israel and palestine

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The American people, it seems, no longer give unquestioning support to the state of Israel, even though the US government still does

This shift in U.S. public has been laid bare in recent surveys taken in the US. Amongst the most remarkable of the results is the finding that 39 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. should impose sanctions on Israel if they continue to build settlements on Palestinian land!

The following review from ‘The American Conservative’ downplays the significance of the overall results, suggesting that Americans have always preferred their government not to take sides. What the reviewer finds more startling is the fact that Republicans are now far more keen to support to Israel than Democrats.

What I find even more remarkable is a statistic not mentioned in this review – namely, that Evangelical Christians are the only group in the U.S. who still think that Israel’s Jewish character is more important than its democracy (see here)! Even American Jews valued democracy ahead of ethnicity!

Father Dave

source: www.theamericanconservative.com…

Flickr_-_Israel_Defense_Forces_-_Standing_Guard_in_Nablus
Israel Defense Forces in Nablus (photo: Wikipedia Commons)

U.S. Public Opinion and Israel/Palestine

Shibley Telhami reviews the contents of a recent survey of American views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He finds that most Americans still don’t want the U.S. to take sides:

Consistent with prior years most Americans (64 percent) want the United States to lean toward neither side in the conflict, while 31 percent want it to lean toward Israel. But there is a huge difference between Democrats and Independents, on the one hand, and Republicans on the other. Among Democrats, 77 percent want the United States to lean toward neither side, 17 percent toward Israel, and 6 percent toward the Palestinians; among Republicans, those who want the U.S. to lean toward Israel outnumber those who want it to lean toward neither side, 51 percent-46 percent.

The partisan gap on this question is not all that surprising, but the size of the gap is nonetheless remarkable. Three quarters of Democrats say they don’t want the U.S. to take sides in the conflict, while just over half of Republicans want the U.S. to favor Israel. One would scarcely know that from the way their representatives vote and how their party leaders talk about the U.S. role in the conflict. Despite the fact that nearly two-thirds of Americans have consistently wanted the U.S. to be neutral or even-handed in the conflict for as long as the question has been asked, the U.S. has been overwhelmingly supportive of one side in practice.

Telhami points to another result about Palestinian statehood at the U.N.:

What do Americans recommend if the Palestinians take the issue of statehood to the United Nations? A plurality, 45 percent, advocate abstaining; 27 percent support voting against the resolution; and 25 percent support voting for it. Party differences are large with more Republicans supporting opposing the resolution, but still less than half (46 percent).

In other words, almost half of Americans don’t want the U.S. to take a position, and there are almost as many supporters of such a resolution as there are opponents, but it is virtually guaranteed that the U.S. will vote no. On both of these questions, a large majority doesn’t support backing Israel to the hilt, and yet that is what the U.S. will continue to do. This isn’t news. Polls have been finding the same things for decades. Even so, it is useful to be reminded every so often that U.S. policy on Israel and Palestine is wildly at odds with what most Americans claim to want. When Congress and the administration endorse conventionally “pro-Israel” positions, they are doing the opposite of what most Americans prefer.

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Sara Roy is a well-credentialed advocate of the Palestinian cause. Not only is she an academic of high standing but she is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. This makes it difficult for her opponents to dismiss her as an anti-Semite.

What follows is Roy’s response to a statement that appeared in the New York Times, authored by Eli Wiesel, in which the Israeli apologist accuses Hamas of using children as human shields.

Dr Sara Roy

Dr Sara Roy

A Response to Elie Wiesel

Mr Wiesel,

I read your statement about Palestinians, which appeared in The New York Times on August 4th. I cannot help feeling that your attack against Hamas and stunning accusations of child sacrifice are really an attack, carefully veiled but unmistakable, against all Palestinians, their children included.  As a child of Holocaust survivors—both my parents survived Auschwitz—I am appalled by your anti-Palestinian position, one I know you have long held. I have always wanted to ask you, why? What crime have Palestinians committed in your eyes? Exposing Israel as an occupier and themselves as its nearly defenseless victims? Resisting a near half century of oppression imposed by Jews and through such resistance forcing us as a people to confront our lost innocence (to which you so tenaciously cling)?

Unlike you, Mr. Wiesel, I have spent a great deal of time in Gaza among Palestinians. In that time, I have seen many terrible things and I must confess I try not to remember them because of the agony they continue to inflict.  I have seen Israeli soldiers shoot into crowds of young children who were doing nothing more than taunting them, some with stones, some with just words. I have witnessed too many horrors, more than I want to describe. But I must tell you that the worst things I have seen, those memories that continue to haunt me, insisting never to be forgotten, are not acts of violence but acts of dehumanization.

There is a story I want to tell you, Mr. Wiesel, for I have carried it inside of me for many years and have only written about it once a very long time ago. I was in a refugee camp in Gaza when an Israeli army unit on foot patrol came upon a small baby perched in the sand sitting just outside the door to its home. Some soldiers approached the baby and surrounded it. Standing close together, the soldiers began shunting the child between them with their feet, mimicking a ball in a game of soccer. The baby began screaming hysterically and its mother rushed out shrieking, trying desperately to extricate her child from the soldiers’ legs and feet. After a few more seconds of “play,” the soldiers stopped and walked away, leaving the terrified child to its distraught mother.

Now, I know what you must be thinking: this was the act of a few misguided men. But I do not agree because I have seen so many acts of dehumanization since, among which I must now include yours. Mr. Wiesel, how can you defend the slaughter of over 500 innocent children by arguing that Hamas uses them as human shields?  Let us say for the sake of argument that Hamas does use children in this way; does this then justify or vindicate their murder in your eyes? How can any ethical human being make such a grotesque argument?  In doing so, Mr. Wiesel, I see no difference between you and the Israeli soldiers who used the baby as a soccer ball. Your manner may differ from theirs—perhaps you could never bring yourself to treat a Palestinian child as an inanimate object—but the effect of your words is the same: to dehumanize and objectify Palestinians to the point where the death of Arab children, some murdered inside their own homes, no longer affects you. All that truly concerns you is that Jews not be blamed for the children’s savage destruction.

Despite your eloquence, it is clear that you believe only Jews are capable of loving and protecting their children and possess a humanity that Palestinians do not. If this is so, Mr. Wiesel, how would you explain the very public satisfaction among many Israelis over the carnage in Gaza—some assembled as if at a party, within easy sight of the bombing, watching the destruction of innocents, entertained by the devastation?  How are these Israelis different from those people who stood outside the walls of the Jewish ghettos in Poland watching the ghettos burn or listening indifferently to the gunshots and screams of other innocents within—among them members of my own family and perhaps yours—while they were being hunted and destroyed?

You see us as you want us to be and not as many of us actually are. We are not all insensate to the suffering we inflict, acceding to cruelty with ease and calm. And because of you, Mr. Wiesel, because of your words—which deny Palestinians their humanity and deprive them of their victimhood—too many can embrace our lack of mercy as if it were something noble, which it is not. Rather, it is something monstrous.

Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University.

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …”

Thus Dickens begins ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. The cities he had in mind were London and Paris, and yet his words form a fitting introduction to the story of Jerusalem and Ramallah in 2014.

It is the worst of times!

As I write, the IDF is tightening its military grip on the West Bank and enacting raids and arrests on a scale not seen since the Second Intifada! Meanwhile settlements continue to flourish, Gazans struggle to find fresh water, Australia abandons all pretence of concern, and the negotiating table is empty.

In the corridors of power – in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Washington and Canberra – it is the worst of times for our Palestinian sisters and brothers. But this is not the whole story! Tectonic shifts have been taking place at the grass-roots, and what’s more the church is at the very heart of the shift!

The accomplishment of Pope Francis in bringing Abbas and Peres together for prayer in Vatican City was nothing short of miraculous! Who would have thought that such a thing could happen?!

The tangible effects of the Pope’s initiative might not yet be obvious but what Francis has done is to help accelerate a paradigm shift in the way the world is dealing with the Palestinian Occupation. Israeli and Palestinian peace is no longer simply a political issue. It is also a spiritual issue and a human issue, and as such it is something for which we all need to take responsibility!

The quest for justice and peace in Palestinian is becoming a truly democratic struggle, as seen in the ever-growing ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign’ (BDS). The BDS again moves the struggle for justice beyond the realm of professional politicians to a place where every business, every household and every individual can play a role in defunding the Palestinian Occupation!

And so it should not surprise us to see these two forces converge – spiritual leadership and BDS – with the United Methodists of America last week divesting from companies fuelling the Palestinian Occupation and with the Presbyterian Church of the USA about to follow in their wake!

It is the worst of times for political settlements being established from the top down, and yet the death of the American-led ‘peace process’ has opened up the way for ordinary people, and for the church in particular, to take the cause of Palestinian peace into their own hands!

In Biblical Greek the word ‘kairos’ means ‘time’ but not in the sense of clock-time. It means an opportune time – a God-given moment that needs to be taken hold of and taken full advantage of. Now is such a kairos in the struggle for Palestinian justice. Now is the time to act, now is the time to pray, now is the time for us to organise our churches to act and pray and to shout out to the world that our Palestinian sisters and brothers have suffered long enough!

If we – the Church of Jesus Christ – take hold of this time and work hand-in-hand with other grass-roots groups of concerned people around the world, I do believe this could turn out to be the best of times for Palestine, and a decisive turning point in the global struggle for justice and peace.

Father Dave

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Post-apartheid South Africa has played a special role in the Palestinian struggle. Nelson Mandela was a personal friend of Yasser Arafat – a man who he saw as being on a parallel struggle for justice and freedom for his people. And as the church helped lead the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, so it comes as no surprise that South African church leaders have come in firmly behind the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign against the Israeli government.

Defenders of Zionism  are quick to ridicule any comparison between South African apartheid and the State of Israel’s policies that favour Jews over Arabs. As South African pastor, Rev. Dr. Moss Nthla, points out though, he is in a better position than most white people to judge whether the apartheid label is valid. He and other South African church leaders suggest, in fact, that the Israeli system of racial discrimination is actually worse than what they experienced under apartheid!

Father Dave

If you can’t view this video, click here.

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Sir Gerald Kaufman is the world’s greatest weapon against Anti-Semitism!

As people worldwide are driven to despair over the unrelenting cruelty of the Palestinian Occupation it is easy to start blaming all Jews for the suffering of the Palestinian people. After all, the Israeli government claims that it speaks and acts of behalf of all Jews. It would be understandable (though regrettable) if any number of otherwise compassionate and intelligent people bought into this rhetoric, except that people like Sir Gerald expose the lie for what it is!

Sir Gerald Kaufman is unmistakably Jewish and proud of it! At the same time he is a passionate advocate for the Palestinian cause and a card-carrying member of the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign’ (BDS) against the Israeli government. 

It was Kaufman who famously attacked Israeli apologists who drew on memories of the Holocaust to justify the 2008/2009 assault on Gaza by saying “My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”

Below is Kaufman’s latest offering, delivered to the British Parliament on February 5th in the context of a debate over human situation in Gaza. May God strengthen Sir Gerald to make many more such stirring speeches, and may God grant Sir Gerald’s colleagues ears to hear them!

Father Dave

Sir Gerald Kaufman

Sir Gerald Kaufman

source: english.alarabiya.net…

“I once led a delegation of 60 parliamentarians from 13 European Parliaments to Gaza. I could no longer do that today because Gaza is practically inaccessible. The Israelis try to lay the responsibility on the Egyptians, but although the Egyptians’ closing of the tunnels has caused great hardship, it is the Israelis who have imposed the blockade and are the occupying power. The culpability of the Israelis was demonstrated in the report to the U.N. by Richard Goldstone following Operation Cast Lead. After his report, he was harassed by Jewish organizations. At the end of a meeting I had with him in New York, his wife said to me, “It is good to meet another self-hating Jew.”

Again and again, Israel seeks to justify the vile injustices that it imposes on the people of Gaza and the west bank on the grounds of the holocaust. Last week, we commemorated the holocaust; 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are being penalized with that as the justification. That is unacceptable.

The statistics are appalling. There is fresh water for a few hours every five days. Fishing boats are not allowed to go out—in any case, what is the point, because the waters are so filthy that no fish they catch can be eaten? The Israelis are victimizing children above all. Half the population of this country is under the voting age. What is being done to those children—the lack of nutrition—is damaging not only their bodies and brains; it will go on for generation after generation.

It is totally unacceptable that the Israelis should behave in such a way, but they do not care. Go to Tel Aviv, as I did not long ago, and watch them sitting complacently outside their pavement cafés. They do not give a damn about their fellow human beings perhaps half an hour away. The right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) quoted the prime minister as saying that Gaza is a prison camp. It is all very well for him to say that, as he did, in Turkey—he was visiting a Muslim country—but what is he doing about it? Nothing, nothing, nothing!

The time when we could condemn and think that that was enough has long passed. The Israelis do not care about condemnation. They are self-righteous and complacent. We must now take action against them. We must impose sanctions. If the spineless Obama will not do it, we must do it—even unilaterally. We must press the European community for it to be done. These people cannot be persuaded. We cannot appeal to their better nature when they do not have one. It is all very well saying, “Wicked, wicked Hamas.” Hamas is dreadful. I have met people from Hamas, but nothing it has done justifies punishing children, women and the sick as the Israelis are doing now. They must be stopped.

As has been pointed out, there is a time limit for what we are talking about. The idea that things can go on, while we wait for a two-state solution, is gone. Sooner or later, the Palestinians will say, “We are dying anyhow, so let us die for something.” Let us stop that: I do not want a war. I do not want violent action, but the action that the international community takes must be imposed, otherwise hell will break loose. ”