Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Prayer for the New Year

Dear Friend of peace with justice,

Of the scores of articles I've read during the last week, this Xmas homily by the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem is the truest, most noteworthy.

Read it and prophet from its insights, building them into actions in the New Year. At least scan sentences that I have highlighted. Thank you for your readership and semper fi: always remain faithful to the unfinished task. JRK

“A child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonderful-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” Is, 9, 5

"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace

to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2:14)

President Abu Mazen, Ladies and Gentlemen members of the Government,
H.E. Nasser Judeh, Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs representing King Abdullah of Jordan,
Excellencies, Ambassadors, and Consuls,
Fellow representatives of the various churches,
Dear brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the Holy Land:

From the Church of the Nativity, close to the Holy Grotto where the Virgin Mary swaddled her son and laid him in a manger, I greet you all, the faithful here present, the viewers, our brothers and sisters of the Diaspora, especially those whom I have met recently. I extend a special greeting to President Mahmoud Abbas and congratulate him in his unfaltering efforts to achieve a just peace in the Middle East, a main thrust of which is the creation of a Palestinian State. I recognize his collaborative efforts with His Majesty, King Abdullah of Jordan who expressed his great concern for Jerusalem, its holy places and especially its inhabitants.

Dear brothers and sisters,

The song of the angels in the sky above Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago still echoes: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth” (Lk 2:14). This hymn, with its celestial aura fascinates and instructs us.

Glory to God and peace on earth. The glory of God and the peace of the world are inseparable being bound together by cause and effect. If we glorify God, we shall enjoy his peace. If we glorify ourselves, we shall be denied this peace. Indeed, the glory and adoration of God is a duty and a debt we owe. God promises his peace to those who adore him in spirit and in truth. What reassures us is that God never fails in his promises.

It is true that God does not need us to extol him in order to grow in his majesty, or our praises to perfect his glory. We grow and become better people through our humility before his infinite greatness. The Lord is glorious in himself, his glory coming from his innermost being and from creation, the work of his hands. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands. Day unto day pours forth speech; night unto night whispers knowledge.” (Ps 19: 2-3).

Our faiths – Muslim, Jew and Christian – are as one in saying that the adoration of God is a fundamental duty of love: “Give to the Lord, you sons of God, give to the Lord glory and might; give to the Lord the glory due his name. Bow down before the Lord’s holy splendor!” (Ps 29:1-2).

We may be proud, for among all the continents and countries of the world, God chose Palestine, our beloved land, to be the homeland of the Saviour, the awaited Messiah, who is his Word and the substance of his glory. And so, we are duty-bound to follow the host of angels in forever repeating: “Glory to God in the highest”. Glory to Him, “for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” (Titus 2:11). Indeed, it appeared a few footsteps away from this holy place where we are gathered this evening.

Of the long awaited Christ, the prophets foretold, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him … but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide fairly for the lands afflicted.” (Is 11:2,4). The good news also concerns enemies: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”(Is 2:4)

Dear faithful, we do not want Christmas to be a subjective and purely emotional sweet memory of an event from a distant past. No, because Christ lives among us, he lives by his resurrection, in his sacraments and in his message: a message of love, of justice and of peace for all peoples, all individuals and all families, a peace that we need more than ever.

Our region is undergoing radical changes that affect our present and our future. We cannot stand by as mere spectators. We, the spiritual leaders and those who hold in their hands the destiny of peoples, must do everything in our power to protect our people, to work for their survival, and to realise their aspirations. We are one with our people, for their suffering and their hopes are our own.

We, who live in the Holy Land, in Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Cyprus hope that the celebration of Christmas may put an end to the culture of violence and death, and that it may inspire a solution to national and international divisions. History teaches us that the will of the people, with their aspirations to peace and freedom, is stronger than the power of injustice. Furthermore, the power of the Almighty is stronger than evil. For this reason, we hope that with the grace of God and with the support of people of goodwill, the physical and psychological walls that men build around themselves may disappear. God wants bridges that unite rather than walls that separate that which God has united. Dear brothers and sisters let us tear down the walls of our hearts in order to tear down walls of concrete!

The Palestinians have recently turned to the United Nations in the hope of finding a just solution to the conflict with the intention of living in peace and in safety with their neighbours. They have been asked to re-engage in a failed peace process. This process has left a bitter taste of broken promises and of mistrust.

Brothers and sisters, at this time of Christmas and by the power of the Prince of Peace, whose incarnation we celebrate, we raise our voices to God, crying out to him in our need. We ask for peace and nothing but peace.

- We ask for peace for the Palestinian people and for the Israeli people.

- We ask for peace, stability and security for the entire Middle East so that our children and their children may live their childhood in innocence, in a healthy environment where they may play together without fear or complex.

- We ask that the road travelled by our ancestors – the Magi and the shepherds – to Bethlehem should remain open, without barriers or hindrance, open to the pilgrims of the whole world, including the Arab world. They will be welcome. Together we shall pray and sing: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests”. (Lk 2:14)

- And on this holy night, the children of the Holy Land, fellow citizens of the Infant Jesus, beg us: “Let us grow up as normal children, grant us the time to play in the squares and market places of our towns and villages far from political intrigue.”

However, praying for peace is not enough. Good intentions and fine speeches do not suffice. Let us seek peace with all our strength. Peace is given to men of goodwill. It does not come about without true and courageous builders of peace, ready to sacrifice themselves in so noble a cause. Peace is received and granted at the same time.

Let us listen to the voice of Jesus: “Fear not, I am with you.”(Is 41:10) “Lord, if you are with us, who can be against us?”(Rm 8:31)

Yes, in accordance with your word, Lord, we cast our nets and we recognize that Christmas is a day of celebration.

- According to your word, we invite all to rejoice with us.

- According to your word, we light up the Christmas tree in our churches and in our homes as a sign of hope and of joy. Nothing can take away our hope: neither fear, nor threats, nor the arrogance of men.

O Child of Bethlehem, in this New Year, we place in your hands this troubled Middle East and, above all, our youth full of legitimate aspirations, who are frustrated by the economic and political situation, and in search of a better future. We implore you to grant their wishes and fill their hearts with courage and wisdom together with a spirit of responsibility.

From this church, we express our gratitude and the promise of our prayers to all those who have contributed to peace and justice, to all our friends who have shared our hopes and fears for the Arab revolutions. On this night, we pray for all the world leaders and those who govern us, that they may have wisdom, insight and a spirit of selflessness towards their countrymen. We pray for the return of calm and reconciliation in Syria, in Egypt, in Iraq and in North Africa.

From this church on this holy night, we call on the faithful and the pilgrims to unite with us in prayer for Jerusalem. As its name indicates, it is the city of peace. Its vocation is to bring together believers from all over the world, the sons of Abraham, in one single family. It is the Holy City, the city of prayer. Millions of pilgrims come to pray for peace and reconciliation. We pray that we may receive both and “have them more abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)

From this holy place, I call upon all our brothers and sisters throughout the world. The world is suffering from a lack of charity and human kindness. Our wish for the year is that: “We should love one another as God has loved us and that we may be reconciled with one another as God has reconciled us in Christ”(Ep 4:32) This reconciliation allows us to recognize the image of Christ in others.

May the Peace of the Child of Bethlehem and the song of the angels of heaven “that surpasses all understanding fill your hearts and minds” (Phil 4:7) now and for all the days of your life.

† Fouad Twal
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

Friday, December 16, 2011

Former Senator John Sununu Speaks Out

Dear Friend,

John Sununu adds to our discussion of Newt Gingrich's comments in re the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The former Republican Senator from New Hampshire is a Palestinian Christian. Please read it and prophet. JRK

Gingrich's lie reveals his bigotry
John. E. Sununu
The Boston Globe (Opinion)
December 16, 2011

When bigots speak, their words have purpose. They intentionally choose phrases that inflame, denigrate, and marginalize other races, religions, or nationalities. They employ distortions and stereotypes to bolster false arguments. Which brings us to Newt Gingrich, who in an interview last week derided “an invented Palestinian people.’’ His comments were a calculated — but demonstrably false — slander, designed to curry favor with a constituency for which he cares by insulting one for which he does not.

With one callous statement he dismissed the plight of 4 million people and their desire for self-determination. Questioned about the controversial statement during a debate on Monday, he piled falsehood upon falsehood. The word “Palestinian,’’ he asserted, “did not become a common term until after 1977.’’ In denying the legitimacy of Palestinians’ identity, Gingrich’s only purpose was to deny any justification for a two-state solution for Middle East peace. If Palestinians are invented, the implication goes, so too must be their objection to the status quo.

During the debate, Gingrich claimed to “stand for the truth,’’ but that apparently does not require telling the truth. His statements are a complete fabrication. Documents prepared by the Arab Office in Jerusalem during the 1930s and ’40s refer frequently to “Palestinian Arabs,’’ “Palestinian Citizens,’’ and the potential formation of a “Palestinian State.’’ The 1973 CIA Atlas of Middle East Issues speaks of “Palestinians’’ and “Palestinian Refugees.’’

Contrary to Gingrich’s insinuation, Palestine is a real place found on maps of all kinds, created by people of all races, for hundreds of years; and the people living there have long been identified with it. The Official 1931 Census of Palestine, conducted under British auspices, counted 850,000 Palestinian Arabs - both Muslim and Christian - and 175,000 Jews. Gingrich noted that the Ottomans once ruled the region, as if that justified his statements. But the Ottoman Empire included Syria and much of the Balkans. Are they invented people too?

The egregiousness of Gingrich’s statement isn’t simply in its inaccuracy, but in its objective. It implies that the claims of Palestinians must also be invented — rights to land, to sovereignty, to self-governance. On Monday he asserted, “A right to return is based on a historically false story.’’ Although the right to reclaim or receive compensation for lost property is a question for Israeli-Palestinian negotiation, the historical facts are quite simple. And again, Gingrich has them wrong.

According to the CIA Atlas, the fighting that followed Israel’s declaration of statehood in 1948 displaced 750,000 Palestinian Arabs. Several hundred thousand more were displaced in 1967. Israelis and Palestinians have struggled to find a path to a peaceful resolution since. My point here is not to litigate this struggle, but to recognize that the conflict is real, the people are real, and the grievances are real on both sides: Israel’s unquestionable right to security, and Palestinians’ right to self-rule.

My grandfather was born in Boston, but grew up in Jerusalem as a happy, well-educated Palestinian. As a Christian, he attended the French School and frequented the city’s historic YMCA. He returned to America in the 1930s and settled in New York. In 1948 the fighting forced his parents and cousins to leave their Jerusalem homes. They were never able to return; their houses were on the “wrong’’ side of the armistice line. Their property was taken, though today my cousins’ home looks the same as it did in photos from the 1930s. My great-grandparents lived out their lives in Lebanon. Does Gingrich consider the Lebanese an invented people too?

Gingrich is intelligent, which makes his bigotry all the more dangerous. He employs it not for self-satisfaction, but for political ends. His statements are wrong in fact — and contradict more than 40 years of bipartisan US policy. They reflect a cavalier attitude toward diplomacy, and send the message to allies in Europe and the Middle East that we are inconsistent and unreliable. They were designed to marginalize, not explain; and will be used by extremists on both sides to discourage reconciliation and compromise.

Language can be a wonderful and powerful tool — all the more reason for political leaders to use it thoughtfully and with care. Gingrich’s disgraceful behavior addressing such a difficult and sensitive issue demonstrates that he cannot be trusted to use words carefully. Why should anyone trust him with more?

John E. Sununu, a regular Globe contributor, is a former US senator from New Hampshire. He has not endorsed a presidential candidate. His father, the former New Hampshire governor John H. Sununu, has endorsed Mitt Romney.



Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Myth of "Resuming Negotiations"

The Myth of “Resuming Negotiations”

By John Kleinheksel Sr, FPI, (Friends of Palestinians and Israelis)

I The Current State of Affairs

The current strategy to get both sides to the negotiating table (in the present cultural environment) won’t work. And here’s why. The Israeli/Jewish state doesn’t believe in negotiations. They are wedded to the belief that all of the land belongs to Jews and must not be shared with the “Other”. Hard as it may be, it is this cultural constant that has to be changed.

The Western press keeps repeating that the HAMAS charter calls for the dismantling of the Zionist/Israeli state. What is not widely known is that the platform/charter of the present Likud administration refuses to consider the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state.

The Likud Party Charter states:
a. The Jordan River will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.
b. Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem.
c. The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River.
d. The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.

Ariel Sharon did “give up” Gaza, but it is so controlled by fences and checkpoints, it’s a virtual prison.

As Stephen Sizer says in his blog: The recent Palestinian UN bid and (the) Palestinian acceptance to UNESCO has once again put the “Peace Process” front and center. Listening to Netanyahu and the U.S. Administration, getting the Israelis and Palestinians “back to the negotiating table” is the utmost priority for a lasting peace deal. Although Netanyahu plays the part, the details of his party platform need to be taken into account as a “peace partner” to show the reality behind the circus. So, while Netanyahu wants no pre-conditions from the Palestinians going into “negotiations” his party charter and ideology say otherwise.
Amos Schocken, the publisher of Haaretz (a progressive voice in Israel), wrote an editorial on November 25, 2011. He makes the case that all recent Israeli leaders are basically following the principles of the Gush Emunim, a religious movement that claims God decrees all of the land for the Jewish state. Here is his shocking expose:

The strategy that follows from the ideology of Gush Emunim is clear and simple: It perceives of the Six-Day War as the continuation of the War of Independence [1948], both in terms of seizure of territory, and in its impact on the Palestinian population. According to this strategy, the occupation boundaries of the Six-Day War are the borders that Israel must set for itself. And with regard to the Palestinians living in that territory - those who did not flee or were not expelled - they must be subjected to a policy that will encourage their flight, eventuate in their expulsion, deprive them of their rights, and bring about a situation in which those who remain will not be even second-class citizens, and their fate will be of interest to no one. They will be like the Palestinian refugees of the War of Independence; that is their desired status. As for those who are not refugees, an attempt should be made to turn them into "absentees" [to better dispossess them]. Unlike the Palestinians who remained in Israel after the War of Independence, the Palestinians in the territories should not receive Israeli citizenship, owing to their large number, but then this, too, should be of interest to no one.
The ideology of Gush Emunim springs from religious, not political motivations. It holds that Israel is for the Jews, and it is not only the Palestinians in the territories who are irrelevant: Israel's Palestinian citizens are also exposed to discrimination with regard to their civil rights and the revocation of their citizenship.

There are competing religious-based fundamentalisms at work in Israel/Palestine. They are seemingly mutually exclusive, i.e., they can’t both be fully implemented. Israel rejects Islamic fundamentalism (whether by Hamas or Iran), yet fails to admit its own religion-inspired fundamentalism.

II Where We Go from Here

So what should American Christians (who have their own brands of fundamentalism) do to work for mutual respect and the rights of all people there?
A good place to start is with the Christians (and Muslims) who have suffered under the occupation for decades and decades. What are they saying? What are they asking? For this we turn to the Kairos Palestine document, composed by Christians in 2009, addressed to themselves, to Muslims, Israelis, Americans and people of other nations.

In a section on “resistance” (4.2), the Kairos document says, we must resist evil of whatever kind. 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 (4.2.1).

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 have 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 (4.2.2). [Resistance] 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 injustices. . . (Kairos Palestine, 4.2.3).

Christians call Muslims to reject fanaticism and extremism (5.4.1). The call to Jews? Even though we have fought one another in the recent past . . . 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 (5.4.2).

To the world, Palestinian Christians say: We condemn all forms of racism, whether religious or ethnic, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia . . . . We call on you to [speak the truth] with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. . . .[and we] see boycotts and disinvestment as tools of nonviolence. . . . (6.3).

Even progressive Jews like Rabbi Michael Lerner (Tikkun) argue a new consciousness is needed to avoid the exclusive blaming of one side or the other. In his recent book, Embracing Israel/Palestine, he makes the case that both Jews and Palestinians suffer from a societal form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A generation of healers is needed to deal with societal PTSD:

On the one hand, we need a massive campaign of consciousness-raising to challenge the dominant worldview that people care only for themselves and will never be there for each other . . . . On the other hand, we need individual and small group interventions to help people, one by one, overcome the depression and splitting that keep people trapped in self-and-other-destructive patterns of behavior. On this level, the first thing we need to do is created circumstances in which people can feel safe to talk freely about the traumas that they’ve experienced to someone who will help them feel safe and genuinely heard and who will acknowledge their pain (p. 277).
Rabbi Lerner even supports what he calls a “softer version” of the BDS movement (boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions). This softer version supports the right of Israel to exist, yet urges people not to buy from companies that produce consumer goods in the West Bank settlements or produce weapons or other equipment for the Israeli military to use in the West Bank and Gaza (p. 328).

One of the final sections of his book deals with questions and answers. Question: Don’t the Palestinians really want to destroy the State of Israel? Aren’t they just using the camouflage of a ‘peace process’ to build up their military strength until they get the chance to do this? Answer: There are now, and will continue to be . . . a significant minority of people in each community that aspires to see the full elimination of the other side. But maximalist fantasies have typically yielded to new realities in the Middle East. If the majority of Palestinians and Israelis are living in their own secure states with democratic and human-rights-observing governments and with economies providing a decent standard of living for everyone, those troubling aspirations to destroy the Other will become more like the Jewish prayer books’ call for the restoration of animal sacrifices on the grounds of the Jews’ ancient Temple—not yet given up, but nevertheless not likely to be made the cornerstone of any but a small and manageable fringe (p. 379).

III Countering Gush Emunim Ideology in the US Congress and the White House
All Christians of an anti-Fundamentalist bent should join forces to counter the pernicious influence of religious fundamentalism whether in Palestine, Israel or America. When we listen further to Amos Schocken, we understand how deeply the Gush Emunim ideology has wormed its way into American politics, the “religious right” and the US House and Senate. This is especially true in the Republican Party but is also true of the Democrats and our President. Here is the continuation of Mr. Schocken’s op-ed:

Since the Six-Day War, there has been no other group in Israel with the ideological resilience of Gush Emunim, and it is not surprising that many politicians have viewed that ideology as a means for realizing personal political ambitions . . . .(among them, Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu).
This ideology views the creation of an Israeli apartheid regime as a necessary tool for its realization . . . .

This ideology has enjoyed immense success in the United States, of all places. President George H.W. Bush was able to block financial guarantees to Israel because of the settlements established by the government of Yitzhak Shamir . . . .Now, though, candidates for the Republican Party's presidential nomination are competing among themselves over which of them supports Israel and the occupation more forcefully. Any of them who adopt the approach of the first President Bush will likely put an end to their candidacy.

Whatever the reason for this state of affairs - the large number of evangelicals affiliated with the Republican party, the problematic nature of the West's relations with Islam, or the power of the Jewish lobby, which is totally addicted to the Gush Emunim ideology - the result is clear: It is not easy, and may be impossible, for an American president to adopt an activist policy against Israeli apartheid.

Friends, we have work to do. Work to change the culture and environment. We will be vulnerable to “the “other”. We will engage “enemies”, and be open to self-criticism and the view-points of other participants. Healing and peace will not come until we admit hurts we have caused and that we have experienced.
We will blunt the influence of the Jewish and American “religious right” that almost totally permeates the current culture and discourse in both Israel and America right now. Here are resources, people and groups seeking genuine change:

Read the novel, Mornings in Jenin, Susan Abulhawa, does for Palestinians what The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan

Read the book, Kairos for Palestine, Rifat Odeh Kassis (Badayl/Alternatives Press),

Check regularly with Mark Braverman, American Jewish activist who supports land rights and peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians,

Read, Embracing Israel/Palestine: a Strategy to Heal and Transform the Middle East, Rabbi Michael Lerner, (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA)

Peace Now (The American chapter of Peace Now)

Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP)

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)

Holy Land Trust (Sami Awad in Bethlehem)

Gush Shalom (Uri Avnery and Adam Keller)

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Jeff Halper,

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA),

Challenging Christian Zionism,

The Israeli/Palestinian Mission Network,

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fatah/HAMAS reconcilation efforts must suceed

Dear Friend,

It is really very important that Hamas be brought into the fold of the PLO. The following article (Karl Vick in TIME magazine), suggests that Hamas may be moderating its position of vowing violent opposition to the Israeli state. Israel will continue to argue that Hamas has not and will not change, but wants to "destroy" Israel.

As long as the Palestinians are divided between two factions, no significant "negotiations" can take place. Hamas (Gaza authority) must be party to any agreement, or it will not be worth the paper it's printed on.

Israel boosted Hamas by finally agreeing to terms for the release of Gilad Shalit, the captive Israeli soldier.

Read on. By the way, EMBRACING ISRAEL/PALESTINE, the new book by Rabbi Michael Lerner, is a must read. From his base in psychology, and his ministry in Jerusalem for many years, Mr. Lerner shows a correspondence between PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the Israeli (Holocaust) psyche, and that internal healing and transformation must take place for any true dealing with "the other" to happen. More on this book later. JRK

Hamas Edges Closer to the Mainstream: Agreeing
to Noviolence, Opening the Door to Recognizing Israel

Monday, November 28, 2011

By Karl Vick

The leaders of the two biggest Palestinian parties met in Cairo on Thanksgiving, and just going by the

headlines afterward, you'd have thought nothing had happened. "Palestinians talk unity, no sign of progress,"

said Reuters. AP: "Palestinian rivals talk, but fail to resolve rifts." But read the stories, and it becomes clear

that a great deal is going on, with immense implications for the future of peace talks with Israel.

Israel's government dismissed the meeting with a wave of the terrorist card. Hamas is regarded by the West

and Israel as first and foremost a terrorist organization, and so Mark Regev, who speaks for prime minister

Benjamin Netanyahu, framed the reconciliation as something that can only contaminate the pacifist

credentials of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah party chief widely known as Abu

Mazen:"The closer Abu Mazen gets to Hamas," Regev said, "the farther he moves away from peace."

But what if Abbas is holding still, and Hamas is moving closer to Abbas? That's what's been happening, from

nearly all appearances, for the last two or three years, and everything coming out of the Cairo meeting points

in the same direction. The head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, and Abbas spoke for two hours, Abbas in the big

chair, Meshaal on the couch with two others. Afterwards both met the cameras smiling. "There are no

differences between us now," Abbas said. Mashaal went with: "We have opened a new page of partnership."

And on whose terms? Hamas stands for resistance, its formal name being the Islamic Resistance Movement.

But in the Gaza Strip where it governs, Hamas has largely enforced a truce with Israel since January 2009.

And in Cairo it signed a paper committing itself to "popular resistance" against the Israeli occupation of

Palestinian territories. That's "popular" in contrast to "violent" or "military" resistance. We're talking marches

here. Chanting and signs, not booby traps or suicide bombs.

"Every people has the right to fight against occupation in every way, with weapons or otherwise. But at the

moment, we want to cooperate with the popular resistance," Meshaal told AFP. "We believe in armed

resistance but popular resistance is a program which is common to all the factions."

What's going on here? For one thing, Abbas appears to have coaxed his party's militant rival into his fold.

""This is my assessment," says Omar Shaban, the Gaza economist and civil society leader who runs

Pal-Think, a think tank. "Abu Mazen has succeeded in bringing them one step closer to his program. I think

the election will be the real test for the whole process."

And how. Hamas and Fatah, factions that four years ago were engaged in civil war as Hamas's militia drove

Fatah's militia out of Gaza, now live in fear not of each other, but of the Palestinian people. The Arab Spring

has transformed the political dynamic -- something Meshaal said out loud to AFP. Both Fatah and Hamas

know they are disappointments to the people. The least they can do is stop fighting each other, the foremost

demand of the public, and the reason both leaders emerged from their closed meeting saying, in so many

words, "Look! Look! We really are reconciling! Just as we promised!" If Hamas needed any extra incentive,

it's available in the excruciating collapse of Syria, where Meshaal keeps his office. If Fatah needed any extra

incentive, it's available in the UN Security Council report on the application for Palestinian statehood, which

noted that the applicant, Abbas' Palestinian Authority, does not even control the Gaza Strip, surely a

minimum requirement of sovereignty.

Actual reunification of the West Bank and Gaza will come with the unity government of technocrats the two

factions promised in May, when their reconciliation was formally declared. That placeholder government still

has yet to be announced -- placeholder, that is, pending spring 2012 elections that produce a new legislature

and president -- but at last there's evidence of progress. The point of conflict had been who would serve as

prime minister. Fatah insisted on Salam Fayyad, a favorite of the West and a technocrat's technocrat who

has held the job on the West Bank for four years. Hamas wanted Fayyad out. A couple of week ago, after

months of stalemate, he agreed to go. But neither side is rushing him because he remains the West's trusted

conduit for hundreds of millions in foreign aid. That aid covers the salaries of government workers both in the

West Bank and Gaza -- where Fatah continues to pay 70,000 employees even though Hamas controls the

government. The PA has by far the biggest payroll in the Palestinian territories, a donor economy if ever there

was one. And however they may differ on Fayyad, both Fatah and Hamas want to see people get paid,

because, again, who do they fear most?

Quite possibly biggest news out of Cairo was deep in the fine print: Efforts are under way to bring Hamas into

the PLO, or Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella for all Palestinian factions. The PLO is the one

"brand" that still resonates with ordinary Palestinians, and Hamas has wanted to join it since at least 2005. If

Hamas finally gets in, the implications would appear to be immense. It would mean agreeing to the positions

and agreements the PLO has already made. This includes recognizing Israel, and renouncing terror -- two

things Hamas has never been willing to do. "Yes, when they are in they have to agree to the political program

of the PLO," says Shaban. "This will take time." But should it occur, it would complete Hamas' move toward

the center, and open the door to the international recognition craved by many in the organization.

The biggest question out of Cairo was what the PLO will look like in a few months. An effort to "reform" the

body was announced along with the move to bring Hamas on board. The first meeting was set for Dec. 22.

Reform is something Palestinian analysts call overdue, citing the elderly -- some say "sclerotic" --

composition of the PLO's executive committee. But it makes for yet one more piece to watch on a chess

board where the pieces are moving as quickly as events. The meeting, after all, was in Cairo.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Speak out for Equality

Dear friend,

There is a battle raging. Narratives competing: 1) for exclusion of the other 1) for inclusion and fairness for all.

Rovit Avni sees what happens in E. Jerusalem as a microcosm of how the Isr/Pal relationship is being worked out.

Read on and prophet. It will be decided. It is being decided. We can be participants, not spectators. Speak out. Cast the vision of an inclusive Jerusalem. There will be those who want it for themselves. It is to be a model of how Jews, Christians, Muslims and others can live together in peace and respect. Honor/lift up those who are working for this outcome. JRK

Who Will Write Jerusalem's Story?

Ronit Avni
The Huffington Post (Opinion)
November 18, 2011 - 12:00am

While Jerusalem has always received its fair share of attention at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, too often it is treated as an idealized symbol rather than a real place. In debates surrounding the future of the city, religious proclamations and lines on maps overshadow the needs and interests of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who live, work and raise their families in the city.

This is the real struggle taking place today in Jerusalem: a battle between those whose vision for the city hinges on guaranteeing full rights and a dignified existence for all residents, and those who place politics and divine decree ahead of the everyday needs of the people. It is a contest for the character of the city and, in recent months, almost unnoticeably amidst the steady barrage of news from the region, it has entered a particularly dangerous phase.

Two weeks ago, the Jerusalem office of Peace Now, an Israeli NGO that has played a leading role in tracking illegal Israeli settlement growth, received a bomb threat that led to its evacuation. Several days later, the home of Hagit Ofran, the head of that organization's settlement monitoring team, was vandalized and covered with graffiti for the second time in weeks. Messages scrawled in Hebrew on her building bore several death threats, including one that ominously declared, "Ofran, [assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin is waiting for you."

Hagit is one of many Israeli and Palestinian activists and grassroots leaders working nonviolently toward a resolution to the conflict and an end to the occupation. Though they are often marginalized in public discourse, these individuals embody some of the best hopes we have for a brighter future in Jerusalem and the region as a whole: they are committed to a nonviolent approach, seek a future that promises security, freedom and dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians, and are willing to make huge personal sacrifices to fight for the integrity of the societies they live in. In an environment rife with political gamesmanship and cynical maneuvering, they stubbornly insist on putting human needs first.

But, instead of having their contributions recognized, these visionaries are consistently subject to demonization and attack, and their personal safety is now at serious risk. Ms. Ofran's case is unfortunately not the only recent display of violent intolerance Jerusalem has witnessed lately: Just over a month ago, a group of Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists protesting peacefully against the seizure of the farmers' land by settlers were attacked and badly beaten by angry mobs from the Jerusalem settlement-suburb of Anatot. The violence took place as Israeli police stood by, and in a particularly sinister turn, at least one of the attackers turned out to be an off-duty police officer.

This violence is taking place at a time when prospects for a shared future in the city are dimming. As the Israeli government continues to announce one new construction project after another in East Jerusalem, scores of Palestinians residents also face the prospect of eviction by Israeli settlers. It is becoming painfully clear that the prevalent attitude of those controlling Jerusalem is not about preserving and equitably developing a fragile city that is precious to all, but about aggressively claiming it as a prize to be won.

All of this means that the efforts of those striving to create a tenable future for both Israelis and Palestinians in the city are more important now than ever. For those of us not directly involved in this work, there are two clear responsibilities: First, we must ensure that attacks against them are denounced across the board, and that the perpetrators are caught and brought to justice. Second, and perhaps more importantly, now is the time to increase our awareness and support for people like Hagit and the work that they do, and to encourage those around us to do the same.

Though the trends in Jerusalem are worrisome, they are by no means irreversible. It is within our power as a global audience to ensure that Jerusalem's story is written not by extremists and obstructionists, but by those who are working pragmatically on the ground toward a sustainable, shared future. Our attention will not only provide these individuals with some small measure of protection, it will also go a long way toward ensuring that their vision of Jerusalem, as a holy city in which the rights and dignity of all are respected, becomes a reality.

This responsibility is what recently drove us at Just Vision to create a new short film series, Home Front: Portraits from Sheikh Jarrah, which tells the story of an ongoing nonviolent campaign in one East Jerusalem neighborhood. The movement was started by Palestinian residents in response to the displacement of several Palestinian families from their homes by Israeli settlers. It quickly drew in scores of Israeli supporters who were horrified to see what was being done in their name. While it has faced challenges, the campaign in Sheikh Jarrah has drawn crucial attention to the cynical game being played in East Jerusalem, and to the unbearable human cost of letting ideology and political interests eviscerate people's lives and livelihoods. But more attention is needed to reverse this trend.

Many of us have had moments where we've looked back at inspiring social movements, such as the Civil Rights or feminist movements, and have wished we could have been there in the early days to lend our hand to unknown activists taking their first bold steps toward a new reality. Despite the seeming hopelessness of the situation, we are now at such a moment in Jerusalem. While it is up to the residents of the city to guide it in a direction they see fit, it falls to us to support and encourage those whose approach we believe in, and to do all we can to raise their voices above the din. It is a remarkable opportunity. May we not squander it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Call to Action!

Dear Friend,

Too often, I send you information, with no call for action. This is a call for action. Take a few minutes to understand this appeal.

Click on the links. Register your opposition to this proposed action by the Israeli Miliary to destroy this village's energy source.

Faithfully yours, and with thanks to Pauline Coffman of the PCUSA IPMN (Israel/Palestine Mission Network). JRK

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: EAPPI Advocacy Officer
Date: Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 7:27 AM
Subject: URGENT ACTION APPEAL: Israeli Military to Demolish Clean Energy Supply Serving 390 PalestiniansTo: EAPPI Advocacy Officer


The Israeli military plans to demolish a set of solar panels in Imneizil, a village in the south Hebron hills, cutting off the power to forty families, a health clinic and a school. The solar plant is the village’s only source of electricity, and is subject to a military order effective from today (Thursday, 10 November 2011).

Imneizil is off the electricity, water and sewage networks due to military restrictions on Palestinian development in Area C (62 percent of the West Bank). Two years ago, a Spanish NGO installed solar panels on land belonging to the village, replacing expensive gasoline generators. The Israeli military refused to grant a building permit for the panels.

A few weeks ago, villagers found a demolition order near a fence around the panels. Israeli organization Rabbis for Human Rights launched a legal campaign against the demolition, arguing that the panels did not require a building permit in the first place, and that electricity is a basic humanitarian need. Yet, after 39 appeals, the order remains and hope is fading that the half-million dollar project can be saved.

The prospect of being cut off again horrifies Mohammad Yousef, Imneizil School’s headmaster.

“Without electricity, the educational process comes to a standstill,” he says. “For instance there is the computer.The printer. And then maybe you have a documentary film to show the students. You become unable to provide educational materials.”

Additional Information:

The solar panels were installed by SEBA, a Spanish NGO, in coordination with Al-Najah University in Nablus. The total cost was €365,500 of which the Spanish Cooperation supplied €290,000. For more information on the project, please contact Carlos Sordo at


Article 23 of the Hague Convention of 1907 clearly states that, “it is especially forbidden (for the occupier) to destroy or seize the enemy's property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war."

Article 53
of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 states, “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”


We encourage you to:

·Forward this email to your networks

·Inform your representative in parliament about what is happening in Imneizil

·Contact the following officials and call on them to allow Palestinians in Area C to have free access to electricity, water and sewage infrastructure without the threat of demolitions:

oYour Ambassador and/or Consul General in Israel

oThe Israeli Ambassador in your country

oIsraeli Minister of Defense:

§Ehud Barak

§Ministry of Defence

§Fax: +972 3 691 6940/696 2757


§Salutation: Dear Minister

oIsraeli Military Judge Advocate General:

§Major General Avihai Mandelblit

§Fax: +972 3 569 4526/608 0366


§Salutation: Dear Judge Advocate General

oIsraeli Military Chief of Staff

§Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz

§Fax: +972 3 691 6940/ 697 6218
§ Salutation: Dear Lieutenant-General

Nader Hanna
Advocacy Officer
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine & Israel (EAPPI)
P.O. Box 741
Jerusalem 91000
Tel: +972 2 628 9402
Fax: +972 2 627 4499
Mobile: +972 54 815 7652



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Roger Cohen weighs in, Again

November 7, 2011

The Last Jew in Zagare


ZAGARE, LITHUANIA — The last Jew in Zagare, a small Lithuanian town renowned for its cherries, died in September. His name was Aizikas Mendelsonai, born in 1922. He was not buried in either of the two Jewish cemeteries, with their lurching gravestones, faded inscriptions and advancing lichen. Nobody is any more, not even Jews.

At his birth, Mendelsonai was one of almost 2,000 Jews living in Zagare, with its seven synagogues, its Hebrew school and its Jewish People’s bank. Jews made up about 40 percent of the town’s population. Then, in swift succession, came Soviet annexation, blamed by many on “Jewish Bolsheviks,” and Nazi occupation, bent on annihilation of the Jews.

The Nazis wasted little time after pushing into Lithuania in June, 1941. The Jews of Zagare were herded into a ghetto. Almost 1,000 Jews from nearby towns, including Siauliai, were forced to join them. On Oct. 2, 1941, they were ordered into the main square before being taken into the woods for execution by Nazi SS killers and their Lithuanian accomplices.

SS Standartenführer Karl Jäger stated in a report that day that 2,236 Jews were killed in Zagare. In 1944, the Soviets, having fought their way back, examined a mass grave and found 2,402 corpses (530 men, 1,223 women, 625 children, 24 babies). Today, a visitor to Zagare — there are not many — is greeted by a sign pointing to woods of birch and pine: “Graves of the Victims of the Jewish Genocide.”

I recount these events for two reasons. The first is that my grandmother Pauline (“Polly”) Soloveychik was from Zagare, and my grandfather Morris Cohen was from Siauliai, and so I have a natural interest in what would have befallen them had they remained. Their hypothetical European fate was to die nameless in a nameless ditch.

Even at the end of her long life, lilacs could bring Polly to tears because they recalled Zagare; even then she spoke Russian to her parrot. Memory thrust her back in the woods where she had wandered.

The second reason is that I have been pondering the Zagare-Zionism link. The resilience of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — its capacity to last through the Cold War, the post-Cold War, the digital revolution, the rise of China, the Arab Spring — is due in part to the near-perfect equivalency of moral claim to the same land.

What emerged from the Holocaust — from the agony of every little Zagare — was the success of Zionism. Benny Morris, the Israeli historian, has written, “As the pogroms in Russia in the 1880’s had launched modern Zionism, so the largest pogrom of them all propelled the movement, almost instantly, into statehood.”

Through its vote of Nov. 29, 1947, calling for the establishment of two states in the Holy Land — one Jewish and one Palestinian Arab — the United Nations sought to expiate Nazi crimes by granting the Jews what Morris calls “an international warrant for a small piece of earth.”

The thing is, that piece of earth, birthplace of the Jewish people, was not empty. In fact, at the time of the U.N. vote, about 630,000 Jews faced about 1.3 million Palestinian Arabs in the Holy Land. Palestinians failed to see why they should pay for the Holocaust. Arab states, invoking Saladin’s triumph over the Crusaders, seeing in Israel a new expression of European colonialism, went to war against the U.N.’s will — and lost.

Einstein, arguing for Israel, wrote that, “In the august scale of justice, which weighs need against need, there is no doubt as to whose is more heavy.” The Arab League put the opposite case: “There can be no greater injustice and aggression than solving the problem of the Jews of Europe by another injustice” — against the Palestinian Arabs.

Solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict begins with accepting that there is no just outcome, none. Enough Jews and Arabs have died trying to prove the rightness of their cause. Imperfect compromise is the only way out of the spiral.

Carrying Zagare in my blood, aware of what centuries of Jewish precariousness have wrought, I believe the case for Israel was and remains overwhelming, but an Israel that condemns another people to permanent exile is not the one its founders imagined.

An Israeli state, a Palestinian state, economic union between them, international oversight of the holy places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem: The U.N. idea of 1947 is not a million miles from what any lasting peace must involve.

The second stage of solving the conflict is realizing there are no new ideas, none. The only option is gathering the will to reach the known trade-off.

I went to see the grave of Mendelsonai — the last Jew in Zagare. So, I thought, Zagare is finally Judenrein. In a sense the Nazis have won.

Then, nearby, I saw a European Union flag and thought, no.

Mendelsonai, in his 89 years, lived through five Lithuanias — independent, Soviet, Nazi, Soviet and independent. The last was best, a small state, secure, in NATO, tied in economic union with its neighbors, at peace even with Russia.

It’s amazing what putting the future above the past, jobs above some unattainable justice, can forge.

You can follow Roger Cohen on Twitter at

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Prophetic and True Assessment by IPMN

Dear Friend,

The Israeli/Palestinian Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has issued a statement I hope you will read (and send along to persons in your world).

It accurately summarizes the current situation, unmasks true Israeli intention to colonize the whole of Isr/Pal, and perpetuate the Occupation of the Palestinian people.

The US continues to take its cue from the Israeli right wing government instead of assessing its own strategic interests in the ME and standing up to Israel. The situation is more dire than our media lets on. The tail continues to wag the dog. Lamentable. But understandable in light of diminishing influence by the US over affairs there (or anywhere else). World leadership is transitioning away from the Americans.

(Disclosure: I attended the IPMN annual conference this fall in Louisville, KY). JRK
Noushin Framke, Communication Chair:

Israel to Palestine: "You are Damned if You Do, and Damned if You Don't"

NEW YORK — Nov. 3, 2011 — The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA)* (IPMN) condemns the announcement by the Israeli government to accelerate expansion of settlement construction and financially sanction the Palestinian Authority as a response to the successful bid by its leadership to join UNESCO this week. The IPMN calls upon President Obama to take a clear, public stand against this decision because it threatens any hope that peace negotiations can occur between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the foreseeable future.

By this action, Israel's intentions have become quite clear: It will expand settlements when the Palestinians are at the negotiating table; and, it will expand settlements when they are not at the table. With this move, Israel is taking away the legitimate choice all peoples have of seeking relief within the appropriate international structures dedicated towards global community and peace building. In addition, in light of reports by Israel's own generals that the Palestinian Authority has played a major role in reducing extremist violence, it is absurd to cut off funds to an official Palestinian entity that is helping to achieve nonviolence inside the pressure cooker of Israeli apartheid.

Historically, in regard to settlement building, the facts cannot be disputed: Israel has been expanding them at break neck speed under the leadership of every one of its prime ministers since the Six-Day War in June 1967. The pace has even accelerated following the breakdown of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Israeli historian, Gershom Gorenberg has pointed out why settlement expansion, and not peace negotiations, is the top priority for Israeli leadership: "What we're seeing is a classic example where a diplomatic initiative has the effect of accelerating settlement construction. When there is a fear or suspicion that a diplomatic process might actually take place...there is a tendency among settlement supporters within the government to try to speed things up."

Complicating matters is the recent announcement by the United States State Department to withhold $60M from UNESCO, as dictated by U.S. law (1990 & 1994) requiring the withdrawal of financial support from any U.N. entity that admits Palestine into its membership. Senator Tim Wirth (D-CO) described what is at stake as a result of this decision: "The United States is on the brink of abandoning its decades-long leadership in several international organizations-a process that will fundamentally undermine American national security and economic interests ... UNESCO leads global efforts to bring clean water to the poor, promotes educational and curriculum building in the developing world, and manages a tsunami early warning system in the Pacific, among other important tasks."

The Palestinians will be applying for membership in all 16 U.N. agencies in the coming months. These include the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). If these U.N. agencies vote to admit Palestine as UNESCO did so overwhelmingly, will the United States continue to withdraw its support in a time when its leadership in such areas is so greatly needed? Will the United States actually find itself in the position of sabotaging efforts towards global stability and well-being because of its indefensible, parochial view that Palestine can only seek terms of a just peace through the methods or channels the U.S. has approved? Will the U.S. stand against Palestinian membership in U.N. agencies just to satisfy Israel even at the cost of U.S. interests elsewhere in the world?

The Israel Palestine Mission Network regrets that an effort by Palestinian leadership to work within the structures of the greatest international peacekeeping and peacemaking body in the world can lead to even more isolation of Israel and the U.S. and further undermine peace, security and justice not only in the Middle East but globally. The network calls upon all Christian, as well as interfaith bodies to contact our national leadership at every level to make our financial and military aid to Israel contingent upon an immediate halt to the building and expansion of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

*Established by action of the 2004 General Assembly, the IPMN seeks to demonstrate solidarity, educate about the facts on the ground, and change the conditions that erode the humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians, especially those who are living under occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The network speaks TO the Church not FOR the Church.



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Huge Influx of (Christian) Immigrants to Israel

Dear Friend,

Here is a fascinating article on the mostly HIDDEN influx of non-Israeli (Christian) guest workers changing the demographics of our region.

Most informative, and what does it mean further down the road? Filipina, African, Indian. and other (mostly Roman Catholic) Christians now outnumber Arab Christians five to one.

With thanks to the American Task Force on Palestine (AFTP) for bringing it to our attention. JRK

In the Holy Land, a changed Christian world

Matti Friedman
The Statesman (Analysis)
October 27, 2011 - 12:00am

The schedules for Mass at the two Roman Catholic churches in Jaffa, on Israel's Mediterranean coast, reveal a change that has dramatically, if quietly, altered the face of Christianity in the Holy Land.

The two Masses in Arabic for the town's native Arab Christian population are outnumbered by four in English, attended mainly by Filipina caregivers. Then there are others in Spanish, for South Americans; French, for African migrants; three South Asian languages, including Konkani, spoken in the Indian district of Goa; and, for a generation of Christians raised among Israel's Jewish majority, Hebrew.

In September, a colorful celebration for Indian Catholics alone drew 2,000 people. That's twice the total number of native Catholics in the parish.

For centuries, Christianity here meant the ancient communities of Christian Arabs. They were here when Israel was created around them in 1948, and they have kept their distinct identity within the Jewish state since. The past two decades, however, have seen one of the most significant influxes of Christians into the Holy Land since the Crusades, and it has created a wholly new Christian landscape shaped by the realities of Israel.

The newcomers include guest workers from dozens of different countries who provide the economy with cheap labor, and asylum-seekers from Sudan, Eritrea and elsewhere in Africa who sneak across the border from Egypt. And for the first time, there is a significant population of non-Arab Christian Israeli citizens, mainly immigrants from the former Soviet Union who, unlike Arabs, are fully assimilated into the Jewish Israeli mainstream.

Their presence has created new challenges for local churches that are simultaneously, like churches across the Mideast, facing the uncertain future of their local flocks. The numbers of Israel's 110,000 native Arab Christians have largely stagnated: They're not shrinking, but neither are they growing, as many young people leave for the West, squeezed by the conflict between Jews and Muslims and party to the general sense of neglect shared by Israel's Arab citizens.

Father Ramzi Sidawi, an Arab Catholic from Jerusalem, is the parish priest in Jaffa. Outside the church windows, he said, he now listens every day to children from Africa and the Philippines playing in Hebrew, the language of their schools and their parents' employers.

"You have to divide yourself, switch between languages. We have to serve everybody," he said. "The biggest challenge is to maintain the community united and not divided."

That's a difficult task, considering the gulf of language and culture that divides the newcomers from each other and from Arab Christians. There don't seem to be overt frictions or resentments, but in practice, Sidawi said, there is little contact among them beyond shared Masses on Christmas and other festivals. The non-Arabs who attend church in Jaffa, for example, live elsewhere, mainly in foreign worker-dominated districts of nearby south Tel Aviv.

If one counts all of the people in Israel who are neither Jewish nor Muslim, these newcomers outnumber Arab Christians by more than five to one. The number of newcomers who are practicing believers is far smaller, but by some estimates they equal or outnumber the members of local churches.

"This creates concern for some that in the long term there could be a change in who the Christians of the Holy Land are, and concern about what will happen to the historic churches," said Amnon Ramon, who has researched these demographic changes as an expert on Christianity in Israel at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.

There are enough newcomers now for a Catholic cathedral in every major Israeli city, said Rev. David Neuhaus, who heads the Church's vicariate for Hebrew-speakers.

"We do not have enough clergy, and we do not have enough places to pray," he said. So services are held in ad hoc locations or in the existing Arab churches.

Clergymen now find themselves dealing with problems like Sudanese asylum-seekers trying to prove paternity without papers, choir members deported by Israeli immigration police, and children who go to Jewish public schools and are drawn not by their parents' Christianity but by the culture of their Israeli peers.

On a recent Sunday, the chapel at the Ratisbonne monastery in downtown Jerusalem rang with the sound of hymns in Tagalog, one of the languages of the Philippines. Most of the worshippers were women who serve as caregivers for elderly Israelis.

There were 5,000 Filipino workers in Israel when Father Angelo Beda Ison, a Manila-born Franciscan who tends to the local Filipino community, arrived in 1991. Today there are 40,000.

For the first time, the Catholic Church has to deal with Catholic kids who are assimilating into a Jewish majority. There are now several thousand children born to foreign workers who speak Hebrew as a first language, celebrate Jewish holidays with their classmates and are subject, like children everywhere, to the pull of the mainstream.

To bolster their faith, the local church has produced a catechism in Hebrew — "Meet the Messiah" — provides classes on Christianity in Hebrew and invites them to a Catholic summer camp, Rev. Neuhaus said. The church now has 25 clergymen tending to the transient populations, some brought in from the workers' countries of origin, he said.

Catholics are not the only Church dealing with demographic shifts.

Immigrants from the former Soviet Union began moving to Israel en masse in the early 1990s. Among the 1 million who came, about a third were not Jewish according to Jewish law but qualified for citizenship because they had a Jewish spouse or lineage. Among them were an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 practicing Christians, mostly Orthodox.

So the Russian Orthodox Church now holds services in Hebrew every week in Jerusalem.

"The Church never dreamed of such an arrival," said Father Alexandr Winogradsky, the priest who leads those services and a convert from Judaism originally from Ukraine. His job is to "try to acculturate the Church within the new Israeli culture and language."

Some of the new members, especially the young, are so assimilated into the Israeli mainstream they are uncomfortable entering a church, he said. Winogradsky goes to meet them, dressed in cassock and cross, for confession in cafes instead.

The tiny Ethiopian Orthodox Church, too, has been dealing with its own newcomers: asylum seekers from Eritrea reaching Israel in increasing numbers, smuggled in from Egypt by Bedouin. At a baptism ceremony on the Jordan River earlier this year, Eritreans were the most noticeable group.

These disparate groups of Christians share one trait — they have gone almost unnoticed by the majority of Israelis.

"This is a population that is present and absent at the same time," said Hana Bendcowsky of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations. "No one here knows anything about their lives."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Christian Leaders Support Palestinian UN Statehood Bid

Dear Friend,

Christian leaders say yes to Palestine U.N. membership. Read in full.

With the deal for prisoner exchange with HAMAS, Israel has suceeded in perpetuating and strenghtening the division and rivalry between Palestinian factions, which is always to the advantage of the Israelis, who can argue no one voice really speaks for the Palestinians. Efforts now to prop up Pres. Abbas (FATAH) will also fortify the division. The youth of Palestine keep arguing for new elections and unity of voice among all Palestinians, a movement much to be desired. JRK

International law, basic fairness at stake, say four denominational leaders

October 25, 2011

Presbyterian News Service


Leaders of four denominations have issued a statement backing the Palestinian Authority’s bid for membership in the United Nations.

U.N. membership for the Palestinians is deserved, the four leaders say, “not only on the basis of international law and basic fairness … but to preserve a multi-religious holy land that includes Christian Palestinians.

The full text of the statement, given to Presbyterian News Service on Oct. 24:

The Palestinians deserve membership in the United Nations — not only on the basis of international law and basic fairness — but to help preserve a multi-religious holy land that includes Christian Palestinians. We write as elected leaders of Protestant denominations with mission histories in the Middle East, a deep commitment to our sisters and brothers in Christ in the region, and a concern for the security of Israelis and Palestinians. We serve a God who calls us to seek justice. We look forward to the day when, by God’s grace, swords are beaten into plowshares. We stand united in prayer for peace and reconciliation among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. We write aware that an Obama Administration veto of Palestinian membership in the United Nations would put further pressure on Palestinian Christians and Christian minorities elsewhere in the Middle East.

We understand the view expressed by United States and Israeli representatives that international recognition by the UN is no substitute for two-party, two-state negotiations. But the reverse is also true, given the prolonged and undeniable failure of the negotiations between parties of vastly different power. Membership for Palestine does not preclude either the need for or the possibility of negotiations. Outstanding issues including an end to the occupation, final borders, the status of Jerusalem, settlements, and the right of return would remain to be resolved through negotiation. We believe that UN membership for Palestine would increase the likelihood of fair and transparent negotiations on these issues, as those negotiations would then take place between two members of the United Nations.

Moves in Congress to cut development aid to the Palestinian Authority to punish it for seeking UN membership seem unwise and counter-productive. Funds to strengthen security, education, and healthcare programs for ordinary Palestinians should not become pawns in the politics of a UN confrontation. In fact, cuts in aid from the U.S., the largest single-state donor to the Palestinians, would erode the quality-of-life improvements that have been achieved in the West Bank. Moreover, these cuts would be detrimental to the security of Israelis and Palestinians alike, not to mention U.S. interests in the region.

We are committed to the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security with their neighbors, within internationally recognized borders as described by UN resolutions that envision two viable states. We believe UN membership for Palestine would be a step in that direction.

No church leader wants controversy, yet we share a Bible that includes the critical and self-critical voices of the prophets. We invite those who disagree with us to visit Palestine and Israel, to go through the walls surrounding Bethlehem and Gaza, to understand the economic chokehold of the occupation.

We urge the Obama Administration not to use the veto for a 42nd time when the Security Council considers the recommendation for membership for Palestine, but to abstain—for the sake of a better future for the entire holy land.

Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Jim Winkler
General Secretary
United Methodist General Board of Church & Society

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Understanding Experimental Israel

Dear Friend,

Welcome to this FPI group: "Friends of Palestinians and Israelis" (link below for archive).

Since meeting wonderful new friends at the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (of the Pres. Church USA) last week, several have asked to "join".

I'm enclosing an important piece from long time Israeli dissident Uri Avnery, who reflects on the meaning of the "Israeli experiment".

Significant quote: "You can take the Jews out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Jews".

Read on. Thanks to the ATFP (The American Task Force on Palestine, whose researcher, Hussein Ibish, was a guest on the Jim Lehrer program this evening).

Will there be a "shock"? A tipping point? A critical mass leading to "change"?

Having concluded a deal with HAMAS, is it possible to do even more deal making? Through Eygpt? Turkey? Russia? France? (the US is bankrupt as neutral broker. We are not neutral. Nor are we willing to use the clout we are capable of expending because of the political cost. JRK

Israel needs a shock: Positive or negative
Uri Avnery
Arab News (Opinion)
October 16, 2011 - 12:00am

On Yom Kippur eve last week, when real Jews were praying for their lives, I sat on the seashore of Tel Aviv, thinking about the State of Israel. Will it endure? Will it be here in another 100 years? Or is it a passing episode, a historic fluke?

The Zionist Revolution — and that's what it was — started more than a hundred years after the French one. Once, in a more cheerful mood, I told my friends: “Perhaps we are all wrong. Perhaps Israel is not really the final shape of the Zionist enterprise. Like the planners of every great project, the Zionists decided first to build a 'pilot', a prototype, in order to test their scheme. Actually, we Israelis are only guinea pigs. Sooner or later another Theodor Herzl will come by and, after analyzing the faults and mistakes of this experiment, will draw up the blueprint of the real state, which will be far superior.”

Herzl 2 will start by asking: where did Herzl 1 go wrong? Herzl 1 visited Palestine only once, and that only for the express purpose of meeting the German emperor, whom he wanted to enlist for his enterprise. The Kaiser insisted on seeing him at the gate of Jerusalem, listened patiently to what he had to say and then purportedly commented to his aides: “It's a grand idea, but you can't do it with Jews!”

He meant the Jews he knew — the members of a worldwide religious-ethnic community. Herzl intended to turn these into a modern-style nation.

Herzl was not a profound thinker, he was a journalist and dramatist. He — and his successors — saw the necessary transformation as basically a question of logistics. Get the Jews to Palestine, and everything will fall into place automatically. The Jews will become a normal people, a people (“Volk”) like other peoples. A nation among nations. But the Jews of his day were neither a people nor a nation. They were something rather different.

Europe has changed many times, until the emergence of the modern nations. The Jews did not change. When Herzl looked for a solution to the “Jewish problem”, they were still the same ethnic-religious Diaspora.

No problem, he thought, once I get them to Palestine, they will change. But an ethnic-religious community, living for millennia as a persecuted minority in a hostile environment, acquires a mentality of its own. It fears the “Goyish” government, the source of unending evil edicts. It sees everyone outside the community as a potential enemy. It develops an intense sense of solidarity with members of its own community, even a thousand miles away, supporting them through thick and thin, whatever they do. In their helpless situation, the persecuted dream of a day of revenge, when they can do unto others as others have done unto them.

All this pervades their worldview, their religion and their traditions, transmitted from generation to generation. Jews have prayed to God for centuries, year after year, on Pesach eve: “Pour your wrath upon the Goyim...”

When the Zionists started to arrive and founded the new community, called the “Yishuv” (settlement), it seemed that Herzl had been right. They started to behave like the embryo of a real nation. They discarded religion and despised the Diaspora. To be called “exile Jew” was the worst possible insult. They saw themselves as “Hebrew”, rather then Jewish. They started to build a new society and a new culture.

And then the awful thing happened: The Holocaust.

It brought all the old Jewish convictions back with a vengeance. Not only the Germans were the guilty, but all the nations who looked on and did not lift a finger to save the victims. So all the old beliefs were true after all: The whole world is against the Jews. Right from its founding, the State of Israel became the Holocaust-state. The old existential fears, mistrusts, suspicions, hatreds, prejudices, stereotypes, sense of victimhood, dreams of revenge, that were born in the Diaspora, have superimposed themselves on the state, creating a very dangerous mixture of power and victimhood, brutality and masochism, militarism and the conviction that the whole world is against us. A ghetto with nuclear weapons.

Can such a state survive and flourish in the modern world? European nation-states have fought many wars. But they never forgot that after a war comes peace, that today's enemy may well be tomorrow's ally. Israel cannot do that. Public opinion polls show that the vast majority of Israelis believe that there will never be peace. They see the eternal occupation of Palestinian territories and the setting up of belligerent settlements all over Palestine as a result of Arab intransigence, not as its cause. They are supported in blind solidarity by most of the Jews around the world.

Almost all Israeli parties, including the main opposition, insist that Israel be recognized as the “nation-state of the Jewish people.” This means that Israel does not belong to the Israelis (the very concept of an “Israeli nation” is officially rejected by our government) but to the worldwide ethnic-religious Jewish Diaspora, who have never been asked whether they agree to Israel representing them. It is the very negation of a real nation-state that can live in peace with its neighbors and join a regional union.

I have never labored under any illusions about the magnitude of the task my friends and I set ourselves decades ago. It is not to change this or that aspect of Israel, but to change the fundamental nature of the state Itself.

It is far more than a matter of politics, to substitute one party for another. It is even far more than making peace with the Palestinian people, ending the occupation, evacuating the settlements. It is to effect a basic change of the national consciousness, the consciousness of every Israeli man and woman.

It has been said that “you can get the Jews out of the ghetto, but you can't get the ghetto out of the Jews.” But that is exactly what needs to be done.

Can it be done? I think so. I certainly hope so.

Perhaps we need a shock — either a positive or a negative one. The appearance in Jerusalem of Anwar Sadat in 1977 can serve as an example of a positive shock: By coming to Jerusalem while a state of war was still in effect, he produced an overnight change in the consciousness of Israelis. So did the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn in 1993. So did, in a negative way, the Yom Kippur war, exactly 38 years ago, which shook Israel to the core. But these were minor, brief shocks compared to what is needed. A Second Herzl could, perhaps, effect such a miracle, against the odds. In the words of the first Herzl: “If you want it, it is not a fairy tale.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

American Jews Beg to Differ!

Dear Friend,

Rev. Duncan Hanson, the RCA staff person for Europe, the Middle East and India, has asked that I officially represent the RCA at the I/PMN annual conference beginning tomorrow thorugh Saturday noon in Louisville, KY. [This is the Israeli/Palestinian Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA)].

He wonders if there will be a request from the PCUSA denomination (there) asking for action/involvement by the RCA in this important region. We'll see.

Meanwhile there is a Task Force busy writing a "paper" to be presented to the General Synod of the RCA in 2012, concerning the Israeli/Palestinian situation. I look forward to reading it. Several of my "friends" are on the Task Force, (including three Palestinian Christians). It should be good.

Below, you will appreciate Jay Michaelson's overview of various approaches American Jews now have toward Israel/Palestine. Such a public expression would not have seen the light of publishing day or even been possible a few years ago. Times they are a-changin'. Faithfully yours, JRK

What's Wrong With American Jews Taking Partisan Sides in [re] Israel?

Jay Michaelson
The Jewish Daily Forward
October 11, 2011 - 12:00am

That there has been a realignment of American Jewish attitudes toward Israel is by now apparent and heavily commented on. In some quarters, this has been seen as an earth-shattering, Judaism-betraying paroxysm of collective self-hatred. Yet in fact it is entirely logical.

For years, Jewish moderates like me have held a curious combination of views: as one of my law school colleagues said, “liberal on everything except Israel.” This was because for years there was little alternative. There was no peace process, no nonviolent Palestinian leadership and nothing (other than the far left’s dreams of peace) for moderates to support.

The 18 years since the handshake on the White House lawn have yielded a much wider policy array. Now one can be for or against Palestinian statehood, concessions on Jerusalem, construction of settlements, the blockade of Gaza, the withdrawal from Gaza and 100 other gradations of Israel-Palestine policy. As a result, American and American Jewish attitudes have shifted — but shifted quite predictably.

Conservatives both here and in Israel maintain that the Palestinians fundamentally cannot be trusted; like most conservatives, they prefer “tough” tactics like settlement construction (“facts on the ground”), “stronger” security policies and “harder” lines in negotiation, since to be “soft” would endanger Israel’s security. Like other conservatives, they tend to be more nationalistic, and therefore less sympathetic to the “other side.” These policies flow quite naturally from a generally conservative worldview and are not dissimilar to conservatism in other countries around the world.

Liberals, while also skeptical of the Palestinian leadership, prefer typically liberal policies: more “balancing” in security policies (that is, fewer walls and checkpoints); “confidence-building” steps, such as a freeze on settlements, and “hard choices” in negotiations (that is, concessions on key issues). Unlike conservatives, liberals tend to be leery of nationalism and somewhat sympathetic to how the “other side” sees things. These policies, too, flow from basic liberal premises about peace and conflict, pragmatism, even human nature.

In other words, the American Jewish realignment is simply an alignment of conservatives with conservative policies and of liberals with liberal ones.

American conservatives (Rick Perry, Glenn Beck, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) support Israeli conservatives (Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, the settlers). American moderates (J Street, the Obama administration) support Israeli moderates (Kadima, what remains of Labor). The American far left (Noam Chomsky, most college-student activists) supports the Israeli far left (Shalom Achshav, as well as various non-Zionist and anti-Zionist movements). So of course, The New York Times can report, as it did just prior to the Palestinian vote at the United Nations, on the love affair between Benjamin Netanyahu and congressional Republicans. What’s not to understand here?

Well, for a start, many on the right don’t see their own conservatism. I recently spoke with a Knesset member who couldn’t understand why settlement construction was a conservative policy. Personally, I couldn’t understand what she couldn’t understand. It may or may not be a good idea to put facts on the ground, but doing so is clearly a conservative policy. It doesn’t promote an atmosphere of trust. It empowers Jewish nationalists. It makes a negotiated peace much harder to achieve. But, if conservatives are right that there is no real Palestinian partner, the policy makes sense. We’re already locked in battle, so we may as well try to win.

That view is respectable, time-honored — and conservative. So of course Glenn Beck supports it, and moderates and liberals do not.

As in the United States, where the right has often painted the left as being anti-American, some in the Jewish community say that to be moderate or liberal is to be anti-Israel. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the defeat, in a special congressional election, of Orthodox Jewish moderate David Weprin by Bob Turner, which pundits have in part ascribed to Turner’s attack on Weprin’s and President Obama’s policies toward Israel. Exit polls say that the economy, and the Democrats’ having taken Anthony Weiner’s former seat for granted, was as important as Israel or as suddenly relevant ex-mayor Ed Koch’s call to send Obama a message. But at least for some voters, there was indeed a perception that Obama’s moderate rather than conservative approach to Israel was the same as being anti-Israel.

Other American Jewish conservatives say that liberals are somehow deluded, or unaware of the real existential threats facing Israel. Sometimes they whisper that we are self-hating, or Muslim loving (Barack Hussein Obama), or insufficiently Jewishly proud. But can they say the same of the many Israeli generals who have increasingly come forward in favor of a negotiated two-state solution and against settlement construction? Are they, too, naïve, deluded, secretly anti-Israel, secretly Muslim loving, self-hating or worse? Of course not. Israeli moderates, American moderates, Israeli liberals and American liberals support Israel, but they have a moderate or liberal view of what policies are in Israel’s best interests. We thus oppose the current Israeli government’s policies, while fully supporting Israel itself.

Again, why is this hard to follow?

Just as conservatives are confused about their own conservatism, so, too, are they confused (willfully or not) about the boundaries of liberalism. Of course, there are also hard-left, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist folks out there, and “in here” — that is, within the Jewish community. Often, we liberals and moderates find ourselves at the same rallies (or Sabbath dinner tables) as these people, and it’s uncomfortable for us all. But breaking bread together doesn’t turn moderates into radicals. Just as a supporter of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is not a Kahanist, so a J Street supporter is not a Hamasnik, or even a Shalom Achshavnik. The fringe does not define the movement.

Actually, the reason I think this realignment seems so hard for many people to understand is because of the peculiar dynamics of American Jewish institutions. These institutions are inherently to the right of most American Jews. People who, facing a wide range of philanthropic options, choose to devote considerable resources to Judaism and to Israel fund them. That is laudable. But it also selects for those philanthropists who tend toward more nationalistic and particularistic points of view. Nonparticularistic Jews give more to non-Jewish causes. Jewish particularists fund Jewish causes.

This, too, makes sense. But it leads to the disconnect that I, as well as Peter Beinart and others, have lately decried: that American Jewish institutions don’t speak for most American Jews. Yes, in congressional districts like New York’s 9th, blocs of Orthodox Jews will vote for conservative policies, foreign and domestic. But in general, American Jews are more liberal than their communal institutions, because the institutions are funded and populated by people who have chosen to make Judaism their professional or philanthropic priority.

Of course, there are fantastic progressive Jewish funders and organizations, as well — including this very publication — and I salute them all. But we remain in the minority. Most progressives have less interest in Jewish particularism, and are more likely to be found at The New Yorker and Amnesty International than at specifically Jewish institutions. This doesn’t make them self-hating; it makes them less interested in Jewish particularism. And because of this “liberal drain,” what’s left in our Jewish communal institutions tends naturally toward the right.

Personally, I think conservative policies are bad for both America and Israel. I think they are self-fulfilling: Treat others as enemies, and they will be your enemies. This has now come to pass in Israel, as its ostensible partner has given up on the peace process (which has been neither peaceful nor a process) and gone to the United Nations instead. As Larry Derfner astutely observed in the September 30 issue of the Forward, the Palestinians did so because Netanyahu’s negotiating/delaying tactics left them no other viable option. They have thus fulfilled conservatives’ prophecies that there is no partner on the other side — but only because the conservatives left them no choice.

These are my views, but I don’t pretend that they are somehow “the truth,” or part of some great new understanding of the Middle East. They are garden-variety American liberalism, based on fundamental premises about universalism, rationalism and conflict resolution. Nor do I think that conservatives have somehow missed the point of the Jewish prophetic tradition. Conservatives have their texts, and we liberals have ours. I think they are wrong on both facts and values. But there shouldn’t be any mystery here as to why we all think this way. The only mystery is why there’s a mystery at all.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nicholas Kristof (NY Times) op-ed. Oct. 5, 2011

October 5, 2011

Is Israel Its Own Worst Enemy?
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF (NY Times, Oct. 5, 2011)

For decades, Palestinian leaders sometimes seemed to be their own people’s worst enemies.

Palestinian radicals antagonized the West, and, when militant leaders turned to hijackings and rockets, they undermined the Palestinian cause around the world. They empowered Israeli settlers and hard-liners, while eviscerating Israeli doves.

These days, the world has been turned upside down. Now it is Israel that is endangered most by its leaders and maximalist stance. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is isolating his country, and, to be blunt, his hard line on settlements seems like a national suicide policy.

Nothing is more corrosive than Israel’s growth of settlements because they erode hope of a peace agreement in the future. Mr. Netanyahu’s latest misstep came after the Obama administration humiliated itself by making a full-court diplomatic press to block Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. At a time when President Obama had a few other things on his plate — averting a global economic meltdown, for example — the United States frittered good will by threatening to veto the Palestinian statehood that everybody claims to favor.

With that diplomatic fight at the United Nations under way, Israel last week announced plans for 1,100 new housing units in a part of Jerusalem outside its pre-1967 borders. Instead of showing appreciation to President Obama, Mr. Netanyahu thumbed him in the eye.

O.K., I foresee a torrent of angry responses. I realize that many insist that Jerusalem must all belong to Israel in any peace deal anyway, so new settlements there don’t count. But, if that’s your position, then you can kiss any peace deal goodbye. Every negotiator knows the framework of a peace agreement — 1967 borders with land swaps, Jerusalem as the capital of both Israeli and Palestinian states, only a token right of return — and insistence on a completely Israeli Jerusalem simply means no peace agreement ever.

Former President Bill Clinton said squarely in September that Mr. Netanyahu is to blame for the failure of the Middle East peace process. A background factor, Mr. Clinton noted correctly, is the demographic and political change within Israeli society, which has made the country more conservative when it comes to border and land issues.

Granted, Mr. Netanyahu is far from the only obstacle to peace. The Palestinians are divided, with Hamas controlling Gaza. And Hamas not only represses its own people but also managed to devastate the peace movement in Israel. That’s the saddest thing about the Middle East: hard-liners like Hamas empower hard-liners like Mr. Netanyahu.

We’re facing a dangerous period in the Middle East. Most Palestinians seem to feel as though the Oslo peace process has fizzled, and Israelis seem to agree, with two-thirds saying in a recent poll published in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot that there is no chance of peace with Palestinians — ever.

The Palestinians’ best hope would be a major grass-roots movement of nonviolent peaceful resistance aimed at illegal West Bank settlements, led by women and inspired by the work of Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A growing number of Palestinians are taking up variants of that model, although they sometimes ruin it by defining nonviolence to include stone-throwing and by giving the leading role to hotheaded young men.

The Israel Defense Forces can deal with suicide bombers and rockets fired by Hezbollah. I’m not sure that they can defeat Palestinian women blocking roads to illegal settlements and willing to endure tear gas and clubbing — with videos promptly posted on YouTube.

Mr. Netanyahu has also undermined Israeli security by burning bridges with Israel’s most important friend in the region, Turkey. Now there is also the risk of clashes in the Mediterranean between Israeli and Turkish naval vessels. That’s one reason Defense Secretary Leon Panetta scolded the Israeli government a few days ago for isolating itself diplomatically.

So where do we go from here? If a peace deal is not forthcoming soon, and if Israel continues its occupation, then Israel should give the vote in Israeli elections to all Palestinians in the areas it controls. If Jews in the West Bank can vote, then Palestinians there should be able to as well.

That’s what democracy means: people have the right to vote on the government that controls their lives. Some of my Israeli friends will think I’m unfair and harsh, applying double standards by focusing on Israeli shortcomings while paying less attention to those of other countries in the region. Fair enough: I plead guilty. I apply higher standards to a close American ally like Israel that is a huge recipient of American aid.

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk — or drive a diplomatic course that leaves their nation veering away from any hope of peace. Today, Israel’s leaders sometimes seem to be that country’s worst enemies, and it’s an act of friendship to point that out.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jews in Conflict over "Israel"

Dear Friend,
Dana Goldstein, a NYC Jew, in conflict with her parents' generation over the State of Israel.
It's like an earthquake is going on. And where the earth settles is still not clear. But it sounds like everyone will have to adjust to the new landscape, as difficult as that will be.
Palestinian existence on the "land" persists, despite long efforts to ignor, displace and resist their grievances.
Stay tuned, and be in touch with Dana and her generation. More is undoubtedly coming. "God" loves all people. As one of my friends put it this morning at our fortnightly gathering: "If God is not God of all, God is not God at all". (Thank you Gene!). JRK

Thursday, Sep. 29, 2011
Why Fewer Young American Jews Share Their Parents' View of Israel
By Dana Goldstein

"I'm trembling," my mother says, when I tell her I'm working on an article about how younger and older American Jews are reacting differently to the Palestinians' bid for statehood at the United Nations. I understand the frustrations of the Palestinians dealing with ongoing settlements construction and sympathize with their decision to approach the U.N., but my mom supports President Obama's promise to wield the U.S. veto, sharing his view that a two-state solution can be achieved only through negotiations with Israel.

"This is so emotional," she says as we cautiously discuss our difference of opinion. "It makes me feel absolutely terrible when you stridently voice criticisms of Israel." (See photos inside the West Bank settlements.)

A lump of guilt and sadness rises in my throat. I've written harshly of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 2006 and its assault on Gaza in 2009, and on civil rights issues in Israel. But speaking my mind on these topics — a very Jewish thing to do — has never been easy. During my childhood in the New York suburbs, support for Israel was as fundamental a family tradition as voting Democratic or lighting the Shabbos candles on Friday night.

My mom has a masters degree in Jewish history and is the program director of a large synagogue. Her youthful Israel experiences, volunteering on a kibbutz and meeting descendants of my great-grandmother's siblings, were part of my own mythology. Raised within the Conservative movement, I learned at Hebrew school that Israel was the "land of milk and honey" where Holocaust survivors had irrigated the deserts and made flowers bloom.

What I didn't hear much about was the lives of Palestinians. It was only after I went to college, met Muslim friends, and enrolled in a Middle Eastern history and politics course that I was challenged to reconcile my liberal, humanist worldview with the fact that the Jewish state of which I was so proud was occupying the land of 4.4 million stateless Palestinians, many of them refugees displaced by Israel's creation. (See TIME's photoessay on growing up Arab in Israel.)

Like many young American Jews, during my senior year of college I took the free trip to Israel offered by the Taglit-Birthright program. The bliss I felt floating in the Dead Sea, sampling succulent fruits grown by Jewish farmers, and roaming the medieval city of Safed, historic center of Kabbalah mysticism, was tempered by other experiences: Watching the construction of the imposing "security fence," which not only tamped down on terrorist attacks, but also separated Palestinian villagers from their lands and water supplies. I spent hours in hushed conversation with a young Israeli soldier who was horrified by what he said was the routinely rough and contemptuous treatment of Palestinian civilians at Israeli military checkpoints.

That trip deepened my conviction that as an American Jew, I could no longer in good conscience offer Israel unquestioning support. I'm not alone. Polling of young American Jews shows that with the exception of the Orthodox, many of us feel less attached to Israel than do our Baby Boomer parents, who came of age during the era of the 1967 and 1973 wars, when Israel was less of an aggressor and more a victim. A 2007 poll by Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College and Ari Kelman of UC Davis found that although the majority of American Jews of all ages continue to identify as "Pro-Israel," those under 35 are less likely to identify as "Zionist." Over 40 percent of American Jews under 35 believe that "Israel occupies land belonging to someone else," and over 30 percent report sometimes feeling "ashamed" of Israel's actions.

Read about America's first female black rabbi.

Hanna King, an 18-year old sophomore at Swarthmore College, epitomizes the generational shift. Raised in Seattle as a Conservative Jew, last November King was part of a group of activists who heckled Netanyahu with slogans against the occupation at a New Orleans meeting of the Jewish Federations General Assembly.

"Netanyahu repeatedly claims himself as a representative of all Jews," King says. "The protest was an outlet for me to make a clear statement, and make it clear that those injustices don't occur in my name. It served as a vehicle for reclaiming my own Judaism." (Read more about the debate on a Palestinian state.)

A more moderate critique is expressed by J Street, the political action committee launched in 2008 as a "pro-Israel, pro-Peace" counterweight to the influence in Washington of the more hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Simone Zimmerman heads J-Street's campus affiliate at the University of California-Berkeley. A graduate of Jewish private schools, she lived in Tel Aviv as an exchange student during high school, but never heard the word occupation spoken in relation to Israel until she got to college.

During Zimmerman's freshman year, Berkeley became embroiled in a contentious debate over whether the university should divest from corporations that do business with the Israeli army. Although Zimmerman opposed divestment, she was profoundly affected by the stories she heard from Palestinian-American activists on campus.

"They were sharing their families' experiences of life under occupation and life during the war in Gaza," she remembers. "So much of what they were talking about related to things that I had always been taught to defend, like human rights and social justice, and the value of each individual's life." (Read the top 10 religion stories of 2010.)

Even young rabbis are, as a cohort, more likely to be critical of Israel than are older rabbis. Last week, Cohen, the Hebrew Union College researcher, released a survey of rabbinical students at New York's Jewish Theological Seminary, the premier institution for training Conservative rabbis. Though current students are just as likely as their elders to have studied and lived in Israel and to believe Israel is "very important" to their Judaism, about 70 percent of the young, prospective rabbis report feeling "disturbed" by Israel's treatment of Arab Israelis and Palestinians, compared to only about half of those ordained between 1980 and 1994.

Ben Resnick, 27, is one of the rabbinical students who took the survey. In July, he published an op-ed pointing out the ideological inconsistencies between Zionism, which upholds the principle of Israel as a Jewish state, and American liberal democracy, which emphasizes individual rights regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. "The tragedy," Resnick says, is that the two worldviews may be "irreconcilable."

Still, after living in Jerusalem for 10 months and then returning to New York, Resnick continues to consider himself a Zionist. He quotes the Torah in support of his view that American Jews should press Israel to end settlement expansion and help facilitate a Palestinian state: "Love without rebuke," he says, "is not love."

Dana Goldstein is a fellow at the New America Foundation and the Nation Institute.