palestine

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He was never going to please everybody in his visit to the vortex of the world’s spiritual turbulence. Even so, the Pontiff’s visit to Palestine and Israel was a miraculous balance of grace and prophetic energy!

He went with a promise that his tour of the Holy Land would be of a strictly religious nature. Even so, Zionists had plenty to criticise him for:

  • The Pope flew directly from Jordan to Bethlehem, thus by-passing Palestine’s Israeli gate-keepers.
  • He refused to speak of Israel as a ‘state of the Jewish people‘ (despite promptings from Mr Netanyahu)
  • He did refer to the ‘State of Palestine’, confirming the Vatican’s recognition of Palestinian as an independent state.

Even so, the Pope did not openly advocate the Palestinian cause but rather directed all his energies towards emphasising inclusiveness:

  • He travelled everywhere with his Jewish and Muslim companions – Rabbi Abraham Skorka and and Sheikh Omar Abboud.
  • he spoke of Jerusalem as the birthplace of the three great monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam).
  • He stopped and prayed at a graffitied section of the so-called ‘Apartheid Wall’ that separates Israel and Palestine.
  • He likewise stopped and prayed at the so-called ‘Wailing Wall’ in Jerusalem – inserting into the wall a prayer for peace between Christian, Muslims and Jews

The Pope’s coup de gras though came when he invited both the Palestinian and Israeli Presidents – Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, respectively – to join him at his home in the Vatican to pray for peace between Israel and Palestine.

This was a political master-stroke as neither of the two men could respectfully decline such an offer. At the same time, who knows whether this might not give birth to a genuine peace-process, mediated over by a far more honest broker than the heavily compromised Americans!

With this bold initiative the Roman Pontiff managed to harness leaders of both countries and take them to neutral soil where they will have the opportunity to listen to the Almighty as well as each other!

Was this a piece of subtle political maneuvering or simply the prayerful offer of a pious man. In truth it was both, for prayer and politics cannot be easily separated. Both are concerned with the welfare of people, and so both are the business of the church!

Father Dave

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It’s disappointing that Pope Francis has had to put on record that his visit to Palestine and Israel next week (in that order) is for religious purposes only – disappointing but totally understandable.

In point of fact religion and politics can never be easily separated. Politics is about people, and so you can no more separate religion and politics than you can religion and people, and there is no doubt that Francis’ visit has the potential to have an enormous impact on the political situation across the Levant.

Even so, Francis is not being dishonest. As he spells out, his primary goal is meet with his ‘brother’, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. What could be more religious than healing a one thousand year old schism in the church. Of course, renewed fellowship between the Catholic and Orthodox wings of the church will have ramifications that touch every level of society but that doesn’t make the meeting any less religious!

The same can be said of the priority Francis has given to Palestine over Israel in his itinerary (see here). Is the fact that he is going straight to Bethlehem from Jordan and not going via Jerusalem (let alone Tel Aviv) a de facto recognition of the State of Palestine on the part of the Vatican?

Certainly many will see it that way, and many Palestinians will gain new strength and hope from such recognition, but it is hard to accept that Francis is doing anything more than his religious duty in dispensing comfort and hope. 🙂

Father Dave


TEXT IN ENGLISH:

“This upcoming Saturday, I will travel to the Holy Land, the land of Jesus. It will be a strictly religious visit. 
 
“First, I will meet with my brother Bartholomew I, to mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Paul VI and Athenagoras I. Peter and Andrew will meet once again, and that is very beautiful.
 
“The second reason is to pray for peace in this land that has suffered greatly. I ask you for your prayers for this trip.”
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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. ”

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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.

Father Dave

Most Reverend Richard E. Pates

Bishop Richard E. Pates

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.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Richard E. Pates
Bishop of Des Moines
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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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.

Father Dave

with Miko Peled in 2011

with Miko Peled in 2011

source: mikopeled.com…

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…