Friday, March 30, 2012

[ePalestine] Why Land Day still matters (By Sam Bahour and Fida Jiryis)


Haaretz - 30/3/2012

Why Land Day still matters 

Today, with no resolution in sight to the historic injustices inflicted upon them, Palestinians in Israel and elsewhere use this day to remember and redouble their efforts for emancipation. 

By Sam Bahour and Fida Jiryis 

Every year since 1976, on March 30, Palestinians around the world have commemorated Land Day. Though it may sound like an environmental celebration, Land Day marks a bloody day in Israel when security forces gunned down six Palestinians, as they protested Israeli expropriation of Arab-owned land in the country’s north to build Jewish-only settlements. 

The Land Day victims were not Palestinians from the occupied territories, but citizens of the state, a group that now numbers over 1.6 million people, or 20.5 percent of the population. They are inferior citizens in a state that defines itself as Jewish and democratic, but in reality is neither. 

On that dreadful day 36 years ago, in response to Israel’s announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of acres of Palestinian land for “security and settlement purposes,” a general strike and marches were organized in Palestinian towns within Israel, from the Galilee to the Negev. The night before, in a last-ditch attempt to block the planned protests, the government imposed a curfew on the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin, Arraba, Deir Hanna, Tur’an, Tamra and Kabul, in the Western Galilee. The curfew failed; citizens took to the streets. Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as those in the refugee communities across the Middle East, joined in solidarity demonstrations. 

In the ensuing confrontations with the Israeli army and police, six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed, about 100 wounded, and hundreds arrested. The day lives on, fresh in the Palestinian memory, since today, as in 1976, the conflict is not limited to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but is ever-present in the country’s treatment of its own Palestinian Arab citizens. 

The month following the killings, an internal government paper, written by senior Interior Ministry official Yisrael Koenig, was leaked to the press. The document, which became known as the Koenig Memorandum, offered recommendations intended to “ensure the [country’s] long-term Jewish national interests.” These included “the possibility of diluting existing Arab population concentrations.” 

Israel has been attempting to “dilute” its Palestinian population -- both Muslims and Christians -- ever since. 

Thirty-six years later, the situation is as dire as ever. Racism and discrimination, in their rawest forms, are rampant in Israel, and are often more insidious than physical violence. Legislation aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Israel is part of public discourse. Israeli ministers do not shy away from promoting “population transfers” of Palestinian citizens -- code for forced displacement. 

Israel’s adamant demand that the Palestinians recognize it as a “Jewish state” leaves them in a situation of having to inherently negate their own existence and accept the situation of inferiority in their own land. Recent efforts in the Knesset to link loyalty to citizenship threaten to target organizations and individuals who express dissent and even the revocation of citizenship, a practice unheard of in other countries. 

Budgets for health and education allocated by the Israeli government to the Arab sector are, per capita, a fraction of those allocated to Jewish locales. Although hundreds of new Jewish towns and settlements have been approved and built since Israel’s creation, the state continues to prevent Arab towns and villages from expanding, suffocating their inhabitants and forcing new generations to leave in search of homes. Palestinians living in Israel are heavily discriminated against in employment and wages. 

The message is clear: Israel has failed, abysmally, in realizing its oft-cried role as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” with such discriminatory policies, and a culture of antagonism and neglect vis-a-vis a fifth of its citizens. The original Land Day marked a pivotal point in terms of how Palestinians in Israel -- living victims of Israel’s violent establishment -- viewed their relations with the state. Today, with no resolution in sight to the historic injustices inflicted upon them, Palestinians in Israel and elsewhere use this day to remember and redouble their efforts for emancipation. 

The names of the six victims of Land Day are written on the front of a monument in the cemetery of Sakhnin, accompanied by the words: “They sacrificed themselves for us to live ... thus, they are alive -- The martyrs of the day of defending the land, 30 March 1976.” On the back of the monument are the names of the two sculptors who created it: one Arab, one Jewish. Maybe it is this joint recognition of the tragedy of Palestinians that is required in Israel to get us beyond the chasm of denial. 

For our part, as second-generation Palestinians born and raised outside Palestine, who have decided to return to live in this troubled land, we view Land Day as an ongoing wake-up call to Israeli Jews and Jewry worldwide to understand that land, freedom and equality are an inseparable package -- the only one that can deliver a lasting peace to all involved. 

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business development consultant from the Palestinian city of El Bireh in the West Bank. He blogs at www.epalestine.com. Fida Jiryis is a Palestinian writer from the Arab village of Fassuta in the Galilee. 



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Saturday, March 24, 2012

[ePalestine] Interview with Sam Bahour (by Inka Stafrace)

Interview (46:33min) with Sam Bahour on Palestine telecom, Israeli occupation, & State of Israel

by Inka Stafrace

Sam Bahour talks in detail about the troubles the telecommunications company PALTEL faced in being the first Palestinian owned and run telecommunications company in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Inka Stafrace probes Sam for his opinion on the divisive strategy of this military occupation and how that has filtered into the telecommunications sector. 

This interview was conducted as part of the investigation into the significance of the current situation on the Holy Land for the documentary Finger Pointing to the Earth, which is still a work in progress and in need of funding. It has been placed here in full. 


Onward,
Sam



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Friday, March 23, 2012

[ePalestine] Ma'an News: Report: No arrests in racist mall riot

The Israel you will not find on CNN...

Ma'an News Network 

Report: No arrests in racist mall riot 

Published today (updated) 23/03/2012 18:08 

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Israeli police have made no arrests after hundreds of football supporters attacked Palestinian workers at a shopping mall in Jerusalem, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Friday. 

The assault in Malha mall on Monday was "a mass lynching attempt," cleaner Mohammed Yusuf told Haaretz. 

An Israeli police spokesman did not respond to inquiries from Ma'an, but witnesses told Haaretz that hundreds of football fans flooded the mall after a match and chanted anti-Arab slogans, screaming "Death to the Arabs." 

The football supporters verbally abused and spat on three Palestinian women who were in the food court with their children. When Palestinian workers tried to help them, the mostly- teenage rioters assaulted them. 

"They caught some of them and beat the hell out of them," bakery owner Yair told Haaretz. 

"They hurled people into shops, and smashed them against shop windows. I don't understand how none shattered into pieces. One cleaner was attacked by some 20 people, poor guy, and then they had a go at his brother who works in a nearby pizza shop and came to his rescue." 

Attackers asked Jewish shop owners for knives to use as weapons but none obliged, onlookers said. 

Malha's executive director Gideon Avrahami described the incident as "a disgraceful, shocking, racist incident; simply terrible."   

But despite CCTV footage of the riot, Jerusalem police told Haaretz that no one was arrested because no complaint was filed. 




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(Fwd) [ePalestine] My friend’s daughters still wait!!! [CORRECTION]

CORRECTION:

Walid's release date was originally set for yesterday, March 22, 2012, not April 22nd as appeared in my original post.

Rgds,
Sam

------- Forwarded message follows -------
From:                         "Sam BAHOUR" <sbahour@palnet.com>
To:                            epalestine@lists.riseup.net
Date sent:                  Fri, 23 Mar 2012 09:01:02 +0200
Send reply to:             sbahour@palnet.com
Subject:                     [ePalestine] My friend’s daughters still wait!!


My friend's daughters still wait!!! 

Many of you have been following my reporting of the arrest of my friend Walid Abu Rass ( http://bit.ly/walidaburass ) who was taken from his home by Israeli occupation forces in the middle of the night on November 22, 2011. 

Afterwards, I reported an update from his failed appeal hearing and his daughter's visit to him in prison ( http://bit.ly/zQUUAF ).

Lastly, I updated you all on his attempt to take his case to the Israeli High Court ( http://bit.ly/A5HReu ). In this hearing, his 6-month Administrative Detention was reduced by two months because the state had no case against him. His release date was set for April 22, 2012. 

Like what usually happens to Administrative Detention prisoners, on the day of their release, an extension was made. Walid's was for another four months! Again, with no reason why, no charges, no trial, no anything! 

Walid's   two beautiful daughters, Mays, 13 years old, and Malak, 4 years old, are crushed!!! 

I spoke to Walid's wife Bayan yesterday. She is a strong woman. She softly reminded me of what she told me several weeks ago: "Administrative detention has a beginning but doesn't have an end." 

One person could end this nightmare today: 

Deputy Prime Minister &  
Minister of Defense  
Ehud Barak  
Ministry of Defense  
37 Kaplan Street  
Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909  
Israel  
Fax: +972.3.691.6940  
Email: minister@mod.gov.il     

Write/call him directly or send a message via your local Israeli embassy.

Let's all redouble our efforts to free Walid. Common sense, international law, and humanity has all failed...it is us, each of us, that must rise to the occasion. 

Shocked at the stupidity of occupation,
Sam



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------- End of forwarded message -------

[ePalestine] My friend’s daughters still wait!!!

My friend's daughters still wait!!! 

Many of you have been following my reporting of the arrest of my friend Walid Abu Rass ( http://bit.ly/walidaburass ) who was taken from his home by Israeli occupation forces in the middle of the night on November 22, 2011. 

Afterwards, I reported an update from his failed appeal hearing and his daughter's visit to him in prison ( http://bit.ly/zQUUAF ). 

Lastly, I updated you all on his attempt to take his case to the Israeli High Court ( http://bit.ly/A5HReu ). In this hearing, his 6-month Administrative Detention was reduced by two months because the state had no case against him. His release date was set for yesterday, March 22, 2012. 

Like what usually happens to Administrative Detention prisoners, on the day of their release, an extension was made. Walid's was for another four months! Again, with no reason why, no charges, no trial, no anything! 

Walid's  two beautiful daughters, Mays, 13 years old, and Malak, 4 years old, are crushed!!! 

I spoke to Walid's wife Bayan yesterday. She is a strong woman. She softly reminded me of what she told me several weeks ago: "Administrative detention has a beginning but doesn't have an end." 

One person could end this nightmare today: 

Deputy Prime Minister &
Minister of Defense
Ehud Barak
Ministry of Defense
37 Kaplan Street
Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909
Israel
Fax: +972.3.691.6940
Email: minister@mod.gov.il    

Write/call him directly or send a message via your local Israeli embassy.

Let's all redouble our efforts to free Walid. Common sense, international law, and humanity has all failed...it is us, each of us, that must rise to the occasion. 

Shocked at the stupidity of occupation,
Sam



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Saturday, March 17, 2012

[ePalestine] The American Prospect: 2-part series on Israel's policies toward its Palestinian minority

The American Prospect 

Part 1: Love in a Troubled Land :   http://prospect.org/article/love-troubled-land


About the Author 

Ann Crittenden  is an award-winning journalist, author, and lecturer. She was an economics and investigative reporter for The New York Times from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, winning numerous awards and a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. Prior to her work at the Times, she was a staff writer and foreign correspondent for Newsweek and a reporter for Fortune magazine. She has been a visiting lecturer at MIT and Yale, an economics commentator for CBS News, and executive director of the Fund for Investigative Journalism. Since leaving the Times, Crittenden has written four books and a play, in addition to numerous magazine articles for publications as diverse as Barron’s, Foreign Affairs, and Glamour.  

Only in the only democracy in the Middle East, NOT,
Sam



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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

[ePalestine] WSJ: The Myth of Israel's Favorable Treatment of Palestinian Christians

Dear friends, 

Last week, Mr. Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, had this op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians

A few moments ago, the Letters to the Editor responding to this were posted online and may be found here: Israel Really Isn't All That Friendly to Its Christians

One of those Letters to the Editor is by my good friend and writer Fida Jiryis. Her letter is actually an excerpt of a full op-ed in reply to Mr. Oren's piece. Here is Fida's reply in full:

The Myth of Israel's Favorable Treatment of Palestinian Christians 

By Fida Jiryis   

Amb. Michael Oren's article, 'Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians,' presents Israel as a tolerant, dove-like, and peaceful democracy.  This is belied by the facts. 

I am one of those Palestinian Christians living inside Israel to whom Oren refers. At no time in my life have I ever felt the 'respect and appreciation' by the Jewish state, which Oren so glowingly references. Israel's Christian minority is marginalized in much the same manner as its Muslim one or, at best, quietly tolerated. We suffer the same discrimination when we try to find a job, when we go to hospitals, when we apply for bank loans, and when we get on the bus -- in the same way as Palestinian Muslims. 

Israel's  fundamental basis is as a racist state built for Jews only, and the majority of the Jewish population doesn't really care what religion we are if we're not Jewish. In my daily dealings with the State, all I have felt is rudeness and overt contempt. 

Oren's  statement that 'The extinction of the Middle East's Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude' is outright shocking to anyone familiar with even the basic history of how Israel was founded. I would like to remind him and others that this founding expelled thousands of Palestinian Christians from their homes in 1948 and displaced them, either forcing them to flee across the border or making them internal refugees. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that comprised the founding of Israel is, too, an injustice of historic magnitude.  A man living in a glass home -- or a home stolen from Palestinians -- should think very carefully before tossing stones. 

My cousin's husband, Maher, is from Iqrith, a village a few miles from mine in the Galilee. His family, and all of Iqrith's inhabitants, were expelled from their village in 1948 and Iqrith was razed to the ground by Israeli forces on Christmas eve, 1950, in a special 'Christmas gift' to its people. The timing of this destruction leaves one to wonder at the intended message. Maher was born years after his family took shelter in Rama, a village nearby in the Galilee. Today, he struggles with finding a place to build a house to live in with his wife and children. Israeli policies that severely restrict the building zones in Arab towns and villages result in land shortages impeding the population's natural expansion. Limiting land to residents of the same town or village means that internal Palestinian refugees face severe housing discrimination. 

The return of people like Maher has been made impossible by Israel, which refuses to negotiate on the right of refugees to return to their homeland. If Oren is so concerned for Palestinian Christians, would he kindly give the green light for the return of Christian refugees from Iqrith, Bir'im, Tarshiha, Suhmata, Haifa, Jaffa, and tens of other Palestinian towns and villages that they were expelled from in 1948? The answer, I assure you, is no. Many of these refugees are living in refugee camps in nearby countries, where Israel and Oren are happy to leave them. 

The terrorists referred to in Oren's statement that 'Israel, in spite of its need to safeguard its borders from terrorists, allows holiday access to Jerusalem's churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza,' are in fact Palestinian Christians living on the land that Israel has occupied -- in flagrant opposition to all human rights charters -- and from which it is refusing to withdraw its soldiers and illegal settlers. To applaud Israel for giving people permits to travel across what by law is their own country is the height of hubris. 

His claim that 'In Jerusalem, the number of Arabs--among them Christians--has tripled since the city's reunification by Israel in 1967’ fails to mention Israel's relentless policies of cracking down on Jerusalem: building unending settlements; building a Separation Wall that slices right through the city, severing its families, neighborhoods and businesses and hitting hard at its Arab economy; seizing Arab lands and expelling families that have lived on them for generations; and revoking the citizenship of any Palestinian resident who travels abroad for too long. Imagine the outcry if an American citizen traveled abroad for two years and upon return discovered that his citizenship was revoked and that he had lost his American ID and passport. 

Israeli officials don't care whether the Palestinians they discriminate against are Christian or Muslim. It is true that inter-religious strife is on the rise in a region long tormented by poor living conditions, for which the West bears significant responsibility having aided the region's many dictators. 

Oren's  faux tolerance and crocodile tears over the plight of Christians fool no one.  Were he serious, I would urge him to have a close look at Israel's policies of occupation and racial discrimination. 

As Jesus said, 'Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?' (Matthew 7:3) 


Fida Jiryis is a Palestinian writer from the Arab village of Fassuta in the Galilee. She is the author of the forthcoming book, '˜My Return to Galilee,' which chronicles her return from the Diaspora to Israel. She can be reached at fida_jiryis@hotmail.com. 



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Friday, March 09, 2012

[ePalestine] America Magazine: Out of Palestine

America Magazine (The only national Catholic weekly in the USA)

Out of Palestine
Solidarity with a displaced people

Elizabeth G. Burr | America Magazine | FEBRUARY 27, 2012

Recently I asked Dominique Najjar, a Palestinian Christian who lives with his wife and children in Minneapolis, why so many Palestinians are leaving Palestine. He told me the story of how he and two of his three brothers, all aspiring professionals, immigrated to the United States from East Jerusalem out of “economic necessity,” starting in the early 1970s. “My parents needed support,” he said, explaining that economic advancement was impossible under Israeli control. This took place within the first decade of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, which began after the 1967 war and is illegal under international law.

But there is more to Mr. Najjar’s story. He and one of his brothers did not intend to emigrate permanently from their homeland. After they had moved to the United States, however, Israel revoked their Jerusalem residency status. Now they are given 90-day tourist visas when they return to their hometown, where their 89-year-old mother lives alone. Since none of her seven adult children enjoys residency status in Jerusalem any longer, none can do more than visit her. She receives daily “compassion and attention” from her Muslim neighbors next door. Najjar remarked that the revocation of his residency status is “all part of the Israeli effort to minimize the number of non-Jews in Jerusalem.”

It is difficult for citizens of other countries to appreciate what the occupation means for Palestinians who are not citizens of the country that rules them (unlike Israeli Palestinians who live in the recognized State of Israel). A reading of the 30 articles of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) reveals that very few of these rights are applied to occupied Palestinians. Directly relevant to Mr. Najjar’s story, for example, Article 13 (2) states, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” People of conscience are faced with the oppression of an indigenous population in their own homeland, and Christians worldwide must confront the truth that Palestinian Christians are walking down a long Via Dolorosa from which, without international intervention, the only exit is exile.

Indigenous Christians have lived in Palestine since the origins of Christianity about 2,000 years ago. Over the centuries other Christians immigrated to Palestine. Palestinian Christians comprised at least 15 percent of the Palestinian population in the late 19th century, under Ottoman Muslim rule, and about 7.5 percent by 1944, in the final years of the British Mandate. During the 1948 war, which resulted in the establishment of the State of Israel in much of historic Palestine, more than a third of Palestinian Christians were among the 750,000 to 800,000 refugees forced to flee their homes in Palestine. The Israeli historian Ilan Pappé has described Israel’s “war of independence,” which Palestinians call the nakba (catastrophe), as “the ethnic cleansing of Palestine” in his book by that title published in 2006.

The Lydda Death March

Audeh Rantisi, a Palestinian Christian, has written in The Link, a journal published by Americans for Middle East Understanding, about his family’s expulsion from Lydda, near Tel Aviv, in July 1948, along with that of thousands of other residents. An 11-year-old at the time, Rantisi witnessed: an infant being crushed to death by a cart after his mother lost hold of him, an Israeli soldier shooting to death a newly married young man who would not hand over his money, people dying of thirst and many more horrors. He reports that “scores of women miscarried, their babies left for jackals to eat.” On the fourth day of the “Lydda death march,” his 13-member family reached Ramallah, in the West Bank, “carrying nothing but the clothes we wore.” His father also took with him the key to their house. Generations of the Rantisi family had lived in Lydda for some 1,600 years.

Mr. Pappé is not alone among scholars who have identified a Zionist ideology of exclusion as the engine driving the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 or who have interpreted Israeli policy since then as a continuing campaign of ethnic cleansing. By 2011 the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip had reached its 44th year. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the occupation has brought the construction of scores of “settlements” in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which currently house at least half a million Israeli settlers. Five years ago Israel had already expropriated 87 percent of East Jerusalem and 75 percent of the West Bank for settlements, parks and military areas. Thus less and less Palestinian land is available for Palestinian housing, agriculture or other uses. Human rights abuses of Palestinians abound under the occupation, which appears designed to make their lives so unbearable that they will “voluntarily” leave. 

The emigration of Palestinian Christians from the occupied territories to the West since 1967 has also reduced their number to the point where Christians currently account for less than 2 percent of the Palestinian population under occupation. And the rate of population growth for Palestinian Christians in the West Bank amounts to just half of their emigration rate. Without a stabilization or reversal of the net decline, the extinction of Palestinian Christians in the territories is conceivable. Even in 2006 only about 50,000 Palestinian Christians were living in the West Bank and Gaza. 

What explains the ongoing exodus of Christians from Palestine? Some attempts at an explanation are misleading. In line with the Islamophobia notable in Europe and in the United States, Israeli propaganda points to tension and conflict with Palestinian Muslims, who comprise more than 98 percent of the Palestinian population under occupation, as the key reason for Palestinian Christian emigration. Israel has long encouraged political and religious division among Palestinians. Yet when I interviewed the Christian Palestinian secretary general of the East Jerusalem Y.W.C.A. in June 2009, she said that relations between Palestinian Muslims and Christians have been and remain largely positive. In her view “religious extremism” has been fostered by the environment of stress, chaos and conflict produced by the Israeli occupation. Indeed, there is a long history of good relations between Palestinian Muslims and Christians. Palestinians of both faiths experienced the catastrophe of 1948 together, and since 1967 those in the West Bank and Gaza have experienced the catastrophe of the Israeli occupation together.

‘Pull’ and ‘Push’ Factors

Palestinian Christians have tended to be well educated, relatively advantaged economically and more likely than their Muslim counterparts to have contacts in the West. Those could be considered “pull” factors behind the Palestinian Christian exodus. The “push” factors are the economic, political and social consequences of the Israeli occupation, with its “apartheid wall,” checkpoints and segregated road system; its ever-expanding settlements, destruction of Palestinian agriculture and demolition of Palestinian homes; its lawless, weapon-toting settlers; and its incarceration, with systematic torture, of thousands of Palestinians.

A 2006 survey of Palestinian Christians conducted by the Palestinian Christian peace organization Sabeel confirms the decisive influence of these “push” factors. Romell Soudah, a faculty member in business administration at Bethlehem University, a Catholic institution, writes that “the continuous confiscation of land...coupled with restrictions on mobility and access, give the impression that people are living in a cage, dehumanized, with little hope for freedom and normal living. This situation...is the primary factor…forcing Christian Palestinians to leave.” These Israeli actions, plus water confiscation and economic strangulation, which drive unemployment and poverty levels upward, are seen as calculated means of emptying the land of Palestinians. Thus Christian Palestinian emigration is the most visible effect of Israel’s deliberate, if gradual, ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population.

Why Care?

Why should Americans care if Palestinian Christians in the West Bank are leaving their homeland twice as fast as their population there is growing? The erasure of native Christians from Palestine should be unthinkable. Palestine is where Christianity originated, and Palestinian Christians have a unique status in the worldwide Christian community. Americans should be outraged that U.S. policy, buttressed by generous funding from their tax dollars, makes possible the Israeli occupation and its discriminatory policies.

These policies include a campaign to revoke the time-honored tax-exempt status of Christian churches and other Christian institutions, like the Lutheran Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives, and prohibition of access to holy sites (for example, barring West Bank Christians from visiting the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally regarded as the burial place of Jesus, in Jerusalem’s Old City). Orthodox Jewish harassment of Christian clergy in the Old City is commonplace. Hanan Chehata, a journalist, reports that “numerous churches have been destroyed during Israeli military incursions, divided from their congregations by the wall, and exposed to dilapidation.” Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity suffered physical damage during the Israeli incursion and siege of 2002. The wall now encircles Bethlehem, separating it from nearby Jerusalem; residents of Bethlehem are prevented from entering Jerusalem and vice versa. A majority of Bethlehem’s Christians hold Israel responsible for the departure of record numbers of Palestinian Christians from their city.

Yet Western Christians often fail to recognize the imperiled existence of their Palestinian co-religionists. Moreover, there are millions of Christian Zionists whose interpretation of New Testament prophecies allies them with Israeli Zionism and against the Christians of Palestine. They imagine that there is serious division between Palestinian Muslims and Christians, whereas the far more prevalent tension is between Palestinian Christians and some Israeli Jews (settlers, military and government leaders or those who represent them). The continued presence of Palestinian Christians in Palestine offsets the misperception that the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is really about relig ion—a conflict between Muslims and Jews, rather than one about land, human rights and international law.

A Palestinian Christian friend wrote to me recently regarding the typical pattern of Muslims and Christians working together cooperatively and harmoniously within Palestinian institutions and organizations. Among the examples she mentioned is the Rawdat El-Zuhur (Garden of Flowers) elementary school in East Jerusalem, which has a Christian principal, a Muslim accountant, a mixed teaching staff and a mixed student body. Rawdat El-Zuhur, she wrote, “serves the community irrespective of [the members’] faith.” Likewise at Birzeit University, north of Ramallah, the president is Muslim and the chairman of the board is Christian; the board members are mixed, as are the staff and the student body.

To their credit, Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, are prominent among church leaders who have advocated worldwide Christian solidarity with Palestinian Christians. Informed American Christians committed to peace with justice are called to stand up both to Christian Zionism and to U.S. government underwriting of the illegal Israeli military occupation that is driving Palestinians, and disproportionately Christian Palestinians, out of their native country. In the prophetic words of the Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Elizabeth G. Burr, who teaches part-time at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn, has been concerned with the Israel-Palestine issue for more than 40 years.

SOURCE: http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13275

Thursday, March 08, 2012

[ePalestine] AMIN.org: Christ at the Checkpoint challenges Christian Zionism (By: Daoud Kuttab)

TO READ ONLINE: http://bit.ly/AwJDIa

8 March 2012 

Christ at the Checkpoint challenges Christian Zionism 

By: Daoud Kuttab 

For the second year running a unique event took place in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem this week. Christian evangelicals that many consider as most ardent supporters for Israel (often more so than many Israelis) were guests of a Palestinian Christian gathering. 

The “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference, sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College, hosted over 600 evangelicals from around the world, but primarily from the US. Among the leading evangelicals attending this Palestinian-sponsored event were Rev. Joel Hunter, the spiritual adviser to US President Barack Obama, theologian Tony Compello, social activists Ron Sider and Lyn Hybes, British pastor Stephen Siezer, community leader Shahen Claiborne, Messianic leader Wayne Hilsden and Asian reverend Sang-Bok David Kim. 

Before it opened at the Jacir Palace InterContinental Hotel, the conference (both organisers and guests) was the subject of multi-pronged attacks. Speakers were pressured not to attend with hundreds of e-mails and phone calls, with accusations that by participating they are giving legitimacy to an anti-Israel and anti-Semitic gathering. 

Two rabbis who work on interfaith issues at the Wiesenthal Centre scathingly attacked the conference as potentially shaking up the foundations of the most effective supporters to Israel. Writing in The Jerusalem Post, rabbis Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein said that the conference is “taking dead aim at Israel’s single largest and most reliable supporter: Tens of millions of evangelical Christians who have stood with the Jewish state since day one.” 

They concluded that if the conference achieves even some of its aims, “the consequences will be disastrous for Israel and world Jewry”. 

Those articles and more produced a level of intellectual terrorism not known within Christian circles that believe in dialogue amongst fellow believers. 

Perhaps the hardest hit group were Christian leaders of Jewish origin. Messianic Jews intending to attend were severely targeted and accused of giving legitimacy to an anti-Israel event. They came nevertheless and said that they felt welcomed and respected. 

The conference was not an anti-Israel event by any means. Its power derived more from challenging some current theological interpretations than from being a political discourse. 

Most of the sessions included debates over rather complicated terminology (for example, of strict dispensationalism — a system of prophetic theology in which Israel is greatly featured as part of God’s will in the end times) or answers to questions (like do Palestinian Christians cause a problem to Christian Zionism, what is the biblical theology of the land, is the opposite of Christian Zionism replacement theology, how does theology affect policy). 

Not that the conference ignored the Palestinian reality. Opening the conference, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Mayor of Bethlehem Victor Batarseh welcomed the international guests and impressed on the 600 international guests the Palestinians’ aspiration to live in freedom and peace alongside Israel. Fayyad talked about the importance of nonviolence and the need to support peace with justice. 

The speakers were disarming. An olive branch was extended especially to Israeli messianic leaders and it seemed to produce an unusually warm atmosphere. 

Besides attending the conference, most of the international guests were given alternative tours that including visits to various Palestinian communities affected by the Israeli occupation, including families whose land is off-limits because of the Israeli wall and Christian Palestinian families who are suffering because of the continued Israeli occupation. 

Most of the participants who attended the conference appeared to have reached the conclusion that it is unacceptable to mix theology with politics and to try to use some isolated texts from the Bible to justify Israeli actions. But what the conference seems to have done is to strengthen and sharpen various arguments that debunk the myths that many consider is the stereotypical position of Christian evangelicals. 

In addition to theological discussions, the conference gave participants a unique perspective on Palestine and Palestinian Christians. To many evangelicals, the conference provided a powerful human aspect that makes it impossible for them to continue to divorce some interpretations of Christian theology from their effect on real people, in fact on people who share similar biblical beliefs. 

Hardcore evangelicals, televangelists and generally Christian Zionists will undoubtedly continue exhibiting clear bias vis-à-vis Palestinians and be in favour of some messianic solution to the conflict, that does not include any Palestinian, whether Christian or Muslim. However, the ability to deny the suffering and to claim that “we didn’t know” is becoming increasingly more difficult. 

The “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference was streamed live and participants will no doubt return to their churches in the West with a different message: that to have peace is to have justice and that peace and justice are the cornerstone of the Christian faith, irrespective of the theological spin Christian Zionists have tried to put on it. 

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net

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Friday, March 02, 2012

[ePalestine] David Grossman: Why? Who died? (A SHOCKING MUST READ)


David Grossman: Why? Who died?

by Sol Salbe on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 2:53am · 

Last Friday Haaretz did something unusual: it placed an opinion piece on top of its front page. But it wasn't just  an ordinary opinion piece, it was written by one of the country foremost novelists, David Grossman. The article, like Emile Zola's J'accuse, to which it has been compared, was a moral critique. Many who read it were very moved. But the moral missive never appeared in English (at least to my knowledge). The English Haaretz has always been somewhat reticent in presenting Israel to the world. And of course translating Grossman is not easy, he is a master of the language and the art of writing.I have no idea whether I have done justice to this work. But it needed to be translated. The message is too important.*Hebrew original: http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/politics/1.1649589

*Translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne Australia https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=523794418* 

Why? Who died? 

All said and done  it is merely a minor story about an illegal alien who stole a car, was injured in an accident, then released from hospital to have cops dump him, still injured to die the by the roadside.  What are the building blocks that lead to such an atrocity? 

David Grossman 

Omar Abu Jariban, a resident of the Gaza Strip, staying illegally in Israel, stole a car and was seriously injured while driving it. He was released from the Sheba Medical Centre while his treatment was still ongoing and handed over to the custody of the Rehovot Police station. The police were unable to identify him. He himself was bewildered and confused. The Rehovot Police officers decided to get rid of him. According to Chaim Levinson’s account, they loaded him onto a police van at night accompanied by three policemen. He was still attached to a catheter, was wearing an adult nappy and a hospital gown. Two days later he was found dead by the roadside. 

It’s a minor story. We have already read some like it and others where even worse. And when it is all said and done who is the subject of this story: an illegal infiltrator, from Rafah and a vehicle thief to boot.  And at any rate it happened as long ago as 2008, there is a statue of limitation to consider. And we have other, fresher, more immediate matters which are more relevant for us to consider. (And beside all that, they started it, we offered them everything and they refused and don’t forget the terrorism.). 

Ever since I read the story,  I find it difficult  to breathe the air here:  I keep on thinking about that trip in the police van, as if some part of me  had remained there, bonded  on permanently and impossible to be prise out.  How precisely did the incident pan out? it? What are the real, banal, tangible elements that coalesced together make up such an atrocity? 

From the newspaper I gather that there were three cops there alongside Omar.  Again and again I run the video clip mentally in my head: Was he sitting like them on the seat or was he lying on the floor of the van? Was he handcuffed or not? Did anybody talk to him? Did they offer him a drink? Did they share a laugh? Did they laugh at him? Did they poke fun at his adult nappy?  Did they laugh at his confusion or at his catheter? Did they discuss what he was capable of while still attached to the catheter or once he would be separated from it? Did they say that he deserved what was coming? Did they kick him lightly like mates do, or maybe because the situation demanded a swift kick? Or did they just kick him for the heck of it, just because they could, and why not? 

Besides, how can someone be discharged just like that from medical treatment at the Sheba Medical Centre?  Who let him out in his condition?  What possible explanation could they put down on the discharge papers which they signed off? 

And what happened when the van reached the Maccabim checkpoint [not far from Jerusalem -tr]? I read in the newspaper that an argument ensued with the Israeli checkpoint commander, and that he refused to accept the patient. Did Omar hear the argument about him from within the van, or did they drag him out of the van and plonked  him in front of the commander, replete with catheter, nappy and hospital gown for a rapid overall assessment by the latter? And the commander said no. And yalla! We are on our way again. So they returned to van, and they kept on going. And now the guys in the van are perhaps not quite as nice before, because it is getting late and they want to get back and wonder what have they done to have deserved copping  this sand nigger and what are they going to do with him now.  If the Maccabim checkpoint rejected him, there was no way in which the Atarot checkpoint will take him. It is now pitch black outside and by the by, while traveling on Route 45, between the Ofer military base to the Atarot checkpoint, a thought or a suggestion pops up.  Perhaps someone said something and nobody argued against, or perhaps someone did argue back but the one who came up with the original suggestion carried more weight. Or perhaps there was no argument, someone said something and someone else felt that this is precisely what needs to be done, and one of them says to the driver, pull over for a moment, not here,  it’s too well lit, stop there. You, yes you, move it, get your arse into gear you piece of shit – thanks to you our van stinks;, you ruined our evening, get going! What do you mean to where?  Go there. 

And what happens next? Does Omar remain steady on his feet, or are his legs unable to carry him? Do they leave him on the side of the road, or do physically take him there, and how? Do the haul him? Do they drag him deeper into the field? 

You stay here! Do not follow us! Do not move! 

And then they return to the car, walking a little bit more briskly, glancing behind their shoulder to ensure that he is not pursuing them. As if he already has something infectious about him. No, not his injury. Something else is already beginning to exude out of him, like bad tidings, or his court sentence. Come on, let’s get going, it’s all over. 

And he, Omar Abu Jariban, what did he do then?  Did he merely stand on his own feet or did he suddenly grasp what was happening, and started running and shouting that they should take him with them? And perhaps he did not realise anything, because as we said, he was confused and bewildered, and just stood there on the road or in the field, and saw a road, and a police van driving away. So what did he do? What did he really do?  Started walking aimlessly, with some sort of a vague notion that somehow being a little further away would turn out somewhat better? Or maybe he just sat down and stared blankly in front of him and tried to figure it, but it was clearly beyond his comprehension for he was in no position to understand anything? Or perhaps he lay down and  curled up on the ground and waiting? Why? And whom did he think about? Did he have someone, somewhere, to think about?  Did the thought occur to any of those police officers, at any time during that whole night that there was someone, a man, a woman or a whole family for whom Omar was important? Someone who cared about him? Did it occur to them that it was possible, with a little bit more of an effort to locate this person and hand Omar to them? 

Two days later they found his body.  But I have no idea how much time had elapsed from the moment they dumped him by the roadside until he died. Who knows when it dawned on him that this was it; that his body did not have enough strength left to save himself. And even if could have summonsed the energy, he was trapped a situation from which there was no exit, that his short life was about to end here. His brother Mohammed, said by telephone from Gaza, "They simply threw him to the dogs". And in the newspaper it says, "Horrible as it may sound, the brother accurately described what happened.”  And I read it and the image turns into something real, and I try to wipe that image from my mind. 

And in the police van, what happened there after they dumped Omar ? Did they talk among themselves? About what?  Did they fire each other up with hatred and disgust at him, to retrospectively justify what they did?   To justify what in their heart of hearts they knew stood in contrast to something.  Maybe that thing was the law (but the law, they probably imagined, they could handle).  But maybe it was contrary to something deeper, some deeply ingrained memory in them which they found themselves in, many years ago. Maybe it was moral tale or a children's story  in which the good was good and the bad was bad.  Perhaps one of them recalled something they learnt at school --- they did pass through our education system, didn’t they? Let’s say it was S Yizhar’s HaShavuy (the captive). 

Or maybe the three of them pulled out their mobile phones and spoke to the wife, the girlfriend the son. At such times you may want to talk to someone from the outside. Someone who wasn’t here who did not touch this thing. 

Or maybe they kept quiet. 

No, silence was perhaps a little bit too dangerous at that point. Still, something was beginning to creep up the van’s interior; a sort of a viscous dark sensation, like a terrifying sin, for which there is no forgiveness. Maybe one of them yet did suggest softly, let’s go back. We’ll tell him that we were pulling his leg. We can’t go on like this, dumping a human being. 

The paper says: “As a result of the police Internal Affairs investigation, negligent homicide charges were filed in March 2009 against only two of the officers who were involved in dumping and abandoning Abu Jariban.  Evidence has yet to be submitted in a trial of the pair but in the meantime, one of the two accused has been promoted.” 

I know that they do not represent the police. Nor do they represent our society or the state. It's only a handful or bad apples, or unwelcomed weeds. But then I think about a people which has dumped a whole other nation on the side of the road and has backed the process to the hilt over 45 years, all the while having not a bad life at all, thank you. I think about a people which has been engaging in a brilliant genius-like denial of its own responsibility for the situation. I think of a people, which has managed to ignore the warping and distorting of its own society and the madness that the process has had on its own national values. Why should such a people get all excited over  a single such Omar? 




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