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Only the other day a work colleague of mine, who had visited Israel, told me that she thought it must be dreadful for Palestinian Christians, due to persecution by Muslims in Gaza and the West Bank. The real story, that it is the Zionist government of Israel that is considered by the vast majority of Palestinian Christians to be the real cause of oppression for them, is unheard of in the west. The real narrative of Christian persecution by the Zionist state of Israel is unwanted by our western media. It doesn’t fit with the dearly loved narratives of those such as Michael Oren and the former Australian Foreign Minister, Andrew Downer, that Muslims are the real cause of conflict and oppression in the Middle East and that Israel is the protector of human rights and democracy. The following article appeared on Stephen Sizer’s blog e on 31st March 2012, and can be taken as the voice of Palestinian Christians to a very large degree.
Church Leaders Open letter to Michael Oren ahead of Easter
Posted: 31 Mar 2012 12:52 AM PDT
As has been stated in our Kairos document, we Palestinian Christians declare that “the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God.”
The Israeli occupation is the primary reason why so many members of the oldest Christian communities in the world have left the holy land, Palestine.
Since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights began in 1967, the Israeli government has confiscated thousands of acres of land owned by Christian Palestinians to build settlements Israel now calls “neighborhoods.” These settlements have divided Bethlehem and Jerusalem for the first time in the two millennia since Jesus walked between these holy cities.
Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem have been hardest hit by this land grab policy.
The Israeli government has demolished the homes of hundreds of Palestinians in the occupied city and revoked the residency rights of thousands more, while promoting foreign immigration to the ever-expanding illegal settlements throughout our occupied homeland.
Your claim, Mr Oren, that the Christian population in Israel has grown is disingenuous.
In fact, the percentage of Christians in the area began to decrease in 1948 when the creation of Israel caused a large portion of the Palestinian Christian population to become refugees.
The exaggerated growth of the Christian population in Israel that you claim is due primarily to the immigration of Russian Christians whom Israel was unable to distinguish from the Jewish immigrants pouring into the country after the fall of the Soviet Union. It is not due to any accommodation for the indigenous Palestinian Christian population, which is victim to an ongoing displacement policy implemented by your government.
It is also misleading to suggest that the occupation does not dramatically affect the day-to-day lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Palestinian use of airspace, telecommunications, and critical resources like water are all ultimately subject to Israeli control. We cannot move between our cities or travel abroad without crossing an Israeli checkpoint.
Israel’s matrix of control has cost our economy dearly and it dramatically limits the opportunities available to our youth. In 2010 alone, the cost of the occupation to the Palestinian economy was almost $7 billion, 85 percent of our GDP.
Our Holy Bible says, “‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). We seek a just and lasting peace. But to achieve peace, Mr Oren, your government must recognize the reality your occupation has created.
Our reality is one of occupation, oppression and loss. We endure your government’s assault on our natural and basic right to worship and its policy of exile and division between our communities.
Contrary to your erroneous claims, we assert that Palestinians are one people enduring Israel’s relentless occupation and suffering, together, from its oppressive practices.
We are united in our conviction that we deserve to enjoy the rights to which all people are entitled. Christian and Muslim Palestinians have struggled for freedom together for over 60 years. We intend to continue that tradition.
Ending Israeli occupation is the only way for Palestinians — Christians and Muslims — to enjoy a life of prosperity and progress. It is also the surest way to secure a continued Christian presence in this, our holy land.
Adv. Nabil Mushahwar, Chairman of the Palestinian Bar Association
Fr. Faysal Hijazeen, Director-general of the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine and parish priest of Ramallah
Archbishop Atallah Hanna, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Fr. Farah Bader, Assistant priest, Ramallah Roman Catholic Church
Fr. Johnny Abu Khalil, Roman Catholic priest of Nablus
Fr. Firas Aredah, Roman Catholic priest of Jifna
Fr. Ibrahim Shomali, Roman Catholic Parish Priest of Beit Jala
Rev. Saliba Rishmawi, Lutheran Church, Ramallah
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Member of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee
Fayez Saqqa, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Bethlehem
Fouad Kokali, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Beit Sahour
Hind Khoury, Ambassador, Jerusalem. Former PLO representative in Paris
Bassem Khoury, Architect, Jerusalem
Dr. Charlie Abu Saada, Director of Juthoruna Forum
Yusef Daher, Inter Church Center, Jerusalem
Lucy Thalgieh, Project coordinator, Wi’am Center, Bethlehem
George Saliba Rishmawi, Coordinator, Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies
Professor Gabi Baramki, Former President of Bir Zeit University, Ramallah
Issa Kassasieh, Deputy Head – PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, Jerusalem
Dr. Elias Iseed, Secretariat of the Orthodox organizations in Palestine, Beit Sahour
Khader Abu Abara, President of the Beit Jala Orthodox Club, Beit Jala
Marwan Toubasi, Governor of Tubas, Chairman of the Orthodox organizations in Palestine, Ramallah
Fr. Jamal Khader, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Bethlehem University
Salim Hodali, Head of the Diaspora Unit, Bank of Palestine
Nader Abuamsha, Beit Sahour YMCA
Dr. Jad Isaac, Head of the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem
Yousef Hallaq, Electrical Engineer, Jerusalem
Dr. Varsen Aghabekian, Management Consultant, Ramallah
Rania Elias, Director, Yabous Cultural Center, occupied Jerusalem
Wassef Daher, President of YMCA
Nader Muaddi, Palestinian Christian activist, occupied Jerusalem
Raji Zeidan, Mayor of Beit Jala
Dr. Bernard Sabella, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, occupied Jerusalem
Peter Abu Shanab, Chairperson of Holylanders, occupied Jerusalem
Dr. Kholoud Daibes, Palestinian Authority Minister of Tourism and Antiquities
Rif’at Kassis, General Coordinator of Kairos – Palestine
Andre Batarseh, YMCA, occupied Jerusalem
Rami Saleh, Treasurer of the Palestinian Counseling Center, and Deputy Director of Jerusalem Legal Aid Center
Dr. Manuel Hassassian, Ambassador, PLO representative in London
Shawki Armali, Ambassador, PLO representative to the Holy See
Dr. Linda Tabar, Professor, Bir Zeit University
Rateb Rabie, President of Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation
Anthony Habash, Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Bethlehem
Ibrahim Mourad, Fashion Designer
Maggie Mourad, Former instructor, Bethlehem University
Maha Saca, Director – Palestinian Heritage Center, Bethlehem
Elham Salameh, Director, social and cultural department – YMCA, occupied Jerusalem
Ibrahim Matar, President, National Christian Association, occupied Jerusalem
Dr. Nabeel Kassis, Former president, Bir Zeit University
Ziad Bandak, Minister, Presidential Adviser for Christian Affairs
Hanna Amira, Member of the PLO Executive Committee
Janet Michael, Mayor of Ramallah
Dr. Rita Giacaman, Director of the Institute of Community and Public Health, Bir Zeit University
Mary Sabella, occupied Jerusalem
Dr. Jacqueline Sfeir, Director of MaDad, Bethlehem
Eileen Kuttab, Director Women Studies Institute, Bir Zeit University
Zahi Khoury, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Palestinian National Beverage Company, Coca-Cola
Rev. Mitri Raheb, Senior Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, president of Diyar Consortium
Dr. Nuha Khoury, Dean of Dar al-Kalima College, Bethlehem
Khalil Nijim, Consultant, secretary of Diyar Board, Bethlehem
Rev. Imad Haddad, Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Beit Sahour
Layla Sayeh, Director of PenMedia
Michael Asfour, YMCA, occupied Jerusalem
Afif Safieh, Ambassador, former PLO representative to the Hague, London, Washington, Moscow and the Holy See
Nora Kort, President Arab Orthodox Society, Jerusalem
Anton Salman, President Anthonian Charitable Society, Bethlehem
George Saade, Bethlehem Deputy Mayor, on behalf of the Bethlehem Municipal Council
Hani Hayek, Mayor of Beit Sahour
Maher Sahlieh, Head of the Arab Orthodox Scouts, occupied Jerusalem
Fr. Hanna Salem, Latin Seminary priest, Beit Jala
Dr. Muna Mushahwar, Arab Orthodox Club, occupied Jerusalem
Fr. Raed Abusahlia, Roman Catholic parish priest of Taybeh
Fr. Aziz Halawa, Roman Catholic parish priest of Beit Sahour
Omar Harami, Palestinian Christian activist, occupied Jerusalem
Elie Shehadeh, Palestinian National Initiative, Beit Jala
Iyad Aburdeneh, Environmental expert, Bethlehem
Claudette Habash , Palestinian Christian refugee, occupied Jerusalem
Yacoub Al Yousef, Arab Orthodox Club, occupied Jerusalem
Usama Salman, Director, San Vincent Association, occupied Jerusalem
Rami Zeidan, General manager, Traveller Experience Tours, occupied Jerusalem
The following article was published by Australians for Palestine
A powerful piece written by the influential Canberra-based Catholic Bishop Pat Power was published in the Canberra Times today. It should have been published in all major Australian newspapers. We are so used to hearing Christians here tread very carefully around the Palestinian struggle for rights in their homeland, acknowledging them, yes, but rarely coming straight out to say that the root cause is Israel’s denial of them and that Israel is “a major aggressor scorning any effort to find peace based on justice”. This is a courageous statement by a courageous man who simply speaks the plain truth. Isn’t it time that more of our religious and political leaders speak up to defend the Palestinians who have surely endured more than any people ought when the cruelty and oppression committed against them is so egregious and is escalating so rapidly? A few words of thanks to Bishop Power <firstname.lastname@example.org> will also show him that he is not a lone voice here in Australia.
A call for peace and justice in the Holy Land
by Bishop Pat Power
The Canberra Times
27 March 2012
Israel must stop abusing Palestinians so trust and respect can prevail,
Hardly a day passes without me being appalled by the plight of the Palestinian people and the apparent indifference of much of the Western world to the injustices suffered by these beleaguered people. I have to admit that before visits to the Holy Land in 1973 and 1988, my sympathies were with Israel whom I saw as a fledgling nation surrounded by hostile Arab neighbours.
The scales fell from my eyes on those visits where I saw a heavy military presence in Jerusalem and other towns, armoured vehicles rumbling up and down the streets, threatening war planes flying overhead and on one occasion just escaping from a tear-gas assault in a busy alleyway in Jerusalem.
In the years since then, successive Israeli governments, with the seeming complicity of the United States, have become more and more emboldened in their violence towards the Palestinian people.
The destruction of Palestinian homes, tearing down beautiful olive groves, building a dreadful wall which isolates Palestinians from one another and makes already difficult movement almost impossible, not to mention the barbarism committed against the people of Gaza in recent years are all examples of a major aggressor scorning any effort to find peace based on justice. Why else would Israel be so consistently in breach on United Nations resolutions?
At the end of February, I accompanied Ali Kazak, former Palestinian representative to Australia, to an International Conference on Jerusalem, held in Doha, Qatar. The conference was convened by the United Arab League and hosted by the Emir of Qatar and attended by over 350 people from all over the world.
I was surprised to find among the participants a number of Jewish rabbis who belong to a group called Jews United Against Zionism. I was able to tell them of the number of Jewish people here in Canberra who have spoken out against atrocities perpetrated against the Palestinian people. I was proud to stand beside Bishop Michael Sabbah, the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the first Palestinian to be appointed to that role. He unsurprisingly spoke strongly in defence of the rights of his people and of the violence to which they are being subjected.
The Doha Declaration at the end of the two-day conference made a wide-ranging appeal for the protection of Palestinian people in Jerusalem and the upholding of their rights.
”We reiterate that the forced eviction of the Jerusalem population by means of the Judaization plans, denying the rights, obliterating the history and heritage, usurping land, and confiscating properties are violations of International Law.
Therefore we are calling on the International powers that are silent about Israeli violations to assume their responsibilities and oblige Israel to implement all international resolutions relevant to Jerusalem. Additionally, we are calling on all relevant agencies of the UN to assume their responsibility towards Jerusalem and its population, ensuring their enjoyment of their city, complete civic, economic and social rights, preserving its sanctities, historical landmarks and human heritage.”
Australia’s new Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr, in his maiden speech gave some moving historical examples of religious tolerance. It is my hope that he will raise the awareness of our federal parliamentarians of the need for greater understanding of the injustices being suffered by the Palestinian people. Dialogue which is so urgently needed at the political, racial and religious level will never succeed while there is denial of the ”facts on the ground”.
I tire of seeing our parliamentarians of all political persuasions unquestioningly supporting Israel’s usurping of fundamental Palestinian rights. Much of the tension with Iran would be lessened if that country were to see the Palestinian people being justly treated by Israel and the rest of the international community.
In a paper submitted to the Conference, I concluded: ”The 64 years of pain and suffering the Palestinians have endured are enough. The Catholic Church and other Christians have consistently cried out for peace and justice in the Holy Land. The Arab League has rightly demanded that Israel end the occupation and withdraw to the 1967 borders. Jerusalem needs to be secured as a city for all faiths with Muslims and Christians from outside Jerusalem being given the opportunity to pray in the Holy City. Provision needs to be
made for the millions of Palestinian refugees by providing right of return and just compensation in accordance with UN Resolution 194.
”I plead for patience and restraint on the part of the Palestinian people, for good will, a sense of justice and practical peace-making actions on the part of Israel and a firm resolve on the part of the international community to broker a peace which is based on justice and respects the dignity and rights of all the people involved. I pray for the climate of trust called for by Pope Benedict and I pray that the God of Abraham will bless these steps towards a peaceful solution in the Holy Land.”
Pat Power is the Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn and
long-time supporter of the rights of the Palestinian people.
Christian Zionists continually tell me that it is a Christian’s duty to unconditionally support the Zionist State of Israel. Israel is God’s anointed nation and no one has the right to protest against anything they do or stand up for the rights of those who claim they have been oppressed by the Zionist state. At the same time they demand that I, as one who supports the cause of equality and justice for all in Israel-Palestine, must denounce terrorism and brutality perpetrated by Arabs against Israeli Jews. This I am happy to do, yet the Christian supporters of Israel see no hypocrisy in the stance they take that clearly implies that even if you could prove that Israel does oppress Palestinians (something so obvious to anyone educated in the struggle) , it would not change their attitude towards Israel. It seems that terrorism and murder are not intrinsically evil, it just depends on who does it to who. It is evil if Arabs do it to Jews, but OK if Jews do it to Arabs. I think terrorism and murder is wrong no matter who does it or who is the victim of it. Christian Zionists can make no such claim.
Friday March 23, 2012 23:52 by Graham Peebles
Israeli treatment of Palestinian minors
They shoot children don’t They
The innocence of childhood is a precious jewel, to be gently cared for and nurtured, allowing the child, whose future we are building, to develop happily and safely in an atmosphere of love and peace. For many Palestinian children their childhood is lived under a cloak of fear, and the threat of violence and abuse at the hands of an armed force that stalks the streets of their homeland.
In the eleven years since 2000 Israeli forces have killed “1,471” children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the bulk of which are aged between 13 and 17 years old. The children of Gaza have been and continue to be at greatest risk, with almost a thousand murdered in the last twelve years, on the streets of their city, on their way to and from school, whilst playing with friends, shopping for their family or simply relaxing in their homes. Most are shot randomly, indiscriminately, or killed as a result of Israeli air and ground attacks. Around 50 were taken prematurely from their families by unexploded ordnance.
This latest attack on the people of Gaza began on Friday 9th March, “killing 26 and injuring 89 more Palestinians.” The Israeli air force fired missiles from the comfort of their warplanes at civilians in an arbitrary way, shooting onto the streets of Gaza and into peoples homes, “in the Jabaliya refugee camp that were mostly full of women and children,” (ibid) The faceless attackers even shot at mourners attending a funeral.
Such is the callous, vicious nature of the Israeli security forces, that kills, injures and intimidates innocent women and children, destroying all hope of living peaceful decent lives, and all in the name of ‘security’. Nonsense, this is criminal violence nothing more or less.
These most recent atrocities come on the back of the massacre that took place in December ‘08/January’09, when a total of “1417” Palestinians were murdered, of which ‘318”’ were children and 116 women.
Fresh in the children’s young memories lie the echo of that horrendous time, the constant bombardment, the loss of loved ones, and the shootings. In addition to the deaths around 1000 children were injured in the three-week assault, many children were left with severe physical disabilities and deep psychological wounds.
The mental/emotional effects more difficult to see and or to treat than broken bones and scared flesh. “The Gaza Community Health Programme estimates that half Gaza’s children – around 350,000 – will develop some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
This is staggering but unsurprising, and the attacks this March on unarmed civilians, will serve to intensify the mental suffering and anguish that these children are living with, “both parents and psychologist fear that Gaza children could be affected psychologically in the long run.”
Children make up around 45% of the four million or so total Palestinian population – a fact that terrifies an aging Israel. And what impact does living under the brutal Israeli occupation have on them, are they inclined towards peace and brotherhood, is tolerance fostered in their hearts and minds or are the seeds of hate and the desire for revenge being carefully sown. Does violence ever bring peace, or perpetuate conflict.
Violence we see begets not harmony but further violence. Colonel Travers, “we spoke to a psychiatrist in Gaza,” who said, “We already see in our schools in Gaza the next generation of Hamas revolutionaries, children exposed to so much violence, they have no option but to terminate their childhood and move into a different frame, and the likelihood is that they will never stabilize.”
In order to justify the unjustifiable, the unjust Israel needs to instil hate into another generation of Palestinians – to maintain their (Israel’s) position as the ‘enemy within’, thereby excusing in some perverted distortion of the facts, their continued aggression, violence and violation of international laws, too many to count.
Intimidation and Torture
Palestinian children living in the West Bank and the Gaza strip under the illegal Israeli occupation are subjected to brutal treatment, illegal imprisonment, torture and intimidation by the Israeli security forces. Defence for Children International states “a pattern of systematic ill-treatment [of Palestinian children] emerges, [from their report ‘Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted’] much of which amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as defined in the UN Convention against Torture, and in some cases, torture – both of which are absolutely prohibited.”
Since 1967 Palestinian children as well as adults have been subjected to Israeli Military Law, a legal system based on prejudice and short on justice. In the time since this emergence system was instigated 726,000 Palestinians have been arrested and detained.
The numbers of children arrested and taken from their homes is shocking. “In the past 11 years alone, around 7,500 children, some as young as 12 years, are estimated to have been detained, interrogated, and imprisoned within this ‘system. This averages out at between 500-700 children per year, or nearly two children, each and every day.” (Ibid) Mostly the arrested children live in villages in areas of tension, “friction points, namely settlements built in violation of international law, and roads used by the Israeli army or settlers.” (Ibid) The situation seems to be escalating particularly in certain areas of the West bank.
“The extreme Golani Unit of the Israeli military is escalating its arrests of Palestinian children in Al Khalil (Hebron), targeting boys between the ages of 12 to15 years old with at least 10 reported cases of child arrests made (in early February 2012) just in the span of one week.”
As well arrests, incarceration in solitary confinement has also increased, with almost a quarter of all children arrested being held in isolation. Children, mainly boys, aged from 12 to 17 years old are forcefully taken from their family, often at night, imprisoned in a tiny, dank cell, illegally beaten and tortured, intimidated and on occasion subjected to electronic shock treatment. Most children are detained for the terrible crime of throwing stones at soldiers armed with M16 rifles and tear gas, all courtesy of the American arms industry.
Like 15-year-old Yahia, who, with four friends was arrested and taken to the [illegal] Israeli settlement of Zuffin, where there “hands tied behind their backs, they were blindfolded, before being forced to kneel on the ground for several hours.” The inevitable insults then began to rein down on the children.
“After about two and a half hours the boys were loaded into a truck and transported to a police station………the boys were interrogated………the interrogator grabbed the boys head and slammed it against the wall, slapping him twice, a short time later he returned holding a small electric shock device [Taser]. ‘He placed the device on my body and I felt a great powerful shock and my body started shivering’. This shock treatment continued until ‘I couldn’t feel my arms or legs and I felt extreme pain in my head. I felt I was going to be paralysed, so I decided to confess”
In another example of torturous abuse at the hands of the Israelis, there is 16-year-old Mohammad Shabrawi from the West Bank town of Tulkarm, arrested in January 2001, again accused of throwing stones. His ordeal mirrors in part that of Yahia – taken to a settlement, his hands tied and being forced blindfolded to kneel on the asphalt for an hour or so, before being taken to “Cell 36, deep within Al Jalame prison in northern Israel.” Reports the London Guardian. “It is one of a handful of cells where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. One 16-year-old claimed that he had been kept in Cell 36 for 65 days.” (Ibid) Mohammad spent “17 days in solitary, apart from interrogations. He first saw a lawyer 20 days after his arrest, he said, and was charged after 25 day” And the effect of this terrible ordeal on the boy, “Since his release, he said, he was “now afraid of the army, afraid of being arrested.” His mother said he had become withdrawn.” (Ibid)
The use of hand ties and blindfolds is extensive, in 2010 the UN documented 90 cases of “ill treatment” of Palestinian children in Israeli detention, of which 75 had their hands tied behind their backs and were also blindfolded. Almost a third of children were under 15 years of age. Of the 90 detained “62 children reported being beaten, 35 children reported position abuse and 16 children were kept in solitary confinement. In three cases, children reported the use of electric shocks on their bodies.
Particularly concerning was the fact that there was an increase in documented cases of sexual violence” (Ibid) All of this contravenes international law and conventions signed and ratified by Israel and the democratic principles Israel so loudly proclaims. Mark Regev, the chief Israeli purveyor of propaganda and deceit, and Spokesman for Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu in The London Guardian, “The test of a democracy is how you treat people incarcerated, people in jail, and especially so with minors.”(Ibid) Democracy damned by words of duplicity. Much of the mistreatment exercised towards Palestinian children not only contravenes international law, but also violates Israel’s own domestic laws.
When in Israeli custody children are violently interrogated; they are shackled, blindfolded and bound to a chair whilst being questioned. According to Israeli Law, “Interrogation of a minor may be conducted only by an interrogator who is trained as a youth interrogator. A parent is allowed to be present at all times,” and ”Minors have the right to consult with the parent before the interrogation.”
They are verbally insulted “You’re a dog, a son of a whore is common. Many are exhausted from sleep deprivation. Day after day they are fettered to the chair, then returned to solitary confinement.” Eventually the majority of children sign confessions that they later state were coerced, “Children under interrogation unsurprisingly eventually admit to the ‘crimes’, DCI “in the end at least 90 percent will plead guilty, as this is the quickest way out of a system that denies children bail in 87 percent of cases.”
Accusations of crimes justifying these illegal detentions are commonly, throwing stones, or occasionally Molotov cocktails at soldiers or settlers – both of whom let us remember are illegally present upon Palestinian land. A few are arrested for “more serious offences such as links to militant organisations or using weapons.” States The Guardian
Major violation Minor insecurity
And what ‘National security information’ is being elicited from the interrogation of these children, who the Israelis are abusing? “They are pumped for information about the activities and sympathies of their classmates, relatives and neighbours.” (Ibid) Within walls of intimidation a child can be forced to betray their friends and families, eliciting the names of other stone throwers is a primary aim of the torturer. B’Tselem “One method the police use to identify juvenile stone throwers is incrimination: the police arrest one or more youths, they are required to give names of other youths whom they saw throwing stones, and these youths are then arrested and required to provide the names of others, and so on.”
THE children under interrogation in a frightening isolated place, far from the sanctity of home, are under great emotional stress and inevitably give up the names of friends, the experience then compounded by the added trauma of guilt.
Children are mostly held inside Israel itself, which restricts access to legal support and excludes family members from visiting, their freedom of movement is constrained under the occupation, the necessary permit to visit the prisons is often impossible to obtain. Families are therefore unable to support their children through the ordeal of confinement. Holding children in prisons inside Israel is in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits such transfers.
According to DCI, “testimonies [from 310 children] reveal that the majority of children are taken away to an unknown location for interrogation.”(Ibid) This process of arrests, detention and torture operating inside Israel and outside international and national law, offers the victims no legal recourse, DCI (“there is a general absence of effective complaint mechanisms.” (Ibid)
Legally binding Illegally bound
The Israeli judicial system as it currently pertains to Palestinian children, allows illegal practices to take place within the walled settlements –themselves illegal, inside police stations and Israeli prisons. International law on the rights of the child, to which Israel is bound, is clear and extensive “The main document establishing the rights of children is the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN in November 1989. Israel signed the Convention in July 1990 and ratified it in August 1991”.
In the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, we find “Condemning the targeting of children in situations of armed conflict and direct attacks on objects protected under international law, including places that generally have a significant presence of children, such as schools and hospitals.”
Schools are repeatedly targeted by Israeli security forces, according to the UN in 2010 there was an increase in the number of attacks on education institutions, “these attacks resulted in damage to schools or interruption of education, placing the safety of the children in Gaza and the West Bank at risk. The majority of cases involved the presence of Israeli security forces within school compounds following raids, forceful entry, and search and arrest operations, including the use of tear gas on students.”
All international treatise and conventions signed by the lawbreaker, Israel, safeguard children in conflict, and Israel ignores them all, DCI “These treaties relevantly provide that: in all actions concerning children their best interests shall be a primary consideration; children should only be detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;” Held for ‘17 days in solitary’ as Mohammed was, is neither short nor appropriate, indeed it is illegal. It is one example within a catalogue of atrocities, that sees Israel contravening another convention, breaking yet another international law and doing so with impunity. This must stop, urgent action is required to safeguard the children of Palestine and protect them from the tyranny that is Israeli policy in the OPT’s.
In order to fuel what is a raging furnace of legal standards raging around Israel, let us add The Fourth Geneva Convention, which “grants special protections to minors” and provides 146 articles that protect in law the lives of all Palestinians living under the illegal Israeli occupation.
Israel is in breech of them all. Indeed ‘grave breaches’, which in itself constitutes war crimes, “the world has seen those [grave breaches] inflicted every day by Israel against the Palestinian People living in occupied Palestine: e.g., wilful killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army and Israel’s illegal paramilitary settlers.” (Ibid) Israel is guilty of ‘grave breaches’ of the convention and the more serious offense of ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ against Palestinians “as determined by the U.N. Human Rights Commission” (Ibid), which is the “legal precursor to the international crime of genocide as defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” (Ibid) The argument that Israel is or has in fact already committed the crime of genocide, is powerful and to many indisputable.
Genocide, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, crimes against humanity; titles that all fit Israel bespoke. Call it what you will, the actions of Israel in the OPT’s are vile, murderous, calculated and illegal. It is for the international community acting in unity, and led by the UN to finally stand up and act to protect the lives of the innocent men, women and children of Palestine, lifting the shadow of constant fear, intimidation and aggression from their lives. Humanity is one. Together we must stand in the face of injustice, violence and hate to safeguard the lives of the innocent, the oppressed the defenceless.
Graham Peebles is Director of The Create Trust (www.the createtrust.org), a UK registered charity Supporting fundamental Social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need.
E: graham[at]the createtrust.org
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_Palest…ories – UN_estimates_.5B14.5D
Voices from the Occupation
The Mondoweiss website has published some interesting articles on the way the Zionist state of Israel discriminates against Palestinians. Anyone reading the Old Testament will see that among the many things that God has forbidden the Jewish people to do in Israel, is hold another people captive and persecute them just as the ancient Hebrews had been held captive and persecuted by the Egyptian nation in the time of Moses. God continually reminds the Children of Israel to be merciful to non-Jews in the promised land and treat them as if they were one of their own as a matter of justice. The following excerpts from Mondoweiss by Ilan Pappe and the Institute for Middle East Understanding are extremely illuminating and sound a warning to those who teach others that the Zionist State of Israel should be unconditionally supported as mandated by God (so they say).
- There are more than 30 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. directly or indirectly, based solely on their ethnicity, rendering them second or third class citizens in their own homeland.
- 93% of the land in Israel is owned either by the state or by quasi-governmental agencies, such as the Jewish National Fund, that discriminate against non-Jews. Palestinian citizens of Israel face significant legal obstacles in gaining access to this land for agriculture, residence, or commercial development.
- More than seventy Palestinian villages and communities in Israel, some of which pre-date the establishment of the state, are unrecognized by the government, receive no services, and are not even listed on official maps. Many other towns with a majority Palestinian population lack basic services and receive significantly less government funding than do majority-Jewish towns.
- Since Israel’s founding in 1948, more than 600 Jewish municipalities have been established, while not a single new Arab town or community has been recognized by the state.
- Israeli government resources are disproportionately directed to Jews and not to Arabs, one factor in causing the Palestinians of Israel to suffer the lowest living standards in Israeli society by all socio-economic indicators.
- Government funding for Arab schools is far below that of Jewish schools. According to data published in 2004, the government provides three times as much funding to Jewish students than it does to Arab students.
- According to the 2009 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report, “Many of the national and municipal policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or diminish the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.”
- In October 2010, the Knesset approved a bill allowing smaller Israeli towns to reject residents who do not suit “the community’s fundamental outlook”, based on sex, religion, and socioeconomic status. Critics slammed the move as an attempt to allow Jewish towns to keep Arabs and other non-Jews out.
- The so-called “Nakba Bill” bans state funding for groups that commemorate the tragedy that befell Palestinians during Israel’s creation in 1948, when approx. 725,000 Palestinian Arabs were ethnically cleansed to make way for a Jewish majority state.
Ilan Pappe talks about why Palestinians are second class citizens of Israel at best:
“MY BOOK The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel examines this at length, but there are three levels of discrimination.
First, there’s the legal level. And in Israel, this is carried out by separating the community into two kinds–those who serve in the army and those who don’t serve in the army. By law, those who don’t serve in the army don’t have the same property rights, the same rights in terms of national security, insurance, welfare benefits, accommodation in universities and so forth.
Now, you can say it’s not racist because it’s not based on national identity, but Jews who do not serve in the army are not affected by this law. So in practice, these laws only apply to the Arab citizens of Israel–who, by a tacit agreement with the government, don’t serve in the army. So that’s a very legal basis, very clear legislation.
Then there is the semi-legalistic, more-gray area of regulations. Israel still has intact a set of mandatory emergency regulations that can be enacted at any given moment. These regulations are enacted every now and then, and then only against the Palestinian community, which gives a military government absolute control over the lives of people.
You can be arrested without trial, you can be distanced by force from your home, you can be expelled, your home can be demolished, the area in which you live can be cordoned off and declared a “militarily closed area” without any outside world intervention. And there, the military government can do whatever it wants.
The last time Israelis used these emergency regulations was when they implemented a newly passed law that Palestinians from Israel who married Palestinians from the West Bank could not live in Israel, they had to live in the West Bank. So they expelled these couples by force by declaring certain Arab villages in the center of Israel literally closed areas. And they used that to remove them.
The third level is the one that regulates daily contact between Palestinian citizens and Israeli authorities–the tax collector, the policeman, the judge. I will just give you one example, but there are many others. Even Israeli research shows that when Palestinians and Jews are brought before a court, Palestinian defendants who committed the same offense as a Jewish defendant will always get a stiffer sentence.
There are hardly any Jews who have ever been shot by the police as petty criminals, but quite a few Palestinians. When it comes to Palestinians, there is a very different posture taken by those who represent the establishment and the government. The most notable circumstance has to do with the airport, public transportation, railways and so on, where Palestinians are subjected to very humiliating searches, and sometimes are not allowed even to board a train or a domestic flight, let alone an international flight, just because they are Palestinian.”
Gilad Shalit’s father says, ‘If I were Palestinian I’d kidnap soldiers’
Mar 15, 2012 02:22 pm | Annie Robbins
Noam Shalit, father of former prisoner Gilad Shalit announced on Israel’s Channel 10 he would kidnap an Israeli soldier in his quest for freedom, if he were a Palestinian.
The father of an Israeli soldier held in captivity for more than five years by Hamas has said he would kidnap Israeli soldiers if he were a Palestinian.
Noam Shalit, who announced earlier this year that he would be standing for the opposition Labour party in the next Israeli elections, has provoked outrage among the Israeli right with the comments. His son, Gilad, was released in a prisoner swap in October 2011.
Shalit added that the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hamas militants was comparable to the techniques used by Israeli paramilitary fighters the Haganah against the British, arguing “we also kidnapped British soldiers when we were fighting for our freedom”.
Speaking to a television interviewer in the kitchen of the Shalit family home, a familiar backdrop for the Israeli public from the family’s five-year campaign for their son’s release, Shalit was subject to repeated questioning attempting to pin him down on his political policies.
The former engineer eventually summarised his key campaign issues as “mutual responsibility. And not leaving soldiers behind or any Israeli who is in any trouble.” He also said he would be prepared to negotiate with Hamas if he were an MP, something the Israeli government, along with Britain and the US, refuses to do.
Supporters of the Zionist State of Israel continually affirm that Israel is a state of democracy and tolerance, surrounded by barbarian hordes. An enlightened “western” nation that is forced , on a daily basis, to fight for its very survival against not only the Jihadist terrorists from the Muslim world, but the anti-Semitic protestations of liberals and phony progressives in the west. The following article, by a Palestinian Christian, paints a somewhat different picture. The article was first published on the Mondoweiss website.
Mar 15, 2012 06:45 am | Fida Jiryis
Amb. Michael Oren’s article, ‘Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians,’ presents Israel as a tolerant, dove-like, and peaceful democracy. This is belied by the facts.
I am one of those Palestinian Christians living inside Israel to whom Oren refers. At no time in my life have I ever felt the ‘respect and appreciation’ by the Jewish state, which Oren so glowingly references. Israel’s Christian minority is marginalized in much the same manner as its Muslim one or, at best, quietly tolerated. We suffer the same discrimination when we try to find a job, when we go to hospitals, when we apply for bank loans, and when we get on the bus — in the same way as Palestinian Muslims.
Israel’s fundamental basis is as a racist state built for Jews only, and the majority of the Jewish population doesn’t really care what religion we are if we’re not Jewish. In my daily dealings with the State, all I have felt is rudeness and overt contempt.
Oren’s statement that ‘The extinction of the Middle East’s Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude’ is outright shocking to anyone familiar with even the basic history of how Israel was founded. I would like to remind him and others that this founding expelled thousands of Palestinian Christians from their homes in 1948 and displaced them, either forcing them to flee across the border or making them internal refugees. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that comprised the founding of Israel is, too, an injustice of historic magnitude. A man living in a glass home — or a home stolen from Palestinians — should think very carefully before tossing stones.
My cousin’s husband, Maher, is from Iqrith, a village a few miles from mine in the Galilee. His family, and all of Iqrith’s inhabitants, were expelled from their village in 1948 and Iqrith was razed to the ground by Israeli forces on Christmas eve, 1950, in a special ‘Christmas gift’ to its people. The timing of this destruction leaves one to wonder at the intended message. Maher was born years after his family took shelter in Rama, a village nearby in the Galilee. Today, he struggles with finding a place to build a house to live in with his wife and children. Israeli policies that severely restrict the building zones in Arab towns and villages result in land shortages impeding the population’s natural expansion. Limiting land to residents of the same town or village means that internal Palestinian refugees face severe housing discrimination.
The return of people like Maher has been made impossible by Israel, which refuses to negotiate on the right of refugees to return to their homeland. If Oren is so concerned for Palestinian Christians, would he kindly give the green light for the return of Christian refugees from Iqrith, Bir’im, Tarshiha, Suhmata, Haifa, Jaffa, and tens of other Palestinian towns and villages that they were expelled from in 1948? The answer, I assure you, is no. Many of these refugees are living in refugee camps in nearby countries, where Israel and Oren are happy to leave them.
The terrorists referred to in Oren’s statement that ‘Israel, in spite of its need to safeguard its borders from terrorists, allows holiday access to Jerusalem’s churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza,’ are in fact Palestinian Christians living on the land that Israel has occupied — in flagrant opposition to all human rights charters — and from which it is refusing to withdraw its soldiers and illegal settlers. To applaud Israel for giving people permits to travel across what by law is their own country is the height of hubris.
His claim that ‘In Jerusalem, the number of Arabs–among them Christians–has tripled since the city’s reunification by Israel in 1967’ fails to mention Israel’s relentless policies of cracking down on Jerusalem: building unending settlements; building a Separation Wall that slices right through the city, severing its families, neighborhoods and businesses and hitting hard at its Arab economy; seizing Arab lands and expelling families that have lived on them for generations; and revoking the citizenship of any Palestinian resident who travels abroad for too long. Imagine the outcry if an American citizen traveled abroad for two years and upon return discovered that his citizenship was revoked and that he had lost his American ID and passport.
Israeli officials don’t care whether the Palestinians they discriminate against are Christian or Muslim. It is true that inter-religious strife is on the rise in a region long tormented by poor living conditions, for which the West bears significant responsibility having aided the region’s many dictators.
Oren’s faux tolerance and crocodile tears over the plight of Christians fool no one. Were he serious, I would urge him to have a close look at Israel’s policies of occupation and racial discrimination.
As Jesus said, ‘Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?‘ (Matthew 7:3)
‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ conference brings Evangelical leaders to Bethlehem
From March 5 – 9, 2012 the Bethlehem Bible College will be hosting it’s second “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference at the Intercontinental Hotel in Bethlehem. The conference will bring Christians from around the world to Bethlehem to connect with Palestinian Christians and to better understand the daily situation they are living under and how certain Christian theological stances help to perpetuate those conditions.
Many times Evangelical Christians, especially those from the United States never get off the “tourist trail” and have the opportunity to meet with Palestinians and to hear their stories. Daily trips to places like the Bethlehem Checkpoint, Hebron, and the Tent of Nations will give participants the opportunity to see areas most affected by the occupation.
The aim of “Christ at the Checkpoint” is to provide an opportunity for evangelical Christians who take the Bible seriously to prayerfully seek a proper awareness of issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation. Some of the conference goals are stated as:
1. Empower and encourage the Palestinian church.
2. Expose the realities of the injustices in the Palestinian Territories and create awareness of the obstacles to reconciliation and peace.
3. Create a platform for serious engagement with Christian Zionism and an open forum for ongoing dialogue between all positions within the Evangelical theological spectrum.
4. Motivate participants to become advocates for the reconciliation work of the church in Palestine/Israel and its ramifications for the Middle East and the world.
Speakers include Tony Campolo of Eastern University, Shane Claiborne of “The Simple Way”, Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Church, Sami Awad of Holy Land Trust, journalist Ben White and many local pastors and leaders from the Bethlehem community. A full list of speakers can be found here.
This conference has already received a lot of attention from Christian and Jewish Zionist groups trying to cast it as “delegitimizing Israel”. Charges not often thrown at Evangelical Christians.
All Created Equal…but some more equal than others.
My understanding of what drives Christian Zionism has changed somewhat over the past few years. Initially I thought it could be traced back to errors in Biblical exegesis concerning the place of modern Zionist Israel in Biblical Eschatology as well as fear of other faiths, like Islam, which are seen by many Christians as competitors to Christianity in the market place of religious ideas.
But recently I have come to see that Christian Zionism is ultimately held together by the same threads as all western support for Zionist Israel. And those threads can be traced back to a basic concept of European supremacist racism, the type of which Edward Said described in his book, Orientalism.
Said has been vigorously attacked for this work, mostly by Europeans, but I think his work is extremely illuminating all the same. I very much remember how I, as a right wing Christian believer, convinced of the basic superiority of the west because of the greater impact experienced by it from the Christian faith, detested any attempt to paint western “Christian” colonialism in a negative light in an attempt to justify the struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples or peoples not grouped within the “Christianized” world. I saw all attempts to unveil the suffering of indigenous peoples at the hands of western colonialism as thinly veiled attempts by the Godless Left to attack the real enemy of those duped into the struggle of the so called “marginalised” :…that is, ”white, western Christian males and the faith they are custodians of.” I recognised the whole point of the movement to support the rights of minorities throughout the world was to make me feel “white guilt”! I wasn’t having a bar of it!
To justify western colonialism, I reminded myself that it was not only the “Christianized” west that was guilty of colonialism. And hey…if you have to suffer under colonialism, western colonialism was surely better than non-Christianized eastern colonialism! Even if you can show that the Christianized west was guilty of crimes against the rights of the vulnerable, the idea that at least we gave them the Bible and ultimately democracy, will always help you to feel superior to the east in the end when you go to bed at night. If western colonialism can be shown to have destroyed the lives of millions, fear not, eastern colonialism destroyed the lives of tens of millions if not more!
Better to be violated by a “Christianized” westerner than a Godless oriental! When I was finally confronted with the atrocities suffered by the indigenous of my country, Australia, I comforted myself with the thought that if Australia had been colonised by anyone but the British, or some other civilised western nation influenced by the Bible, there would be no indigenous people left anywhere in Australia.
I used this line of reasoning to defend the whole idea of the west forcing their ideas and interests on others whom I considered to be less Christianized, and therefore less civilised than us. Sure…in general it is best to let people be free and decide for themselves what they should do and think, but hey…we are westerners and they aren’t! If anyone has to have nuclear weapons, then just thank God it’s us who has them and not them (i.e. Iran)! We are more trustworthy than them. If only the non-western world would just see their basic inferiority and realise they have to become more like us, then the world would be better off. But hey, since they are inferior, they will never have the brains to work this out and so we will have to keep them in check anyway! Or perhaps if they aren’t inferior then if we could just stop them listening to the real enemy, the liberal supporters of freedom!
What broke me out of this delusion was that I came to understand my role as a Christian to be that of one who promotes peace, justice, equality and reconciliation. As a right wing believer, who strangely didn’t have the foggiest understanding of the love and grace of God in Jesus, I saw my ultimate role in the church as that of a sales rep for Jesus. I had to do all I could to present “brand Christianity” in the best light possible, shining over all its competitors, so as to convince everyone that buying into the Christian faith was the best deal available.
And since the west was so much more influenced by the Christian faith than the east, then being an apologist for the Christian faith became synonymous with being an apologist for western colonialism. Since the U.S. was supposedly founded as a “Christian nation”, then being an apologist for the U.S. was the next most obvious step followed by becoming an apologist for Capitalism and neo-liberalism. The process seemed obvious, inevitable and God ordained.
The price for this process was to become more and more indifferent to the suffering of those on the wrong end of the western world’s strategic and economic self interests, which the west felt they were entitled to since they had been proven to be the guardians of what was really worth preserving in the world: themselves and their ideas. And it was obvious to me that being indifferent to the plight of any of my fellow humans was not God’s will for me. I then started to notice that while conservatives continually criticised those who stood up for the poor, citing their reasons for doing so as “left wing economics and politics don’t work, they only make things worse for the poor”, their real motivation seemed to be much more like what I had been doing in standing up for western colonialism in order to protect the preferred place my own religious ideology enjoyed as I saw it. Just as I was not primarily concerned with the suffering of those who had been under the rule of colonialism, whether it be eastern or western, but rather just wanted to promote my own beliefs in order to make me feel superior to those who disagreed with me and fulfil what I thought was my God given ministry, so these conservative critics didn’t seem to care for the poor and marginalised whether they lived under a right or left wing system, they just wanted to show the world how superior they and their ideology were to “lefties”.
The atrocious, moral and ethical bankruptcy of this behaviour has since become apparent to me. The Gospel of reconciliation is not about trying to justify belief systems over one another at the expense of the rights of anyone, be they western, Palestinian or whatever other label we wish to place on them.
While it is obvious that the cause of the Palestinian people has been used as an excuse to murder and kill, I still believe in the basic justness of their cause since it is bound up with the cause of justice and equality for all. The cause I support is one that demands that any solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict must be one that promotes justice and equality for all in the best manner possible.
Equality and justice will never be the catch cry of those who support Israel as it exists today any more than it was the slogan of the apartheid regime of South Africa that all should live in equality and freedom in that country. Martin Luther King Jnr. (a figure secretly detested by the religious right as is Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela) had a dream inspired by the vision that those now living apart, divided by hatred and suspicion, could one day live together hand in hand in peace, equality and justice. Apartheid South Arica and today’s Israel have shared the same basic creed. They claim to be countries of superior peoples surrounded by barbarians that cannot be trusted with true democracy, equality and justice. Sure…all people are created equal…but some are more equal than others.
Our sense of western entitlement, whether it comes from misguided religious belief or otherwise, is an affront to the Gospel of Jesus. And a rejection of western entitlement does not secretly hide a sense of eastern entitlement either, but openly proclaims the truth of scripture that God’s has created all as equals.