Saturday, July 2nd, 2016: It was again my privilege to be invited to speak at an Al Quds Day event, this time in the grounds of the Kingsgrove Mosque.
I was surprised to receive applause about half-way through my brief address and I wasn’t sure at first what prompted it. It was afterwards that a Palestinian man came up to me and said “you said what we needed to hear. You told us not to forget Palestine. We are afraid that the world is forgetting us”.
Indeed the man’s plea makes sense. When there is so much trouble at home and abroad to absorb our energies, it is easy to forget the ongoing trauma of the Palestinian Occupation. The longer it goes on the more we are tempted to normalise it! In truth, we must never forget Palestine!
The video below covers the first half of my address. Please see the transcript below for the complete version.
Al Quds Day 2016
As most of you would know, I returned not long ago from Syria – my fifth visit there in the last four years. One of the great tragedies of Syria (and there are many tragedies associated with that great land at the moment) is that the violence and injustice being visited upon the Syrian people is so extreme that it can easily absorb all of our time and emotional energy and so distract us from other tragedies in our world that also deserve our prayers and our attention.
It’s not only Syria, of course. When we think of the suffering of the people of Yemen, and also of Iraq and Libya and the suffering of so many of our sisters and brothers around the world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and have no space in our hearts left for the people of Palestine. After all, there’s only so many people you can pray for at any one time!
I recognise in myself that I have fallen victim to this. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I am president of Friends of Sabeel, Australia – the Australian church’s attempt at Palestinian Liberation Theology. I am supposed to be a recognisable face in the Palestinian struggle for justice and freedom, and yet I find the concerns of the Palestinian people have taken a back seat for me as my energies have been absorbed by other concerns that seem even more pressing!
The truth is that there is no more pressing need in our world than that of justice for the Palestinian people, for in truth, all these global tragedies we grieve are connected. As my friend, Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal (former Bishop of Jerusalem, himself a Palestinian) said “the road to world peace goes through Jerusalem”.
I believe this is true. I don’t mean that if we solve the Palestinian issue that all the other pieces of the puzzle will suddenly, magically fall into place, but I do believe that unless we put an end to the abuse and discrimination and disenfranchisement experienced by the Palestinian people, these other issues we struggle with will never be solved!
This year has been another hard year for the Palestinian people and, as I say, it has been a difficult year for all of us whose hearts yearn for Palestine. The problem has been further exacerbated too lately by initiatives taken within the Islamic world to divide the ummah over their attitude to Israel.
The Saudis have made a number of statements in recent months that seem to endorse the Israeli government and would thus encourage Muslims everywhere to accept the Palestinian Occupation as normal!
I don’t know whether the long term effect of this will be more love for the Israeli government or more hatred for the house of Saud. I suspect the latter. Either way though, I am tempted to say “welcome to the club”. The Christian community has been similarly afflicted for many years by prominent voices urging the faithful around the world to turn a blind eye to the abuse of the Palestinian people!
The other things I say is “thank God or Al Quds Day!”, and I mean that. In spite of the clamour of voices urging us to forget Palestine – voices coming through the media, through our political leaders, and (as I say) even from within the ranks of the faithful, on Al Quds Day we cannot forget Palestine!
The suffering of the Palestinian people is real and it is ongoing, and it cries out to Heaven for redress! God knows that the barriers to justice and freedom seem as intractable now as they ever have been, if not more intractable! Even so, we must do what we can and we must not give up! We must pray, and we must speak out, and we must take action wherever we can to uphold the dignity and humanity of the Palestinian people.
We may fear that our efforts will never amount to much. Even so, I am always encouraged in this regard by the comparison Jesus made between the Kingdom of Heaven and the yeast that’s sprinkled into dough to make bread.
Jesus told them still another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with a bushel of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.” (Matthew 13:33)
The yeast seems insignificant when mixed in with the dough, and it is virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the lump. Even so, we know full well that when the time comes, these small flakes of yeast become the agents of extraordinary transformation! This is our hope too – that even though our collective effort seems small, that God will work through us and through all who remember Palestine today to bring about extraordinary and genuine transformation.
Thank God for Al Quds Day. Thank God for the ongoing strength and resilience of the people of Palestine. Thank God for the privilege of being able to participate in the process of transformation towards justice and peace.
The former Archbishop of Capetown is now 82 years old and he’s been doing his best for some time now to slip into a quiet retirement. The problem is that the man has the heart of a prophet and he simply can’t contain himself and remain silent in the face of injustice and oppression!
The testimony of the prophet Jeremiah comes to mind:
“But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)
Tutu and Jeremiah, it seems to me, were cut from the same prophetic cloth. While the Palestinian Occupation continues in all its brutality, and indeed becomes even more brutal as more and more land is gobbled up by ‘settlers’, how can a man who has given his life to fighting oppression not speak out!
As articulate as ever, Tutu makes a point that I hadn’t considered before – that the comparison that is sometimes made between supporters of the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” campaign and the Nazi’s of World War II is not only horribly insulting to the upholders of BDS but also trivialises the horrors of the Holocaust!
Statement by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on 2 April 2014
I am writing today to express grave concern about a wave of legislative measures in the United States aimed at punishing and intimidating those who speak their conscience and challenge the human rights violations endured by the Palestinian people. In legislatures in Maryland, New York, Illinois, Florida, and even the United States Congress, bills have been proposed that would either bar funding to academic associations or seek to malign those who have taken a stand against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.
These legislative efforts are in response to a growing international initiative, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, of which I have long been a supporter. The BDS movement emanates from a call for justice put out by the Palestinian people themselves. It is a Palestinian-led, international non-violent movement that seeks to force theIsraeli government to comply with international law in respect to its treatment of the Palestinian people.
I have supported this movement because it exerts pressure without violence on the State of Israel to create lasting peace for the citizens of Israel and Palestine, peace which most citizens crave. I have witnessed the systematic violence against and humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation and pain is all too familiar to us South Africans.
In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. My conscience compels me to stand with the Palestinians as they seek to use the same tactics of non-violence to further their efforts to end the oppression associated with the Israeli Occupation.
The legislations being proposed in the United States would have made participation in a movement like the one that ended Apartheid in South Africa extremely difficult.
I am also deeply troubled by the rhetoric associated with the promulgation of these bills which I understand, in the instance of Maryland, included testimony comparing the boycott to the actions of the Nazis in Germany. The Nazi Holocaust which resulted in the extermination of millions of Jews is a crime of monstrous proportions. To imply that it is in any way comparable to a nonviolent initiative diminishes the horrific nature of that genocidal and tragic era in our world history.
Whether used in South Africa, the US South, or India, boycotts have resulted in a transformative change that not only brought freedom and justice to the victims but also peace and reconciliation for the oppressors. I strongly oppose any piece of legislation meant to punish or deter individuals from pursuing this transformative aspiration. And I remain forever hopeful that, like the nonviolent efforts that have preceded it, the BDS movement will ultimately become a catalyst for honest peace and reconciliation for all our brothers and sisters, both Palestinian and Israeli, in the Holy Land.
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”
I’ve been feeling nothing but cynicism towards this latest round of Israel/Palestine peace talks but I’m encouraged to find that many persons I respect are taking them very seriously.
Warren Clark, Executive Director of ‘Churches for Middle East Peace‘, is one such person. He believes that there have been real and substantial changes since the last round of pointless dialogue – most especially the European Parliament joining the BDS!
Personally, I am still skeptical about both of Clark’s alternatives – ‘soon’ or ‘never’. I really don’t think change is coming soon – not unless the Arab world can suddenly unite and bring real pressure to bear on Israel. At the same time though, I do believe that change will have to come eventually.
The Impossible Dream – It’s Soon or Never
The impossible dream of peace in the Holy Land – the end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank; secure and recognized boundaries for Israel and Palestine; a just solution of the refugee problem; a shared Jerusalem with East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state; recognition and normal relations between Israel and the 53 member countries of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and an end of conflict and an end of claims – seems less impossible today than it did only a short time ago. This week Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Washington for the first time in three years and have set a nine month timetable for an agreement.
I said here on June 7 that President Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in March and the subsequent efforts of Secretary Kerry seemed to create a fundamental improvement in the outlook for direct talks and progress toward an agreement.
Since then, two other developments have helped cause a tectonic political shift. First was the realization of Israel’s increasing international isolation in response to its settlement expansion. This month the European Union published regulations that distinguish between trade, investment, cultural and other cooperation with Europe and Israeli entities located within the 1967 lines and with those Israeli entities located east of the 1967 lines, including East Jerusalem. While the immediate economic impact of the regulations will be limited, the political message was strong. The European governments not only do not recognize settlements but are willing to sanction Israel for continuing to build them.
Second, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political rhetoric has changed. While he said in 2009 for the first time under U.S. pressure that he supported the idea of a Palestinian state under certain circumstances, his continued support of settlement expansions suggested he had little interest in advancing the two state goal. However, the Prime Minister has said recently that a bi-national state would be “disastrous” for Israel and that he believes peace talks are necessary to prevent that.
There remains great skepticism that after so many false starts that any agreement can be reached. Palestinians fear that talks without an agreement will be used to buy more time for Israeli expansion into the West Bank as it was in the 1990s during the Oslo “peace process” when the settler population doubled to 400,000 (it is now over 500,000) and no agreement was reached. The failure of talks then led to the terrible violence of the second intifada. The same specter of violence exists should these talks fail again.
To overcome Palestinian distrust, Israel has agreed to a phased release of 104 “heavyweight” Palestinian prisoners who were jailed for capital crimes before the Oslo talks began more than 20 years ago.
For their part, Palestinians have apparently agreed not to use their political leverage against Israel as long as the talks continue – namely, a bid to sanction Israel in the UN system, especially in the International Criminal Court, and perhaps to bid for full UN membership.
The question remains whether any real chance of an agreement exists after decades of failed peace efforts, including Oslo, Taba, the Wye River, the Arab League plan, the Roadmap and Annapolis. The status quo remains far less tolerable for Palestinians living under occupation than for the more prosperous and secure Israelis, but that balance seems to be changing.
read the rest of this article here.
This scrapes the bottom of the barrel!
You’d have thought that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) would have had their hands full already – maintaining the Occupation, making night-time raids, detaining people without trail, demolishing houses, etc., etc. But this just goes way to far! How can anybody attack a puppet show?!
In truth, it’s only a tiny incident when seen in the context of the greater Occupation, Even so, let’s not let this one pass without comment! It simply isn’t right to target a harmless children’s show!
Israel orders Palestinian puppet show closed
For the first time in twenty years, Israel’s public security ministry temporarily shut down the theater.
Everything is in place for the opening of its annual puppet festival today — except the El-Hakawati theater has been ordered closed by Israeli authorities.
For the first time in twenty years, Israel’s public security ministry temporarily shut down the theater. Police spokesman Luba Samri told AFP the puppet festival’s activities “were being organized under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority.”
The venue’s director Mohammed Halayiqa has filed an appeal that will be heard at Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday, arguing that an event cannot be cancelled because the PA funds it.
He says Norway, a longtime supporter of Palestinian cultural events, actually provided the resources for the puppet festival, through the offices of a local cultural fund.
“I am completely shocked,” Halayiqa told GlobalPost, after the ministry summoned him to receive the closure notice.
El-Hakawati is a central cultural venue in East Jerusalem, where the majority of the city’s Palestinian population lives.
Two months ago, it hosted the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival, funded by French, Swiss, British, and Palestinian donors.
Israeli and Palestinian activists say they are planning a protest Thursday.
“It just breaks your heart,” Tzaphira Stern-Assal, an Israeli activist with the left wing Meretz party, said in front of the theater today. She is helping organizing the protests tomorrow.
Apparently the authorities decided “too many people gathering here would pose a risk to the state,” she sarcastically quipped.