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Israel / Palestine
and the attacks on Gaza

More on Israel / Palestine from 2007-08 >>
Reports from 2006 are archived >>
Archive from 2005 >>
For archives from September through December, 2004 >>

Items from July and August, 2004 >>

If you have comments to offer,
or suggestions for action,
or other statements and articles that should be posted here,
please send a note,
to be shared here.

Rick Ufford-Chase reflects on Israel’s attack on Gaza

Now serving as Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, the former Moderator of the PC(USA) has recently shared these thoughts in a email note to PPF members.

[3-5-09]

Friends,

I expect that I am not alone in my bewilderment about how to respond to the violence of Israel’s attack on Gaza in December and January. The roots of this conflict are deep, and it is difficult to understand the complexities of the many players in this struggle. For me, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship’s consistent commitment to nonviolence offers the only viable path to develop a grounded response to the ongoing conflict.

That commitment means we can be clear that the violence of the oppressive occupation of Gaza and the West Bank by the State of Israel must come to an end. No one that I know would be willing to live in a situation of virtual incarceration in one’s home community, nor would we quietly endure the stranglehold Israel has on the Palestinian people’s economy and their access to natural resources.

The violence of illegal land seizures beyond the 1967 boundaries for the establishment of Settlements in the West Bank must also come to an end. I’ve seen the settlements, and I’ve met Palestinians whose lands have been taken and whose houses have been bulldozed in Israel’s relentless incursion into the West Bank. There is a solid consensus in the international community that Israel has encouraged the development of those settlements in clear violation of international law.

A consistent commitment to nonviolence, however, also means that the constant threats of violence and rocket launches by Hamas from Gaza into Israeli territory must also come to an end. It is totally legitimate for citizens of Israel to expect basic security, and to be able to live without fear that they or their children will be harmed by undirected and indiscriminate violence of rockets or car bombs or suicide bombers.

And of course, the overwhelming might of the military forces of Israel, backed up by the resources of the U.S. government and militaries, must be brought under control. Outside of Israel and the United States, there was widespread condemnation of Israel’s unrelenting attack on Gaza that killed hundreds of innocent civilians. The overwhelming destruction, and Israel’s refusal to allow international reporters or human rights observers to witness what was taking place, further threatened efforts to resolve difficulties.

The best primer I have seen for understanding what took place in Gaza two months ago was prepared by PPF National Committee member Walter Owensby, who was on the staff of the PC(USA) Washington Office staff for 15 years and covered the Middle East, as well as other international issues. I commend his paper to you as we work together for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Click Here to read "Gaza Conflict Background"

Rick


Join us for the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq in Washington D.C. on April 28 and 29!   [2009]

Events will begin with the Opening Convocation at National City Church on the afternoon of the 28th, followed by the worship service and candlelight procession that evening at the Convention Center.

Speakers will include Tony Campolo, Sr. Dianna Ortiz, Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., Elizabeth McAlister and Daniel Berrigan.

The following morning, Thursday the 29th, there will be a nonviolent action to lift up our continuing commitment to see the war in Iraq brought to an end.

Registration is now open for the event at www.christianpeacewitness.org .

Also, please contact us at ppfwitness@presbyvoicesforjustice.org if you are interested in sharing floorspace with us at a church near a metro stop.

 

New Amnesty report calls for freeze on arms sales to Israel       [2-24-09]

In the Israeli newspaper Ha-Aretz, Amira Hass summarizes Amnesty International’s report that as many as 20 countries, led by the United States, have sold Israel weapons and armaments which may have been used to commit war crimes during Israel’s 22 day assault on Gaza. In an unusually blunt statement, Amnesty International's Middle East director, Malcolm Smart, unequivocally declared, “The Obama administration should immediately suspend U.S. military aid to Israel.” This is one more indication that Israel is losing its standing in the international community (outside the United States), although its political elite and its American camp followers still publicly dismiss all such criticism as anti-Semitism.

The full report >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s another report on the same subject, from The Guardian UK:

Amnesty, citing phosphorus shells, urges Israeli weapons ban

Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel's extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles. In a report released today, Amnesty International detailed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Israel. The human rights group said that those arming both sides in the conflict 'will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated. 

The full story >>

A comment on the Israel/Palestine conflict:
[1-28-09]

I am an African, I have friends from all nations. The real problems must be confronted, the killings must stop. The area will be a great place if the people can live together.

The author of this note identifies herself as Lydia Daniels, a Liberian, now a Swedish citizen for over 20 years, living in Sweden and the UK, and working as a nurse.

See our earlier reports and comments on the Israeli attacks on Gaza >>

Palestinian pastor Mitri Raheb offers a different perspective on Israel’s attack on Gaza
[1-15-09]

Lutheran Pastor Mitri Raheb of Bethlehem, in Israel/Palestine, offers a very helpful perspective on Israel’s military assault on Gaza. He was an ecumenical delegate to the PC(USA) General Assembly in 2004 GA in Richmond.

Here are some excerpts:

Gaza: A Different Perspective

Watching the news these days is not an easy task, especially if you switch between Arab channels like Al Jazeera on one hand, and Western channels like Fox on the other. The war on Gaza is portrayed so differently that one sometimes might wonder if these diverse narratives are actually dealing with the same conflict. ... The most important thing, I believe, is not what we are told and shown, but what this war is trying to hide. Here are some of the intentions as I see them:

1) The two-state solution is the intended victim of the war on Gaza.

Although Israel is aiming at destroying Hamas’ military capabilities (as primitive as they are), I believe that Israel’s real intention is to polish Hamas’ political image. This may seem an outlandish contradiction, but let’s look at what has been happening. While Israel can’t tolerate rockets falling into its territory, it is in its long-term strategic interest to have Hamas control the Gaza Strip. Why? For a simple reason: if Hamas controls Gaza and Fatah controls the West Bank, then the two-state solution is over. ...

2) Regional power struggles continue to be played out in Palestine.

The war on Gaza, although purely an Israeli decision, was also triggered also by some regional powers who were backing Hamas. ...

3) Gaza is the new poster-child for justifying humanitarian aid.

Gaza will now be marketed on a much wider scale as a severe humanitarian crisis. Disempowering aid, handouts and food supplies will start flowing into Gaza like never before. Yet Gaza’s problem is, fundamentally, a political one. What the people in Gaza really need is for the occupation to end, for the population to be able to live freely, to export and import, to fish and grow flowers. ...

More >>

Thanks to the Rev. Bruce Gillette

PDA Middle East Special Appeal
[1-9-09]

The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance office has just issued this special appeal:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“For surely I know the plans I have for you…to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

All people impacted by the current violence in the Middle East are facing overwhelming humanitarian needs as a result of the continuing violence. The most basic needs—safe shelter, medical care, food, water, electricity—are well beyond the reach of many of those caught in the crossfire.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is in consultation with our partners in the region to make aid available to those most in need.

When Jesus walked these very lands, by his words and his ministries he told all who would listen to care for: the children, the old, the poor, the sick, the most vulnerable.

. . . In this moment of crisis, while leaders strive to find a path to lasting peace, our priority must be caring for those left vulnerable by the violence.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

GIVE to help the PC(USA) and our partners meet the physical needs of those in all the areas where violence leaves them vulnerable, and the emotional and spiritual needs of the many more who have been traumatized by that violence. Mail your church’s gift to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Church Remittance Processing, P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700, or give through your congregation’s normal giving channels. Write “DR000081-E1” on the check or remittance form so that we can ensure your gift is designated to meet these urgent needs. You can also give online at www.pcusa.org/pda/ 

PRAY for all those whose lives have been and continue to be affected.

STAY INFORMED with regular updates on the situation, how your church is responding, and to find available worship resources at www.pcusa.org/pda or by calling PresbyTel at 1-800-872-3283.

And please scroll down this page for more information, prayers and reflections on this Witherspoon site.

OUT OF CHAOS, HOPE

Praying for Gaza and Israel
[1-8-09]

We have just received a worship service designed by Rev. W. Mark Koenig, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, for a service held at the Presbyterian Center on Thursday January 8, 2009. We hope you find this helpful as you pray and work for a just peace.

You are encouraged to use this material (and other items we have posted earlier) in services of prayer and worship, or study and dialogue.

The service of worship opens:

CALL TO WORSHIP

We gather in a world of broken bodies and wounded hearts
To worship the God who satisfies our deepest hunger.

We gather in a world of violence and division
To worship the God who welcomes all strangers.

We gather in a world of symbols: crosses, crescents and stars
To worship the God whose only creed is love.

We gather in the world of the powerful and of those who desire power
To worship the God who calls us to each other and into our world.

Come, let us worship the God whose love breaks down all barriers.

For the full service >>

Thanks to Rick Upchurch,
of the Collegiate Ministries office of the PC(USA),
who sent this to us.

WITNESS IN WASHINGTON WEEKLY
The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

[1-7-09]

Special Presbyterian Witness in Washington Weekly - Urgent Action

Urge Immediate U.S. Efforts to End Gaza Violence, Restore Cease-Fire

The escalating Gaza violence of these past days has been a sobering jolt from holiday celebrations. For Palestinians and Israelis, there has been no peace.

It is urgent that United States call all the parties to restrain from using force and, rather, to trust a diplomatic process. The current violence has caused unbelievable suffering of innocents and both the Hamas lead government of Gaza and the Israeli government have descended into callous behavior that will set the peace process back for many years. Over fifty percent of Gaza's 1.4 million residents are under the age of 14 who now have nowhere to run from the violence, and who were already suffering from malnutrition because of the blockade on Gaza. On behalf of those children and the children of Israel, both Israelis and Palestinians must halt this spiral of violence. We mourn the loss of life on both sides and call now on the United States to exercise bold leadership to immediately end the violence, restore the cease-fire and lift the blockade of Gaza's borders.

The White House and Capitol Hill offices are sure to receive countless messages supporting a continuation of the Israeli military offensive. They need to hear from concerned American Christians that the U.S. must work with international partners to bring about an immediate cease-fire for the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Please take action today and call for a immediate cease-fire. Go to http://capwiz.com/pcusa/issues/alert/?alertid=12393316&type=CO and make your voice heard today.  

Without an urgent diplomatic solution, both Palestinians and Israelis will suffer, the risk of a broader confrontation will increase, and hope for continuation of the Annapolis peace efforts will grow ever dimmer.

The Bush Administration is in its final weeks, but it has an opportunity now to take serious action on behalf of Israeli-Palestinian peace and to safeguard U.S. interests. Congress too must encourage and support American diplomatic leadership.

The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly issued a statement today calling for all violence to stop. He states, "As followers of the Prince of Peace, who has shown us that true victory comes only through non-violent reconciliation, we yearn for an end to sixty years of conflict, violence, and oppression, all of which have left scars on all parties regardless of ethnic, religious, or political identification and have contributed to wider uncertainty about global peace. It will require not only our fervent prayers, but a renewed commitment to action so that when a cease-fire is achieved, it is followed by a new commitment by all parties to the rule of law as the only path to justice, security, and freedom for all." The full text is pasted below as well as a prayer from the newspaper Ha'aretz.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Statement from the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Rev. Gradye Parsons

"...all violence in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank must stop"


Whether Jew, Muslim, or Christian, we share commandments of love for God and neighbor. Therefore, all violence in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank must stop. Whatever its stated justifications, we know from years of conflict in the region that the resort to violence inevitably leaves behind death, injury, fear, and deepened feelings of hostility.

As the death toll and the numbers of those injured in Gaza continue to mount from the Israeli air assault and the ensuing ground war between the Israeli military and the fighters of Hamas, we call upon all parties involved to stop the violence and agree to an immediate cease-fire, under which the borders of Gaza can be opened to humanitarian aid and desperately needed medical assistance for the sick and wounded. To this end, it is imperative that the leaders of the international community, including the leaders of our own nation, step up and use their good offices to press the warring parties to bring an end to the killing.

The rockets that have long been fired from Gaza at Israeli communities must cease. They are not simply provocations, but undiscriminating instruments of fear and death. Suicide bombings also must be unconditionally condemned. Members of Hamas and other groups who continue to call for Israeli's demise must stop their rhetoric of death.

By the same token, the massive destruction of an already crippled Gazan infrastructure by aerial bombardments must end. The virtual "lock-down" of Gaza for the last two years has paralyzed economic development and left public institutions unable to cope with the humanitarian emergencies they now face. Moreover, the growing deaths of non-combatants, even when they have sought shelter in legally protected United Nations facilities, must end. Any new cease-fire agreement must be honored, if necessary with the help of international monitors, so that there is neither the firing of rockets into Israel nor Israeli assassination raids into Gaza, both of which have brought fear and death.

Most importantly, while every effort must be made to bring an end to the immediate hostilities, we must recognize that this violence is only one symptom of the decades-long failure of the international community, the Israeli government, and the leaders of the divided Palestinian community in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem to make the wrenching commitments necessary to reach a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is imperative that our own government, current and future, move beyond rhetoric to forceful and active participation as an honest and impartial broker of a just and meaningful peace.

Finally, we recognize that no lasting peace is possible without the adherence of all parties to the rule of law, especially those laws upon which the international community has agreed. These include resolutions adopted by the United Nations that provide a basis for the future recognition of two states in the region, one Israeli and one Palestinian, in which the respective parties can live in peace, security, and freedom. They also include the Geneva Conventions. Our grief over the deaths of Palestinians and Israelis in the current conflict is exacerbated by the knowledge of how many non-combatants have died in recent days. It is a reminder that all nations are called to abide by the body of basic humanitarian law that requires the protection of non-combatants in any military conflict.

The 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), meeting in June 2008, reiterated long-standing benchmarks for a two-state solution in which both parties can live in peace and security. Most of those are reflected in "The Amman Call," a declaration issued by the World Council of Churches International Peace Conference on the Middle East, June 19-20, 2007, and endorsed by the 218th General Assembly. They include the following:

5.1.That UN resolutions are the basis for peace and the Geneva conventions are applicable to the rights and responsibilities of the affected people.

5.2. That Palestinians have the right of self-determination and the right of return.

5.3. That a two-state solution must be viable politically, geographically, economically, and socially.

5.4 That Jerusalem must be an open, accessible, inclusive, and shared city for the two peoples and three religions.

5.5 That both Palestine and Israel have legitimate security needs.

5.6. That the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal and constitute an obstacle to peace.

5.7. That the "Separation Barrier" constructed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories is a grave breach of international law and must be removed from the occupied territory.

5.8. That there is no military solution for this conflict. Violence in all its forms cannot be justified whether perpetrated by Israelis or Palestinians.

5.9. That comprehensive regional peace is indivisible from a just peace in Israel and Palestine.

5.10. That the life and witness of local churches is at the center of worldwide church advocacy for a just peace.


As followers of the Prince of Peace, who has shown us that true victory comes only through non-violent reconciliation, we yearn for an end to sixty years of conflict, violence, and oppression, all of which have left scars on all parties regardless of ethnic, religious, or political identification and have contributed to wider uncertainty about global peace. It will require not only our fervent prayers, but a renewed commitment to action so that when a cease-fire is achieved, it is followed by a new commitment by all parties to the rule of law as the only path to justice, security, and freedom for all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Jew's prayer for the children of Gaza

By Bradley Burston

Ha'aretz – Wednesday - January 7, 2009


If there has ever been a time for prayer, this is that time.

If there has ever been a place forsaken, Gaza is that place.

Lord who is the creator of all children, hear our prayer this accursed day. God whom we call Blessed, turn your face to these, the children of Gaza, that they may know your blessings, and your shelter, that they may know light and warmth, where there is now only blackness and smoke, and a cold which cuts and clenches the skin.

Almighty who makes exceptions, which we call miracles, make an exception of the children of Gaza. Shield them from us and from their own. Spare them. Heal them. Let them stand in safety. Deliver them from hunger and horror and fury and grief. Deliver them from us, and from their own.

Restore to them their stolen childhoods, their birthright, which is a taste of heaven.

Remind us, O Lord, of the child Ishmael, who is the father of all the children of Gaza. How the child Ishmael was without water and left for dead in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba, so robbed of all hope, that his own mother could not bear to watch his life drain away.

Be that Lord, the God of our kinsman Ishmael, who heard his cry and sent His angel to comfort his mother Hagar.

Be that Lord, who was with Ishmael that day, and all the days after. Be that God, the All-Merciful, who opened Hagar's eyes that day, and showed her the well of water, that she could give the boy Ishmael to drink, and save his life.

Allah, whose name we call Elohim, who gives life, who knows the value and the fragility of every life, send these children your angels. Save them, the children of this place, Gaza the most beautiful, and Gaza the damned.

In this day, when the trepidation and rage and mourning that is called war, seizes our hearts and patches them in scars, we call to you, the Lord whose name is Peace:

Bless these children, and keep them from harm.

Turn Your face toward them, O Lord. Show them, as if for the first time, light and kindness, and overwhelming graciousness.

Look up at them, O Lord. Let them see your face.

And, as if for the first time, grant them peace.

With thanks to Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman of Kol HaNeshama, Jerusalem. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1052871.html

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Published by the Witness in Washington Weekly advocacy program of the Washington Office, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 100 Maryland Avenue, NE, Washington D.C. 20002, (202) 543-1126 www.pcusa.org/washington .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you have comments to offer,
or suggestions for action,
or other statements and articles that should be posted here,
please send a note,
to be shared here.

Israel Palestine Mission Network issues statement on Gaza
[1-7-09]

STATEMENT ON GAZA

January 7, 2009

This statement is also available in
easy-to-print PDF format >>

The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) condemns in the harshest terms possible the Israeli massacre of Palestinians now underway in Gaza. This long-planned and all-too-indiscriminate slaughter of hundreds of civilians, the wounding of thousands, and the destruction of homes, hospitals, schools, mosques and economic infrastructure cannot be justified in the name of Israeli national security.

The numbers simply do not add up: In the past eight years 20 Israelis have been killed by Hamas rockets while in the past three years over 1700 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by the Israeli military, including the 600 men, women and children who have died so far in this most recent attack. Hundreds more have died as a result of the Israeli embargo on medicine, food and fuel. The sheer disproportion of death and destruction is an affront to the conscience of humanity. This blatant collective punishment mocks international law as well as the Geneva Conventions. It is morally repugnant to us and the rest of the world.

Despite the usual "blaming" justifications given for this incursion, there are other truths about Israel's actions that need to be told:

1) Israel, not Hamas, broke the truce*, and has long used its own missiles to assassinate Palestinian leaders, often with family-destroying "collateral damage."

2) The attacks on Gaza coincide with a heated Israeli political campaign in which the leaders of the Labor and Kadima Parties must appear to the electorate to be as tough as the Likud Party led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

3) The current United States government has become complicit in this tragedy by supporting Israel's justifications for its actions and by—alone in the nations of the UN Security Council— blocking the international demand for a ceasefire.

4) The timing reflects a desire to limit the restoration of human rights and international diplomacy promised by the incoming Obama Administration.

The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), in accordance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, stands with the victims of this atrocious massacre. We condemn violence committed by both sides, but cannot turn a blind eye to the disproportionate amount of suffering on the Palestinian side of this equation. The simple fact is that the firing of the most lethal, hi-tech weapons on earth into an embargoed, walled-in Gaza by Israeli forces is tantamount to what is crudely known as "shooting fish in a barrel."

We call upon the government of the United States of America to support an immediate cease-fire within the United Nations and independently. We also call for a multi-national peacekeeping force to be installed as soon as possible, which is the standard that has been set anywhere else in the world following such a tragic humanitarian disaster. We call upon the Israeli government to allow UN peacekeeping forces with humanitarian assistance to enter into Gaza immediately.
 

bullet "CNN Finally Confirms Israel Broke Ceasefire First" (http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=KntmpoRXFX4)
See also "NPR News Monday, January 5, 2009" (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/janjune09/ gaza_01-05.html)
Silence now is no virtue
by the Rev. John Shuck
[1-5-08]

Pastor and blogger John Shuck has posted a thoughtful note reflecting his own experience and thinking about the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

The death toll and the violence mounts in Gaza. The Israelis have opted for a military solution to a humanitarian problem. I find it curious that so many of my Presbyterian colleagues are silent about this. There are a whole lot of Presbyterian clergy and laypeople who blog. But not too many are blogging about this.

I wonder why?

   1. Perhaps the news is boring. "They always have been fighting over in the Middle East and they always will be fighting" is a mantra I hear now and again. "Ho hum. No news here."

   2. Perhaps people don't feel informed enough about the issue to make an opinion.

   3. Perhaps they don't want to anger friends and colleagues who have a different opinion than theirs.

   4. Perhaps they agree with President Bush that this all the fault of Hamas or the Palestinians themselves and they hope that Israel will kick some butt.

   5. Perhaps, consciously or unconsciously, because the Jewish scriptures are incorporated into the Christian scriptures and the Muslim scriptures are not (ie. Qur'an), then Christians always need to be on the side of the Israelis no matter what they do.

I see it differently.

   1. I think this is news. Tragic news. There is a reason why there is fighting in Israel/Palestine. Johann Hari offers an important view.

   2. If we are not informed, whose fault is that? There are plenty of resources available. Thanks to Doug King of Witherspoon for providing some.

   3. Making opinions can cause friction. So what else is new? If you are supposed to speak for justice and peace and to witness to Christ, that is part of the job. If we take our jobs seriously regarding Jesus Christ, we should not be silent even if we disagree.

   4. Hamas generates no sympathy for lobbing rockets, that is for sure. But in desperate times, when backs are to the wall, extremists become leaders. A long history of second-class status for the Palestinian people complete with all the indignities placed upon them for decades has led to this situation.

   5. This is the 21st century. Policies based on holy books and "chosen people" need to replaced by human rights and self-determination for all people. If it matters, many Palestinians are Christian.

I visited the Holy Land in 1994 as part of a tour. It was a gift to me by members of my first congregation. It was a "visit the places Jesus walked" kind of thing. I saw quite a bit. We visited the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, and others. This was before the wall. No rockets or suicide bombers as I recall.

There was gunfire now and then. Israelis had guns. Palestinians had rocks.

One day I left the tour. A couple of us ventured on our own at one point. We took cab ride. The Palestinian driver told us a different story than what we had heard from our Israeli hosts. I heard about houses that were demolished. He showed us illegal Jewish settlements. He told us of the indignities the Palestinians experienced because they were second-class citizens. He told us that Americans need to know what is happening.

A lot has changed since 1994. The situation has deteriorated. For my own understanding, perhaps it is time for me to find a way to take another trip to the Holy Land.

The United States supports the Israelis unequivocally. Obama, so far, looks little different from Bush. Apparently, "our interests" are aligned with supporting the Israeli military. The superstition of American Christians regarding so-called biblical prophecies encourages this support.

What are the solutions?

   1. Two separate states based on 1967 borders. This doesn't seem to be working. Perhaps it could yet, I don't know.

   2. One new nation. This seems to me the logical choice. A new Holy Land that shows no distinction regarding ethnicity or religion. One country run democratically in which Jews, Christians, Muslims and all others who live there share with one vote in one government.

   3. Continue the violence. This is apparently what the U.S. wants. Fox News reports that the U.S. rejected the U.N.'s call for a cease fire.

The U.S. is the major player here. If the political will of the United States advocated for a just peace for all who live in the Holy Land, rather than unequivocal support and money for one ethnic group at the expense of the others, changes would come.

This would require U.S. citizens to become informed, to care, and to act.

This seems to me to be something worth blogging about and worth talking about. If you see it differently, let me know.

Silence now is no virtue.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

You can read this, respond to it and see others' responses, on John Shuck's blog, Shuck & Jive.

On Gaza
by Starhawk

December 30, 2008
[Posted here 1-5-09]
 

Starhawk is an activist, organizer, and author of The Earth Path, as well as Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising, The Fifth Sacred Thing; and eight other books on feminism, politics and earth-based spirituality. She teaches Earth Activist Trainings that combine permaculture design and activist skills, and works to offer training and support for mobilizations around global justice and peace issues.

You'll find this and more on Starhawk's Israel/Palestine Page >>

For Starhawk's Home Page >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


All day I've been thinking about Gaza, listening to reports on NPR, following the news on the internet when I can spare a moment. I've been thinking about the friends I made there four years ago, and wondering how they are faring, and imagining their terror as the bombs fall on that giant, open-air prison.

The Israeli ambassador speaks movingly of the terror felt by Israeli children as Hamas rockets explode in the night. I agree with him – that no child should have her sleep menaced by rocket fire, or wake in the night fearing death.

But I can't help but remember one night on the Rafah border, sleeping in a house close to the line, watching the children dive for cover as bullets thudded into the walls. There was a shell-hole in the back room they liked to jump through into the garden, which at that time still held fruit trees and chickens. Their mother fed me eggs, and their grandmother stuffed oranges into my pockets with the shy pride every gardener shares.

That house is gone, now, along with all of its neighbors. Those children wake in the night, every night of their lives, in terror. I don't know if they have survived the hunger, the lack of medical supplies, the bombs. I only know that they are children, too.

I've ridden on busses in Israel. I understand that gnawing fear, the squirrely feeling in the pit or your stomach, how you eye your fellow passengers wondering if any of them are too thick around the middle. Could that portly fellow be wearing a suicide belt, or just too many late night snacks of hummus? That's no way to live.

But I've also walked the pock-marked streets of Rafah, where every house bears the scars of Israeli snipers, where tanks prowled the border every night, where children played in the rubble, sometimes under fire, and this was all four years ago, when things were much, much better there.

And I just don't get it. I mean, I get why suicide bombs and homemade rockets that kill innocent civilians are wrong. I just don't get why bombs from F16s that kill far more innocent civilians are right. Why a kid from the ghetto who shoots a cop is a criminal, but a pilot who bombs a police station from the air is a hero.

Is it a distance thing? Does the air or the altitude confer a purifying effect? Or is it a matter of scale? Individual murder is vile, but mass murder, carried out by a state as an aspect of national policy, that's a fine and noble thing?

I don't get how my own people can be doing this. Or rather, I do get it. I am a Jew, by birth and upbringing, born six years after the Holocaust ended, raised on the myth and hope of Israel. The myth goes like this:

"For two thousand years we wandered in exile, homeless and persecuted, nearly destroyed utterly by the Nazis. But out of that suffering was born one good thing-the homeland that we have come back to, our own land at last, where we can be safe, and proud, and strong."

That's a powerful story, a moving story. There's only one problem with it – it leaves the Palestinians out. It has to leave them out, for if we were to admit that the homeland belonged to another people, well, that spoils the story.

The result is a kind of psychic blind spot where the Palestinians are concerned. If you are truly invested in Israel as the Jewish homeland, the Jewish state, then you can't let the Palestinians be real to you. It's like you can't really focus on them. Golda Meir said, "The Palestinians, who are they? They don't exist." We hear, "There is no partner for peace," "There is no one to talk to."

And so Israel, a modern state with high standards of hygiene, a state rooted in a religion that requires washing your hands before you eat and regular, ritual baths, builds settlements that don't bother to construct sewage treatment plants. They just dump raw sewage onto the Palestinian fields across the fence, somewhat like a spaceship ejecting its wastes into the void. I am truly not making this up – I've seen it, smelled it, and it's a known though shameful fact. But if the Palestinians aren't really real – who are they? They don't exist! – then the land they inhabit becomes a kind of void in the psyche, and it isn't really real, either. At times, in those border villages, walking the fencelines of settlements, you feel like you have slipped into a science fiction movie, where parallel universes exist in the same space, but in different strands of reality, that never touch.

When I was on the West Bank, during Israeli incursions the Israeli military would often take over a Palestinian house to billet their soldiers. Many times, they would simply lock the family who owned it into one room, and keep them there, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days – parents, grandparents, kids and all. I've sat with a family, singing to the children while soldiers trashed their house, and I've been detained by a group of soldiers playing cards in the kitchen with a family locked in the other room. (I got out of that one-but that's another story.)

It's a kind of uneasy feeling, having something locked away in a room in your house that you can't look at. Ever caught a mouse in a glue trap? And you can't bear to watch it suffer, so you leave the room and close the door and don't come back until it's really, really dead.

Like a horrific fractal, the locked room repeats on different scales. The Israelis have built a wall to lock away the West Bank. And Gaza itself is one huge, locked room. Close the borders, keep food and medical supplies and necessities from getting through, and perhaps they will just quietly fade out of existence and stop spoiling our story.

"All we want is a return to calm," the Israeli ambassador says. "All we want is peace."

One way to get peace is to exterminate what threatens you. In fact, that may be the prime directive of the last few thousand years.

But attempts to exterminate pests breed resistance, whether you're dealing with insects or bacteria or people. The more insecticides you pour on a field, the more pests you have to deal with-because insecticides are always more potent at killing the beneficial bugs than the pesky ones.

The harshness, the crackdowns, the border closings, the checkpoints, the assassinations, the incursions, the building of settlements deep into Palestinian territory, all the daily frustrations and humiliations of occupation, have been breeding the conditions for Hamas, or something like it, to thrive. If Israel truly wants peace, there's a more subtle, a more intelligent and more effective strategy to pursue than simply trying to kill the enemy and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity.

It's this – instead of killing what threatens you, feed what you want to grow. Consider in what conditions peace can thrive, and create them, just as you would prepare the bed for the crops you want to plant. Find those among your opponents who also want peace, and support them. Make alliances. Offer your enemies incentives to change, and reward your friends.

Of course, to follow such a strategy, you must actually see and know your enemy. If they are nothing to you but cartoon characters of terrorists, you will not be able to tell one from another, to discern the religious fanatic from the guy muttering under his breath, "F-ing Hammas, they closed the cinema again!"

And you must be willing to give something up. No one gets peace if your basic bargaining position is, "I get everything I want, and you eat my shit." You might get a temporary victory, but it will never be a peaceful one.

To know and see the enemy, you must let them into the story. They must become real to you, nuanced, distinctive as individuals. But when we let the Palestinians into the story, it changes. Oh, how painfully it changes! For there is no way to tell a new story, one that includes both peoples of the land, without starting like this:

"In our yearning for a homeland, in our attempts as a threatened and traumatized people to find safety and power, we have done a great wrong to another people, and now we must atone."

Just try saying it. If you, like me, were raised on that other story, just try this one out. Say it three times. It hurts, yes, but it might also bring a great, liberating sense of relief with it.

And if you're not Jewish, if you're American, if you're white, if you're German, if you're a thousand other things, really, if you're a human being, there's probably some version of that story that is true for you.

Out of our own great need and fear and pain, we have often done great harm, and we are called to atone. To atone is to be at one – to stop drawing a circle that includes our tribe and excludes the other, and start drawing a larger circle that takes everyone in.

How do we atone? Open your eyes. Look into the face of the enemy, and see a human being, flawed, distinct, unique and precious. Stop killing. Start talking. Compost the shit and the rot and feed the olive trees.

Act. Cross the line. There are Israelis who do it all the time, joining with Palestinians on the West Bank to protest the wall, watching at checkpoints, refusing to serve in the occupying army, standing for peace. Thousands have demonstrated this week in Tel Aviv.

There are Palestinians who advocate nonviolent resistance, who have organized their villages to protest the wall, who face tear gas, beatings, arrests, rubber bullets and real bullets to make their stand.

There are internationals who have put themselves on the line-like the boatload of human rights activists, journalists and doctors on board the Dignity, the ship from the Free Gaza movement that was rammed and fired on by the Israeli navy yesterday as it attempted to reach Gaza with humanitarian aid.

Maybe we can't all do that. But we can all write a letter, make a phone call, send an email. We can make the Palestinian people visible to us, and to the world. When we do so, we make a world that is safer for every child.

Below is a good summary of some of the actions we can take. Please feel free to repost this. In fact, send it to someone you think will disagree with it.

– Starhawk


Updated Action Alert on Gaza:

We Need "Sustained, Determined Political Action"

December 29, 2008

As of this writing, a third consecutive day of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have killed an estimated 315 Palestinians and injured more than 1,400. According to the UN, at least 51 of the victims were civilians and 8 were children. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has vowed ominously "a war to the bitter end."

Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip are being carried out with F16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, and naval gunboats all given to Israel by the United States with our tax dollars.

From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16's and more than $100 million worth of helicopter spare parts for its fleet of Apaches. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel and signed a contract to transfer an addition $1.9 billion worth of littoral combat ships to the Israeli navy. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and "bunker buster" missiles.

Make no mistake about it-Israel's war on the Gaza Strip would not be possible without the jets, helicopters, ships, missiles, and fuel provided by the United States.

Information for action – you can go directly to two websites:

End the Occupation

And United for Peace and Justice  -- and get to working links.

You can email Obama or post comments at http://change.gov/ .

Ali Abunimah, of The Electronic Intifada, wrote, "Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action." In light of our country's enabling role in Israel's war on the Gaza Strip, it is the least we can do. Here's how:

1. Attend a protest or vigil, or organize one yourself.

2. Contact the White House, the State Department, your Representative and Senators, and the Obama Transition Team to protest Israel's war on Gaza and demand an immediate cease-fire.

White House: 202-456-1111 or comments@whitehouse.gov

State Department: 202-647-6575

Congress: 202-224-3121

3. Make your voice heard in the media. Contact your local media by phoning into a talk show or writing a letter to the editor.

4. Tell President-Elect Barack Obama that we need a change in Israel/Palestine policy.

5. Sign up to organize people in your community to end U.S. military aid to Israel.

6. Come to Washington, DC for Inauguration Day on January 20. Upwards of 4 million people are expected in Washington, DC for President-Elect Obama's inauguration. This is a perfect time for us to reach out to and educate our fellow citizens about U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel.

7. Join Democracy in Action in Washington, DC for a Grassroots Advocacy Training and Lobby Day on February 1-2.

Interfaith Peace-Builders and the US Campaign are organizing this exciting two-day event, featuring interactive, skills-building workshops and the chance to meet with your Representative and Senators to discuss U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. Spaces are filling up fast.


Copyright (c) 2008, 2009 by Starhawk. All rights reserved. This copyright protects Starhawk's right to future publication of her work. Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate this essay (forward it, reprint it, translate it, post it, or reproduce it) for nonprofit uses. Please do not change any part of it without permission. Readers are invited to visit the web site: www.starhawk.org .
Israel launches ground invasion of Gaza

Israeli defense minister Barak promised that the invasion "won't be short"
[1-4-09]

Here’s one report from the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz >>

There is, once again, plenty of reporting by US media on Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which began yesterday, January 3. Most of it, however, reflects in one way or another the Israeli point of view, partly because Israel is allowing no foreign journalists into Gaza.

We believe it may be helpful for “the other side” to be heard – including Palestinians, Israelis and other Jews who are committed to peace, Christians and others.

So here’s a sample:

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A Palestinian Christian perspective

The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem presents a concise overview of the Gaza situation from a Christian Palestinian perspective.


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SABEEL’S REFLECTION ON GAZA

The Narrow Gate of Justice

 

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

On Saturday, December 27, 2008, as the children of Gaza were about to leave their schools to return home, the Israeli air force carried a massive air attack against the people of Gaza. In less than 4 hours, over 150 people were killed and 200 injured – men, women, and children. By the end of the fourth day, over 390 Palestinians were killed and almost 2,000 injured. On the Israeli side, 4 were killed and no statistics are available on the number of injured.

FACTS ABOUT THE GAZA STRIP:

Population: 1.5 million. 75% of them are refugees. 45% of them are under 14 years.

Area: 360 sq km, 139 sq miles.

Population density: 4,167 people/sq Km (The highest in the world.) 

80% of Gazan households live below the poverty line, subsisting on less than $3 per person a day. 80% of all Gazan families would literally starve without food aid from international agencies.

The Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, similar to that of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, started with the 1967 June war. In September 2005, the Israeli army pulled out of Gaza and removed its illegal settlements. However, the illegal Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip did not come to an end. Israel maintained its tight control over Gaza’s borders (air, land, and sea). To make things even worse, Israel imposed a siege on Gaza in June 2007, thus tightening its border restrictions and causing the humanitarian conditions to deteriorate further. Under the brutal siege, every aspect of the lives of the people of Gaza was controlled. They were totally dependent on Israel for fuel, electricity, cooking gas, medical supplies, food supplies (even flour), building material, etc. Israel made sure that the Palestinians would remain alive at barely the survival and basic subsistence level.

On November 14, 2008, UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon issued a statement that said, “The Secretary-General is concerned that food and other life saving assistance is being denied to hundreds of thousands of people, and emphasizes that measures which increase the hardship and suffering of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as a whole are unacceptable and should cease immediately.”

IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER:

FIRST: A word about tahdi’a (the period of calm or truce). It is important to note that among the terms of tahdi’a was the understanding that Israel would lift the siege of the Gaza Strip, and gradually extend the truce to the West Bank. This Israel did not do. It only partially lifted the siege and allowed a trickle of vital commodities into Gaza which kept the people at the level of mere survival. Israel’s raids into the West Bank continued on a daily basis and scores of Palestinians were arrested or assassinated.

The International Herald Tribune reported on December 19, 2008 that it was Hamas’ understanding that after the tahdi’a Israel would open the crossings and allow the transfer of goods that have been banned since the siege was imposed. There was never a return to the 500 – 600 truckloads of goods shipments that used to go into the Gaza Strip before the siege. “The number of trucks increased to around 90 from around 70.” The facts and figures tell the real story. Sadly, however, many western leaders have shut their ears, eyes, and mouths against the cry of the oppressed and they fell into the deceptive snares of Israel. Most of the world judges Israel by what it says and not by what it does; while they close their ears to the comprehensive and workable 2002 Peace Initiative adopted by all the Arab leaders including the Palestinians. Even Hamas has agreed to a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders as expressed to President Carter on his latest visit to Syria.

SECOND: So long as Israel holds the Palestinians in general and the Gazans in particular under occupation, they (the Palestinians) have the right, according to international law, to resist the “seemingly never ending” belligerent occupation and struggle for their liberation. Israel, therefore, cannot demand from the international community sympathy and political support and from the Palestinians calm and security, while it maintains its inhuman and illegal occupation. It is only when Israel ends its occupation that it can have a legitimate right to defend its borders. Israel stands in violation of international law and is the aggressor due to its belligerent occupation.

THIRD: The Arab leaders and governments can do more for peace. Many people accuse them of a conspiracy of silence. Most of the Arab people are ashamed of the positions of their governments because they have not used their resources collectively to end the occupation. Sabeel is not talking about the use of force although many of our Arab people do. We believe that the Arab governments could have contributed much more towards a resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict through nonviolent means. Tragically, this did not happen.

FOURTH: Although Sabeel wishes that Hamas and other Palestinian factions had chosen a nonviolent way to resist the Israeli siege, we feel that the disproportionate use of military force against the Gaza Strip and the number of casualties that it produced must be strongly condemned. It is a shame that once again many western leaders have failed to see the deeper issues that are involved. They chose to stand with the occupier rather than with the occupied, with the oppressor rather than the oppressed, and with the powerful rather than with the weak. It is important to continue the resistance against the belligerent occupation. But we call on our Palestinian people to abandon the armed struggle and to choose a more potent and effective way – the way of nonviolence. We can do it and we can win. The Palestinians are capable of setting an example for the rest of the world. This is what we must do; and this is what can restore to us our human pride and dignity.

In fact, we must look to a world where wars, and weapons of violence and destruction would be banned and where oppressed nations would choose the higher moral ground and resist the evil of belligerent occupations by nonviolent means. We hope for a world where a reformed United Nations would never be held hostage by powerful nations, but would enjoy the freedom to establish justice for the oppressed of the world.

FIFTH: We believe that the real message of the Palestinians to the world is a genuine cry for freedom and liberation. The Palestinians did not initiate the violence. The prolonged illegal Israeli occupation is the real cause for the violence in our area. Israel has shut the door on justice. The only way that can guarantee a lasting resolution of the conflict is for the United States’ new administration to dare and open the door of justice. We believe that it is the narrow gate of which Jesus Christ spoke. It is the gate that leads to a life of peace and security. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” This is the narrow gate of justice. This is the basis of international law. The way of military domination, occupation, violence, and wars is the wide gate that leads to destruction; while the gate that seems narrow and hard is the one that leads to justice, peace and security for both sides. We have tried the wide gate and it has only brought us destruction. It is high time to try the narrow gate of justice so that we might find life.

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Jerusalem
December 31, 2008

www.sabeel.org

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jewish voices of dissent

Jewish Peace News presents various voices of dissent coming from inside of Israel and other places in the Jewish world. Some of the dissent is organized as demonstrations and petitions and some manifests on blogs and in more traditional publications.

This collection of articles and essays includes voices of dissent coming from inside of Israel and other places in the Jewish world. Some of the dissent is organized as demonstrations and petitions and some manifests on blogs and in more traditional publications.  

•           One of the more moving voices of dissent is coming out of Sderot and other Israeli communities around Gaza. A group called "The Other Voice" [this website is in Hebrew] has published a petition calling for the Israeli government to prevent escalation and restore calm to the area (the petition and an article on the group are included as the first items below). The petition was written in November and is gaining more publicity now, for obvious reasons. It states" We prefer an option of a cold war in which not a single rocket is fired to a hot war with tens of innocent victims and casualties from both sides." So far more than 2,300 Israelis have signed it, including more than 500 people from Sderot.

Adam Horwitz reported on this in Huffington Post >>

•           Another voice from that part of Israel belongs to Julia Chaitin, who opposes this war supposedly being fought for her protection. In her simple, beautiful prose, she outlines how this war is "unnecessary, cruel and cynical," and will not bring quiet or "normal" life to the people in the Negev. She says "We will know peace only when we accept the fact that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have every right to lives of dignity. We will know peace only when we recognize that we must negotiate with Hamas, our enemy, even if we are devastated that the Palestinians did not elect a more moderate party to lead them. We will know peace only when our leaders stop considering our lives cheap and expendable..." In an encouraging development, this essay was published in the Washington Post. 

•           An interview from 12/31/08 on Democracy Now! with Dov Khenin, Knesset Member from the Hadash party, and conscientious objector Jonathan Ben-Artzi. In addition to Khenin's report on protest in Israel, this segment contains sharp insights and analysis from both men.

•           Sara Roy, whose analysis of Gazan life and economy is so invaluable, wonders what becomes of Jewish life and ethical culture in light of Israel's huge crimes. She says, "It is one thing to take an individual's land, his home, his livelihood, to denigrate his claims, or ignore his emotions. It is another to destroy his child...Why have we [Jews] been unable to accept the fundamental humanity of Palestinians and include them within our moral boundaries? Rather, we reject any human connection with the people we are oppressing. Ultimately, our goal is to tribalize pain, narrowing the scope of human suffering to ourselves alone."   More >>

•           In his Ha'aretz article entitled "Right and Left, Diaspora Jews are more critical of Israel than ever," (reprinted in the Huffington Post), Anschel Pfeffer writes of a "quite significant" number of Jews who are reflexively supportive of Israel but also "extremely disturbed and hurt by the level of civilian deaths and destruction" Israel is causing. He notes that "Israel expects support, fund-raising, lobbying and media advocacy efforts to be made by the Jews of the Diaspora on its behalf," but this war brings these Diaspora Jews "frustration and disillusionment" with Israel. Given that mainstream Jewish organizations, including the more left-leaning Reform movement, are squarely behind Israel's actions in Gaza, Pfeffer's article suggests that a growing number of Jewish people simply - and probably silently - don't agree with these organizations that speak in their names.

•           Finally, a short piece from the JTA reporting that the Rome Jewish Community and the Union of Italian Jewish Communities responded to an appeal from the Italian foreign minister to raise funds for victims of Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rocket-fire. The Jewish community's $400,000 is to be split evenly between Jewish and Palestinian grantees. Humanitarian aid is a gesture which doesn't require assigning blame or responsibility to either side. Whatever their reasoning for making this gift, it notable that a Jewish community is officially acknowledging the suffering of people under direct assault by the Jewish state.

For more from Jewish Peace News, click here >>

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) offers an online crisis resource center on Gaza attacks
[1-4-09]

It lists these as including:

bullet

A factual timeline of the events leading up to the Israeli attacks.

bullet

Reliable articles on the situation in Gaza.

bullet

A list of UN responses and statements on the tragedy.

bullet

A list of credible media sources.

bullet

A continuously updated resource on the numbers of killed and injured.

bullet

An instructive link on contacting the media about the tragedy in Gaza.

bullet

An instructive link on contacting elected representatives including President-elect Obama.

bullet

Links to Op-Ed articles being published on the tragedy in publications nationwide.

bullet

A list of protests, rallies, and vigils taking place nationwide.

Click here for the index of resources >>

Rabbi Michael Lerner urges Israel – for its own sake – to build true peace in Gaza
[1-4-09]

Rabbi Michael Lerner, who is is editor of Tikkun, a prominent progressive Jewish and interfaith magazine and chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, writes in Religion Dispatches: "Israel's attempt to wipe out Hamas is understandable, but dumb. No country in the world is going to ignore the provocation of rockets being launched from neighboring territory day after day. ... Israel has every right to respond. But the kind of response matters." The present Israeli military action, he argues, is entirely out of proportion to any possible Hamas response.

The only hope for peace for Israel, he says, is for that nation, as the militarily superior power, to initiate an immediate cease-fire, open the Gaza border, release all Palestinians held in detention, and invite in an international monitoring force.

More than that, he says that Israel must take positive steps to build peace in Gaza, and between Palestine and Israel, including (quoting directly from his article): 

1. Implementing a massive Marshall Plan in Gaza and in the West Bank to end poverty and unemployment, rebuild all that has been destroyed of the Palestinian infrastructure, and encourage investment in a new Palestinian economy; 

2. Dismantle the settlements or tell the settlers unequivocally that they must become citizens of a Palestinian state, live by its laws, face charges if their settlements were constructed on land stolen from Palestinians, and that they will not be able to count on Israel to protect them; 

3. Accept 30,000 Palestinian refugees back into Israel each year for the next thirty years, a number that would not seriously endanger the population balance, apologize for its role in the 1948 expulsions of Palestinians (known as al Naqba), and offer to coordinate a worldwide effort to raise funds to compensate Palestinians for all that they lost during the Occupation;

4. Recognize a Palestinian state within borders already defined by the Geneva Accord of 2003.

This is the only way Israel will ever achieve security. It is the only way to permanently defeat Hamas and all extremists who wish to see endless war against Israel. But it won’t happen until there is a massive shift in understanding about what promotes “security.”

Lerner's full article >>

We welcome your contributions! 
Other sources we might include,
or your own understanding of the invasion
and the complex situation that surrounds it.

Please just send a note,
to be shared here.

From the leadership of the PC(USA):

Prayer for Peace in Gaza
[12-31-08]

Even as we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, we are anguished by stories of violence and conflict once again in Gaza [www.pcusa.org/worldwide/israelpalestine]. Citizens and soldiers, young people and old are wounded and killed. We see how violence begets violence, as an eye for an eye leads not to peace, but to deeper blindness. We pray fervently for peace, for a New Year marked by a willingness and commitment to put violence aside and a desire and dedication to seek new relationships of peace. We pray that governments and leaders here and there and around the world will use whatever influence they may have as peacemakers, and that we, too will have courage and faith to pray without ceasing and to be agents of justice and peace for all.


Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk
Linda Valentine, Executive Director, General Assembly Council

Presbyterian Peacemaking Program Update
December 29, 2008

[12-31-08]

GAZA

News reports from Israel and Gaza in recent days have been unsettling. Escalating violence between Hamas and Israel in the form of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli military attacks on Gaza has placed innocent people in harm’s way. To date, reports indicate that there have been over 300 deaths and 1,000 injuries. The continued closure of Gaza with the cutoff or delay of vital food, fuel, electricity and adequate access to medical attention for the residents of Gaza is another matter of concern that must be addressed quickly and responsibility.

In response, we can:

Pray for all victims of violence, all who resort to violence, and all who work for a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis.

Support humanitarian efforts through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

Call the White House comments line (202-456-1111). Email President Bush and our Senators and Representative through Churches for Middle East Peace.

Write a letter to the editor of your paper.

Sign the ecumenical Christian letter to President-elect Obama urging him to make Israeli-Palestinian peace an immediate priority during his first year in office.

Download the Christian Call for Holy Land Peace Campaign Organizing Packet from Churches for Middle East Peace. This packet is intended to help congregations or other groups organize to send a strong message to President-elect Obama that Israeli-Palestinian peace must be an immediate priority during his first year in office.   (Adobe Reader required)

LEARN MORE

From the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Presbyterians at Work in Israel and Palestine

On Peace and Justice in Israel and Palestine – 218th General Assembly (2008)

Being a Voice for the Victims of Violence in Israel and Palestine – 218th General Assembly (2008)

Actions of Assemblies from 1997 to 2006 

Israel/Palestine Mission Network


From the United Nations

United Nations News Centre on the Middle East

Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report - The impact of the blockade on the Gaza Strip 15 Dec 2008 by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)


The Rev. W. Mark Koenig
Coordinator, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry
General Assembly Council
100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 569-5936 (888) 728-7228, ext. 5936 (toll-free)mark.koenig@pcusa.org
www.pcusa.org/peacemaking
presbyterian.typepad.com/peacemaking

 

A few critical looks at Israel’s attack on Gaza – mostly through Jewish eyes

[12-31-08]

Jewish Peace News offers many and varied reports

A couple recent examples:

Palestinian doctor refutes several of Israel’s justifications for its attacks on Gaza

Calling the Gaza onslaught "Palestine's Guernica," Dr. Mustapha Barghouti (founder of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and Secretary General of the Palestine National Initiative) confronts several of Israel's claimed justifications for the Gaza actions. These justifications С including the idea that Hamas unilaterally violated and ended the truce, that

Israel is only attacking military targets, that Israel is attacking Hamas but "not the Palestinian people" – are being repeated in the mainstream press as if they are truths. Barghouti simply and solidly refutes them.

Barghouti's article >>

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The Gaza Crisis: 2008

An analysis by Phyllis Bennis
[12-31-08]

A quick summary of the main points in this essay:

bulletThe Israeli airstrikes represent serious violations of international law С including the Geneva Conventions and a range of international humanitarian law.
 
bulletThe U.S. is complicit in the Israeli violations С directly and indirectly.
bulletThe timing of the air strikes has far more to do with U.S. and Israeli politics than with protecting Israeli civilians.
bulletThis serious escalation will push back any chance of serious negotiations between the parties that might have been part of the Obama administration's plans.
bulletThere is much work to be done.

The full essay >>

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. Her books include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer in FAQ format which many will find useful for education work in this urgent period. (www.interlinkbooks.com )

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Jewish Peace News offers a vast amount of information (such as the pieces above) from many different sources, both Israeli, Arab, and foreign. You’ll find it on the Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com

To subscribe to Jewish Peace News news clippings, which are sent only to subscribers, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net 

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Jewish Voice for Peace is another source of information, mostly reflecting the U.S.-based Jewish peace-activist orientation of the group.

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A Hundred Eyes for an Eye

Writing for Truthout, Norman Solomon says:

Even if you set aside the magnitude of Israel's violations of the Geneva conventions and the long terrible history of its methodical collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, consider the vastly disproportionate carnage in the conflict. 'An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,' Gandhi said. What about a hundred eyes for an eye?

The rest of the article >>

Norman Solomon is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A different point of view:

It's Overtime for Hamas' Leaders and Time for Them to Go

Ambassador Marc Ginsberg spent his formative years in the Middle East, particularly in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon from 1960-1968. He was appointed by Secretary of State Vance as his White House Liaison in 1977, and then served as Deputy Senior Advisor to President Carter for Middle East Policy. In 1994, he was appointed by President Clinton as U.S. Ambassador to Morocco, making him the first American of Jewish heritage to be appointed to an Arab nation.

He writes:

In order to understand what this struggle is all about, one must understand Hamas' goals, largely derived from its ideological paternity to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. As a Sunni extremist offshoot of the Brotherhood, Hamas' raison d'etre is Israel's destruction – nothing less will do. Despite my instinctive belief that one should try to negotiate a way out of this dilemma no matter the odds, I have concluded that the only way out of this mess is to separate Hamas' entire military and political leadership from the oppressed citizenry of Gaza (and yes, it is absolutely a mischaracterization of fact to assert that Hamas is the legitimate ruler of Gaza). Easier said than done you say. But as long as Hamas rules Gaza, no amount of cajoling is going to end the vicious cycle of terror that Hamas is inflicting first and foremost on its own beaten-down Palestinian victims as well as on Israel.

His full article >>

 

 

Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.

 

John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.

 

Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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