February 2012 Archives

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Father Roy writes:

As many of you know, one has to be familiar with a multitude of details to understand the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in depth.  I’ve done a bit of helpful highlighting in the article pasted below.  Have you noticed the way that characters (personalities) in the Holy Land make the conflict more interesting than fiction?

When we think about it, Peers, the Israeli people could have elected a more perfidious leader than even Benjamin Netanyahu. (Partial explanation below).  Who will become Israel’s next Prime Minister?  I forget when the next elections will be.  Who will get enough votes to replace Avigdor Liegerman as Israel’s Foreign Minister?  A man named Moshe Feiglin is being mentioned as a challenge to Netanyahu.  Let’s check him out: Moshe Feiglin  (biography).  Let’s become familiar with the way he thinks, because he definitely has a following: The answer is in our hands – Israel Opinion, Ynetnews.  There’s current information in the article pasted below.

Peers, when we think about it, Jews should feel complimented and appreciative .. honored even … that Muslims regard Jerusalem as “holy”.  Why do Jews behave as tho they are being insulted or robbed?  Mohammed never claimed He was founding a new religious faith.  No, the Prophet pointed towards Jerusalem … i.e., to the monotheism in the Jewish and Christian traditions and taught:  ” Behold !!! God has always been ONE.’  There’s a postscript.

Peace,

Roy+

P.S.   Please don’t misunderstand me, Peers.  I’m not implying that Jews are a “greedy” tribe by nature or anything like that.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I’m saying simply that there are some things (like Life) that civilized people (behaving as individuals and as nationalities) must learn to share with others for the benefit of us all … and … for God’s sake.  Please read on.  I highlighted a few sentences which will help us understand Hamas.

From Al-Ahram Weekly:

The results of the Likud leadership elections and continuing provocation at the Haram Al-Sharif signal growing extremism in Israel, writes Khaled Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2012/1085/_re3.htmClick to view caption
Israeli police forces used tear gas and rubber bullets against Palestinian demonstrators in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya


Moshe Feiglin is not a typical Likudnik in the style of other past and present Likud leaders, such as Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu.

Those who know him say he is an incarnation of Meir Kahana, the racist-minded American rabbi who in the early 1970s founded the Kach organisation calling for the expulsion of non-Jews from Israel-Palestine, as well as the application of draconian Talmudic laws to replace Israel’s quasi-secular system.

A few years ago, Feiglin decided to join the ranks of Likud, calculating that only by taking over a central and powerful party from within could he hope to transform Israel from a semi-secular state into a Jewish theocracy ruled by Halacha or the so-called Talmudic religious law.

So far, he has achieved only limited success, with less than 25 per cent of Likud registered members voting for him in the recent party leadership elections, in which the overwhelming majority voted for incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

However, the fact that Feiglin has been able to secure one fourth of Likud behind him does not bode well for either Israel’s democracy or the future of Likud itself.

Ideologically, Feiglin is at the extreme right of the Israeli political map, believing that Israel should annex the West Bank, reoccupy the Gaza Strip, deport all Palestinians and demolish Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

This week, Feiglin and dozens of his supporters sought to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to remind “Jews and the world at large” that the “holiest Jewish temple was still in the hands of the Gentiles” and that the “very existence of Israel was meaningless without the rebuilding of the temple”.

The group held up posters calling for the “purification of the Temple Mount from the enemies of Israel”. Eventually, the police, seeing that violence might ensue, decided to block access to the site.

According to the police, flyers found outside the Haram Al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem read that “members of the Likud caucus, along with its thousands of members headed by Moshe Feiglin, are hereby invited to arrive at the temple Mount and declare that proper leadership begins with control over the temple.”

Earlier, Muslim residents of the city had apparently got word that extremist Jewish settlers were trying to desecrate the 1,400-year-old Muslim shrine in order to put pressure on the Israeli government to turn it into a synagogue.

Hundreds of Muslim activists then arrived, forming a considerable presence and convincing the police that an incendiary showdown could be evolving. The Muslim presence seemed to have influenced the police decision to deny Feiglin’s people access to the Haram Al-Sharif.

The mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohamed Hussein, castigated the Israeli government for playing with fire.

“Do they think that we are helpless orphans and completely powerless to defend and protect our holy places? Israel should know that we will only allow these fanatics to desecrate our holy places over our dead bodies,” he said.

“This place belongs to the Muslim umma, and any aggression against it would mean confrontation with the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims,” Hussein added, urging Muslim governments and peoples to make the issue of the Al-Aqsa Mosque a priority.

One middle-aged Jerusalemite who came to help protect the Mosque remarked that he would sacrifice his life and the lives of his family to protect the glory and sanctity of the Mosque.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas also urged the international community to put pressure on Israel to end provocations against Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. Hamas said that Arab and Muslim states should devote all their efforts to saving the Al-Aqsa Mosque from conspiracies.

It also called on the PA to stop “futile efforts” at reaching a peace arrangement with Israel, saying that Palestinian efforts in this regard were interpreted as a sign of weakness.

“Whenever the Arabs extend their hands in peace, Israel steps up its aggression, crimes and provocation. Israel doesn’t understand the language of peace: it only understands the language of military might,” the group said.

On Sunday, the Palestinians received moral support from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), a statement from the Party lambasting Israel and underlining its opposition to Israel’s repeated efforts to carry out aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy places in occupied Jerusalem.

The statement said that official Arab and Muslim condemnation of Israeli belligerence was no longer adequate.


The issue of Jerusalem is widely viewed as the most complicated and volatile component of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem has been a Muslim shrine of immense sanctity ever since the Prophet Mohamed made his miraculous night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem more than 1,445 years ago.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem soon after its army occupied the city in 1967, and it has been trying to obliterate its traditional Arab-Islamic identity ever since, in violation of international law.

The UN and other international bodies have repeatedly ruled such efforts to be illegal. However, because of unrestricted US backing, Israel has been able to get away with them thus far with impunity.

Original link: Israel tests international patience on Jerusalem

Israel tests international patience on Jerusalem

The results of the Likud leadership elections and continuing provocation at the Haram Al-Sharif signal growing extremism in Israel, writes Khaled Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem


 

 

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2012/1085/_re3.htmClick to view caption
Israeli police forces used tear gas and rubber bullets against Palestinian demonstrators in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya


 

Moshe Feiglin is not a typical Likudnik in the style of other past and present Likud leaders, such as Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu.

 

Those who know him say he is an incarnation of Meir Kahana, the racist-minded American rabbi who in the early 1970s founded the Kach organisation calling for the expulsion of non-Jews from Israel-Palestine, as well as the application of draconian Talmudic laws to replace Israel’s quasi-secular system.

 

A few years ago, Feiglin decided to join the ranks of Likud, calculating that only by taking over a central and powerful party from within could he hope to transform Israel from a semi-secular state into a Jewish theocracy ruled by Halacha or the so-called Talmudic religious law.

 

So far, he has achieved only limited success, with less than 25 per cent of Likud registered members voting for him in the recent party leadership elections, in which the overwhelming majority voted for incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

However, the fact that Feiglin has been able to secure one fourth of Likud behind him does not bode well for either Israel’s democracy or the future of Likud itself.

 

Ideologically, Feiglin is at the extreme right of the Israeli political map, believing that Israel should annex the West Bank, reoccupy the Gaza Strip, deport all Palestinians and demolish Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

 

This week, Feiglin and dozens of his supporters sought to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to remind “Jews and the world at large” that the “holiest Jewish temple was still in the hands of the Gentiles” and that the “very existence of Israel was meaningless without the rebuilding of the temple”.

 

The group held up posters calling for the “purification of the Temple Mount from the enemies of Israel”. Eventually, the police, seeing that violence might ensue, decided to block access to the site.

 

According to the police, flyers found outside the Haram Al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem read that “members of the Likud caucus, along with its thousands of members headed by Moshe Feiglin, are hereby invited to arrive at the temple Mount and declare that proper leadership begins with control over the temple.”

 

Earlier, Muslim residents of the city had apparently got word that extremist Jewish settlers were trying to desecrate the 1,400-year-old Muslim shrine in order to put pressure on the Israeli government to turn it into a synagogue.

 

Hundreds of Muslim activists then arrived, forming a considerable presence and convincing the police that an incendiary showdown could be evolving. The Muslim presence seemed to have influenced the police decision to deny Feiglin’s people access to the Haram Al-Sharif.

 

The mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohamed Hussein, castigated the Israeli government for playing with fire.

 

“Do they think that we are helpless orphans and completely powerless to defend and protect our holy places? Israel should know that we will only allow these fanatics to desecrate our holy places over our dead bodies,” he said.

 

“This place belongs to the Muslim umma, and any aggression against it would mean confrontation with the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims,” Hussein added, urging Muslim governments and peoples to make the issue of the Al-Aqsa Mosque a priority.

 

One middle-aged Jerusalemite who came to help protect the Mosque remarked that he would sacrifice his life and the lives of his family to protect the glory and sanctity of the Mosque.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas also urged the international community to put pressure on Israel to end provocations against Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. Hamas said that Arab and Muslim states should devote all their efforts to saving the Al-Aqsa Mosque from conspiracies.

 

It also called on the PA to stop “futile efforts” at reaching a peace arrangement with Israel, saying that Palestinian efforts in this regard were interpreted as a sign of weakness.

 

“Whenever the Arabs extend their hands in peace, Israel steps up its aggression, crimes and provocation. Israel doesn’t understand the language of peace: it only understands the language of military might,” the group said.

 

On Sunday, the Palestinians received moral support from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), a statement from the Party lambasting Israel and underlining its opposition to Israel’s repeated efforts to carry out aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy places in occupied Jerusalem.

 

The statement said that official Arab and Muslim condemnation of Israeli belligerence was no longer adequate.

 

The issue of Jerusalem is widely viewed as the most complicated and volatile component of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem has been a Muslim shrine of immense sanctity ever since the Prophet Mohamed made his miraculous night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem more than 1,445 years ago.

 

Israel annexed East Jerusalem soon after its army occupied the city in 1967, and it has been trying to obliterate its traditional Arab-Islamic identity ever since, in violation of international law.

The UN and other international bodies have repeatedly ruled such efforts to be illegal. However, because of unrestricted US backing, Israel has been able to get away with them thus far with impunity.

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Father Roy writes: There’s an article pasted below which is self-explanatory:  “Does AIPAC Want War?”  All the recent news is connected to the issue of Iran:  U.S. to Israel: Don’t attack Iran.  Every time President Obama disagrees with Bibi, his propaganda machine takes a new tac:   U.S. Jewish author releases alarming account of anti-Semitism in Germany.  More and more Germans are asking “Haven’t we suffered enough?  Have we not paid sufficient retribution?”  Well, a Jewish author in the USA doesn’t think so.  Peers, here’s a story we all need to follow closely: U.N. Nuclear Inspectors Return to Tehran – NYTimes.com….  We’ll notice conflicting reports.  It’s important that we follow this story because tensions in Jerusalem are at a “boiling point”.

Does AIPAC Want War?

If a bill pushed by Lieberman passes, it could give the US “political authorisation for military force” against Iran.

By Robert Naiman

February 19, 2012 “Al Jazeera” — Washington, DC – For all it has done to promote confrontation between the United States and Iran, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has worked to avoid the public perception that AIPAC is openly promoting war. In AIPAC’s public documents, the emphasis has always been on tougher sanctions. (If you make sanctions “tough” enough – an effective embargo – that is an act of war, but it is still at one remove from saying that the US should start bombing.)

But a new Senate effort to move the goalposts of US policy to declare it “unacceptable” for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability – not a nuclear weapon, but the technical capacity to create one – gives AIPAC the opportunity to make a choice which all can observe. If the Lieberman resolution becomes an ask for AIPAC lobbyists at the March AIPAC policy conference, then the world will know: AIPAC is lobbying Congress for war with Iran.

Sponsors of the Lieberman resolution deny that it is an “authorisation for military force”, and in a legal, technical sense, they are absolutely correct: it is not a legal authorisation for military force. But it is an attempt to enact a political authorisation for military force. It is an attempt to pressure the administration politically to move forward the tripwire for war, to a place indistinguishable from the status quo that exists today. If successful, this political move would make it impossible for the administration to pursue meaningful diplomatic engagement with Iran, shutting down the most plausible alternative to war.

The first “resolved” paragraph of the Lieberman resolution affirms that it is a “vital national interest” of the United States to prevent Iran from acquiring a “nuclear weapons capability“.

The phrase “vital national interest” is a “term of art”. It means something that the US should be willing to go to war for. Recall the debate over whether the US military intervention in Libya was a “vital national interest” of the United States (which Defence Secretary Robert Gates said it wasn’t.) It was a debate over whether the bar was met to justify the United States going to war.

The resolution seeks to establish it as US policy that a nuclear weapons capability – not acquisition of a nuclear weapon, but the technical capacity to create one – is a “red line” for the United States. If the US were to announce to Iran that achieving “nuclear weapons capability” is a red line for the US, the US would be saying that it is ready to attack Iran with military force in order to try to prevent Iran from crossing this “line” to achieve “nuclear weapons capability”.

And this is reportedly being openly discussed by the bill’s sponsors.

Senators from both parties said Thursday that a diplomatic solution was still the goal and they believed the sanctions on Iran were working, but that a containment strategy was less preferable than a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if all else fails.

So, what the Senators are reportedly saying is that if “all else fails” – that is, if diplomacy and sanctions appear to be “failing” to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability – according to these Senators, that’s what “failure” would be – then they want war. That’s not a legal “authorisation of force”, but it is a political one.

And it is not a political authorisation of force in some far-off future. It is a political authorisation of force today.

“Nuclear weapons capability” is a fuzzy term with no legal definition. But Joe Lieberman, a principal author of the bill, has said what he thinks this term means:

“To me, nuclear weapons capability means that they are capable of breaking out and producing a nuclear weapon – in other words, that they have all the components necessary to do that,” Lieberman said. “It’s a standard that is higher than saying ‘The red line is when they actually have nuclear weapons’.”

But many experts think that Iran already has the “components” necessary for “breaking out”.

On Thursday, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies was quoted saying that the November report from the International Atomic Energy Agency “basically laid out the fact that Iran now has every element of technology needed to make a fission weapon”

On January 24, Helene Cooper reported in the New York Times:

Several American and European officials say privately that the most attainable outcome for the West could be for Iran to maintain the knowledge and technology necessary to build a nuclear weapon while stopping short of doing so.

This suggests two things. One, these US and European officials believe that Iran already has “the knowledge and technology necessary to build a nuclear weapon”; two, these US and European officials believe that inducing Iran not to use this knowledge and technology to build a nuclear weapon is the best outcome that the West can achieve.

If the experts and Western officials who believe that Iran already has “the knowledge and technology necessary to build a nuclear weapon” are right, then what that says is that Iran has already crossed the “red line” of the Lieberman bill. And therefore, the supporters of the Lieberman bill are saying that they are ready for war today. Or they are ready for war any time that they decide to join the experts and officials who say that Iran has already crossed the Lieberman “red line”, which of course is something that the Lieberman supporters can do anytime they want.

It’s as if someone wearing a bag over their head says, “I’m ready for war whenever I see light”. All they have to do to see light is take the bag off their head, so they are saying that they are ready for war whenever it is convenient for them to say that they are.

Anyone who supports the Lieberman bill is declaring themselves for war. If AIPAC makes the Lieberman bill an ask for its March policy conference, then at least we’ll be done with the pretence that AIPAC is doing anything besides trying to get the US into another Middle East war.

Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.

Link to original article: Robert Naiman: Does AIPAC Want War? Lieberman “Capability” Red Line May Tip AI

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So many of us in the ‘West’, when we hear of the ‘problems’ facing Palestinian Christians immediately think ‘Muslims’.  This is all a part of the propaganda. The Palestinian people – Christian and Muslim – have suffered together under the Occupation, though the Christian community have also had their own specific cross to bear.

Out of Palestine: Solidarity with a displaced people

Elizabeth G. Burr | FEBRUARY 27, 2012

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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 religion—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.”

View a slideshow of Palestinian Christian life.

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: www.americamagazine.org…

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Dan Stone writes: I wish the U.S. were as malleable as israel on this issue of either charging someone or releasing him. But Obama refused to release Bradley Manning, letting him rot in the military brig with no charges for months, and then illegally stated Pfc Manning was guilty — with NO TRIAL!! The President of the United States states someone is guilty, with no trial. Obviously, it has slipped Obama’s mind just what political system we live in.

Bush jettisoned one of our most valuable political treasures — habeas corpus — and Obama has refused to reinstate it. If Americans cared about their civil liberties, they would demand Obama enforce habeas corpus, which means either charge political prisoners or release them in a timely manner. But the average American’s view is that, “Hey, (a) I’m not in jail, so what does it matter? And (b) the President said Manning was guilty, so he must be. “

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From Democracy Now

Palestinian Prisoner Khader Adnan to be Released from Israeli Jail After 66-Day Hunger Strike

Feb 21, 2012, 7 pages

Israel’s Justice Ministry says that the authorities will not renew the detention of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for 66 days. He is being held in Israel without charge or trial.

Under the deal, Adnan will be released on April 17. Doctors previously said Adnan was at immediate risk of death. We speak to three guests about his case: his sister, Maali Mousa; Bill Van Esveld, researcher at Human Rights Watch; and Danny Morrison, a friend of the late Irish republican activist Bobby Sands, who died on his 66th day of a hunger strike in 1981. “[Adnan] told us that, ‘I am going on this hunger strike until I have an honorable deal or getting out from this jail,'” said Mousa about her recent visit to see her brother. “But in the same time, his spirits were very high.”

Van Esveld accused Israel of violating international law by holding a Palestinian from the West Bank inside Israel. “It’s a violation of Israel’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions to detain people from the occupied West Bank in prisons, or hospitals, in this case, that are inside Israel,” he said. [includes rush transcript]

Guests:

Bill van Esveld, researcher at Human Rights Watch focusing on Israel and Palestine. He is based in Jerusalem.

Maali Mousa, Khader Adnan’s sister. She joins us on the phone from Arraba, West Bank.

Danny Morrison, Irish republican writer and activist. He is secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust.

Read Amy Goodman’s full interview and discussion here.

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Father Roy writes: What do we have here?  Another opportunist?  Greedy for power?  Mongering fear and calling for another war by proxy?  If Israel were to start bombing Iran, would this man call for the US to finance the operation?  He talks as tho he would prefer the US to do the bombing.  In either case, he’s reinforcing some very ugly stereotypes with his kind of talk.  Can this man be persuaded that peace would be good for Israel’s economy?  There can be no greater incentive than that.  Amy Goodman devotes today’s program on Democracy Now to the crisis in Syria.  It’s comprehensive.  Peers, please listen to her guest, Patrick Seale, towards the end of the program.  Please listen carefully, because people are getting killed over there.    Peace, Roy

Ex-Mossad chief sees opportunity in Syrian crisis

By EDMUND SANDERS/LOS ANGELES TIMES/MCT02/22/2012 03:10

Israel should focus on striking Iran politically and diplomatically – through the fall of Assad, Efraim Halevy tells ‘Los Angeles Times.’

Former Mossad head Efraim Halevy.By Ariel Jerozolimski

Instability in Syria poses stark security risks for Israel, but also offers a chance to deliver a stinging blow to Iran’s regional ambitions and even its nuclear program, Israel’s former national security adviser Efraim Halevy says.

Israel in recent weeks has been consumed by a debate over the wisdom of launching a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. But Halevy, who also led the Mossad spy agency from 1998 to 2002, believes Israel should also focus on exploiting the opportunity to strike Iran politically and diplomatically – through the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a staunch ally of Iran.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Halevy, now a leading Israeli intelligence analyst, said the country should start to look at Iran and Syria as two sides of the same problem.

You have called Syria the Achilles’ heel of Iran. What do you mean?

Iran has invested enormous efforts in trying to secure Syria as a major partner. The Alawite (Muslim) minority is very close to the Shi’ites in Iran. The Syrian army is mainly based on Alawite command and has units that are purely Alawite.

This makes the Iranian investment all the more important.

Syria is also the conduit for Iran’s arming of the Hezbollah Shi’ite forces in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. If the regime falls in Syria and the Iranians are expelled, this is going to be a horrendous defeat for Iran.

How does Israel ensure that Iran is defeated in Syria? Wouldn’t it backfire if Israel were seen to be involved?

Israel shouldn’t be directly involved for obvious reasons.

Once Israel enters the fray, this becomes an Israeli-Arab or Israeli-Muslim confrontation, which deflects attention from the main issues of Sunni- Shi’ite, and the Shi’ite repression of a majority in a foreign country. Israel should promote through its channels with major powers in the world a dialogue between leaders in Western nations and Russia to try to forge a common policy on Syria, which would entail mutual concessions at the American and Russian level.

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Recently Israel has been very focused on Iran’s nuclear program and the debate over a strike. It is doing enough on Syria?

I don’t have any evidence that Israel is working on this, but I hope some work is being done. Israel has certain interests in Syria which have to be taken into account. The ultimate resolution of this crisis should not leave an Iranian presence in Syria with a weakened Assad. I don’t want to see Iran having its own finger on the button of Syria’s strategic weapons. Israel must make sure this does not happen.

You’ve said that a defeat in Syria would deal a blow to Iran’s nuclear program. Why?

The issue of Syria and of Iran’s nuclear capability are interconnected. You cannot divorce them. Iran’s effort to achieve nuclear capability and its effort to entrench itself in Syria are part of the same multifaceted regional problem.

One of the mistakes we’ve made up to this point is to deal with these issues separately.

Not that long ago, many in Israel were quietly hoping Assad’s regime would survive because he’s predictable in his relations with Israel and is the “devil you know.” With reports that al-Qaida-linked terrorists might be seeking a stronghold in Syria, do you worry that Assad might be replaced with an extremist Sunni regime that is even more hostile toward Israel?

I don’t think this is in the cards. The way things are at present, any replacement of Assad is better.

Even an extremist Sunni regime?

The Sunnis have been oppressed by the Alawites.

They are looking for freedom and dignity and all the things of the “Arab Spring.” They won’t come to power in order to launch an effort against Israel. Their immediate concerns would be to stabilize the situation inside Syria and move as quickly as possible to alleviate the pressure on the society.

There have been a lot of fears that Assad might try to move Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons and sophisticated missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Though everyone is talking about a military strike against Iran, what are the chances of such an Israeli strike in Syria to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands?

I don’t want to preempt Israeli operations or planning.

All I can say is that there are certain things, if carried out in Syria or Lebanon, that would be matters of grave concern to Israel, and Israel would not be able to accept.