Friday, December 18, 2009

For love of land

Al-Ahram Weekly Online 17 - 23 December 2009
Issue No. 977
Reader's corner

Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

For love of land

Sir-- Ramzy Baroud quotes US President Roosevelt in 'A people's history of Thanksgiving' (3-9 December, Al-Ahram Weekly): "The European settlers moved into an uninhabited waste... the land is really owned by no one... The settler ousts no one from the land. The truth is, the Indians never had any real title to the soil."

Roosevelt was right. Native tribes (I am a citizen of the Choctaw Nation) did not own land. They considered it impossible to own land. Anyone could farm any land that was not being used by someone else. There was plenty of unused land for the European settlers to occupy and farm without displacing any natives because North America was sparsely populated by native tribes. The more peaceful tribes, such as the Choctaw, welcomed white settlers who obeyed the law and willingly let them marry Choctaws. However, tribes did mark territory for hunting and jealously guarded it against other tribes. In fact, native tribes regularly massacred each other over claims to hunting grounds or simply the desire to loot another tribe. Each tribe considered all other tribes to be animals worthy of slaughter like buffalo. They only united against the European Americans in the early 20th century.

The US government treated native peoples terribly and is guilty of many crimes against them, not the least of which is murder. But the analogy between Native Americans and Palestinians is false. Native Americans had no concept of property in land and there was a lot of empty land with room for European settlers.

Roger McKinney

'Sadly still needed' UNWRA's Karen Abu Zayd talks to Al-Ahram's Dina Ezzat about a lifetime's commitment to fighting injustice

'Sadly still needed'

As Karen Abu Zayd approaches the end of her mandate as UNRWA commissioner-general, she talks to Dina Ezzat about a lifetime's commitment to fighting injustice

Click to view caption
Karen Abu Zayd

Later this month, Karen Abu Zayd will end her mandate as commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which looks after the destiny of over four million Palestinian refugees.

In Cairo this week as part of an emergency appeal for financial assistance for UNRWA's operations, Abu Zayd launched the appeal from the headquarters of the Arab League, where the organisation's secretary-general, Amr Moussa, paid tribute to what he called Abu Zayd's "remarkable" efforts to speak up for the rights of Palestinian refugees.

For Abu Zayd, this last appeal, to be followed by others launched by her successor, was "a last warning call" on behalf of the refugees.

The appeal asked for a little over $323 million to cater for the immediate needs of refugees in the occupied Palestinian territories in Gaza and the West Bank. These basic needs include food, healthcare and the elimination of environmental hazards.

UNRWA, Abu Zayd said, faces serious financial constraints that are undermining its performance at an exceptionally challenging time, with Palestinian refugees, especially in Gaza, suffering from the heavy-handed closures that Israel has imposed on the increasingly impoverished Strip.

"There must be a relaxation of the closures," Abu Zayd said.

As part of her work with UNRWA, Abu Zayd has attended to the needs of Palestinian refugees in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as in neighbouring Arab countries including Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly in UNRWA's humbly furnished office in Garden City in Cairo, Abu Zayd recalled her early months as UNRWA commissioner-general with affection, remembering that she arrived in Rafah in the wake of an Israeli attack that had demolished Palestinian houses.

"I will always remember a lady who called me from amidst the rubble of her house to show what the Israeli raids had done," Abu Zayd said.

For Abu Zayd, these were among the hardest moments of her career -- having to bear witness to the suffering of refugees deprived of the little they had in the first place.

Yet, "somehow my best moments as UNRWA commissioner-general were also wonderful moments," Abu Zayd said, adding that it was moments such as these when a refugee still had the will to describe her personal tragedy in detail that showed "the real strength of the Palestinian people" living under occupation in refugee camps.

It was also at this time, and with the outbreak of the second Intifada, that Abu Zayd took up her mandate, succeeding another prominent UNRWA commissioner-general, Peter Hansen.

Abu Zayd looked back on years marked by hard work, mediation between the Palestinians and the Israeli government, and making contacts with governments and others worldwide in order to generate funds to meet the needs of refugees who "have been suffering for six decades with dignity as a result of the failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

During her years as head of UNRWA, Abu Zayd was never short on carefully worded criticism of Israeli violations of international law towards the Palestinian refugees.

Most recently, she spoke up against the Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in occupied East Jerusalem. Standing before one of the targeted houses in Sheikh Jarrah, Abu Zayd said that "to date four of the 28 families have lost their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, affecting over 55 people, including 20 children."

"At present, a further eight families are under direct threat of forced eviction, having been served with orders to vacate their homes, potentially affecting as many as another 120 people."

She added that in all such incidents Israeli "settlers have taken over, with the protection and assistance of the Israeli authorities. But the numbers alone do not convey the human suffering and trauma that have been the hallmark of these forced evictions."

Nevertheless, Abu Zayd's words have all too often fallen on deaf ears in the international community. She has never been short on criticism of the role that this has played in prolonging the suffering of millions of Palestinian refugees since the Nakba in 1948.

The international community, she said, has not done enough to find a fair settlement to the conflict, including resolving the issue of the Palestinian refugees in line with the relevant UN resolutions that stipulate repatriation or compensation.

She also blamed the international community for failing to put pressure on the Israeli government to allow reconstruction materials into Gaza, in order to carry out desperately needed reconstruction of the Strip after damage sustained during the three-week Israeli aggression.

Abu Zayd is sceptical about the chances of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip being able to return to anything like normal life any time soon, given the Israeli blockade, the insufficient humanitarian assistance, and what she says, using carefully chosen words, are the "unfair conditions imposed by the Quartet that leave room for question marks over compatibility with international law."

Abu Zayd criticises accusations of terrorism made against those living in Gaza to indicate opposition to Hamas's control of the Strip since June 2007. "Unfortunately, once you call someone a 'terrorist,' you can do anything without much observation of international law," she said.

Compounding the suffering of Gaza, Abu Zayd says carefully, is the fact that the Rafah border linking Gaza to Egypt "has not always been a good border." However, she credits the Egyptian government with the "periodical opening of the Rafah border," adding that the Egyptian authorities "have been especially good this year."

Yet, she does not hide her concern at the possible impact of "the wall" that she says the Egyptian authorities are building on the border with Gaza, "part underground and part above ground," in combination with sensitive detectors to block the construction of the tunnels that the Palestinians use to smuggle "basic goods, including food and medicine," into the besieged Strip.

Abu Zayd said that she shared her concerns with the Egyptian officials she met during her four-day visit to Cairo. "They were reassuring and said it was only going to be a wall across 10 kilometres" of the little-over 14 kilometre border between Egypt and Gaza.

For Abu Zayd, the wall could reduce the flow of commodities into Gaza. Even if some of the tunnels are built very deep, they could still be detected and shut down. This, she said, would be "problematic" because if the world wants to end smuggling into Gaza then it has to find a way to get Israel to end the blockade and allow access for desperately needed humanitarian assistance.

Abu Zayd does not throw the blame on the Egyptian authorities. "They also have their concerns, and it is fair to say that they cannot be expected to carry the responsibilities" that Israel should be honouring in any case as the occupying power.

"There is a role for the international community to play there as well," Abu Zayd stressed.

Brought up in Chicago in the US and married to a Sudanese man, Abu Zayd is now contemplating her next project after a lifetime catering to refugees in different parts of the world. She was on the verge of tears as she spoke about her days in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Palestinians. For her, the territories "were home" and the Palestinians family.

Today, Abu Zayd is moving on, saddened in many ways that she will no longer be there to reach out to those who need assistance and saddened, too, that "after 60 years UNRWA is still needed."

Abu Zayd has been honoured by many organisations in recognition of the work she has done in the face of apparently endless political and financial challenges.

For Abu Zayd, however, the most touching tribute has come in the waving, frail hands of elderly Palestinian ladies and the bright smiles of Palestinian children who are third-generation refugees.

Does she feel fulfilled at the end of her career in humanitarian assistance?

"A colleague from UNRWA sent me a farewell e-mail, and he told me, 'you have failed with distinction.' I think this is exactly right," Abu Zayd said with a sad smile.

Arab diplomats who have met Abu Zayd agree that she has done everything she possibly could do and more to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian refugees, always speaking out bravely for their rights.

However, they also agree that the diligent endeavours and heartfelt commitment of this dedicated lady alone could never be enough to relieve the pain that Israel is mercilessly inflicting on the Palestinian people.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

if i were mossad

if i were mossad
i'd empower
weak men
and bad arguments

to disenfranchise

i'd elevate
the most incompetent
and celebrate
the insane

if i were mossad

i'd be everywhere
playing all sides away
from peace

poem copyright ©2009 Anne Selden Annab
Manger Square lights : Members of a Palestinian Christian family hold candles in front of the Church of the Nativity as they watch the mayor of the biblical West Bank town light the Christmas tree in Manger Square. (AFP/Musa al-Shaer)

Speech by UNRWA Commissioner-General at the Arab League Special Session marking UNRWA’s 60th Anniversary

Speech by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Karen Koning AbuZayd, at the Arab League Special Session marking UNRWA’s 60TH Anniversary

13 December 2009

Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies, distinguished guests,

I am very grateful to Secretary General Moussa for giving UNRWA this opportunity to stage one of the key events in a year of special events marking the 60TH anniversary of the founding of UNRWA. Similarly I am grateful to Ambassador Khairat of Egypt, the current Chair of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission, and to Ambassador Qattan of Saudi Arabia, the Vice-Chair, for sharing the platform with me. I am also grateful to Ambassador El-Farra of Palestine and Mr. Mahmoud Qabil, UNICEF goodwill Ambassador, for their participation.

A shared history

UNRWA and the Arab League emerged at roughly the same time, six decades ago, from related historical circumstances. Both came into being as part of the fallout from the cataclysm of the Second World War.

Whereas UNRWA was intended to be temporary, the Arab League was created as a permanent organization. Sadly, UNRWA is still needed after 60 years, in the absence of the necessary firm resolve on the part of the international community to create the circumstances in which Palestine refugees could make choices regarding their future, based on the relevant international resolutions, including UNGAR 194.

The two institutions have developed over the years in parallel, always with a strong link. That link has come via the primordial importance of the issue of Palestine, both for Arab states who are members of the Arab League, and for the UN agency, UNRWA, whose mission it has been to give succour and protection to the Palestine refugees who have been among the chief sufferers from the failure to resolve the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

Tribute to Arab hosts

Some Arab countries and administrations, those hosting large populations of Palestine refugees, have made enormous sacrifices, political as well as economic and social, to share with UNRWA the necessity of providing basic support to the registered refugees who now number 4.7 million in the region. This is often overlooked in assessing who has done most for the refugees. The brochure UNRWA has produced for this occasion draws attention to how much the host countries have done.

...and donors

The booklet also pays tribute to generous Arab donors and institutions that have not stinted in making donations to UNRWA, especially for emergency relief and camp infrastructure. This year has seen the biggest ever single Arab donation, a supremely generous $34 million for Gaza relief from His Highness the Amir of Kuwait. Saudi Arabia has made a timely pledge of $25 million for rebuilding part of Nahr El Bared Camp in Lebanon. Were it not for the Israeli restrictions on access of building materials into Gaza, I am sure we would have seen even larger donations.

Some try to make propaganda out of a supposed contrast between vocal Arab concern for Palestine refugees and oil price windfalls on the one hand, and contributions to UNRWA on the other. UNRWA does what it can to set the record straight in this regard. It is unfair to discount the sacrifices made and those still being made by the host countries, and the generous contributions made by Arab donors.

... but

It is, however, an unfortunate truth that Arab financial contributions have decreased in relative terms. In the early 1980s Arab donations accounted for almost 8% of UNRWA’s budget, whereas the level today is closer to 1% for UNRWA’s core services - the schools for half a million children, the clinics receiving ten million patient visits a year, the social services supporting a quarter of a million of the very poor and the 58 camps housing 1.4 million refugees. Only a few weeks ago, the Arab League Council reiterated its exhortation to member states to restore contributions to their level in the 1980s. UNRWA asks for no more than that.

We deeply appreciate the donations for emergencies and infrastructure and hope they will be sustained. We also urge Arab governments, some of whom have not increased their annual contributions for over a decade, to heed our plea for more support for basic services. This is not money for overheads. This covers salaries for the teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers and sanitation labourers, as well as funds for food for the poorest refugees and the purchase of schoolbooks and medicines.

A warning bell

I do not wish to dwell on UNRWA’s financial difficulties. But I owe it to the refugees to sound a warning bell here, as I have in recent weeks in visits to Europe and the United States. Unless donors significantly increase their donations in the coming year, UNRWA will have major problems with its own staff, nearly all of them Palestinians, whose salaries have been frozen for a year already. And we may be forced to make painful cuts in the services we provide to refugees. The effect, I am afraid, will be dramatic.

The theme of the brochure I mentioned is “So much achieved together. . . . So much still to do”. Indeed, a great deal has been achieved over the past 60 years. Many students educated in UNRWA schools and training centres have gone on to make valuable contributions to the economy and social life in the host countries, and further afield in Arab countries. Even today our schools and training centres are widely admired, notwithstanding the lack of finance to maintain them to their previous standard.

Politics compounds the financial difficulties

Lack of adequate funding, however, is only one of the problems faced by UNRWA and the refugees. The political situation compounds the financial difficulties. Since the outbreak of the Second Intifada and the resulting economic dislocation, UNRWA has been forced to seek ever increasing amounts of money from donors to alleviate the consequent suffering. This year saw two special appeals for Gaza as a result of the ferocious attack on the Strip which left thousands dead, injured and homeless, and the already battered economy torn to shreds.

I must pay tribute to Arab donors for responding in an unprecedentedly generous way to those appeals. Tomorrow, here at the Arab League, I shall be launching the Emergency Appeal for 2010 for the occupied Palestinian territory. I wish I could say that I am hopeful that this, the eleventh such Appeal, will be the last. For that to occur, however, there must be a radical change of policy on the part of the occupying power—and the international community. There must be a relaxation of the closure regime over Gaza, and a serious attempt to deal with the causes rather than the symptoms of deprivation on the West Bank, one of the former being the privileges given to settlers, including in East Jerusalem.

Attention must be paid to the absence of every single one of the rights mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document whose promulgation we celebrated three days ago. And most important, from an UNRWA point of view, the marginalization of the refugee issue in the peace process must be overcome for there to be a sustainable outcome of negotiations, and for there to be a real opportunity for an independent Palestinian state, living in peace with its neighbours, to emerge.

Conclusion on a personal note

My remarks today represent my next-to-the-last formal speech before I retire at the end of this month. In parting, therefore, I ask you to acknowledge the people whom we are commemorating here this evening, the refugees, who, for 60 years, have counted on UNRWA for protection and assistance. They have withstood six decades of exile, dispossession, conflict, tragedies and sorrow. They have done so with dignity and steadfastness which know no equal.

It has been my privilege to work with and for them—and with all of you.

I thank you.

Bethlehem Mayor: Light of Christmas shines despite wall

Bethlehem Mayor: Light of Christmas shines despite wall
Published yesterday (updated) 16/12/2009 09:52

Bethlehem`s Tree lighting [MaanImages] -click for more -
Bethlehem - Ma'an - "Our message to the world in this glorious Christmas season is a message of love, peace and justice," Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh told assembled revelers at the official lighting ceremony for the city tree.

Amid clergy, foreign diplomats, pilgrims and Palestinians, a bevy of local leaders joined hands and together turned on the lights of the tree. Among those present were the current and former governors of Bethlehem, the current and former ministers of tourism, representative of the president's office Rafiq Al-Husseini and local police chiefs.

The tree, a 20 foot tall pine that stands outside the Nativity Church in Bethlehem's Manger Square, was set alight, following a Christmas message from Bethlehem to the world, delivered by the city's mayor.

"Even though the message of our Lord Jesus Christ is a message of love and peace, Bethlehem and our country Palestine are still living a struggling throe towards achieving freedom, stability and liberty," Batarseh said.

"In spite of the wall that surrounds Bethlehem and the deterioration of the political and economical situation, the light of Christmas shines in these times again, making us more determined to cherish the Christmas message with its spirituality, and lights for us the hope of a living liberty and with dignity," he continued.

The delivery of the Christmas message and the lighting of the tree came only days after Palestinian Christians from all denominations congregated in Bethlehem to sign a document demanding sanctions on Israel and to jointly reject Christian Zionism.

Clergy termed the movement the Palestine Kairos Initiative, modeled after black South Africa's 1985 Kairos Document, a theological statement that called on churches to join the fight against apartheid.

Palestinian Christians to declare occupation 'a sin'
Published Friday 11/12/2009 (updated) 14/12/2009 16:10

Bethlehem - Ma'an - Palestinian Christians from all denominations were in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Friday to demand sanctions on Israel and to jointly reject Christian Zionism.

Clergy have termed their movement the Palestine Kairos Initiative, modeled after black South Africa's 1985 Kairos Document, a theological statement that called on churches to join the fight against apartheid.

In the same theme, over a dozen leaders of the region's Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican and Baptist traditions co-authored "A moment of truth," a point-by-point rejection of the occupation and a call for action against it.

"The aggression against the Palestinian people which is the Israeli occupation, is an evil that must be resisted. It is an evil and a sin that must be resisted and removed," the document declares. "Primary responsibility for this rests with the Palestinians themselves suffering occupation. Christian love invites us to resist it."

The initiative urges the international community to begin "a system of economic sanctions and boycott to be applied against Israel," and to "engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation."

The message insists, however, "These advocacy campaigns must be carried out with courage, openly sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice."

Christian Zionism

A portion of the document is addressed to Christians abroad, with particularly strong language reserved for "certain theologians in the West [who] try to attach a biblical and theological legitimacy to the infringement of our rights." Their interpretation of scripture has "become a menace to our very existence. ... The 'good news' in the Gospel itself has become 'a harbinger of death' for us."

"In face of those who use the Bible to threaten our existence as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, we renew our faith in God because we know that the word of God can not be the source of our destruction," it adds. "We call on these theologians to deepen their reflection on the Word of God and to rectify their interpretations so that they might see in the Word of God a source of life for all peoples."

The Kairos Initiative was first proposed in Amman, Jordan by Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah, Lutherans Bishop Munib Younan and Rev. Mitri Raheb, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna, Anglican Rev. Naim Ateek, Baptist Rev. Yohana Katanacho and other leading Palestinian Christian officials.

"After sitting and theologically reflecting on the situation, the injustice of the situation, we came up with this document," said initiative spokesman Ranjan Solomon in an interview Thursday. "Palestinians perceive this as a moment of truth."

Solomon added, "In the 1980s, a similar document had the effect of galvanizing churches around the world and creating unity amongst them, from which not even 10 years later came the end of apartheid.

"Whether the two are linked, one will never know, but it's the effect on public opinion that inspired Palestinian Christians to look at its potential, too."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


...Fairy Doors...a poem by Anne Selden Annab

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Our own academic freedom
is hugely real in a vast
marketplace of ideas...
doors and windows everywhere
and long meandering corridors
in a palace of thought.

Ballrooms and balconies
and cupboards of every type

Some prefer dungeons- others like
tall towers & turrets...

Libraries and media rooms
and keyboards of every type

Fields and forests
and rambles of every kind

What might be true here
is contradicted there
for there is no final authority
no end to the process
of thought
as every one owns
both right and wrong and the power
to move away- or towards...

to step up- or back

to know what to bother with-
and what to abandon

and where to find
fairy doors.

poem copyright ©2009 Anne Selden Annab
The Fairy Garden Poems # 51

Special Letter from ATFP by Ziad Asali


December 14, 2009


I'm delighted to report to you that our October 15 gala in Washington, DC, demonstrated without any question that the American Task Force on Palestine has become a major player in Middle East policy circles in our nations' capital. The gala was attended by over 650 people, including current and former senior administration officials; numerous ambassadors and several cabinet ministers from various countries; members of Congress and Congressional staff; over 50 journalists from major news organizations around the world; and a veritable who's who of Washington Middle East policy movers and shakers, including for the first time senior leaders of major Jewish pro-Israel organizations. The event confirmed that ATFP is at the forefront of efforts in Washington and around the country to end the occupation and promote peace based on the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. As always, your support is the bedrock of all our activities. I want to update you on the vital work your generosity is underwriting, and encourage you to renew your support for ATFP.

Our Gala keynote speaker, National Security Advisor Gen. James L. Jones, acknowledged that ATFP "has worked to bring the Palestinians closer to fulfilling their legitimate aspirations for statehood, and to unleash the extraordinary potential of the Palestinian people," and assured the audience that, "the President is committed to achieving two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security. Make no mistake about that."

We were also delighted to receive a letter of support from Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who wrote:

Yassine El Mansouri-9601"I want you to know how much I, as Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, value my association with you and your colleagues at ATFP. Your integrity, your knowledge of the issues, and your unswervingly principled stand on behalf of peace and fairness -- as well as your deep commitment both to the land of your birth, Palestine, and your adopted homeland, America -- have all had a powerfully positive impact on discourse in Washington about the Middle East. You and your colleagues have also been an important influence on my own thinking about Middle East peacemaking and that of many of my colleagues in the Congress."

We believe that this unprecedented letter to a Palestinian-American organization coming from one of the most powerful members of Congress on the subject of foreign affairs and a stalwart Jewish-American supporter of Israel demonstrates how far the transformation into thinking about peace and the need for a Palestinian state has permeated official circles in Washington, creating heretofore unimaginable alliances and opportunities for cooperation and progress.

In a similar vein, ATFP was represented at the first annual conference of the new pro-peace, pro-Israel lobby group J Street by Senior Fellow Hussein Ibish. Our other Senior Fellow, Ghaith Al-Omari, has been involved with exceptionally influential policy work dealing directly with many of the most prominent individuals and institutions in and around our government. Meanwhile, our engagement with both the domestic and international media has never been stronger, with a continuous flow of commentary and opinion pieces and quotations from our experts in reportage. And our website goes from strength to strength, now ranked in the top 200,000 sites in the United States, with traffic far exceeding almost all other Middle East-related American organizations.

ATFP has also just published two new books to further develop its advocacy and elaborate its analysis. First, "What's Wrong with the One-State Agenda?" by Hussein Ibish is a comprehensive defense of the imperative of ending the occupation and to sustained reputation of the idea that peace with Israel is either impossible or undesirable. It was launched at an impressive event at the prestigious Wilson Center with Aaron David Miller and Rob Malley. Second, ATFP has just released a new collection of its key documents, "Palestine and the Quest for Peace," edited and compiled by Board member Prof. Saliba Sarsar. These publications demonstrate that ATFP is not only a politically effective organization, but and intellectually productive one and a force to be reckoned with in the forum of public opinion.

Meanwhile, ATFP’s sister organization, American Charities for Palestine, continues to pursue its vital humanitarian efforts, thus far investing over $600,000 on health and education projects in the occupied territories. Recently I was proud to join Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, US Consul General Daniel Rubenstein, officials from USAID and other dignitaries proud to announce the inauguration of the $400,000 infrastructure construction project in the West Bank town of Beit Ur al Tahta.

To do all of this crucially important work, we rely, as we always have, on your generous support. Please do whatever you can to support the Task Force, and help us continue to make this kind of serious and effective progress on advocacy in Washington for peace and Palestine.

As always, your support is completely tax-deductible due to ATFP’s designation by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.


Ziad Asali - GIF

Ziad J. Asali, M.D.


Please note that as of December 1, 2009 the American Task Force on Palestine will be located at a new address: 1634 Eye Street N.W., Suite 725, Washington, D.C. 20006.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Silently Stealing Jerusalem By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Date posted: December 14, 2009
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

The number is staggering, to say the least. A total of 4,577 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem were stripped of their residency rights in 2008 alone, 35 percent of all east Jerusalemites who lost their residency rights since 1967 and more than any average year since Israel's occupation of the eastern sector of the city almost 42 years ago. For the less versed in the ways of Israel where Palestinian residency rights in Jerusalem are concerned, here is a quick rundown. Upon Israel's occupation in 1967 of east Jerusalem, those Palestinians who had stayed in their homes were included in Israel's census of the city and granted "permanent residency". This, by no means is citizenship, which Israel also duly offered to the war torn residents of the even more war torn neighborhoods of Jerusalem. But taking on Israeli citizenship was, for most Palestinians, tantamount to high treason, given that they would assume the nationality of the country that had usurped most of their homeland and made hundreds of thousands of their fellow Palestinians refugees either outside the borders of Palestine or within it. Not to mention that one condition for citizenship was to swear allegiance to Israel.

Since then, the majority of Jerusalem's Palestinians have lived the precarious existence of permanent residents. Falling short of a full-fledged citizen, Israeli authorities impose strict conditions for Jerusalemites to maintain this residency. As the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem writes, "Israel treats Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as immigrants who live in their homes at the beneficence of the authorities and not by right."

According to Israeli interior ministry sources, the majority of Jerusalem residents whose residency rights have been revoked were living abroad, which according to Israeli "law" is illegal. Palestinians, of course, see it in a different light altogether. Following the 1995 legislation to impose the "center of life" policy on Jerusalem residents, more and more Jerusalemites are finding that their blue ID card was no longer valid. The center of life policy is draconian in nature and is aimed at making it as difficult as possible for Palestinians to remain in their homes in Jerusalem. It demands that Palestinians living in Jerusalem prove that every element of their lives is cemented within the boundaries of the Israeli municipal borders for Jerusalem. That is, rent, land taxes, schools, work, immunization records, phone bills and a slew of other proofs must be ready at any minute to provide as evidence of a person's life in Jerusalem. If something doesn't add up, this could mean bidding farewell to any rights in the city, namely the right to live in your own home.

The most obvious Israeli plot behind these measures is to rid Jerusalem of its Palestinian Arab residents, thus claiming the city as Israel's "undivided and eternal capital." Coupled with Israel's other oppressive measures against Palestinians such as house demolitions, land confiscation and discrimination in education and basic services, this seems like a fair assumption, especially if one is to compare east Jerusalem with its western (Israeli) counterpart. Modern roads and buildings characterize west Jerusalem, which gives off any overall air of economic prosperity whereas east Jerusalem's dank and shabby roads and houses mirrors quite a different reflection.

Perhaps Israel is upping its policies on Palestinian residency rights with other intentions. If they cannot force all Palestinians out, either by demolishing their homes or revoking their residency cards, perhaps such measures will scare others into applying for Israeli citizenship. This, for Israel, is the best of two evils – if they can't force Palestinians out, they can at least shift the demographic scales in Jerusalem where even the Palestinians there are Israeli citizens, thus undistinguishing them from Israeli Jews in terms of demographic statistics. According to reports from Israel's interior ministry itself, this is a disturbing but growing phenomenon among Palestinian Jerusalemites. According to one Israeli Interior Ministry report, up to 500 Palestinians in Jerusalem applied for Israeli citizenship in 2007.

It is not only Israel we can blame however for this trend in particular. Unfortunately, with the constant talk of dividing Jerusalem to make way for a Palestinian capital, there are those Palestinians in Jerusalem who are willing to sacrifice their duty to Palestine for their personal benefit. Taking Israeli citizenship before any final status on the city is reached would guarantee that all the benefits they enjoy such as national and health insurance would continue. Their jobs in Israel would be unthreatened and they would not have to worry about proving residency in their own homes. However, they would then become a permanent part of Israel's establishment and would have helped to hand over Jerusalem to Jewish Israeli sovereignty first handedly.

In a roundabout way, this is in Israel's favor, at least in Jerusalem. Inside the 1948 borders, or what is now Israel, it knows the Palestinian residents there are people who managed to remain despite the massacres, fighting and exile that occurred in 1948. Thus, they are a threat in their very existence. However, any Palestinian Jerusalemite who wishes by their own free will to trade in their permanent residency card for Israeli citizenship is hardly a threat to Israel. On the contrary, they have chosen this path rather than the much harder path of proving their Arab and Palestinian roots in the city.

Sadly, this is an extremely dangerous and slippery slope. Palestinians have been fighting an uphill battle on Jerusalem for decades, one which most of them are not willing to surrender. The past year's numbers on residency card revocations is evidence that Israel is moving slowly but surely towards the goal of annihilating any strong Palestinian presence in the city. It is a pity when some of us help them along.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

My letter to Cedar Rapids Gazette RE "Settlements, attacks drive out Palestinians" By Sarah McDonald

RE: "Settlements, attacks drive out Palestinians" By Sarah McDonald

Dear Editor,

Examining the facts, I think it is crazy and wrong that modern Israel invests in bigotry, religious extremism, segregation and conflict rather than the rule of fair and just laws- and peace.

Obama's recent Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech extolled non-violence and inspiring heroes, not only fabulously famous ones like Martin Luther King Jr., but all the many everyday heroes worldwide who struggle and strive to make the world a better place, concluding: "Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth."

In the spirit of that, thank you for publishing "Settlements, attacks drive out Palestinians" by Sarah McDonald. I have great admiration for the Christian Peacemaker Teams as they do what they can to help Palestinians survive a brutal situation. Character counts- and so should basic human rights and international law, including but not limited to the Palestinian refugees very real right to return to live in peace... unmolested by racist laws & walls.

Anne Selden Annab

Obama’s Nobel feat... great letter by Munjed Farid Al Qutob of Amman, Jordan

Obama’s Nobel feat

Regarding the editorial “Obama in Oslo” (Dec. 12): President Obama was right in stating that his accomplishments were slight compared to other giants of history who deservedly won the Nobel Prize for peace. However, in the midst of political, economic and social injustices, Mr. Obama’s story has symbolized the relentless struggle against enormous odds; the fight against racism, which for so long gripped America. Millions across the globe now believe in their ability to change themselves and their nations for the better. Isn’t this alone a Nobel feat?

Munjed Farid Al Qutob, Amman, Jordan

Documenting Dispossession: UNRWA launches new Refugee Registration Information System to improve refugee services

Documenting Dispossession

UNRWA launches new Refugee Registration Information System to improve refugee services

East Jerusalem, 09 December 2009

UNRWA has launched its new Refugee Registration Information System (RRIS). The digital centralised system has been developed as part of ongoing reform measures and will improve greatly enhance the quality and efficiency of refugee services delivered by the Agency.

UNRWA has digitally scanned and preserved 17.56 million historical documents in its stewardship, offering a comprehensive archive of individual refugee and family experiences. These refugee records, many of which date back to pre-1948 Mandate Palestine, are a crucial historical resource and their preservation within the RRIS is a step in the protection of refugee rights.

The system, the most complex IT system developed by UNRWA in its 60 years of operation, will track 4.7 million refugees registered with UNRWA in its five fields of operations. The RRIS will enhance the data collection and planning capabilities of the Agency. More accurate and detailed data, including addresses and phone numbers, will allow the Agency to identify and respond to beneficiary needs more effectively.

Other concrete benefits of the system include the reduction in the time taken to update registration cards from the current three months to one day. Moreover, registration numbers will be issued to all refugees, allowing to be registered as individuals in addition to their family registration. The individualized capabilities of the system offers potential to better understand changing dynamics within refugee communities.

Another benefit of the RRIS is the inclusion of a special module for all socio-economic and administrative data that will help UNRWA to more effectively target the delivery of its Social Safety Net programme, which supports the poorest of the poor. In future the RRIS will also include data on refugee health, education and microfinance. UNRWA would like to thank its donors the Ruler of Sharjah, the EC and the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UK, Switzerland and Canada for their generous support of this project.

UNRWA provides assistance and protection to Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. It does so by offering to a population of some 4.7 million refugees a range of human development and humanitarian services in primary and vocational education, primary health care, social safety-net, community support, infrastructure and camp improvement, microfinance and emergency response, including in situations of armed conflict. UNRWA’s role also encompasses advocacy and actions to address the human rights and protection needs of Palestine refugees.

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states. The Agency’s core budget for the years 2010 and 2011 stands at $1.23 billion. In 2009, emergency appeals for the West Bank and Gaza amounted to $456.7 million, with an additional $370.7 million required for emergency and reconstruction activities in Nahr el Bared, Lebanon.


For more information please contact:

Matar Saqer
Public Information Officer
Tel.: 5809100 Ext. 146
Mobile: 079-5605553

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Standing up to murder

Standing up to murder

More tragic and disturbing than the massacres of innocent civilians in Iraq is the fact that the Iraqi government and the international community seem to be taking these horrific crimes against humanity in stride.

Recently, another wave of suicide bombings occurred in Baghdad, taking the lives of over 120 Iraqis and injuring hundreds of others. Nothing is being done about it.

When, on August 19, terrorist bombs struck main government buildings, including the Ministry of foreign affairs, the Iraqi government decided to call for an international investigation, insisting that foreign powers were behind the series of attacks on civilian targets in the country. Not much happened in this vein, due to some Arab pressure to avoid internationalising the security situation in the country.

One wave of terrorist attacks after another has followed in Iraq since then, with no end in sight.

Arab and international condemnation is obviously not the solution. What needs to be done is to identify the country or factions that stand behind these barbaric attacks.

Often such acts of terrorism are attributed to Al Qaeda, but even though Al Qaeda’s record speaks for itself - some 98 per cent of the casualties inflicted by this extremist Islamic movement are fellow Muslims - facts could not be confirmed.

There is growing conviction and consensus that those responsible for the mass killings in Iraq are well known and can be identified. If this is the case, what does it take to convince the world to start taking effective measures against the murderers, besides expressing ritual condemnation?

The prime responsibility to address the state of affairs in Iraq lies with its government, which must be more forthcoming and work hard towards identifying the source of terrorism in the country.

It is high time to speak out boldly against those who mastermind terrorist attacks against the Iraqi people. The government, the entire world, cannot just stand idle by and let the Iraqis’ lives be taken mercilessly.

Staying silent in the face of the mass killings in Iraq is an act of complicity in the commission of these crimes against humanity.

Iraqis deserve to live in peace as much as any other nation in the world.

14 December 2009

A Sonnet of Colour & Stone

In Jerusalem a poem by Mahmoud Darwish ...& a poster celebrating Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture of 2009

A Jordanian student stands near her poster of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish during the opening of the Jerusalem in the Fine Arts conference in Amman December 12, 2009, as part of celebrations to mark the Arab League's designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture of 2009. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed (JORDAN - Tags: SOCIETY)

In Jerusalem
by Mahmoud Darwish
Translated by Fady Joudah

In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,
I walk from one epoch to another without a memory
to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing
the history of the holy . . . ascending to heaven
and returning less discouraged and melancholy, because love
and peace are holy and are coming to town.
I was walking down a slope and thinking to myself: How
do the narrators disagree over what light said about a stone?
Is it from a dimly lit stone that wars flare up?
I walk in my sleep. I stare in my sleep. I see
no one behind me. I see no one ahead of me.
All this light is for me. I walk. I become lighter. I fly
then I become another. Transfigured. Words
sprout like grass from Isaiah’s messenger
mouth: “If you don’t believe you won’t believe.”
I walk as if I were another. And my wound a white
biblical rose. And my hands like two doves
on the cross hovering and carrying the earth.
I don’t walk, I fly, I become another,
transfigured. No place and no time. So who am I?
I am no I in ascension’s presence. But I
think to myself: Alone, the prophet Mohammad
spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”
Then what? A woman soldier shouted:
Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?
I said: You killed me . . . and I forgot, like you, to die.

By Palestinian Artist Zaki Badoun

A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering
A moment of truth:
A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering

We, a group of Christian Palestinians, after prayer, reflection and an exchange of opinion, cry out from within the suffering in our country, under the Israeli occupation, with a cry of hope in the absence of all hope, a cry full of prayer and faith in a God ever vigilant, in God’s divine providence for all the inhabitants of this land. Inspired by the mystery of God's love for all, the mystery of God’s divine presence in the history of all peoples and, in a particular way, in the history of our country, we proclaim our word based on our Christian faith and our sense of Palestinian belonging – a word of faith, hope and love.

Why now? Because today we have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people. The decision-makers content themselves with managing the crisis rather than committing themselves to the serious task of finding a way to resolve it. The hearts of the faithful are filled with pain and with questioning: What is the international community doing? What are the political leaders in Palestine, in Israel and in the Arab world doing? What is the Church doing? The problem is not just a political one. It is a policy in which human beings are destroyed, and this must be of concern to the Church.

We address ourselves to our brothers and sisters, members of our Churches in this land. We call out as Christians and as Palestinians to our religious and political leaders, to our Palestinian society and to the Israeli society, to the international community, and to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Churches around the world.

1. The reality on the ground

1.1 “They say: 'Peace, peace' when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). These days, everyone is speaking about peace in the Middle East and the peace process. So far, however, these are simply words; the reality is one of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, deprivation of our freedom and all that results from this situation:

1.1.1 The separation wall erected on Palestinian territory, a large part of which has been confiscated for this purpose, has turned our towns and villages into prisons, separating them from one another, making them dispersed and divided cantons. Gaza, especially after the cruel war Israel launched against it during December 2008 and January 2009, continues to live in inhuman conditions, under permanent blockade and cut off from the other Palestinian territories.

1.1.2 Israeli settlements ravage our land in the name of God and in the name of force, controlling our natural resources, including water and agricultural land, thus depriving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and constituting an obstacle to any political solution.

1.1.3 Reality is the daily humiliation to which we are subjected at the military checkpoints, as we make our way to jobs, schools or hospitals.

1.1.4 Reality is the separation between members of the same family, making family life impossible for thousands of Palestinians, especially where one of the spouses does not have an Israeli identity card.

1.1.5 Religious liberty is severely restricted; the freedom of access to the holy places is denied under the pretext of security. Jerusalem and its holy places are out of bounds for many Christians and Muslims from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Even Jerusalemites face restrictions during the religious feasts. Some of our Arab clergy are regularly barred from entering Jerusalem.

1.1.6 Refugees are also part of our reality. Most of them are still living in camps under difficult circumstances. They have been waiting for their right of return, generation after generation. What will be their fate?

1.1.7 And the prisoners? The thousands of prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons are part of our reality. The Israelis move heaven and earth to gain the release of one prisoner, and those thousands of Palestinian prisoners, when will they have their freedom?

1.1.8 Jerusalem is the heart of our reality. It is, at the same time, symbol of peace and sign of conflict. While the separation wall divides Palestinian neighbourhoods, Jerusalem continues to be emptied of its Palestinian citizens, Christians and Muslims. Their identity cards are confiscated, which means the loss of their right to reside in Jerusalem. Their homes are demolished or expropriated. Jerusalem, city of reconciliation, has become a city of discrimination and exclusion, a source of struggle rather than peace.

1.2 Also part of this reality is the Israeli disregard of international law and international resolutions, as well as the paralysis of the Arab world and the international community in the face of this contempt. Human rights are violated and despite the various reports of local and international human rights' organizations, the injustice continues.

1.2.1 Palestinians within the State of Israel, who have also suffered a historical injustice, although they are citizens and have the rights and obligations of citizenship, still suffer from discriminatory policies. They too are waiting to enjoy full rights and equality like all other citizens in the state.

1.3 Emigration is another element in our reality. The absence of any vision or spark of hope for peace and freedom pushes young people, both Muslim and Christian, to emigrate. Thus the land is deprived of its most important and richest resource – educated youth. The shrinking number of Christians, particularly in Palestine, is one of the dangerous consequences, both of this conflict, and of the local and international paralysis and failure to find a comprehensive solution to the problem.

1.4 In the face of this reality, Israel justifies its actions as self-defence, including occupation, collective punishment and all other forms of reprisals against the Palestinians. In our opinion, this vision is a reversal of reality. Yes, there is Palestinian resistance to the occupation. However, if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity. This is our understanding of the situation. Therefore, we call on the Israelis to end the occupation. Then they will see a new world in which there is no fear, no threat but rather security, justice and peace.

1.5 The Palestinian response to this reality was diverse. Some responded through negotiations: that was the official position of the Palestinian Authority, but it did not advance the peace process. Some political parties followed the way of armed resistance. Israel used this as a pretext to accuse the Palestinians of being terrorists and was able to distort the real nature of the conflict, presenting it as an Israeli war against terror, rather than an Israeli occupation faced by Palestinian legal resistance aiming at ending it.

1.5.1 The tragedy worsened with the internal conflict among Palestinians themselves, and with the separation of Gaza from the rest of the Palestinian territory. It is noteworthy that, even though the division is among Palestinians themselves, the international community bears an important responsibility for it since it refused to deal positively with the will of the Palestinian people expressed in the outcome of democratic and legal elections in 2006.

Again, we repeat and proclaim that our Christian word in the midst of all this, in the midst of our catastrophe, is a word of faith, hope and love.

2. A word of faith
We believe in one God, a good and just God

2.1 We believe in God, one God, Creator of the universe and of humanity. We believe in a good and just God, who loves each one of his creatures. We believe that every human being is created in God’s image and likeness and that every one's dignity is derived from the dignity of the Almighty One. We believe that this dignity is one and the same in each and all of us. This means for us, here and now, in this land in particular, that God created us not so that we might engage in strife and conflict but rather that we might come and know and love one another, and together build up the land in love and mutual respect.

2.1.1 We also believe in God's eternal Word, His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God sent as the Saviour of the world.

2.1.2 We believe in the Holy Spirit, who accompanies the Church and all humanity on its journey. It is the Spirit that helps us to understand Holy Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, showing their unity, here and now. The Spirit makes manifest the revelation of God to humanity, past, present and future.

How do we understand the word of God?

2.2 We believe that God has spoken to humanity, here in our country: "Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom God appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds" (Heb. 1:1-2).

2.2.1 We, Christian Palestinians, believe, like all Christians throughout the world, that Jesus Christ came in order to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and in his light and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we read the Holy Scriptures. We meditate upon and interpret Scripture just as Jesus Christ did with the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. As it is written in the Gospel according to Saint Luke: "Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures" (Lk 24:27).

2.2.2 Our Lord Jesus Christ came, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was near. He provoked a revolution in the life and faith of all humanity. He came with "a new teaching" (Mk 1:27), casting a new light on the Old Testament, on the themes that relate to our Christian faith and our daily lives, themes such as the promises, the election, the people of God and the land. We believe that the Word of God is a living Word, casting a particular light on each period of history, manifesting to Christian believers what God is saying to us here and now. For this reason, it is unacceptable to transform the Word of God into letters of stone that pervert the love of God and His providence in the life of both peoples and individuals. This is precisely the error in fundamentalist Biblical interpretation that brings us death and destruction when the word of God is petrified and transmitted from generation to generation as a dead letter. This dead letter is used as a weapon in our present history in order to deprive us of our rights in our own land.

Our land has a universal mission

2.3 We believe that our land has a universal mission. In this universality, the meaning of the promises, of the land, of the election, of the people of God open up to include all of humanity, starting from all the peoples of this land. In light of the teachings of the Holy Bible, the promise of the land has never been a political programme, but rather the prelude to complete universal salvation. It was the initiation of the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God on earth.

2.3.1 God sent the patriarchs, the prophets and the apostles to this land so that they might carry forth a universal mission to the world. Today we constitute three religions in this land, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Our land is God’s land, as is the case with all countries in the world. It is holy inasmuch as God is present in it, for God alone is holy and sanctifier. It is the duty of those of us who live here, to respect the will of God for this land. It is our duty to liberate it from the evil of injustice and war. It is God's land and therefore it must be a land of reconciliation, peace and love. This is indeed possible. God has put us here as two peoples, and God gives us the capacity, if we have the will, to live together and establish in it justice and peace, making it in reality God's land: "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it" (Ps. 24:1).

2.3.2 Our presence in this land, as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, is not accidental but rather deeply rooted in the history and geography of this land, resonant with the connectedness of any other people to the land it lives in. It was an injustice when we were driven out. The West sought to make amends for what Jews had endured in the countries of Europe, but it made amends on our account and in our land. They tried to correct an injustice and the result was a new injustice.

2.3.3 Furthermore, we know that certain theologians in the West try to attach a biblical and theological legitimacy to the infringement of our rights. Thus, the promises, according to their interpretation, have become a menace to our very existence. The "good news" in the Gospel itself has become "a harbinger of death" for us. We call on these theologians to deepen their reflection on the Word of God and to rectify their interpretations so that they might see in the Word of God a source of life for all peoples.

2.3.4 Our connectedness to this land is a natural right. It is not an ideological or a theological question only. It is a matter of life and death. There are those who do not agree with us, even defining us as enemies only because we declare that we want to live as free people in our land. We suffer from the occupation of our land because we are Palestinians. And as Christian Palestinians we suffer from the wrong interpretation of some theologians. Faced with this, our task is to safeguard the Word of God as a source of life and not of death, so that "the good news" remains what it is, "good news" for us and for all. In face of those who use the Bible to threaten our existence as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, we renew our faith in God because we know that the word of God can not be the source of our destruction.

2.4 Therefore, we declare that any use of the Bible to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice, imposed by one person on another, or by one people on another, transform religion into human ideology and strip the Word of God of its holiness, its universality and truth.

2.5 We also declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God. It distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier just as it distorts this image in the Palestinian living under occupation. We declare that any theology, seemingly based on the Bible or on faith or on history, that legitimizes the occupation, is far from Christian teachings, because it calls for violence and holy war in the name of God Almighty, subordinating God to temporary human interests, and distorting the divine image in the human beings living under both political and theological injustice.

3. Hope

3.1 Despite the lack of even a glimmer of positive expectation, our hope remains strong. The present situation does not promise any quick solution or the end of the occupation that is imposed on us. Yes, the initiatives, the conferences, visits and negotiations have multiplied, but they have not been followed up by any change in our situation and suffering. Even the new US position that has been announced by President Obama, with a manifest desire to put an end to the tragedy, has not been able to make a change in our reality. The clear Israeli response, refusing any solution, leaves no room for positive expectation. Despite this, our hope remains strong, because it is from God. God alone is good, almighty and loving and His goodness will one day be victorious over the evil in which we find ourselves. As Saint Paul said: "If God is for us, who is against us? (…) Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long" (…) For I am convinced that (nothing) in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God" (Rom. 8:31, 35, 36, 39).

What is the meaning of hope?

3.2 Hope within us means first and foremost our faith in God and secondly our expectation, despite everything, for a better future. Thirdly, it means not chasing after illusions – we realize that release is not close at hand. Hope is the capacity to see God in the midst of trouble, and to be co-workers with the Holy Spirit who is dwelling in us. From this vision derives the strength to be steadfast, remain firm and work to change the reality in which we find ourselves. Hope means not giving in to evil but rather standing up to it and continuing to resist it. We see nothing in the present or future except ruin and destruction. We see the upper hand of the strong, the growing orientation towards racist separation and the imposition of laws that deny our existence and our dignity. We see confusion and division in the Palestinian position. If, despite all this, we do resist this reality today and work hard, perhaps the destruction that looms on the horizon may not come upon us.

Signs of hope

3.3 The Church in our land, her leaders and her faithful, despite her weakness and her divisions, does show certain signs of hope. Our parish communities are vibrant and most of our young people are active apostles for justice and peace. In addition to the individual commitment, our various Church institutions make our faith active and present in service, love and prayer.

3.3.1 Among the signs of hope are the local centres of theology, with a religious and social character. They are numerous in our different Churches. The ecumenical spirit, even if still hesitant, shows itself more and more in the meetings of our different Church families.

3.3.2 We can add to this the numerous meetings for inter-religious dialogue, Christian–Muslim dialogue, which includes the religious leaders and a part of the people. Admittedly, dialogue is a long process and is perfected through a daily effort as we undergo the same sufferings and have the same expectations. There is also dialogue among the three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as different dialogue meetings on the academic or social level. They all try to breach the walls imposed by the occupation and oppose the distorted perception of human beings in the heart of their brothers or sisters.

3.3.3 One of the most important signs of hope is the steadfastness of the generations, the belief in the justice of their cause and the continuity of memory, which does not forget the "Nakba" (catastrophe) and its significance. Likewise significant is the developing awareness among many Churches throughout the world and their desire to know the truth about what is going on here.

3.3.4 In addition to that, we see a determination among many to overcome the resentments of the past and to be ready for reconciliation once justice has been restored. Public awareness of the need to restore political rights to the Palestinians is increasing, and Jewish and Israeli voices, advocating peace and justice, are raised in support of this with the approval of the international community. True, these forces for justice and reconciliation have not yet been able to transform the situation of injustice, but they have their influence and may shorten the time of suffering and hasten the time of reconciliation.

The mission of the Church

3.4 Our Church is a Church of people who pray and serve. This prayer and service is prophetic, bearing the voice of God in the present and future. Everything that happens in our land, everyone who lives there, all the pains and hopes, all the injustice and all the efforts to stop this injustice, are part and parcel of the prayer of our Church and the service of all her institutions. Thanks be to God that our Church raises her voice against injustice despite the fact that some desire her to remain silent, closed in her religious devotions.

3.4.1 The mission of the Church is prophetic, to speak the Word of God courageously, honestly and lovingly in the local context and in the midst of daily events. If she does take sides, it is with the oppressed, to stand alongside them, just as Christ our Lord stood by the side of each poor person and each sinner, calling them to repentance, life, and the restoration of the dignity bestowed on them by God and that no one has the right to strip away.

3.4.2 The mission of the Church is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice, peace and dignity. Our vocation as a living Church is to bear witness to the goodness of God and the dignity of human beings. We are called to pray and to make our voice heard when we announce a new society where human beings believe in their own dignity and the dignity of their adversaries.

3.4.3 Our Church points to the Kingdom, which cannot be tied to any earthly kingdom. Jesus said before Pilate that he was indeed a king but "my kingdom is not from this world" (Jn 18:36). Saint Paul says: "The Kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17). Therefore, religion cannot favour or support any unjust political regime, but must rather promote justice, truth and human dignity. It must exert every effort to purify regimes where human beings suffer injustice and human dignity is violated. The Kingdom of God on earth is not dependent on any political orientation, for it is greater and more inclusive than any particular political system.

3.4.4 Jesus Christ said: "The Kingdom of God is among you" (Luke 17:21). This Kingdom that is present among us and in us is the extension of the mystery of salvation. It is the presence of God among us and our sense of that presence in everything we do and say. It is in this divine presence that we shall do what we can until justice is achieved in this land.

3.4.5 The cruel circumstances in which the Palestinian Church has lived and continues to live have required the Church to clarify her faith and to identify her vocation better. We have studied our vocation and have come to know it better in the midst of suffering and pain: today, we bear the strength of love rather than that of revenge, a culture of life rather than a culture of death. This is a source of hope for us, for the Church and for the world.

3.5 The Resurrection is the source of our hope. Just as Christ rose in victory over death and evil, so too we are able, as each inhabitant of this land is able, to vanquish the evil of war. We will remain a witnessing, steadfast and active Church in the land of the Resurrection.

4. Love
The commandment of love

4.1 Christ our Lord said: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (Jn 13:34). He has already showed us how to love and how to treat our enemies. He said: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (…) Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:45-47).

Saint Paul also said: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil" (Rom. 12:17). And Saint Peter said: "Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called" (1 Pet. 3:9).


4.2 This word is clear. Love is the commandment of Christ our Lord to us and it includes both friends and enemies. This must be clear when we find ourselves in circumstances where we must resist evil of whatever kind.

4.2.1 Love is seeing the face of God in every human being. Every person is my brother or my sister. However, seeing the face of God in everyone does not mean accepting evil or aggression on their part. Rather, this love seeks to correct the evil and stop the aggression.

The aggression against the Palestinian people which is the Israeli occupation, is an evil that must be resisted. It is an evil and a sin that must be resisted and removed. Primary responsibility for this rests with the Palestinians themselves suffering occupation. Christian love invites us to resist it. However, love puts an end to evil by walking in the ways of justice. Responsibility lies also with the international community, because international law regulates relations between peoples today.

Finally responsibility lies with the perpetrators of the injustice; they must liberate themselves from the evil that is in them and the injustice they have imposed on others.

4.2.2 When we review the history of the nations, we see many wars and much resistance to war by war, to violence by violence. The Palestinian people has gone the way of the peoples, particularly in the first stages of its struggle with the Israeli occupation. However, it also engaged in peaceful struggle, especially during the first Intifada. We recognize that all peoples must find a new way in their relations with each other and the resolution of their conflicts. The ways of force must give way to the ways of justice. This applies above all to the peoples that are militarily strong, mighty enough to impose their injustice on the weaker.

4.2.3 We say that our option as Christians in the face of the Israeli occupation is to resist. Resistance is a right and a duty for the Christian. But it is resistance with love as its logic. It is thus a creative resistance for it must find human ways that engage the humanity of the enemy. Seeing the image of God in the face of the enemy means taking up positions in the light of this vision of active resistance to stop the injustice and oblige the perpetrator to end his aggression and thus achieve the desired goal, which is getting back the land, freedom, dignity and independence.

4.2.4 Christ our Lord has left us an example we must imitate. We must resist evil but he taught us that we cannot resist evil with evil. This is a difficult commandment, particularly when the enemy is determined to impose himself and deny our right to remain here in our land. It is a difficult commandment yet it alone can stand firm in the face of the clear declarations of the occupation authorities that refuse our existence and the many excuses these authorities use to continue imposing occupation upon us.

4.2.5 Resistance to the evil of occupation is integrated, then, within this Christian love that refuses evil and corrects it. It resists evil in all its forms with methods that enter into the logic of love and draw on all energies to make peace. We can resist through civil disobedience. We do not resist with death but rather through respect of life. We respect and have a high esteem for all those who have given their life for our nation. And we affirm that every citizen must be ready to defend his or her life, freedom and land.

4.2.6 Palestinian civil organizations, as well as international organizations, NGOs and certain religious institutions call on individuals, companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation. We understand this to integrate the logic of peaceful resistance. These advocacy campaigns must be carried out with courage, openly sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice. The aim is to free both peoples from extremist positions of the different Israeli governments, bringing both to justice and reconciliation. In this spirit and with this dedication we will eventually reach the longed-for resolution to our problems, as indeed happened in South Africa and with many other liberation movements in the world.

4.3 Through our love, we will overcome injustices and establish foundations for a new society both for us and for our opponents. Our future and their future are one. Either the cycle of violence that destroys both of us or peace that will benefit both. We call on Israel to give up its injustice towards us, not to twist the truth of reality of the occupation by pretending that it is a battle against terrorism. The roots of "terrorism" are in the human injustice committed and in the evil of the occupation. These must be removed if there be a sincere intention to remove "terrorism". We call on the people of Israel to be our partners in peace and not in the cycle of interminable violence. Let us resist evil together, the evil of occupation and the infernal cycle of violence.

5. Our word to our brothers and sisters

5.1 We all face, today, a way that is blocked and a future that promises only woe. Our word to all our Christian brothers and sisters is a word of hope, patience, steadfastness and new action for a better future. Our word is that we, as Christians we carry a message, and we will continue to carry it despite the thorns, despite blood and daily difficulties. We place our hope in God, who will grant us relief in His own time. At the same time, we continue to act in concord with God and God’s will, building, resisting evil and bringing closer the day of justice and peace.

5.2 We say to our Christian brothers and sisters: This is a time for repentance. Repentance brings us back into the communion of love with everyone who suffers, the prisoners, the wounded, those afflicted with temporary or permanent handicaps, the children who cannot live their childhood and each one who mourns a dear one. The communion of love says to every believer in spirit and in truth: if my brother is a prisoner I am a prisoner; if his home is destroyed, my home is destroyed; when my brother is killed, then I too am killed. We face the same challenges and share in all that has happened and will happen. Perhaps, as individuals or as heads of Churches, we were silent when we should have raised our voices to condemn the injustice and share in the suffering. This is a time of repentance for our silence, indifference, lack of communion, either because we did not persevere in our mission in this land and abandoned it, or because we did not think and do enough to reach a new and integrated vision and remained divided, contradicting our witness and weakening our word. Repentance for our concern with our institutions, sometimes at the expense of our mission, thus silencing the prophetic voice given by the Spirit to the Churches.

5.3 We call on Christians to remain steadfast in this time of trial, just as we have throughout the centuries, through the changing succession of states and governments. Be patient, steadfast and full of hope so that you might fill the heart of every one of your brothers or sisters who shares in this same trial with hope. "Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet. 3:15). Be active and, provided this conforms to love, participate in any sacrifice that resistance asks of you to overcome our present travail.

5.4 Our numbers are few but our message is great and important. Our land is in urgent need of love. Our love is a message to the Muslim and to the Jew, as well as to the world.

5.4.1 Our message to the Muslims is a message of love and of living together and a call to reject fanaticism and extremism. It is also a message to the world that Muslims are neither to be stereotyped as the enemy nor caricatured as terrorists but rather to be lived with in peace and engaged with in dialogue.

5.4.2 Our message to the Jews tells them: Even though we have fought one another in the recent past and still struggle today, we are able to love and live together. We can organize our political life, with all its complexity, according to the logic of this love and its power, after ending the occupation and establishing justice.

5.4.3 The word of faith says to anyone engaged in political activity: human beings were not made for hatred. It is not permitted to hate, neither is it permitted to kill or to be killed. The culture of love is the culture of accepting the other. Through it we perfect ourselves and the foundations of society are established.

6. Our word to the Churches of the world

6.1 Our word to the Churches of the world is firstly a word of gratitude for the solidarity you have shown toward us in word, deed and presence among us. It is a word of praise for the many Churches and Christians who support the right of the Palestinian people for self determination. It is a message of solidarity with those Christians and Churches who have suffered because of their advocacy for law and justice.

However, it is also a call to repentance; to revisit fundamentalist theological positions that support certain unjust political options with regard to the Palestinian people. It is a call to stand alongside the oppressed and preserve the word of God as good news for all rather than to turn it into a weapon with which to slay the oppressed. The word of God is a word of love for all His creation. God is not the ally of one against the other, nor the opponent of one in the face of the other. God is the Lord of all and loves all, demanding justice from all and issuing to all of us the same commandments. We ask our sister Churches not to offer a theological cover-up for the injustice we suffer, for the sin of the occupation imposed upon us. Our question to our brothers and sisters in the Churches today is: Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?

6.2 In order to understand our reality, we say to the Churches: Come and see. We will fulfil our role to make known to you the truth of our reality, receiving you as pilgrims coming to us to pray, carrying a message of peace, love and reconciliation. You will know the facts and the people of this land, Palestinians and Israelis alike.

6.3 We condemn all forms of racism, whether religious or ethnic, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and we call on you to condemn it and oppose it in all its manifestations. At the same time we call on you to say a word of truth and to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. As we have already said, we see boycott and disinvestment as tools of non violence for justice, peace and security for all.

7. Our word to the international community

7. Our word to the international community is to stop the principle of "double standards" and insist on the international resolutions regarding the Palestinian problem with regard to all parties. Selective application of international law threatens to leave us vulnerable to a law of the jungle. It legitimizes the claims by certain armed groups and states that the international community only understands the logic of force.
Therefore, we call for a response to what the civil and religious institutions have proposed, as mentioned earlier: the beginning of a system of economic sanctions and boycott to be applied against Israel. We repeat once again that this is not revenge but rather a serious action in order to reach a just and definitive peace that will put an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories and will guarantee security and peace for all.

8. Jewish and Muslim religious leaders

8. Finally, we address an appeal to the religious and spiritual leaders, Jewish and Muslim, with whom we share the same vision that every human being is created by God and has been given equal dignity. Hence the obligation for each of us to defend the oppressed and the dignity God has bestowed on them. Let us together try to rise up above the political positions that have failed so far and continue to lead us on the path of failure and suffering.

9. A call to our Palestinian people and to the Israelis

9.1 This is a call to see the face of God in each one of God’s creatures and overcome the barriers of fear or race in order to establish a constructive dialogue and not remain within the cycle of never-ending manoeuvres that aim to keep the situation as it is. Our appeal is to reach a common vision, built on equality and sharing, not on superiority, negation of the other or aggression, using the pretext of fear and security. We say that love is possible and mutual trust is possible. Thus, peace is possible and definitive reconciliation also. Thus, justice and security will be attained for all.

9.2 Education is important. Educational programs must help us to get to know the other as he or she is rather than through the prism of conflict, hostility or religious fanaticism. The educational programs in place today are infected with this hostility. The time has come to begin a new education that allows one to see the face of God in the other and declares that we are capable of loving each other and building our future together in peace and security.

9.3 Trying to make the state a religious state, Jewish or Islamic, suffocates the state, confines it within narrow limits, and transforms it into a state that practices discrimination and exclusion, preferring one citizen over another. We appeal to both religious Jews and Muslims: let the state be a state for all its citizens, with a vision constructed on respect for religion but also equality, justice, liberty and respect for pluralism and not on domination by a religion or a numerical majority.

9.4 To the leaders of Palestine we say that current divisions weaken all of us and cause more sufferings. Nothing can justify these divisions. For the good of the people, which must outweigh that of the political parties, an end must be put to division. We appeal to the international community to lend its support towards this union and to respect the will of the Palestinian people as expressed freely.

9.5 Jerusalem is the foundation of our vision and our entire life. She is the city to which God gave a particular importance in the history of humanity. She is the city towards which all people are in movement – and where they will meet in friendship and love in the presence of the One Unique God, according to the vision of the prophet Isaiah: "In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it (…) He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Is. 2: 2-5). Today, the city is inhabited by two peoples of three religions; and it is on this prophetic vision and on the international resolutions concerning the totality of Jerusalem that any political solution must be based. This is the first issue that should be negotiated because the recognition of Jerusalem's sanctity and its message will be a source of inspiration towards finding a solution to the entire problem, which is largely a problem of mutual trust and ability to set in place a new land in this land of God.

10. Hope and faith in God

10. In the absence of all hope, we cry out our cry of hope. We believe in God, good and just. We believe that God’s goodness will finally triumph over the evil of hate and of death that still persist in our land. We will see here "a new land" and "a new human being", capable of rising up in the spirit to love each one of his or her brothers and sisters.