The following letter was written by American Catholic Bishop, Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and was addressed to US Secretary of State, John Kerry. Bishop Pates is the chairman of the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Forthright statements like these are an indication that the tide is turning. I don’t expect that the US government will pay much attention to Bishop Pates, but as the trickle of protest from the church gradually builds into a torrent they will find it increasingly hard to resist being caught in the current.
source: : www.us…
The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
2201 C St NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Kerry:
As Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I wrote you last May regarding the injustice being perpetrated in the Cremisan Valley near Bethlehem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Earlier this month, I made a solidarity visit to the Cremisan Valley together with brother bishops from Europe, Canada and South Africa. Enclosed you will find a statement that summarizes our reflections on the sad state of affairs.
As I stood amidst the beauty of this agricultural valley and heard the testimony of the Christian families whose lands, livelihoods, and centuries-old family traditions are threatened, I was simply astounded by the injustice of it all.
On the eve of the Supreme Court of Israel taking up this case, I ask you once again to urge the Government of Israel to cease and desist in its efforts to unnecessarily confiscate Palestinian lands in the Occupied West Bank. As I said earlier, the Cremisan Valley is a microcosm of a protracted pattern that has serious implications for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and your commendable efforts to achieve a peace agreement.
Most Reverend Richard E. Pates
Bishop of Des Moines
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
This latest criminal act has me stupified! What could be the reason behind it?
It makes sense that Netanyahu would upscale the development of settlements in order to ensure the failure of the so-called ‘peace talks’ but why alienate the Christian community at this stage?
Is Netanyahu really thumbing his nose at John Kerry or is there some more subtle rationale at work? Either way, this can only serve to further isolate Israel!
Holy Land: Israel demolishes house belonging to Latin Patriarch
In the same week that US Secretary of State John Kerry has been visiting the Holy Land in an effort to broker peace talks beween Israel and Palestine, bulldozers of the Jerusalem Municipality, accompanied by Israeli Security forces, demolished a house belonging to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Mgr Fouad Twal. The residential property on the Jerusalem-Hebron road, near the northern checkpoint number 300 was home to a family of 14 people.
The Patriarch inspected the demolished home yesterday, in the company of Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem, and Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, Fr Humam Khzouz, General Director of the Patriarchate, Fr George Ayoub, Chancellor; a number of other priests, the director of the Patriarchate Endowment, lawyers, engineers; consuls of foreign countries, including Italy and Belgium; representatives of churches and institutions; and a crowd of journalists from local and foreign news agencies.
In a press conference held at the site of the demolished home, the Patriarch said: “looking upon a painful and upsetting scene raises discontent and anger. There is no justification for the demolition, but when the municipality and the Israeli government enact demolitions and displace people from their homes, these practices increase hatred and endanger the future of peace. This land has belonged to the Latin Patriarchate long before 1967. The Patriarchate possesses the official deed, and all legal paperwork proving ownership. Even worse, the legal tenants of the property, Mr Salameh Abu Tarbush and his family, were taken by surprise by the demolition.”
The Patriarch added “We are the rightful/lawful owners, and you will hear our voice before all governments worldwide, and we will take legal action in appropriate courts to rectify this injustice, to bring back justice and rebuild this home. We have willpower and a spirit of belonging to this land of our ancestors, this sacred land which is home of our past, present and future.”
The home’s residents spoke about the displacement, which was carried out in the early hours of the morning, rendering them suddenly homeless. Their living situation is now tragic, in the open without shelter. The Red Cross is providing them with tents and assistance.
The lawyer of the Latin Patriarchate, Mr. Mazen Copti, confirmed the illegality of the demolition of this home and land declaring: “We will take all legal measures against the municipality of Jerusalem and the Israeli Ministry of the Interior to rebuild the house as it was.”
I suppose this should come as no surprise. Did anyone really believe that Kerry was an honest broker?
Robert Fisk: Any other ‘statesman’ who negotiated peace like John Kerry would be treated as a thief
Kerry isn’t on their side. He’s going all out for ‘peace’ on Israeli government terms
Has John Kerry no shame? First he cuddles up to both Palestinians and Israelis and announces the renewal of a “peace process” which the Palestinians don’t trust and the Israelis don’t want. Then Israel announces that it will build 1,200 new homes for Jews – and Jews only – on occupied Palestinian land. And now Kerry tells the Palestinians – the weak and occupied Palestinians – that they are running out of time if they want a state of their own.
Any other “statesman” involved in any other dispute who told an occupied people that if they didn’t make peace their occupiers would steal even more of their land, would be regarded as an outcast, a fellow thief, a potential criminal. But no. John Kerry announces that illegal Jewish colonies – or “settlements” as he likes to call them, along with the world’s Israel-compliant press – are “illegitimate”. I think he meant internationally “illegal”. But it doesn’t matter. In the first 10 years of the Oslo “process”, the number of Israelis living on stolen Palestinian land doubled to 400,000. No wonder Kerry muttered that Israel’s latest theft announcement was “to some degree [sic] expected”.
You bet it was. Israel has been running rings around cowardly US administrations for decades, ignoring Washington’s squirming embarrassment every time it went for another land grab on someone else’s property. The Oslo accords, remember, envisioned a five-year period in which Israelis and Palestinians would refrain from taking “any unilateral steps that would prejudice the outcome of the negotiations”. Israel simply ignored this. As it still does. And what does Kerry advise the Palestinians? That they should not “react adversely”!
This is preposterous. Kerry must know – as the UN and the EU know – that there is not the slightest chance of “Palestine” existing as a state because the Israelis have already stolen too much land on the West Bank. Anyone who drives around the occupied territories realises at once (unless they are politically blind) that there is as much chance of building a state in the West Bank – whose map of colonies and non-colonised districts looks like the smashed windscreen of a car – as there is waiting for the return of the Ottoman Empire.
read the rest of Fisky’s article here
Forgive me if you don’t immediately grasp the meaning of the title above. I was reading some of the optimistic reports from U.S. journalists about the progress of the ‘peace process’ for Israel/Palestine. I was reminded of that famous letter that appeared in the New York Sun on September 21st, 1897, entitled, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”.
It’s nice to believe in Santa Claus. It helps you to feel that all is right with the world and that good will be rewarded and evil punished. Belief in the Israeli/Palestinian ‘peace process’ plays exactly the same role, and it’s equally mythical!
Read the wisdom of Uri Avnery below, spelling out in a very straightforward way why there can never be any genuine ‘peace process’ until both parties actually want one, and the State of Israel has made it very clear that it is totally uninterested!
The only light on the horizon for the Palestinians is the fact that Syria seems to be surviving the foreign onslaught. If Syria can recover and if the Arab world can begin to unite, perhaps enough pressure can be brought to bear on Israel such that a Palestinian state might become a real possibility. Even so, this is a dim light on a distant horizon.
Kerry and Chutzpah
IF YOU happen to bump into John Kerry at Ben Gurion Airport, you may wonder whether he is coming or going. He may well be wondering himself.
For many weeks now he has been devoting most of his precious time to meetings with Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, trying to get these two people together.
It is about half an hour’s car ride between the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem and the Palestinian President’s Mukata’ah in Ramallah. But the two are more distant from each other than the Earth and Mars.
Kerry has taken it upon himself to bring the two together – perhaps somewhere in outer space. On the moon, for example.
TOGETHER FOR what?
Ah, there’s the rub. The idea seems to be a meeting for meeting’s sake.
We have watched this procedure for many years. Successive American presidents have undertaken to bring the two sides together. It is an American belief, rooted in Anglo-Saxon tradition, that if two reasonable, decent people get together to thrash out their differences, everything will fall into place. It’s almost automatic: meet – talk – agree.
Unfortunately, it does not quite work this way with conflicts between nations, conflicts that may have deep historical roots. In meetings between leaders of such nations, they often just want to hurl old accusations at each other, with the aim of convincing the world that the other side is utterly depraved and despicable.
Either side, or both, may be interested in prolonging the meetings forever. The world sees the leaders meeting, the mediator and the photographers working hard, everybody talking endlessly of peace, peace, peace.
I remember a Scandinavian gentleman named Gunnar Jarring. Remember him? No? Don’t blame yourself. He is eminently forgettable. A well-meaning Swedish diplomat (and Turkologist), he was asked by the UN in the early 1970s to bring the Egyptians and Israelis together and to achieve a peaceful settlement between them.
Jarring took his historic mission very seriously. He shuttled tirelessly between Cairo and Jerusalem. His name became a joke in Israel, and probably in Egypt, too.
The protagonists in those days were Anwar Sadat and Golda Meir. As we disclosed at the time, Sadat gave Jarring a momentous message: in return for getting back all of the Sinai peninsula, conquered by Israel in 1967, he was ready to make peace. Golda rejected this proposal out of hand. There was, of course, no meeting.
(A popular joke doing the rounds had Golda and Sadat facing each other from opposite banks of the Suez Canal. Golda shouted: “Make Love not War!” Sadat looked at her through his binoculars and replied: “Better war!”)
Everybody knows how this chapter ended. After Golda had rejected everything, Sadat attacked, won an initial surprise victory, the whole political world started to move , Golda was kicked out, and after four years of Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin came to power and agreed the same peace with Sadat that had been proposed before the war. The 3000 Israeli soldiers and around 10,000 Egyptians who died in the war did not see it.
Jarring, by the way, died in 2002, unsung and forgotten.
KERRY IS no Jarring. First of all, because he does not represent a powerless international organization, but the World’s Only Superpower. The full might of the United States of America is at his disposal.
Or is it?
That is really the most relevant – indeed the only relevant – question at this moment.
He will need a lot to achieve his heart’s desire: the meeting – not just the meeting, but The Meeting – between Netanyahu and Abbas.
That looks like an easy task. Netanyahu declares, with his usual sincerity, that he wants to meet. Nay, that he is eager to meet. With the polished charm of a seasoned TV presenter familiar with the power of visual images, he even offered to put up a tent halfway between Jerusalem and Ramallah (at the infamous Qalandia checkpoint?) and sit down with Abbas and Kerry until a full agreement on all aspects of the conflict is achieved.
Who could resist such a generous offer? Why the hell does Abbas not jump at it and grasp it with with both hands?
For a very simple reason.
The very start of new negotiations would be a political triumph for Netanyahu. Actually, it’s all he really wants – the ceremony, the bombast, the leaders shaking hands, the smiles, the speeches full of goodwill and talk of peace.
And then? Then nothing. Negotiations that go on endlessly, months, years, decades. We have seen it all before. Yitzhak Shamir, one of Netanyahu’s predecessors, famously boasted that he would have dragged out the negotiations forever.
The profit for Netanyahu would be clear and immediate. He would be seen as the Man of Peace. The present government, the most rightist and nationalist Israel has ever known, would be rehabilitated. The people around the world who preach a boycott of Israel in all spheres would be shamed and disarmed. The growing alarm in Jerusalem about the “de-legitimization” and “isolation” of Israel would be relieved.
What would the Palestinian side get out of it? Nothing. No stop to the settlements. Not even the release of old prisoners who have been incarcerated for more than 20 years (like those who were released to Hamas in return for Gilad Shalit). Sorry, no “preconditions”!
Abbas demands that the aim of the negotiations be spelled out in advance: the establishment of the State of Palestine with borders “based on” the pre-1967 lines. The omission of this statement from the Oslo accords of 1993 led to their eventual evaporation. Why make the same mistake twice?
Also, Abbas wants to set a time limit for the negotiations. A year or so.
Netanyahu, of course, refuses all of this. At the moment, poor Kerry is trying to put something together that would satisfy the wolf while keeping the lamb alive. Give Abbas American assurances without Israeli assurances, for example.
IN ALL this bickering, one basic fact is ignored.
It’s that elephant again. The elephant in the room, whose existence Netanyahu denies and which Kerry is trying to ignore.
The assumption is generally made that the negotiations are between equals. In cartoons, Netanyahu and Abbas appear to be of equal size. The American picture of two reasonable people talking it out between themselves presupposes two more or less equal partners.
But this whole picture is basically false. The proposed “negotiations” are between an almighty occupying power and an almost totally powerless occupied people. Between the wolf and the lamb.
(it’s the old Israeli joke again: Can you keep a wolf and a lamb together? Of course you can, if you put in a new lamb every day.)
The Israeli army operates freely throughout the West Bank, including Ramallah. If Netanyahu so decides, Abbas may find himself tomorrow morning in an Israeli prison, together with the old people Netanyahu refuses to release.
Less drastically, the Israeli government can at any moment, at will, stop transfering the large sums of tax and customs money it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, as it has done several times already. This would immediately bring the PA to the brink of bankruptcy.
There are hundreds of ways, one more refined than the other, in which the occupation authorities and the occupation army can make life intolerable for individual Palestinians and their community as a whole.
What can the Palestinians do to put pressure on the Israeli government? Very little. There is the threat of a Third Intifada. It worries the army, but does not frighten it. The army’s answer is more repression and bloodshed. Or another resolution of the UN General Assembly, elevating Palestine to the rank of a full member of the world organization. Netanyahu would be furious, but the actual damage would be limited.
ANY PRESSURE to start meaningful negotiations that would lead to a peace agreement in – say – a year must come from the President of the United States of America.
That is so obvious that it hardly needs mentioning.
This is the crux of the matter.
Kerry can bring cash, a lot of cash, to bribe the Palestinians, or whisper into their ears dire threats to frighten them into meeting Netanyahu in his imaginary tent – it will mean next to nothing.
The only chance to start real negotiations is for Barack Obama to put his full weight behind the effort, to confront Congress and the hugely powerful pro-Israel lobby and dictate to both sides the American peace plan. We all know what it must look like – a combination of the (Bill) Clinton outline and the pan-Arab peace initiative.
If John Kerry is unable to deliver this pressure, he should not even try. It really is an imposition to come here and shake things up when you have no means to impose a solution. Sheer impertinence.
Or, as you say in Hebrew, Chutzpah.
Uri Avnery is founder of the Israeli Peace Bloc, Gush Shalom
I can’t imagine any job in the world that would be more disheartening than being Palestine’s representative at the United Nations. Every morning you get up and plan the next statement to be brought before the General Assembly or the Security Council or whatever UN body you think can best be targeted. Every day you prepare statements, liaise with fellow delegates, and make the case for Palestine. And every day your efforts take you absolutely NOWHERE!
So Palestine has complained again to the UN about settlement expansion. What is the best that the Palestine can hope for? If they are lucky the UN will eventually issue a resolution condemning the Israeli government’s actions. And what will that achieve? The historical record is unambiguous. It will achieve absolutely NOTHING!
Recourse to diplomacy has been spectacularly unsuccessful for Palestine now for so many years, and yet what alternative does that leave us? Hamas can point to a number of things that they’ve achieved through the use of force. Is this really the alternative that the Israeli government is looking for? God help us!
UNITED NATIONS, June 14 (KUNA) — Palestine on Friday complained to the international community about the reported expansion of Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and urged the Security Council to urgently respond.
“We reiterate our appeals to the international community, including the Security Council, to act with urgency to uphold the law, to safeguard the rights of the Palestinian people, and to salvage the waning hopes for peace,” Palestinian Charge d’Affaires Feda Abdulhadi Nasser wrote in identical letters to the Security Council President (UK) and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“The international community must firmly reject Israel’s empty, offensive pretexts and must be resolute in demanding a halt to all illegal Israeli practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” she said.
This, she added, must include an end to the settlement campaign, which is gravely diminishing the viability of the two-State solution and sabotaging the hopes for meaningful peace negotiations to be resumed to bring an end to this tragic conflict.
“To remain permissive of settlement activities, regardless of the manifestation, is to allow for the trampling of international law and the destruction of the two-State solution, with far-reaching consequences for the prospects for Palestinian-Israeli peace as well as for the region and for our global community,” she warned.
She also complained about the provocative statements by Israeli officials, including the Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, who in recent media comments stated that “there will never be a Palestinian State” and suggested Jordan as an alternative.
These provocations, she argued, reveal the “true nature and intentions of the current (Israeli) Government, and which undermine the serious peace efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry and regional and international partners.”Earlier in the day, Ban described as “worrisome” reports about continued Israeli expansion of settlements and urged Israel to freeze such activities which are in violation of international law.