The background to this open letter was a comment made by Katharine Jefferts Schori – the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States. Schori apparently rejected the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli goods and services, saying “invest in Palestine don’t divest from Israel”. Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, the founder of ‘Sabeel’, points out the fates of Israel and Palestine cannot be so easily separated.
An Open Letter to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori by Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek
3 April 2012
Dear Bishop Schori,
Greetings from Jerusalem on this holy week in which we remember the passion and suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Your words at the March 25th Los Angeles luncheon in which you emphatically said, invest in Palestine don’t divest from Israel reached us on Monday of Holy Week. Those words shocked and hurt us. They felt like nails hammered into our bodies and the truth of our reality, as though we Palestinians are living a lie — only imagining things, and if we only eat, talk, and share our stories, everything will be alright. For twenty years now, that is exactly what we have been doing – eating, drinking, telling each other our stories, not to mention hugging and embracing, meanwhile Israel was feasting on our land. Your words sounded as someone who never came and never saw. As we go through holy week, we feel the ongoing agony, pain, and oppression of our people — our homes demolished, our land confiscated, our olive trees uprooted, our human and political rights denied and our dignity trampled. After over 40 years of misery we only hear “the Episcopal Church does not endorse divestment or boycott.”
Economists’ reports, including the World Bank’s, have emphasized the futility of investment under occupation since all key aspects of a true economy are directly in the hands of Israel the occupier. Israel alone holds control of the area’s water, movement and access, every border, air-space, electricity, electromagnetic spectrum, and trade relations. Moreover, the Palestinians have recognized Israel (1988) and its right to exist (1993). They have renounced and denounced “terrorism” and accepted a Palestinian state on 22% of historic Palestine.
Yet, the occupation is not over. The settlements are expanding, our suffering continues, and the international community is unable to halt the injustice. Consequently, we see boycott, divestment, and sanctions as nonviolent direct action for the common good.
We thank God for those people – Christians, Muslims, and Jews who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Thank God for people of conscience who are lifting up their prophetic voice! Thank God for all those, religious and secular people that are standing with us in our nonviolent struggle.
By the mercy of God we will not allow the prophetic voice to die. Thank God for the prophetic voices of people who wrote comments after your words. Thank God for Bishop Desmond Tutu who was not afraid to speak the truth to the powers when he saw the oppression of the Palestinians and declared that it was worse than Apartheid in South Africa!
It is appropriate to recall Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to silence the disciples and the crowd who were shouting “Hosanna!” The word hosanna means save us now. It was the cry of oppressed people who were living under Roman occupation. They were looking for liberation from the yoke of the Romans. The powers were embarrassed and afraid of what the Roman soldiers might do as they were watching on. They turned to Jesus and said, “order them to stop.” Jesus’ response was, “if these were silent, the stones will shout out” (Luke 19:40).
If the church is afraid to cry out against injustice and oppression, the living stones, the common people will cry out. It is the cry of the widow to the unjust judge, “give me justice!” Ultimately, the future is for truth and justice because God is a God of truth and justice. It is only on such foundations that genuine peace can be built. It is not money that Palestinians need most, it is justice and liberation. Everything else will be added to us.
Next Sunday we will proclaim the victory of life over death, of justice over injustice, light over darkness, liberation over enslavement. We will continue to struggle for a just peace for all the people of our land.
Christ is Risen.
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem
cc. Bishop Suhail Dawani
Bishop J. Jon Bruno
Here’s a vivid description of the brutality involved in home demolitions.
Demolition of houses in the Jordan Valley 29.3.2012
Date: 29/03/2012 ,Afternoon
Observers: Dorit Hershkowitz, Dafna Banai (reporting, taking photos)
Translator: Charles K.
On Monday, 26.3.12, darkness fell on Khabis Sawaftah’s family. While the family members were busy with their morning tasks, two bulldozers, 12 vehicles
from the Civil Administration, Border Police personnel and about 40 additional soldiers descended on them, ordering them out of their home. Khabis, his wife and their five children stood 20 meters away, the soldiers standing between them and the house, watching Civil Administration personnel dumping their belongings, sacks of lentils and rice tearing and spilling everywhere. Blankets and mattresses, schoolbooks and clothing – all tossed around as if they were garbage.
When they finished emptying the house of its inhabitants’ lives, Civil Administration personnel entered to photograph the empty structure (to prove that the compassionate occupier destroys only empty homes and not, God forbid, their contents). Then it was the reaper’s turn; in a few minutes the home had been turned into a pile of stones, boards and plastic sheeting.
The family cat refused to abandon her kittens; the house was demolished around them. But cats, of course, have nine lives, and a few hours later the family saw the cat climbing out of the rubble, carrying her six kittens, hale and hearty. The chicken that hid in the aluminum stove also survived but, traumatized, refuses to leave it.
The lives of Khabis and his children (the oldest is 13) have been destroyed. Khabis is a wage laborer, the poorest of the poor, living on land belonging to our friend Nidal, which is registered in his name in the tabu – the land registry. Nidal employs him to cultivate the fields and take care of the date palms in return for meager pay and housing. But they somehow managed to survive. Now the house is gone, everything that provided even a minimum of security, a place to lay their heads, store some food and shelter from the burning sun and the rain – all gone.
People from the UN, the Red Cross (which brought a small plastic tent) and many politicians from the Palestinian Authority arrived a few hours later with fine, encouraging words, praise for the family’s steadfastness, their attachment to the land, the same politicians who disappear immediately afterward, leaving Khabis and others like him to deal with demolition orders and to pay court fees ofmore than 1000 shekels to delay the demolition order (the homes of those who paid weren’t demolished). Khabis has barely enough money for food and books for the children – how can he pay court fees?
After they depart, Khabis is left with his pain, helpless – what happens now? What can he say to Khaled, his 13 year old son, who refuses to greet the Jewish women two days after their countrymen destroyed his life, looking at us with such justifiable hatred. And we sit with the family, the little girl seated on the ground in the tent doing her homework, listening to them tearfully repeat what occurred during those forty terrible minutes. And we have nothing at all to say in reply. Because, no matter how much solidarity we feel, we can’t even begin to imagine how terrible it must be when a bulldozer demolishes your home.
But, when we leave, Khaled lowers his head as we pass, whispering in Hebrew, “Goodbye.” And my heart breaks.
According to the OCHA report: “At El Hama and Furus Bet Dajan, on 26.3.12, six residential buildings, three structures housing animals and three storage buildings were demolished, leading to the forcible uprooting of 36 persons, including 13 children.” The army demolished an additional 12 structures housing animals at Khumsa and El Farsiyya, affecting the livelihoods of 40 people who are particularly weak and vulnerable and have difficulty surviving in any case. And during the previous week the army demolished structures at Fasi’el-al-Wista and Jiftlik.
Every such incident makes entire families homeless, broken and at a loss, like that of Khabis.
We saw no point on such a day to record that people were delayed ten additional unnecessary minutes at a checkpoint, or had an annoying wait for the occupier to wave them through. Today we let the checkpoints be.
What, then, did we do? We met A., who gave us a power of attorney document for a lawyer. A. had been jailed in the Ofer base; his belongings (telephone, money) weren’t returned when he was released. The lawyer will try to obtain them.
Then we met S., who had also been released from jail. Two weeks ago they’d brought him in the middle of the night to the Shomron gate, an entry point to Israel, and released him. Only then did he discover that the police officers hadn’t brought his ID with them. S. walked from the checkpoint along Highway 5 for an hour and a half, at night, without an ID card. Why did he walk? Because Highway 5 is an apartheid road, Palestinians are forbidden to drive on it, settlers and other Israelis won’t stop for him and give him a ride to the nearest locality where he can get a taxi. When I telephoned Hadarim prison to ask about the ID, I was told that only S. or his lawyer was allowed to come pick it up. But how can S. come to Israel (the jails are in Israel, in violation of the Geneva Convention) without an ID? Get a lawyer – and who’ll pay? He hasn’t any money. So S. is stuck, unable to move around, confined to his home because he has no ID.
And that’s it.
The occupation’s routine in the Jordan Valley.
Read the original article on the Rebuilding Alliance website
Gunter Grass, by Marcus Brandt in the Guardian
The following poem by Nobel Prize-winning author, Gunter Grass, is causing a lot of controversy. The poem says that a nuclear-armed Israel is a threat to world peace.” Tom Segev has said that Grass is “pathetic” and is guilty about his Nazi past.
What Has to be Said
Why I am silent, silent for too much time,
how much is clear and we made it
in war games, where, as survivors,
we are just the footnotes
That is the claimed right to the formal preventive aggression
which could erase the Iranian people
dominated by a bouncer and moved to an organized jubilation,
because in the area of his competence there is
the construction of the atomic bomb
And then why do I avoid myself
to call the other country with its name,
where since years – even if secretly covered –
there is an increasing nuclear power,
without control, because unreachable
by every inspection?
I feel the everybody silence on this state of affairs,
which my silence is slave to,
as an oppressive lie and an inhibition that presents punishment
we don’t pay attention to;
the verdict “anti-Semitism” is common
Now, since my country,
from time to time touched by unique and exclusive crimes,
obliged to justify itself,
again for pure business aims – even if
with fast tongue we call it “reparation” –
should deliver another submarine to Israel,
with the specialty of addressing
annihilating warheads where the
existence of one atomic bomb is not proved
but it wants evidence as a scarecrow,
I say what must be said
Why did I stay silent until now?
Because the thought about my origin,
burdened by an unclearing stain,
had avoiding to wait this fact
like a truth declared by the State of Israel
that I want to be connected to
Why did I say it only now,
old and with the last ink:
the nuclear power of Israel
threat the world peace?
Because it must be said
what tomorrow will be too late;
Because – as Germans and with
enough faults on the back –
we might also become deliverers of a predictable
crime, and no excuse would erase our complicity
And I admit: I won’t be silent
because I had enough of the Western hypocrisy;
Because I wish that many will want
to get rid of the silence,
exhorting the cause of a recognizable
risk to the abdication, asking that a free and permanent control
of the Israel atomic power
and the Iran nuclear bases
will be made by both the governments
with an international supervision
Only in this way, Israelis, Palestinians, and everybody,
all people living hostile face to face in that
country occupied by the craziness,
will have a way out,
so us too
Translator’s note: The translation is not perfect, but no poem can be translated to its perfection from any language into another.
Australian Catholic Bishop Pat Power prepared the following paper for the ‘International Conference on Jerusalem’ that was held in Doha, Qatar, in late February 2012. Unfortunately the paper was not discussed.
My personal thanks go out to Bishop Power for allowing his excellent paper to be published in this blog.
Bishop Pat Power (pic taken from Catholic News)
Perspective of an Australian Catholic Bishop
Doha, Qatar. 26-27 February 2012
My father was of Irish descent and my mother’s parents (Abukhalil) migrated from Lebanon to Australia in the 1890s. I am proud of my ancestry but painfully aware of many of the cultural and religious conflicts in both Ireland and Lebanon; at the same time I am heartened by the restoration of peace in both nations in recent times. One of my hopes when made a bishop over 25 years ago was to do what I could to be a bridge-builder and a peace- maker both within my own Church and in the wider community.
Visiting the Holy Land as a pilgrim in 1973 and again in 1988, I was deeply disturbed by what I observed as the harsh treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli authorities. I recognise that there is fault on both sides but there is also a great imbalance of power. On my 1988 visit I witnessed fighter jets, helicopter gunships, armoured tanks and a menacing military presence on the streets, and at one point was confronted with tear gas in Jerusalem.
I deplore any form of violence, but while the Australian/Western media make much of occasional outbreaks by desperate Palestinians, it is rarely acknowledged that in the overall conflict, Palestinian casualties outnumber those of the Israelis by about ten to one.
The increasing number of illegal Israeli settlements resulting from the unjust confiscation of Palestinian homes and land by Israelis is another example of criminal behaviour which the international community, including the United States of America seemingly condones.
In my time as bishop, I have done what I can in Canberra and more widely through the media to other parts of Australia to protest against the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinian people. I welcome participation at this conference as an opportunity to be better informed on the issues and to make whatever contribution I can to peace in the Holy Land.
The Kairos Palestine Document. A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.
This incisive document was issued on 11 December 2009 and is available in a number of languages at www.kairospalestine.ps
It represents a heartfelt cry from Palestinian Christians “from within the suffering of our country, under the Israeli occupation, with a cry of hope, a cry full of prayer and faith in a God ever vigilant, in God’s divine providence for all the inhabitants of this land…..We address ourselves to our brothers and sisters, members of our Churches in this land. We call out as Christians and as Palestinians to our religious and political leaders, to our Palestinian society and to the Israeli society, to the international community and to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Churches around the world.”
I view my participation in this conference as in some small part responding to this moving appeal.
The Palestinian Christians see Jerusalem as central to their struggle: “Jerusalem is the heart of our reality. It is, at the same time, symbol of peace and sign of conflict. While the separation wall divides Palestinian neighbourhoods, Jerusalem continues to be emptied of its Palestinian citizens, Christians and Muslims. Their identity cards are confiscated, which means the loss of their right to reside in Jerusalem. Their homes are demolished or expropriated. Jerusalem, city of reconciliation, has become a city of discrimination and exclusion, a source of struggle rather than peace. Also part of this reality is the Israeli disregard of international law and international resolutions, as well as the paralysis of the Arab world and the international community in the face of this contempt. Human rights are violated and despite the various reports of local and international human rights organisations, the injustice continues.”
As the Kairos Palestine Document reaches its conclusion it raises hopes which I am sure are on the hearts of us all at this conference. “Jerusalem is the foundation of our vision and our entire life. She is the city to which God gave a particular importance in the history of humanity. She is the city towards which all people are in movement – and where they will meet in friendship and love in the presence of the One Unique God according to the vision of the prophet Isaiah: ‘In the days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares , and their spears into pruning hooks; nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’(Isaiah 2,2-5).Today, the city is inhabited by two peoples of three religions; and it is on this prophetic vision and on the international resolutions concerning the totality of Jerusalem that any political solution must be based. This is the first issue that should be negotiated because the recognition of Jerusalem’s sanctity and message will be a source of inspiration towards finding a solution to the entire problem, which is largely a problem of mutual trust and ability to set in place a new land in this land of God.”
The National Council of Churches in Australia meeting in Canberra in July 2010 responded to the Kairos Document adding its voice “to Christian voices throughout the world calling for an early end to the occupation of Palestine through a freely and peacefully negotiated solution in accordance with international law and United Nations resolutions.”
I am aware that historically conflicts between Muslims , Jews and Christians have caused untold loss of life and property and given rise to much hatred and suspicion. But I also believe that these three great faiths which all recognise Abraham as their father in faith are able to draw on the best of their traditions to find solutions which recognise the rights of all the people involved. In publicly opposing the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I asked the question “Is an Iraqi life of any less value than an
American life, a British life or an Australian life?” I ask this conference “Is every life in Jerusalem of unique value and is every human right to be strenuously defended? What practical proposals are we able to offer the international community in the quest for peace in Jerusalem and the Holy Land?”
Statement by Australian Church Leaders, Bethlehem 18 December 2007
This delegation of nine people from a broad spectrum of Christian Churches reported after widely travelling and consulting in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land. What follows is the substance of their report.
“We were distressed to hear Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim, relate the suffering and fear experienced daily by large numbers of their people. We saw and heard evidence of systematic harassment, physical and psychological oppression, widespread unemployment, poverty, and economic deprivation, resulting directly or indirectly from Israeli military occupation of the West Bank. Their suffering compels us to respond, and we assure Palestinians of our compassion and concern.
“We visited Yad Vashem and laid a wreath in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. We heard of Israeli grief and pain resulting from violent attacks and continuing fear of terrorist activity. We condemn all acts of terrorism and assure Israelis of our compassion and concern.
“We recognise the complex nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We strongly affirm the right of both Israel and Palestine to political autonomy, security and self-determination. We join with a large majority of the people of Palestine and Israel in longing for a just and lasting peace. We understand the reluctance to make concessions or to trust those who are the source of fear and oppression, but the time for courageous and inspiring leadership has come.
“In the light of what we have seen and heard during this visit, we support actions to enable Israel and Palestine to negotiate just outcomes on borders, settlements, water, refugees, prisoners, Jerusalem and security.
“We are particularly concerned by the imprisonment of teenagers, mothers with dependent children, and those detained without trial for long periods. We encountered the debilitating effects on the Palestinian economy and impacts on daily life of the segregated road system, the proliferation of checkpoints and road blocks throughout the West Bank, restriction on movement of people and goods, and the effective isolation of Palestinian communities from one another. We were repeatedly told that these matters stand in the way of a just peace.”
These observations are consistent with what I understand about the situation in Israel and Palestine.
Statements of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI
The Holy See (Vatican) has consistently supported the notion of Jerusalem being a city shared by Palestinians and Israelis, Muslims, Jews and Christians. The Vatican entered into diplomatic relations with Israel in 1994 and in January 1996, Pope John Paul II welcomed the Representative of the Palestinian People to the meeting with the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. At this meeting the Pope spoke of the need for a just and adequate solution to be found for the problem of Jerusalem. “The religious and universal dimension of the Holy City demands a commitment on the part of the whole international community, in order to ensure that the City preserves its uniqueness and retains its living character. The Holy Places, dear to the three monotheistic religions , are of course important for believers, but they would lose much of their significance if they were not permanently surrounded by active communities of Jews, Christians and Muslims enjoying true freedom of conscience and religion, and developing their own religious, educational and social activities. The year 1996 should see the beginning of negotiations on the definitive status of the territories under the administration of the National Palestinian Authority, and also on the sensitive issue of the City of Jerusalem. It is my hope that the international community will offer the political partners most directly involved the juridical and diplomatic instruments capable of ensuring that Jerusalem, one and holy, may be truly a ‘crossroads of peace.’ “
At the outset of his visit to the Holy Land in March 2000, Pope John Paul expressed his hopes: “I pray that my visit will serve to encourage an increase of interreligious dialogue that will lead Jews, Christians and Muslims to seek in their respective beliefs, and in the universal brotherhood that unites all the members of the human family, the motivation and the perseverance to work for the peace and justice which the peoples of the Holy Land do not yet have and for which they yearn so deeply.”
At the January 2001 assembly of the Diplomatic Corps at the Vatican, Pope John Paul reflected on his visit to the Holy Land the previous year.” It is time to return to the principles of international legality: the banning of the acquisition of territory by force, the right of peoples to self-determination, respect for the resolutions of the United Nations Organization and the Geneva conventions, to quote only the most important. Otherwise, anything can happen: from unilateral rash initiatives to an extension of violence which will be difficult to control.”
Pope Benedict has continued along similar lines to his predecessor. He visited the Holy Land in May 2009. He spoke with sadness of the lack of peace in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land. “Even though Jerusalem means ‘city of peace’, it is all too evident that, for decades, peace has tragically eluded the inhabitants of this holy land. They eyes of the world are upon the peoples of this region as they struggle to achieve a just and lasting solution to conflicts that have caused so much suffering. The hopes of countless men, women and children for a more secure and stable future depend on the outcome of negotiations for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In union with people of good will everywhere, I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognised borders. In this regard, I hope that a greater climate of trust can soon be created that will enable the parties to make real progress along the road to peace and stability.”
At the beginning of 2010, Pope Benedict again spoke strongly about the Holy Land, making a number of points:
- The right of the State of Israel to exist and to enjoy peace and security within internationally recognised borders.
- The right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign and independent homeland, to live in dignity and to enjoy freedom of movement.
- The protection of the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem, and of its cultural and religious heritage which is of universal value.
At Christmas 2010, the Pope repeated his plea for genuine peace in the Holy Land while in his 2011 World Day of Peace message he spoke of the need for genuine religious freedom as a path to peace.
No fair-minded persons can be happy with the current treatment of the Palestinian people. In the face of an Israeli government which is becoming more and more intransigent and dismissive of the rights of Palestinians, they must wonder why the United States and other Western countries stand by idly and helplessly in the face of blatant injustices perpetrated by a government which is scornful of any questioning of its inhumane policies. The treatment of the people of Gaza, the confiscation of Palestinian land and homes, the construction of illegal Israeli settlements, the building of a wall separating Palestinians from each other as well as other obstacles to freedom of movement, the unfair allocation of water are just some of the violations of justice against the Palestinian people. Successive Popes have pointed out that there can be no genuine or lasting peace which is not underpinned by justice. Jerusalem, which is the particular focus of this conference, highlights the plight of the Palestinian people. Deprived of their freedom, homes, property, the opportunity to trade and to work, Palestinians in Jerusalem are even in danger of losing their identity when their papers are confiscated by Israeli authorities.
The 64 years of pain and suffering the Palestinians have endured are enough. This paper has shown how the Catholic Church and other Christians have cried out for peace and justice in the Holy Land.
The Arab League has rightly demanded that Israel end the occupation and withdraw to the 1967 borders. Jerusalem needs to be secured as a city for all faiths with Muslims and Christians from outside Jerusalem being given the opportunity to pray in the Holy City. Provision needs to be made for the millions of Palestinian refugees by providing a right of return and just compensation in accordance with UN Resolution 194.
I plead for patience and restraint on the part of the Palestinian people, for good will, a sense of justice and practical peace-making actions on the part of Israel and a firm resolve on the part of the international community to broker a peace which is based on justice and respects the dignity and rights of all the people involved. I pray for that climate of trust called for by Pope Benedict and I pray that the God of Abraham will bless these steps towards a peaceful solution in the Holy Land.
(Bishop) Patrick Power
The following article is written by Uri Avnery – great Israeli peace activist and founder of Gush-Shalom (Israel’s ‘Peace Bloc’). Avnery often refers to Barghouti as Palestine’s ‘Nelson Mandela’!
The New Mandela
MARWAN BARGHOUTI has spoken up. After a long silence, he has sent a message from prison.
In Israeli ears, this message does not sound pleasant. But for Palestinians, and for Arabs in general, it makes sense.
His message may well become the new program of the Palestinian liberation movement.
I FIRST met Marwan in the heyday of post-Oslo optimism. He was emerging as a leader of the new Palestinian generation, the home-grown young activists, men and women, who had matured in the first Intifada.
He is a man of small physical stature and large personality. When I met him, he was already the leader of Tanzim (“organization”), the youth group of the Fatah movement.
The topic of our conversations then was the organization of demonstrations and other non-violent actions, based on close cooperation between the Palestinians and Israeli peace groups. The aim was peace between Israel and a new State of Palestine.
When the Oslo process died with the assassinations of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Marwan and his organization became targets. Successive Israeli leaders – Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon – decided to put an end to the two-state agenda. In the brutal “Defensive Shield operation (launched by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, the new leader of the Kadima Party) the Palestinian Authority was attacked, its services destroyed and many of its activists arrested.
Marwan Barghouti was put on trial. It was alleged that, as the leader of Tanzim, he was responsible for several “terrorist” attacks in Israel. His trial was a mockery, resembling a Roman gladiatorial arena more than a judicial process. The hall was packed with howling rightists, presenting themselves as “victims of terrorism”. Members of Gush Shalom protested against the trial inside the court building but we were not allowed anywhere near the accused.
Marwan was sentenced to five life sentences. The picture of him raising his shackled hands above his head has become a Palestinian national icon. When I visited his family in Ramallah, it was hanging in the living room.
IN PRISON, Marwan Barghouti was immediately recognized as the leader of all Fatah prisoners. He is respected by Hamas activists as well. Together, the imprisoned leaders of Fatah and Hamas published several statements calling for Palestinian unity and reconciliation. These were widely distributed outside and received with admiration and respect.
(Members of the extended Barghouti family, by the way, play a major role in Palestinian affairs across the entire spectrum from moderate to extremist. One of them is Mustapha Barghouti, a doctor who heads a moderate Palestinian party with many connections abroad, whom I regularly meet at demonstrations in Bilin and elsewhere. I once joked that we always cry when we see each other – from tear gas. The family has its roots in a group of villages north of Jerusalem.)
NOWADAYS, MARWAN Barghouti is considered the outstanding candidate for leader of Fatah and president of the Palestinian Authority after Mahmoud Abbas. He is one of the very few personalities around whom all Palestinians, Fatah as well as Hamas, can unite.
After the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, when the prisoner exchange was discussed, Hamas put Marwan Barghouti on top of the list of Palestinian prisoners whose release it demanded. This was a very unusual gesture, since Marwan belonged to the rival – and reviled – faction.
The Israeli government struck Marwan from the list right away, and remained adamant. When Shalit was finally released, Marwan stayed in prison. Obviously he was considered more dangerous than hundreds of Hamas “terrorists” with “blood on their hands”.
Cynics would say: because he wants peace. Because he sticks to the two-state solution. Because he can unify the Palestinian people for that purpose. All good reasons for a Netanyahu to keep him behind bars.
SO WHAT did Marwan tell his people this week?
Clearly, his attitude has hardened. So, one must assume, has the attitude of the Palestinian people at large.
He calls for a Third Intifada, a non-violent mass uprising in the spirit of the Arab Spring.
His manifesto is a clear rejection of the policy of Mahmoud Abbas, who maintains limited but all-important cooperation with the Israeli occupation authorities. Marwan calls for a total rupture of all forms of cooperation, whether economic, military or other.
A focal point of this cooperation is the day-to-day collaboration of the American-trained Palestinian security services with the Israeli occupation forces. This arrangement has effectively stopped violent Palestinian attacks in the occupied territories and in Israel proper. It guarantees, In practice, the security of the growing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Marwan also calls for a total boycott of Israel, Israeli institutions and products in the Palestinian territories and throughout the world. Israeli products should disappear from West Bank shops, Palestinian products should be promoted.
At the same time, Marwan advocates an official end to the charade called “peace negotiations”. This term, by the way, is never heard anymore in Israel. First it was replaced with “peace process”, then “political process”, and lately “the political matter”. The simple word “peace” has become taboo among rightists and most “leftists” alike. It’s political poison.
Marwan proposes to make the absence of peace negotiations official. No more international talk about “reviving the peace process”, no more rushing around of ridiculous people like Tony Blair, no more hollow announcements by Hillary Clinton and Catherine Ashton, no more empty declarations of the “Quartet”. Since the Israeli government clearly has abandoned the two-state solution – which it never really accepted in the first place – keeping up the pretense just harms the Palestinian struggle.
Instead of this hypocrisy, Marwan proposes to renew the battle in the UN. First, apply again to the Security Council for the acceptance of Palestine as a member state, challenging the US to use its solitary veto openly against practically the whole world. After the expected rejection of the Palestinian request by the Council as a result of the veto, request a decision by the General Assembly, where the vast majority would vote in favor. Though this would not be binding, it would demonstrate that the freedom of Palestine enjoys the overwhelming support of the family of nations, and isolate Israel (and the US) even more.
Parallel to this course of action, Marwan insists on Palestinian unity, using his considerable moral force to put pressure on both Fatah and Hamas.
TO SUMMARIZE, Marwan Barghouti has given up all hope of achieving Palestinian freedom through cooperation with Israel, or even Israeli opposition forces. The Israeli peace movement is not mentioned anymore. “Normalization” has become a dirty word.
These ideas are not new, but coming from the No. 1 Palestinian prisoner, the foremost candidate for the succession of Mahmoud Abbas, the hero of the Palestinian masses, it means a turn to a more militant course, both in substance and in tone.
Marwan remains peace oriented – as he made clear when, in a rare recent appearance in court, he called out to the Israeli journalists that he continues to support the two-state solution. He also remains committed to non-violent action, having come to the conclusion that the violent attacks of yesteryear harmed the Palestinian cause instead of furthering it.
He wants to call a halt to the gradual and unwilling slide of the Palestinian Authority into a Vichy-like collaboration, while the expansion of the Israeli “settlement enterprise” goes on undisturbed.
NOT BY accident did Marwan publish his manifesto on the eve of “Land Day”, the world-wide day of protest against the occupation.
“Land Day” is the anniversary of an event that took place in 1976 to protest against the decision of the Israeli government to expropriate huge tracts of Arab-owned land in Galilee and other parts of Israel. The Israeli army and police fired on the protesters, killing six of them. (The day after, two of my friends and I laid wreaths on the graves of the victims, an act that earned me an outbreak of hatred and vilification I have seldom experienced.)
Land day was a turning point for Israel’s Arab citizens, and later became a symbol for Arabs everywhere. This year, the Netanyahu government threatened to shoot anybody who even approaches our borders. It may well be a harbinger for the Third Intifada heralded by Marwan.
For some time now, the world has lost much of its interest in Palestine. Everything looks quiet. Netanyahu has succeeded in deflecting world attention from Palestine to Iran. But in this country, nothing is ever static. While it seems that nothing is happening, settlements are growing incessantly, and so is the deep resentment of the Palestinians who see this happening before their eyes.
Marwan Barghouti’s manifesto expresses the near-unanimous feelings of the Palestinians in the West Bank and elsewhere. Like Nelson Mandela in apartheid South Africa, the man in prison may well be more important than the leaders outside.
Read more of Avnery’s wisdom on the Gush-Shalom website