestinians, as a means of "protecting them" against the settlers.

Please


Washington Post
Building Nowhereland
Gershom Gorenberg

1 October 2006

Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy is stalled. The bulldozers are not. Once again they are changing the face of the land in a way that makes life far more difficult for Palestinians while damaging Israel's own long-term interests.

As described by Israel's Defense Ministry, the fence is purely a security measure intended to protect Israelis from Palestinian terrorists. Instead of running along the Green Line, the Israel-West Bank border, the route has been drawn to place major "settlement blocs" on the Israeli side -- supposedly only to defend them as well.

Yet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has publicly stated that the settlement blocs will remain part of Israel after a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank. He reiterated that point in February while on a working tour of the fence route in the Etzion area. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has said, a bit coyly, that the fence "will have implications for the future border." The Defense Ministry official in charge of planning the fence told me much the same three years ago. Cut past obfuscations, and the fence is the government's assertion, drawn in concrete and barbed wire, of what land it seeks to keep.

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No repentance, prayer or charity
B. Michael

1 October 2006

Sinners deal with their sins in a myriad of ways. There are those who are aware of the severity of their transgressions but they continue to pursue them defiantly. There are those who are remorseful, seeking repentance, ultimately abandoning their evil ways.

And there are some - whose numbers are growing daily- who have adopted a unique way of dealing with their transgressions: They have trained their eyes not to see. They have taught their ears not to hear and have become accustomed to turning their heads in one direction only – towards an ostentatious yet hollow worldview.

It's far from easy; not seeing, hearing and not turning your head away. But these sinners have been blessed with a unique talent. Throughout their years of experience, it has become a natural instinct.

Even if they happen to sit on an evil soldier's shoulder, even if they descend to earth on board a missile or spend a weekend aboard a bulldozer, inevitably they will not hear or see a thing, and they will not turn their heads away from their cell phones or from the latest reality show even for a moment.

And so, ostensibly blind and deaf they tell themselves over and over again in an assured voice – "we are righteous, and we have not sinned."

However, as recited in prayers, we and our forefathers have sinned. And we are continuing to sin. Yom Kippur does not atone these sins. These are sins whose severity cannot be altered by repentance, prayer or charity.

Please read more at,7340,L-3309864,00.html


The Guardian
It can only get worse
Raja Khalidi

22 September 2006

A viable Palestinian economy is a prerequisite for any meaningful two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, but that economy is barely functioning. Israel has withheld transfer of Palestinian import taxes, and most donors discontinued funding after the democratically elected Palestinian Legislative Council, dominated by Hamas, constituted a new government in March. With 160,000 civil servants on strike after six months without pay, there has been a breakdown of central government functions. Meanwhile, the Israel-Palestine economic and trade accords signed in 1993 appear to be increasingly irrelevant, if not moribund.

Any resort to temporary international funding mechanisms runs the risk of supplanting Palestinian public-sector capacity. This has been the focus of donor aid since 1994, and is one of the essential elements for the sovereign functioning of the envisaged Palestinian state. Today, that vision appears further from realisation than at any point since it was first endorsed by the international community in 2002. Outcomes such as these serve nobody's interests and will have repercussions far beyond Palestine - at a cost that no amount of subsequent aid will easily reverse.

Please read more at,,1878487,00.html


The Independent
‘Gaza is a jail. Nobody is allowed to leave. We are all starving now’
Patrick Cockburn

8 September 2006

Gaza is dying. The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the edge of starvation. Here on the shores of the Mediterranean a great tragedy is taking place that is being ignored because the world's attention has been diverted by wars in Lebanon and Iraq.

A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in the most heavily populated area in the world. Israel has stopped all trade. It has even forbidden fishermen to go far from the shore so they wade into the surf to try vainly to catch fish with hand-thrown nets.

Many people are being killed by Israeli incursions that occur every day by land and air. A total of 262 people have been killed and 1,200 wounded, of whom 60 had arms or legs amputated, since 25 June, says Dr Juma al-Saqa, the director of the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City which is fast running out of medicine. Of these, 64 were children and 26 women. This bloody conflict in Gaza has so far received only a fraction of the attention given by the international media to the war in Lebanon.

It was on 25 June that the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was taken captive and two other soldiers were killed by Palestinian militants who used a tunnel to get out of the Gaza Strip. In the aftermath of this, writes Gideon Levy in the daily Haaretz, the Israeli army "has been rampaging through Gaza - there's no other word to describe it - killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately".

Please


VOX Newsletter
Statement of Church Related Organizations on the Current Situation in Lebanon and Palestine

July 2006

The undersigned Church Related Organizations, appalled by the destruction and use of blatant military force by Israel in both Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, have gathered in prayer at St. Stephan's Cathedral in Jerusalem. The sadness and the sense of despair that have taken over these holy lands as hundreds have perished, homes destroyed, thousands injured and made refugees and essential service infrastructure purposely targeted, highlight the immoral logic of war and the use of military force.

The responsibilities of the international community have most disappointingly been absent as governments and the powers that have allowed the progress of destruction to go on in order to supposedly prepare the ground for a politically agreeable ceasefire. This shows the double standard of world powers and it also sends a message that evokes anger and frustration of millions of ordinary citizens across the world, thus worsening the already bad situation as there is a clear absence of leadership.

We in the Holy Land, source of divine inspiration and monotheistic beliefs, are as frustrated as our fellow world citizens with the double standards of the United States and other allegedly democratic countries when it comes to dealing with the Middle East conflict and its just and lasting resolution. Security is not exclusive nor can it be used as an excuse to justify horrendous acts of military force and abuse and continued occupation instead of subscribing to a political negotiating process that would have spared all of us in this region the pain.

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