Friday, July 12, 2013

Second Report, Study Tour, 6/13

How Long? A 2nd Report (from the Ground)

John Kleinheksel Sr., 12 July, 2013

I must say I am profoundly disheartened as I reflect on the plight of Palestinians as the Israeli State continues to branch out in that part of Planet Earth.

In a follow-up inquiry to a spokesman for the Israeli/Zionist State, I was directed to a recent article in The Forward by Aharon Barak (who was President of the Israeli Supreme Court, 1995-2006). In it, Mr. Barak accents “the centrality of the State of Israel and its Jewish character” and appeals to the Declaration of Independence, and urges his fellow Jews to “defend the dignity and freedom of every person within it, whether Jewish or not.” He urges Israel to be Jewish and democratic at the same time. But is that really what the Declaration says?

So I found and studied the full English translation of the Declaration of Independence, signed the night of May 14, 15, 1948, during a time of great unrest by the Arab majority. The Declaration “proclaims the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called Israel . . . [which]

• will be open to the immigration of Jews from all countries in their dispersion

• will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all (ital mine) its inhabitants

• will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew prophets

• will uphold the full social and political equality of all (ital mine) its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex [gender]

Then this statement: “In the midst of wanton aggression, we yet call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, with full and equal citizenship (ital mine) . . .”

On its face, the newly declared State of Israel invited Arab Palestinians to become “full and equal” citizens of this new enterprise! It’s like saying, “We Jews from all over the world invite you to help us build the Jewish State as full and equal citizens!” In fact, to this day, about 20% of Israeli citizens are Arab Palestinian. But “full and equal citizens” they are not. They are subject to a different set of laws. They remain to this day, second class citizens of the State. Furthermore, their loyalty to the Jewish State is suspect by Jews and their loyalty to the Palestinian cause is suspect by stateless Palestinians. When will this promise, set forth so eloquently and clearly in the Declaration of Independence, be realized? Is the Knesset working on it, or moving in the opposite direction?

The vast majority of Arab Palestinians were made to feel unwelcome when over 400 of their villages were destroyed in the war of independence of 1948 (to say nothing of the massacre of 600 villagers at Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948, which served as a lesson to Arabs, to get out or face the deadly consequences). The refugee problem remains to be adjudicated, including their “right of return”. Historically, the State of Israel has sought to disenfranchise the people of the land and block every effort by the Palestinians to establish their own State. In addition, especially since the “successful” war of 1967, it has done everything possible to settle all parts of the country, confiscating Palestinian land, demolishing their homes, uprooting their olive orchards, restricting their water rights and controlling movements between their villages and orchards. The result has been restricting the Arabs to smaller and smaller disconnected enclaves with no hope of forming their own State.

Israel, with the full support of the United States, seems content to “manage” any Palestinian discontent (insurrection). It tolerates no dissent (violent or nonviolent) against its occupation of historic Palestinian land. Those who raise their heads too high are either incarcerated (7,000 minimum in Israeli prisons), or assassinated (non-judicially). Israel fully intends to harass them out of the land if they will not be “pacified”. Those are the choices. Because of their great fear of reprisals (“terror”), Israeli leaders refuse to sit down and discuss the underlying issues with Palestinian leaders. Yet, many Palestinians are not leaving. They are staying, insisting on “justice” for their cause.
The lack of trust is deep-seated in both parties to the “conflict”. Furthermore, the “security fence” is heightening the separation of the two peoples, intensifying walls of suspicion, distrust, misunderstanding and dislike.

I’m reminded of the verse cited by the great Catholic activist Dorothy Day. She applies it to the divide between African Americans and US Caucasians, but can as easily apply to Israelis and Palestinians.


Six humans trapped by circumstance in black and bitter cold;
each held so close a stick of wood, (or so the story's told).

Their dying fire needed logs. The first one held hers back;
for on the faces ‘round the fire, she noticed one was black.

The next man looking 'cross the way saw not one from his church;
he couldn't bring himself to give the fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes and gave his coat a hitch;
why should his log be put to use to warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought of wealth he had in store;
and how to keep what he had earned from the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man's face bespoke revenge as fire passed from his sight;
for what he saw in his wood stick was how to spite the white.

The last one of this forlorn group did naught except for gain.
To give only to those who gave was how he played the game.

The logs held tight in Death's still hands was proof of human sin;
they didn't die from cold without; they died from cold within.

Here is Dorothy Day’s own commentary on this text: "Whenever I groan within myself and think how hard it is to keep writing about love in these times of tension and strife which may, at any moment, become for us all a time of terror, I think to myself: What else is the world interested in? What else do we all want, each one of us, except to love and be loved, in our families, in our work, in all our relationships? God is Love. Love casts out fear. Even the most ardent revolutionist, seeking to change the world, to overturn the tables of the money changers, is trying to make a world where it is easier for people to love, to stand in that relationship to each other.

"It is when we love the most intensely and most humanly that we can recognize how tepid our love for others is. The keenness and intensity of love brings with it suffering, of course, but joy too, because it is a foretaste of heaven. When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them. God sees Christ, His Son, in us. And so we should see Christ in others, and nothing else, and love them. There can never be enough of it" (from, Dorothy Day: Selected Writings, ed. Robert Ellsberg (Orbis Books, 1992).

Is Jesus, as embodied by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., able to come alive in this impossible situation in Israel/Palestine? Even if your tradition does not see the love of Jesus of Nazareth, can you see “love for the neighbor” in your own tradition and begin to practice it more?

We met with Jeff Halper, head of ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions). He keeps track of Palestinian home demolitions and has thought about the conflict intensely over many years. He has a thoughtful proposal ( but at a minimum lists the following principles to be followed:

1. A just peace and the process leading up to it must conform to human rights, international law and UN resolutions.

2. Regardless of whether there should or should not have been an Israel, two peoples now reside in Palestine-Israel and a just peace must be based on that bi-national reality.

3. A just peace requires an acceptance of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

4. A just peace must be economically viable, with all the country’s inhabitants enjoying equal access to the country’s resources and economic institutions.

Even with Secretary Kerry’s recent initiative, we are a long way from a “solution”. In this high stakes card game, Israel, with US support, holds all the high cards and can seemingly trump any efforts by the Palestinians and their supporters for “full and equal” status, despite what the Declaration of Independence promises. And that is very sad. Justice delayed is justice denied.

How long?