israel and palestine articles
The following statement is impressive, in my view. What is more impressive though is the very fact that this team of church leaders from around the world took the time to travel to Gaza and stay there for a five-day period!
The presence of these men in Gaza at such a dark time in Palestine’s history speaks far more loudly than the most eloquent statement! Let’s pray that this is the start of a trend that may lead to a visit of the Pope to Gaza.
Here below is the statement released by Co-ordination of Bishops’ Conferences in support of the Holy Land, who have just completed a five day visit to the region.
January 15th 2014
“As bishops from Europe, South Africa and North America we came to the Holy Land to pray with and support the Christian community and the cause of peace. In Gaza we witnessed the deep poverty of the people, and the courageous presence of the small and vulnerable Christian communities there.
Gaza is a man-made disaster, a shocking scandal, an injustice that cries out to the human community for a resolution. We call upon political leaders to improve the humanitarian situation of the people in Gaza, assuring access to the basic necessities for a dignified human life, the possibilities for economic development, and freedom of movement.
In the seemingly hopeless situation of Gaza, we met people of hope. We were encouraged by our visit to tiny Christian communities, which day after day, through many institutions, reach out with compassion to the poorest of the poor, both Muslim and Christian. We continue to pray for and support the priests, religious and laypeople working in Gaza. They exercise a ministry of presence, care for disabled children and the elderly, and teach the young.
Their testimony of faith, hope and love gave us hope. This is precisely the hope needed at this moment to bring peace, a peace that can only be built on justice and equity for both peoples. Palestinians and Israelis desperately need this peace. For example, in the Cremisan valley the route of the security barrier threatens the agricultural land held for generations by 58 Christian families. The current peace talks come at a critical time. Now is the time to ensure that the aspirations for justice of both sides are fulfilled.
We urge public officials to become leaders of hope, not people of obstruction. We call upon them to listen to the words of Pope Francis, who recently said to the Diplomatic Corps: “The resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians is a positive sign, and I express my hope that both parties will resolve, with the support of the international community, to take courageous decisions aimed at finding a just and lasting solution to a conflict which urgently needs to end” (13 January, 2014).
As we leave the Holy Land, the bishops and people of the local Church remain in our hearts. They are not alone. Together with them we are people of hope. We pray that the visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land will reinforce hope in the region. We believe a lasting peace is possible.
Archbishop Stephen Brislin, South Africa
Bishop Pierre Burcher, Scandinavia
Bishop William Crean, Ireland
Bishop Michel Dubost, France
Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, Canada
Archbishop Patrick Kelly, England and Wales
Bishop William Kenney, England and Wales
Bishop Declan Lang, England and Wales
Bishop Denis Nulty, Ireland
Bishop Richard Pates, United States of America
Bishop Thomas Renz, Germany
Bishop Janusz Stepnowski, Poland
Archbishop Joan Enric Vives, Spain”
Ariel Sharon is not dead – not quite anyway. He has been effectively dead since January of 2006 when he went into a coma but the machines still keep his heart beating. Perhaps they will soon be turned off and, as Miko Peled predicts, accolades from around the world will come pouring in.
Miko is a friend of mine. I know him to be a tender and gracious man. I can understand why he would feel reticent to celebrate someone’s death – even the death of someone who did much damage to our world. The Biblical authors did not share his reticence. During our Bible readings over Christmas I was struck by how angels came with tidings of good news and great joy to various characters, including the angel who brings the good news of Herod’s death to Joseph while he is hiding out in Egypt (Matthew 2:19).
It is a tragic when we find ourselves rejoicing over someone’s death and yet in some cases you can almost sense the whole created order breathing a sigh of relief when they pass. Ariel Sharon is surely one such case.
Final Words on Sharon
by Miko Peled
I never understood how people could rejoice at the news of a person’s death. I happened to be in the UK when Margaret Thatcher died so I witnessed the celebrations. The expressions of joy as the news of the Iron Lady’s death spread around the country shocked me at first, as people were actually throwing parties to celebrate her death. As I visited different parts of the country, particularly Wales and Ireland, it occurred to me that when Ariel Sharon dies we may see similar outbursts of joy taking place.
Sharon has been in a coma since January 2006 when he suffered several brain hemorrhages that left him in a vegetative state. But now there is news that his kidneys are failing and concerns are expressed in Israel that there is a chance he will die soon.
One can imagine the long eulogies we will have to endure once he is laid to rest: “A hero,” “a great leader,” “a military genius,” all of this will be said and more. The press will recount every military achievement, ever battle he won, every enemy, both military and political that he defeated. His resolve as Israel’s leader will be heralded, and, we will be told, he will be remembered for giving his all to his country.
In my book, “The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine“, I mention Sharon several times, in his capacity as a military man who was cruel, brilliant, and reckless, then as defense minister, and finally as prime minister. But it is important to set the record straight about this man before the nauseating outpouring of condolences, replete with hypocrisy and lies, that are sure to follow his death.
Ariel Sharon was an ambitious man. He was brutal, greedy, uncompromising, and dishonest. He possessed an insatiable appetite for power, glory, and fortune. His tendencies as a cold-blooded, merciless killer were evident from early on in his career when he commanded the Israeli army’s Unit 101 in the 1950’s. Unit 101 was an infamous commando brigade with special license to kill and terrorize Palestinians. It operated mostly in Gaza, but also in other parts of the country and beyond. Unit 101 was so brutal in its practices, and claimed so many innocent lives, that even by Israeli standards it was thought to have gone too far and the unit was eventually disbanded.
Sharon went on to be promoted to other commands in the Israeli army earning a name for himself as a promising commander, and all were expecting that he would one day be the Israeli army’s top commander, or Chief of Staff. But this was one job he never got, he did better. Sharon entered politics and was nominated to be Defense Minister under Prime Minister Menachem Begin. In that capacity he led Israel’s catastrophic invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
This invasion left countless Lebanese and Palestinians dead, wounded, and displaced. Sharon was also behind the massacres that took place in September of that year in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut, and here once again, even by Israeli standards Sharon had gone too far and was removed from office.
Though Sharon was reprimanded for his role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre, and was prevented from serving as defense minister, his political career continued nevertheless, and his sphere of influence grew. As minster of Housing and Development he contributed more than any other to the racist, anti Palestinian policies and the corruption within the ministry. It is claimed that during his tenure the ministry’s budget was without limits, exceeding Israel’s entire defense budget. He used his full weight to achieve the colonization and displacement of Palestinians from what used to be the West Bank.
Surely the most absurd thing ever said about Sharon, is that he was a man of peace. That he “left” Gaza and that he “gave” Gaza back to the Palestinians. That he did it for peace and in return all Israel received were rockets fired from Gaza. The Israeli disengagement from Gaza was a cynical, unilateral move. It allowed Sharon to get the Israeli settlers in Gaza out of his way, close Gaza like a prison and score a few political points with the US administration. It was a cruel move that allowed him to further suffocate the people of Gaza, people that he was determined to destroy from early on in his violent career. But the proud Palestinians would not surrender and served as a constant reminder of the blood with which his hands are stained.
One could go on and on about Sharon and his crimes. As he lies dying, perhaps within days or minutes of his final breath, we must all remember his victims, the countless dead, wounded, and displaced, and remind the world that this man was not a hero but a criminal.
As I write these words Ariel Sharon is still alive, if one can call it that, and in many ways the state in which he lives now could be the hell he so richly deserves.
For more insights from Miko see his blog: mikopeled.com…
Israel’s relationship with South Africa must be an enormous embarrassment.
The Israeli government had aligned itself strongly with the old Apartheid regime, supplied the white supremacists with arms and identified strongly with them in their struggle, as can be seen from Shimon Peres’ letter (below) to the South African Minister of Information back in 1974 (click to see it full size).
Israel never welcomed the transition to South African democracy, most obviously because their new President was openly critical of the Palestinian occupation. Even so, as Uri Avnery points out below, Israel’s failure to make serious representation at Mandela’s funeral has taken the Jewish state to a new low in terms of its international isolation!
by Uri Avnery
CAN A country boycott itself? That may sound like a silly question. It is not.
At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the “Giant of History” as Barack Obama called him, Israel was not represented by any of its leaders.
The only dignitary who agreed to go was the speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, a nice person, an immigrant from the Soviet Union and a settler, who is so anonymous that most Israelis would not recognize him. (“His own father would have trouble recognizing him in the street,” somebody joked.)
Why? The President of the State, Shimon Peres, caught a malady that prevented him from going, but which did not prevent him from making a speech and receiving visitors on the same day. Well, there are all kinds of mysterious microbes.
The Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had an even stranger reason. The journey, he claimed, was too expensive, what with all the accompanying security people and so on.
Not so long ago, Netanyahu caused a scandal when it transpired that for his journey to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, a five hour flight, he had a special double bed installed in the El Al plane at great expense. He and his much maligned wife, Sara’le, did not want to provoke another scandal so soon. Who’s Mandela, after all?
ALTOGETHER IT was an undignified show of personal cowardice by both Peres and Netanyahu.
What were they afraid of?
Well, they could have been booed. Recently, many details of the Israeli-South African relationship have come to light. Apartheid South Africa, which was boycotted by the entire world, was the main customer of the Israeli military industry. It was a perfect match: Israel had a lot of weapon systems but no money to produce them, South Africa had lots of money but no one who would supply it with weapons.
So Israel sold Mandela’s jailers everything it could, from combat aircraft to military electronics, and shared with it its nuclear knowledge. Peres himself was deeply involved.
The relationship was not merely commercial. Israeli officers and officials met with their South African counterparts, visits were exchanged, personal friendship fostered. While Israel never endorsed apartheid, our government certainly did not reject it.
Still, our leaders should have been there, together with the leaders of the whole world. Mandela was the Great Forgiver, and he forgave Israel, too. When the master of ceremonies in the stadium mistakenly announced that Peres and Netanyahu had arrived, just a few boos were heard. Far less than the boos for the current South African president.
In Israel, only one voice was openly raised against Mandela. Shlomo Avineri, a respected professor and former Director General of the Foreign Office, criticized him for having a “blind spot” – for taking the Palestinian side against Israel. He also mentioned that another moral authority, Mahatma Gandhi, had the same “blind spot”.
Strange. Two moral giants and the same blind spot? How could that be, one wonders.
THE BOYCOTT movement against Israel is slowly gaining ground. It takes three main forms (and several in between).
The most focused form is the boycott of the products of the settlements, which was started by Gush Shalom 15 years ago. It is active now in many countries.
A more stringent form is the boycott of all institutes and corporations that are dealing with the settlements. This is now the official policy of the European Union. Just this week, Holland broke off relations with the monopolistic Israeli Water Corporation, Mekorot, which plays a part in the policy that deprives Palestinians of essential water supplies and transfers them to the settlements.
The third form is total: the boycott of everything and everyone Israeli (Including myself). This is also slowly advancing in many countries.
The Israeli government has now joined this form. By its voluntary no-representation or under-representation at the Mandela ceremony, it has declared that Israel is a pariah state. Strange.
LAST WEEK I wrote that if the Americans find a solution to Israel’s security concerns in the West Bank, other concerns would take their place. I did not expect that it would happen so quickly.
Binyamin Netanyahu declared this week that stationing Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley, as proposed by John Kerry, is not enough. Not by far.
Israel cannot give up the West Bank as long as Iran has nuclear capabilities, he declared. What’s the connection, one might well ask. Well, it’s obvious. A strong Iran will foster terrorism and threaten Israel in many other ways. So Israel must remain strong, and that includes holding on to the West Bank. Stands to reason.
So if Iran gives up all its nuclear capabilities, will that be enough? Not by a long shot. Iran must completely change its “genocidal” policies vis-à-vis Israel, it must stop all threats and utterances against us, it must adopt a friendly attitude towards us. However, Netanyahu did stop short of demanding that the Iranian leaders join the World Zionist Organization.
Before this happens, Israel cannot possibly make peace with the Palestinians. Sorry, Mister Kerry.
IN THE last article I also ridiculed the Allon Plan and other pretexts advanced by our rightists for holding on to the rich agricultural land of the Jordan Valley.
A friend of mine countered that indeed all the old reasons have become obsolete. The terrible danger of the combined might of Iraq, Syria and Jordan attacking us from the east does not exist anymore. But –
But the valley guardians are now advancing a new danger. If Israel gives back the West Bank without holding on to the Jordan Valley and the border crossings on the river, other terrible things will happen.
The day after the Palestinians take possession of the river crossing, missiles will be smuggled in. Missiles will rain down on Ben-Gurion international airport, the gateway to Israel, located just a few kilometers from the border. Tel Aviv, 25 km from the border, will be threatened, as will the Dimona nuclear installation.
Haven’t we seen this all before? When Israel voluntarily evacuated the whole Gaza Strip, didn’t the rockets start to rain down on the South of Israel?
We cannot possibly rely on the Palestinians. They hate us and will continue to fight us. If Mahmoud Abbas tries to stop it, he will be toppled. Hamas or worse, al-Qaeda, will come to power and unleash a terrorist campaign. Life in Israel will turn into hell.
Therefore it is evident that Israel must control the border between the Palestinian state and the Arab world, and especially the border crossings. As Netanyahu says over and over again, Israel cannot and will not entrust its security to others. Especially not to the Palestinians.
WELL, FIRST of all the Gaza Strip analogy does not hold. Ariel Sharon evacuated the Gaza settlements without any agreement or even consultation with the Palestinian Authority, which was still ruling the Strip at that time. Instead of an orderly transfer to the Palestinian security forces, he left behind a power vacuum which was later filled by Hamas.
Sharon also upheld the land and sea blockade that turned the Strip practically into a huge open-air prison.
In the West Bank there exists now a strong Palestinian government and robust security forces, trained by the Americans. A peace agreement will strengthen them immensely.
Abbas does not object to a foreign military presence throughout the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. On the contrary, he asks for it. He has proposed an international force, under American command. He just objects to the presence of the Israeli army – a situation that would amount to another kind of occupation.
BUT THE main point is something else, something that goes right to the root of the conflict.
Netanyahu’s arguments presuppose that there will be no peace, not now, not ever. The putative peace agreement – which Israelis call the “permanent status agreement” – will just open another phase of the generations-old war.
This is the main obstacle. Israelis – almost all Israelis – cannot imagine a situation of peace. Neither they, nor their parents and grandparents, have ever experienced a day of peace in this country. Peace is something like the coming of the Messiah, something that has to be wished for, prayed for, but is never really expected to happen.
But peace does not mean, to paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz, the continuation of war by other means. It does not mean a truce or even an armistice.
Peace means living side by side. Peace means reconciliation, a genuine willingness to understand the other side, the readiness to get over old grievances, the slow growth of a new relationship, economic, social, personal.
To endure, peace must satisfy all parties. It requires a situation which all sides can live with, because it fulfills their basic aspirations.
Is this possible? Knowing the other side as well as most, I answer with utmost assurance: Yes, indeed. But it is not an automatic process. One has to work for it, invest in it, wage peace as one wages war.
Nelson Mandela did. That’s why the entire world attended his funeral. That’s, perhaps, why our leaders chose to be absent.
This is a press release from ‘Progressive Christian Voice’ (Australia). Yes, there is an alternative Australian Christian perspective to that offered by the ‘Australian Christian Lobby’ (ACL).
I find it frankly refreshing to see the church speaking out on the situation in Palestine and not being restricted to issues of family and sexuality.
A Progressive Christian Voice Urges the Australian Government to Abandon its Support for the Illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
Australian media reported on Monday, 25 November, 2013, that Australia’s newly elected government, without any public discussion of its policy, was “giving tacit approval to controversial activities including the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories”. 
According to The Jerusalem Post  the Australian ambassador to Israel, David Sharma said that Canberra does not want to single out Israel for condemnation in international forums. As regards the aspect of singling out of Israel, international forums have been prepared to condemn other countries such as Syria, North Korea.
As regards any singling out of Israel, what is singular about Israel is that no country in the current international community has continued the military occupation of foreign territory for 46 years.
Australian media reports noted, “many within the international community regard the expansion of Israeli settlements as an act of hostility towards Palestinians, hampering the likelihood of peace”. 
As a letter writer in The Sydney Morning Herald  noted, there is a contradiction in the Australian government’s position. That government asserts that it supports a two state solution. Yet it tacitly condones settlement construction which threatens to destroy any hope of the establishment of a Palestinian state.
During a speech at the United Nations Security Council’s Open Debate on the Middle East on the 16 October, 2012, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Susan Rice emphasized that the U.S. “does not accept the legitimacy of Israeli settlement activity, and will continue to oppose any efforts to legalize outposts.” 
A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) Inc believes that Australia’s action, therefore, raises a number of valid questions:
1.Which of the two contradictory policies noted above does the Australian government actually endorse – a two state solution or support for illegal Jewish settlements? The Australian Foreign Minister, Julia Bishop, has stated hat “the (Australian) government’s concern (was that) Middle East resolutions should be balanced”. How does the government, then, balance these two contradictory positions?
2.What values influences the Australian government to give tacit approval for the building of more illegal settlements on Palestinian territory?
3. Does the Australian government oppose the American government’s view when the latter contends that continued settlement activity is illegal?
1. Jonathan Swan, “Abbott shifts UN position to back Israeli setllements” The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday, November 25, 2013, p.9.
2. Herb Keinon, “Australia says it won’t mechanically vote against settlements in UN” The Jerusalem Post 11/25/2013.
3. SMH, Tuesday, November 26, 2013, p.16.
4. The Jewish Week – New York 10/16/12 _____________________________________________________________________________________
For more information contact either:
Rev’d Dr Peter Catt – President of A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) Inc (Email: pcatt AT stjohnscathedral.com….au) or
Rev’d Dr Ray Barraclough – Secretary of A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) Inc at (Email: dorray AT westnet.com….au)
It appears that the Abbot government has slyly changed Australia’s policy regarding Israel-Palestine without making any mention of it to the Australian public!
Two weeks ago Australia abstained from voting on two resolutions at the UN General Assembly – one condemning the expansion of Jewish settlements and another calling for the Geneva Convention to apply in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Just in case there was any doubt about the new position, yesterday Australia voted “NO” to a resolution declaring 2014 the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”.
If you read the details contained in the resolution (below) there is nothing in them that is remotely anti-Israel. Even so, the usual culprits objected:
- Israel, the United States and Canada (the big three)
- Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau (the three US protectorates) and …
This effectively reverses the stance of the previous Australian government. Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, was right in calling this a “shame”. Julia Bishop had the gaul to refer to the new policy as more “balanced”!
From a purely mathematical point of view – 110 votes in favour and only 7 against – I suppose Australia is contributing to more balance, in a sense, until you realise that the rest of the world has good reason to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. They are victims of the longest military occupation in human history!
I personally cannot reconcile how the new Australian Prime Minister can openly call himself a Christian and yet taken such an inhuman stance on both refugees and the suffering people of Palestine. Perhaps I’m missing something?
UN Declares 2014 As International Year Of Solidarity With Palestinians
The resolution called for all efforts to promote the realisation of the inalienable rights of Palestinians including their right to self-determination, support the Middle East peace process for the achievement of a two-state solution and the just resolution of all final status issues, and to mobilise international support for and assistance to Palestinians.
The resolution also affirmed the general assembly’s support for the Middle East peace process on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States and a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Among others things, it welcomed the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations on July 29 aimed at resolving all core final status issues and concluding a final peace agreement within the agreed time frame of nine months.