We visited the refugee camp in Baalbek, near the Lebanese/Syrian border in the first week of May, 2013. The camp has been housing around 4,000 Palestinian refugees, mainly from the Galilee area, for more than a generation. In the last two years though they’ve had to cope with an influx of 7,400 Syrian refugees!
The camp manager received our delegation warmly when we arrived, mid-afternoon without an appointment. He spoke to us briefly in the dim light of his office (there was no electricity). We asked him how an already crowded refugee camp could possibly absorb an influx of new refugees that is twice its original size! His answer was simple. “Every family adopts two new families … in some cases three!”
The Palestinians of Baalbek are simply an inspiration, though it’s hard to know how long these people can continue in this impossible situation. One small contribution I think we could make is to run some boxing camps for the young people during their summer holidays. I think Denning would be the ideal person to manage it! Does anyone else want to volunteer?
The first video is Luke Waters’ coverage of the camp, screened for SBS TV. Luke was a valued member of our team until his employer said that he couldn’t join us on our trip into Syria (or so I was told)!
(if you can’t view this video, click here)
The second video is Denning clowning around. I don’t know the prelude to this scene but when I arrived he’d been teaching his charges to be ‘Aussies‘ for some time! 😉
(if you can’t view this video, click here)
What exactly was going on outside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Easter Sunday? I’m not sure. Even so, I know some of the signatories to this declaration, and I know that they are not brash or inflammatory people. Further, this list seems comprehensive! It seems that all the Christian leaders of Jerusalem are united over this!
It would appear that the Israeli government is trying to make life in the ‘Holy Land’ as uncomfortable as possible for Christians. This makes sense in terms of the goal of maintaining Israel as a Jewish state. The problem is that such actions potentially do enormous damage to the country’s traditional religious support base – American Evangelical Christians!
A Statement from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches inJerusalem, concerning the Israeli police measures on Holy Saturday- May 2013
We, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, watched withsorrowful hearts the horrific scenes of the brutal treatment of our clergy,people, and pilgrims in the Old City of Jerusalem during Holy Saturday lastweek. A day of joy and celebration was turned to great sorrow and pain for someof our faithful because they were ill-treated by some Israeli policemen whowere present around the gates of the Old City and passages that lead to theHoly Sepulcher.
We understand the necessity and the importance of thepresence of security forces to ensure order and stability, and for organizingthe celebration of the Holy Fire at the Church of the Resurrection. Yet, it isnot acceptable that under pretext of security and order, our clergy and peopleare indiscriminately and brutally beaten, and prevented from entering theirchurches, monasteries and convents.
We urge the Israeli authorities especially the Ministry ofInterior and the police department in Jerusalem, to seriously consider ourcomplaints, to hold responsibility and to condemn all acts of violence againstour faithful and the clergy who were ill-treated by the police. We deplore thatevery year, the police measures are becoming tougher, and we expect that theseaccidents will not be repeated and the police should be more sensitive andrespectful if they seek to protect and serve.
We also denounce all those who are blaming the churches and holdingthem responsible of the Israeli measures during Holy Week celebrations. On thecontrary, the Heads of churches in Jerusalem condemn all of these measures andviolations of Christians’ rights to worship in their churches and Holy Sites.Therefore, we condemn all measures of closing the Old City and urge the Israeliauthorities to allow full access to the Holy sites during Holy Week of bothChurch Calendars.
The Heads of Churches of Jerusalem
- +Patriarch Theophilos III, GreekOrthodox Patriarchate
- +Patriarch Fouad Twal, LatinPatriarchate
- +Patriarch Norhan Manougian,Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
- +Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm,Custos of the Holy Land
- +Archbishop Anba Abraham, CopticOrthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
- +Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad,Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
- +Aba Fissiha Tsion, Locum Tenensof the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
- +Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey,Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
- +Archbishop Moussa El-Hage,Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
- +Bishop Suheil Dawani, EpiscopalChurch of Jerusalem and the Middle East
- +Bishop Munib Younan, EvangelicalLutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
- +Bishop Pierre Melki, SyrianCatholic Patriarchal Exarchate
- +Msgr. Joseph Antoine Kelekian,Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
One of the classic questions in philosophy is “if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make any noise?”. I was reminded of that silently falling tree when I read of this cry from the US Bishops. Whatever noise they think they are making is barely relevant. Nobody is listening.
US Bishops Reiterate Call for 2-State Solution in Israel Conflict
Decry Plan to Confiscate Convent Land
Washington, D.C., May 07, 2013
The U.S. bishops support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and oppose policies that undermine a just resolution to the conflict, such as Israel’s decision to re-route the separation wall through the Cremisan Valley, said the chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.
In his May 6 letter, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, said the proposal would harm the livelihood of 58 Christian families in the region.
He added, “The route will separate a Salesian monastery from a Salesian convent, and will separate both from their lands. The Salesian Convent and Primary School will be surrounded on three sides by the barrier that will confiscate most of the convent’s lands.”
Bishop Pates echoed the concern of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who spoke on behalf of all bishops in the Holy Land in saying that such moves only exacerbate tensions in the region.
“The Cremisan Valley is a microcosm of a protracted pattern that has serious implications for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” wrote Bishop Pates. “As the wall moves and constricts more communities in the West Bank, the possibility of a future two-state resolution becomes less likely. Moving the wall and disassociating Palestinian families from their lands and livelihoods will incite more resentment against the State of Israel among residents of the West Bank, not less, increasing the frustrations that can lead to violence.”
Full text of Bishop Pates’ letter: www.us…
The real horror of this sort of abuse is that it is just so everyday. If 14 year-old Mohammad hadn’t been an American we probably would never have heard about this incident.
Shining a light on Israel’s military detention abuses
By George Bisharat, professor, Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco
At 2 am on April 5, eight heavily armed Israeli soldiers burst into the home of Mohammad Khaleq, a 14-year-old New Orleans honors student on a family visit to Silwad in the West Bank. Jolting Mohammad and his family awake, the soldiers arrested the youth, tied his hands, and threw him roughly onto the floor of a jeep. Later, Mohammad reports, the soldiers beat him and pushed him down, damaging his orthodontic braces on a rock.
He was shackled, blindfolded, handcuffed and held for 12 hours in Ofra, an Israeli settlement, before being transported to a police station. Two hours of incommunicado interrogation later, the boy admitted to charges of throwing rocks at Israeli cars. He says he confessed after Israeli interrogators promised him that was the only way to see his father.
Mohammad was eventually released after serving 14 days and paying a fine of about $800. His case fits a pattern chillingly familiar to many Palestinian youngsters, and one that is increasingly condemned.
A June 2012 report authored by nine distinguished British lawyers found Israel to be violating legal obligations to Palestinian children under both the Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In August 2012, an organization of Israeli soldiers called “Breaking the Silence” published testimonies by more than 30 troops describing a reign of terror against Palestinian youths, with beatings, intimidation, humiliation, verbal abuse, night-time arrests and injuries at the hands of Israeli forces. One soldier, while justifying arrests of children, marveled at a “kid who actually lay there on the ground, begging for his life, was actually nine years old… A loaded gun is pointed at him and he has to plead for mercy? This is something that scars him for life.”
Meanwhile, according to a UNICEF study published in February 2013,
“Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” Approximately 7,000 Palestinian juveniles, including some as young as 12, have been detained by Israeli forces in the last 10 years, and 236 are in Israeli prisons today. Many are convicted of throwing stones – an offense punishable under Israeli military law by up to 20 years imprisonment.
The military court system established by Israel soon after seizing the West Bank in 1967 was found in recent years to have a conviction rate of 99.74 percent. A special military juvenile court established in 2009 has failed to quell concerns over mistreatment of Palestinian youths. Few juveniles receive timely representation, and most admit guilt under coercive interrogation, often involving beatings or threats of sexual assault against them or other family members. Physical abuse of detainees of any age – torture – is absolutely barred under international law.
Ironically, the Jewish settlers commonly targeted by Palestinian stone-throwing youths inhabit settlements that, outside of Israel itself, are almost universally regarded as illegal. Jewish settler violence – including, per a 2013 U.N. report, 383 attacks causing injury to 169 Palestinians and damage to more than 8,000 olive trees – is rarely investigated. When charges are filed against Israelis, they are tried with the full protections of domestic Israeli law.
Sentences have often been lenient. None of this justifies Palestinian stone-throwing, which can be lethal. But a justice system that overlooks violence by Jews while crushing Palestinian defendants, including vulnerable and impressionable youths, will never command legitimacy. Instead it ensures a future generation of Palestinians who will know Israelis primarily through their cruelty.
Mohammad was atypical as a U.S. citizen caught up in Israel’s military detention grinder. Yet his case should be a wake-up call for U.S. citizens. As Israel’s principal military and diplomatic protector in the world today, we neglect our ally’s misdeeds at the peril of being tarnished by association. Abusing children is a hard one to live down.
Bisharat is a professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and writes frequently on the Middle East.
I love Uri Avnery, but this defense of the two-state solution functions more to undermine any hopes for a ‘one-state solution’ than it does to foster hope for the traditional vision of two sovereign states, living peaceably side by side.
Avnery asks what a ‘one-state solution’ would look like? I think most ‘one-staters’ see three basic ingredients:
- The end of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
- Equal rights for Arabs in Israel
- The right of return for Palestinian refugees.
These, of course, are the three goals of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, but if these three are met, surely a one-state solution has been achieved!
The Donkey of the Messiah
“THE TWO-STATE solution is dead!” This mantra has been repeated so often lately, by so many authoritative commentators, that it must be true.
Well, it ain‘t.
It reminds one of Mark Twain’s oft quoted words: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
BY NOW this has become an intellectual fad. To advocate the two-state solution means that you are ancient, old-fashioned, stale, stodgy, a fossil from a bygone era. Hoisting the flag of the “one-state solution” means that you are young, forward-looking, “cool”.
Actually, this only shows how ideas move in circles. When we declared in early 1949, just after the end of the first Israeli-Arab war, that the only answer to the new situation was the establishment of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, the “one-state solution” was already old.
The idea of a “bi-national state” was in vogue in the 1930s. Its main advocates were well-meaning intellectuals, many of them luminaries of the new Hebrew University, like Judah Leon Magnes and Martin Buber. They were reinforced by the Hashomer Hatza’ir kibbutz movement, which later became the Mapam party.
It never gained any traction. The Arabs believed that it was a Jewish trick. Bi-nationalism was built on the principle of parity between the two populations in Palestine – 50% Jews, 50% Arabs. Since the Jews at that time were much less than half the population, Arab suspicions were reasonable.
On the Jewish side, the idea looked ridiculous. The very essence of Zionism was to have a state where Jews would be masters of their fate, preferably in all of Palestine.
At the time, no one called it the “one-state solution” because there was already one state – the State of Palestine, ruled by the British. The “solution” was called “the bi-national state” and died, unmourned, in the war of 1948.
WHAT HAS caused the miraculous resurrection of this idea?
Not the birth of a new love between the two peoples. Such a phenomenon would have been wonderful, even miraculous. If Israelis and Palestinians had discovered their common values, the common roots of their history and languages, their common love for this country – why, wouldn’t that have been absolutely splendid?
But, alas, the renewed “one-state solution” was not born of another immaculate conception. Its father is the occupation, its mother despair.
The occupation has already created a de facto One State – an evil state of oppression and brutality, in which half the population (or slightly less than half) deprives the other half of almost all rights – human rights, economic rights and political rights. The Jewish settlements proliferate, and every day brings new stories of woe.
Good people on both sides have lost hope. But hopelessness does not stir to action. It fosters resignation.
LET’S GO back to the starting point. “The two-state solution is dead”. How come? Who says? In accordance with what scientific criteria has death been certified?
Generally, the spread of the settlements is cited as the sign of death. In the 1980s the respected Israeli historian Meron Benvenisti pronounced that the situation had now become “irreversible”. At the time, there were hardly 100 thousand settlers in the occupied territories (apart from East Jerusalem, which by common consent is a separate issue). Now they claim to be 300 thousand, but who is counting? How many settlers mean irreversibility? 100, 300, 500, 800 thousand?
History is a hothouse of reversibility. Empires grow and collapse. Cultures flourish and wither. So do social and economic patterns. Only death is irreversible.
I can think of a dozen different ways to solve the settlement problem, from forcible removal to exchange of territories to Palestinian citizenship. Who believed that the settlements in North Sinai would be removed so easily? That the evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlements would become a national farce?
In the end, there will probably be a mixture of several ways, according to circumstances.
All the Herculean problems of the conflict can be resolved – if there is a will. It’s the will that is the real problem.
THE ONE-STATERS like to base themselves on the South African experience. For them, Israel is an apartheid state, like the former South Africa, and therefore the solution must be South African-like.
The situation in the occupied territories, and to some extent in Israel proper, does indeed strongly resemble the apartheid regime. The apartheid example may be justly cited in political debate. But in reality, there is very little deeper resemblance – if any – between the two countries.
David Ben-Gurion once gave the South African leaders a piece of advice: partition. Concentrate the white population in the south, in the Cape region, and cede the other parts of the country to the blacks. Both sides in South Africa rejected this idea furiously, because both sides believed in a single, united country.
They largely spoke the same languages, adhered to the same religion, were integrated in the same economy. The fight was about the master-slave relationship, with a small minority lording it over a massive majority.
Nothing of this is true in our country. Here we have two different nations, two populations of nearly equal size, two languages, two (or rather, three) religions, two cultures, two totally different economies.
A false proposition leads to false conclusions. One of them is that Israel, like Apartheid South Africa, can be brought to its knees by an international boycott. About South Africa, this is a patronizing imperialist illusion. The boycott, moral and important as it was, did not do the job. It was the Africans themselves, aided by some local white idealists, who did it by their courageous strikes and uprisings.
I am an optimist, and I do hope that eventually Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs will become sister nations, living side by side in harmony. But to come to that point, there must be a period of living peacefully in two adjoining states, hopefully with open borders.
THE PEOPLE who speak now of the “one-state solution” are idealists. But they do a lot of harm. And not only because they remove themselves and others from the struggle for the only solution that is realistic.
If we are going to live together in one state, it makes no sense to fight against the settlements. If Haifa and Ramallah will be in the same state, what is the difference between a settlement near Haifa and one near Ramallah? But the fight against the settlements is absolutely essential, it is the main battlefield in the struggle for peace.
Indeed, the one-state solution is the common aim of the extreme Zionist right and the extreme anti-Zionist left. And since the right is incomparably stronger, it is the left that is aiding the right, and not the other way round.
In theory, that is as it should be. Because the one-staters believe that the rightists are only preparing the ground for their future paradise. The right is uniting the country and putting an end to the possibility of creating an independent State of Palestine. They will subject the Palestinians to all the horrors of apartheid and much more, since the South African racists did not aim at displacing and replacing the blacks. But in due course – perhaps in a mere few decades, or half a century – the world will compel Greater Israel to grant the Palestinians full rights, and Israel will become Palestine.
According to this ultra-leftist theory, the right, which is now creating the racist one state, is in reality the Donkey of the Messiah, the legendary animal on which the Messiah will ride to triumph.
It’s a beautiful theory, but what is the assurance that this will actually happen? And before the final stage arrives, what will happen to the Palestinian people? Who will compel the rulers of Greater Israel to accept the diktat of world public opinion?
If Israel now refuses to bow to world opinion and enable the Palestinians to have their own state in 28% of historical Palestine, why would they bow to world opinion in the future and dismantle Israel altogether?
Speaking about a process that will surely last 50 years and more, who knows what will happen? What changes will take place in the world in the meantime? What wars and other catastrophes will take the world’s mind off the “Palestinian issue”?
Would one really gamble the fate of one’s nation on a far-fetched theory like this?
ASSUMING FOR a moment that the one-state solution would really come about, how would it function?
Will Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs serve in the same army, pay the same taxes, obey the same laws, work together in the same political parties? Will there be social intercourse between them? Or will the state sink into an interminable civil war?
Other peoples have found it impossible to live together in one state. Take the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia. Serbia. Czechoslovakia. Cyprus. Sudan. The Scots want to secede from the United Kingdom. So do the Basques and the Catalans from Spain. The French in Canada and the Flemish in Belgium are uneasy. As far as I know, nowhere in the entire world have two different peoples agreed to form a joint state for decades.
NO, THE two-state solution is not dead. It cannot die, because it is the only solution there is.
Despair may be convenient and tempting. But despair is no solution at all.
Read more Avnery wisdom on the Gush Shalom website