Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kairos Holland/Zeeland, MI, USA: Meet the KUSA newsletter

Dear Friend of KairosUSA - Holland/Zeeland Community,

As you know, we are part of the KUSA (National) Community. Here is the most recent newsletter from our parent organization, and our Program Director, Mark Braverman.

It includes a message from our Fort Wayne partner, Mike Spath, whom many of you have met.

Our KUSA H/Z Community is planning on bringing Mr. Braverman to Holland, MI, to train others from the Midwest USA in the KUSA document/response to the Call for Help from our Palestinian brothers and sisters.

This winter, I'm hopeful of refreshing our understanding of that document in three consecutive weeks after the first of the year. Watch for the news. (Perhaps you were part of the HASP classes in October/November of 2012. We'll take a fresh look. KUSA communities are spring up all over the USA, from ecumenical and evangelical congregations and communities like Fort Wayne and Holland/Zeeland.

We are working closely with Western Theological Seminary here in Holland. Our friend Marlin (Sally) Vis will be taking 12 Western Seminary students (plus others) to I/P for 10 days beginning early in January. We hope they will be part of the training Mark will give on a full day of Saturday training in April, 2015, right at Western Seminary (@ College Avenue and 13th Street!)

This is such a crucial time for the Israelis (and Palestinians too). The present Likud-led government has broken up. New elections have been called for in March. The choice for Israelis is more of the same Nationalistic, Jewish ethnocracy; or opening up to more of a Democracy led by a coalition of Mr. Herzog and Ms. Livni. We are still a long way from equal rights for the 20% of Israelis who are Arab Palestinians, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) who have fled the country and are wanting to return to their homes and property, confiscated and colonized by the Jewish/Israeli State. The situation still looks very bleak and hopeless. Watch for a pick-up in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the years ahead.

Have a great New Year, everybody. JRK for FPI/KUSA-Holland/Zeeland Community

Friday, December 5, 2014

Our Friends in Bethlehem!

Dear Friend,
As you know KairosUSA-Holland/Zeeland Community is affiliated with KUSA, the national movement.

Here in Holland/Zeeland, many of you have met Dr. Michael Spath, our KUSA partner from Fort Wayne, IND. He and Program Director Mark Braverman, are at the 5th anniversary gathering of Kairos Palestine, the call from the heart of Palestinian suffering. Terry, is Mike's side-kick from Indiana. Zoughbi Zoughbi, where Mike is staying, was our guest here in October. We have learned of Daoud Nasser, (Tent of Nations) at our first gathering in July!

If you have been tracking with us, many of the persons & organizations he mentions will become known to you as we go forward.

I am strongly inclined to offer training in the KUSA document to up-coming meetings of KUSA-Holland/Zeeland Community early next year (before Sharon and I take a winter Florida break, in mid-February). I taught the KUSA document to about 60 persons from HASP (the Hope Academy of Senior Professionals) the fall of 2012. We all need to be refreshed on how we can respond to the call for help from our Christian (and Muslim) brothers and sisters in Palestine.

We are hoping to bring Mark Braverman himself to Holland this spring to train mostly Mid-States leaders whom we are hoping will begin KUSA communities in their own regions. We are hoping that Seminary and College students will get that training as well. Pray that the way will be clear for Mark Braverman, the principle author and KUSA Program Director, to be with us here in Holland; this spring!

I have a real sense of relief and satisfaction that our KUSA-H/Z Community is closely associated with the growing KUSA (national) group. They in turn, are in close association with more and more national groups from all over the world, who are intent on responding to the call (for help).

Please keep tracking with us dear friend. We will gather again after the first of the year.

The growing right-wing nationalism of the Zionist leaders is driving a deeper and deeper wedge between the enfranchised Israeli citizens and the second-class Arab citizens, (20%), to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands who have been driven out, displaced to the far corners of the world, with no compensation or recourse legally to their homes, lands, olive orchards, freedom of movement, economic empowerment, water rights and a host of other indignities, including harassment, incarcerations and non-judicial assassinations.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: L. Michael Spath
Date: Fri, Dec 5, 2014 at 3:52 PM
Subject: From Bethlehem - Update #2

Dear friends,

Whew, what a few days Terry and I have had in Bethlehem. A whirlwind in many ways, but also renewing, productive, and inspirational.

We are staying at Zoughbi's home; actually, we have the use of our own apartment at the Zoughbi compound where his brothers and their families live. And he has been a very warm and hospitable host. Their daughter, Marcelle (graduate of Goshen College in Indiana), is also living at home and she leaves every morning very early for Jerusalem where she teaches English at the Schmidt Girls School, right outside the Damascus Gate of the Old City.

Terry's work establishing videoconferencing connections with Zoughbi at the Wi'am Conflict Resolution Center and with Daoud at the Tent of Nations farm has been very successful. Wi'am has been our base of operations and will function as the hub of the videoconferencing. Terry and Usama (Zoughbi's nephew who also works there) worked very diligently for two days discerning their needs. We at ICMEP have been able to provide them with a 48 inch television, a switch for their router, a cabinet, a camera, a cell phone tablet with data, and some other fundamentals. They are now set up and ready.

We spent the day yesterday at the farm with Daoud, his wife, Jihan, and his mother, Umm Daher, and did some basic study of their needs, and Terry today will go with Daoud to the store where we'll be able to provide for them a cell phone tablet with data, and a few other items. At the farm, we were also able to join with them as they welcomed a small delegation from the Christian Peacemaker Teams, with a couple of them based in Hebron. Last night, we were welcomed to Daoud's home and had a most enjoyable evening with Daoud, Jihan, and their family. Umm Daher was there, along with Daoud's sister, Amal, who some of you know from last year's trip, and their three children (two daughters and a son), each offering for us a display of their quite considerable music talent (the girls on the piano and their son on the kanoon. It was a delightful evening. Daoud explained to Terry and me his plans for planting 25,000 grape trees, returning at least part of the farm to the production of grapes not only for eating but for making wine (the original intent of "Daher's Vineyard," the title of Daoud's book and the original name of the farm). They'll begin by planting 3000 trees this January-February. . . .

As far as the Kairos conference, this December, 2014, as you know, is the 5th anniversary of the Kairos Palestine Call to the churches of the world from the heart of Palestinian's suffering. And as you also know, we in the USA (thanks to the work of our friend, Jewish psychologist and author, Mark Braverman), and from 20 other countries, have responded in solidarity. We are gathering at this time to plot our strategy forward in the next five years in solidarity with Kairos Palestine and with each other, and to also discuss our own strategies in our immediate and particular contexts. This has been the work of the conference. I moderate the conversation later on today, the one entitled "visioning for the future."

As you can imagine, the networking has been incredible, re-connecting with old friends, making new friends. Very good stuff. I've been able to spend some time with good friends, Don Wagner, the program director for Friends of Sabeel North America, who is leading a group here; Robert Smith, academic coordinator for the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem (Notre Dame's presence here - Robert's wife is the new minister at Redeemer Lutheran Church in the Old City of Jerusalem); Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem; Mark Braverman, of course, is here, and we've been able to grab some very valuable time together to discuss Kairos USA; Rifat Kassis and Nora Carmi, both from Kairos Palestine; Katherine Cunningham, now of Kairos USA, formerly the moderator of the Presbyterian Israel-Palestine Mission Network; and others.

Folks that I've been able to meet and spend some significant time with Jewish liberation theologian, Marc Ellis; the directors of Kairos Great Britain, Germany, Brazil, India, and Canada; the heads of the Mennonite Central Committee in Jerusalem and of the Ecumenical Accompaniers in Palestine and Israel. I met the UCC's missionary working in the region stationed at the YWCA of Palestine, [Loren McGrail, Accompanying Naomi],as well as the Program Executive for the Middle East for the World Council of Churches in Geneva. I was also able to spend some time with one of the leaders of the US Campaign to End the Occupation, David Wildmon, Global Ministries Executive Director for the US Methodist Church. Finally, I had a short but important conversation with Yonatan Shapira, the Israeli pilot who became a celebrated refusenik and primary author of the famous 2003 "Pilots' Letter," and who, along with Sami Awad [Holy Land Trust], and a Muslim partner, was featured in the film "Little Town of Bethlehem," which we showed a few years ago. So, as you can imagine, it has been a very powerful and inspirational set of meetings so far.

Of course, as Terry and I speak to our friends here and listen to their stories, the situation here is dire, and getting increasingly worse. Daoud showed us where the 1500+ trees were bulldozed by the Israeli military in May; Joseph and Mary Giacaman have been allowed on their property near Har Homa settlement only once in the last 15 years; we saw part of the 4000 dunums (1000 acres) that the Israeli government has recently confiscated of Palestinian land; we also saw at Daoud's farm a second set of boulders that the Israeli military has bulldozed onto his road for visitors to traverse, as well as a sign for a yeshiva school to be built right next to the road which will house the most rabidly religious settlers, virtually making it impossible for buses to drop people off to visit the farm (and the back road, very narrow dirt road, through the villages, will also have an Israeli checkpoint, virtually closing off access to the five Palestinian villages and his farm). And all this in the West Bank, in Palestinian territory. Everyone here knows, as we know, too, that the Israelis do not want peace. The stranglehold is getting increasingly severe for our friends, Christian and Muslim, in Palestine.

Tomorrow Terry and I have lunch with George and Najwa Sa'adeh, of Bereaved Parents, who lost a daughter, 12-year-old Christine, to an Israeli military "hit squad" a decade ago (who many of you have met on our trips), and we'll also attend the lighting of the 3-story Manger Square Christmas tree in the evening. Sunday we spend all day in Nablus, where we have an audience with the mayor of the city, and also visit a hospital and a women's clinic, thanks to our board member, Amar El-Masri, returning in the evening to Jerusalem for the next two days. Monday, we visit with Tamara Asfour and Johnny Khano of Guiding Star Tours, my tour provider for every one of my trips, as well as meet with Omar Barghouti, the "father" of Palestinian civil society's call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. And on Tuesday, we meet with Yehuda Shaul, the founder and director of Breaking the Silence. And we're hoping to sneak in a visit, too, with Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, but he's on his way back from a speaking tour in the US and we're not sure exactly when he'll arrive back home in Jerusalem. Finally, on Wednesday next week, we head to Istanbul to meet with my tour provider for our trip next July.

One of the upshots of this trip is that I've been able to confirm a number of meetings for my next tour group here in June 2015. Very good!

So our time yet here will remain busy. The hospitality we've been experiencing has been, no surprise, wonderful. And Terry and I will be returning more committed than ever to our solidarity and partnership with our friends here.

I'm sure I've left some things out, but I'll update you all as time permits. I'm sure Terry, too, will weigh in as well. Terry has been posting updates and pictures on Facebook so you might also want to check those out, too.

Terry and I had soup and salad together tonight on Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity (and a couple of Taybeh [beers from our friend Maria Khoury in Taybeh!]. There was all kinds of hustle and bustle as they prepare for the lighting of the tree tomorrow night. As a matter of fact, the lights were all being tested tonight - red lights "wrapping" the buildings on the perimeter, silver and blue snowflakes suspended by wires across the square, and the 3-story tree all aglow, with the lowly manger at its foot. What a wonderful energy!

Blessings, my friends, and know of our prayers here for a blessed Advent season to you, your families, and all your loved ones from Bethlehem.


L. Michael Spath, DMin, PhD
Indiana Center for Middle East Peace

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Third Intifada!

Dear Friend of Palestinians and Israelis,

Tensions continue to rise in and around Jerusalem. Acts of extremists on both sides invite retaliation by other extremists. Accusations of “incitement” are heard from both sides. Finger-pointing and the Blame Game are now the rule.

The truth is that underlying offenses and their redress have not been attended to – for years, and are coming back to haunt both the Israelis and the indigenous people, the Arab Palestinians. With provocations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, there is now a dangerous “religious” dimension. The murders of four Israeli rabbis with injuries to at least 12 others happened Tuesday, November 18, 2014, at a synagogue in Har Nof (aka, Deir Yassin). Ah, Deir Yassin! That infamous place. Read up on it!

A paragraph in the Nov. 18, 2014 morning edition of the Washington Post caught my eye: The synagogue is located in a neighborhood, Har Nof, popular with Americans and others undertaking studies in Judaism. But Palestinians refer to the area by its former name, Deir Yassin, an Arab village they say [as though it might not even have happened!] was attacked by Jewish paramilitary units in April 1948 shortly before Israeli statehood. Palestinians say scores of civilians were killed, but Israel denies such accounts.

Wikipedia gives the Israeli-slanted version of what happened in Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948:

The Deir Yassin massacre took place on April 9, 1948, when around 120 fighters from the Zionist paramilitary groups Irgun Zevai Leumi and Lohamei Herut Israel attacked Deir Yassin near Jerusalem, a Palestinian Arab village of roughly 600 people. The assault occurred as Jewish militia sought to relieve the blockade of Jerusalem by Palestinian forces during the civil war that preceded the end of British rule in Palestine.[1]

Around 107 villagers were killed during and after the battle for the village, including women and children—some were shot, while others died when hand grenades were thrown into their homes.[2] Several villagers were taken prisoner and may have been killed after being paraded through the streets of West Jerusalem, though accounts vary.[3] Four of the attackers died, with around 35 injured.[4] The killings were condemned by the leadership of the Haganah—the Jewish community's main paramilitary force—and by the area's two chief rabbis. The Jewish Agency for Israel sent Jordan's King Abdullah a letter of apology, which he rebuffed.[1]
The deaths became a pivotal event in the Arab–Israeli conflict for their demographic and military consequences. The narrative was embellished and used by various parties to attack each other—by the Palestinians against Israel; by the Haganah to play down their own role in the affair; and by the Israeli Left to accuse the Irgun and Lehi of violating the Jewish principle of purity of arms, thus blackening Israel's name around the world.[5] News of the killings sparked terror among Palestinians, encouraging them to flee from their towns and villages in the face of Jewish troop advances, and it strengthened the resolve of Arab governments to intervene, which they did five weeks later.[1]

Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada has Dina Elmuti recounting the story of what happened to her grandmother, a resident of Deir Yassin on the morning of April 9, 1948:

Fathers, grandfathers, brothers and sons were lined up against a wall and sprayed with bullets, execution style. Beloved teachers were savagely mutilated with knives. Mothers and sisters were taken hostage and those who survived returned to find pools of blood filling the streets of the village and children stripped of their childhoods overnight.
The walls of homes, which once stood witness to warmth, laughter and joy, were splattered with the blood and imprints of traumatic memories. My grandmother lost 37 members of her family that day. These are not stories you will read about in most history books.

The Deir Yassin massacre was not the largest-scale massacre, nor was it the most gruesome. The atrocities committed, the scale of violence and the complexity of the methods and insidious weaponry used by Israel against civilians in the recent decade have been far more sadistic and pernicious. But Deir Yassin marks one of the most critical turning points in Palestinian history.
A bitter symbol carved in the fiber of the Palestinian being and narrative, it resonates sharply as the event that catalyzed our ongoing Nakba (catastrophe), marked by the forced exile of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, creating the largest refugee population worldwide with more than half living in the diaspora.

Deir Yassin is a caustic reminder of the ongoing suffering, struggle and systematic genocide of the Palestinian people, 65 years and counting. When the village was terrorized into fleeing, tumultuous shockwaves of terror ran through Palestine, laying the blueprint for the architecture of today’s apartheid Israel. . . .

After all, we are the children of generations of strength. Our grandparents and parents are refugees and survivors, and the blood of Deir Yassin courses through our veins. We are like the olive tree with its tenacious roots in the ground, remaining unshakable and determined to stand its ground with patience and a deeply-rooted desire to remain.

We will see a free and just Palestine because we will have a hand in making it so. Deir Yassin may have catalyzed our catastrophe but 65 years later it also continues to catalyze our devotion and enduring love for a people, a cause and a home that will never be relinquished or forgotten (from Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada, by Dina Elmuti, April 8, 2013).

Dear Friend, My point is, the two Palestinian murderers were probably remembering the massacre of as many as 250 villagers in Deir Yassin by Israeli forces in 1948. Remember what our guest Fr. George Makhlouf reported to me last week: “I was five years old and remember the Public Address system blaring out in our neighborhood. “GET OUT, or the fate of the villagers in Deir Yassin will HAPPEN TO YOU”. Fr. George’s family heeded the warning and left their home to the Occupying Force.

Matters have never been “put right”, not only for the family of Fr. George, but for (now) millions of those dispossessed and degraded.

There has been no redress, no confession of wrong-doing, no restitution, no right to return to their homes. The refugees have multiplied into the millions. Dispossession of property, demolition of homes, destruction of olive orchards, factories and businesses, and humiliating check-points are just a few of the injustices suffered by the Palestinians.

And now, right-wing Zionist religious settlers are threatening to worship on the plateau on which stands the Muslim Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. PM Netanyahu is trying to maintain the Status Quo, which denies Jews the opportunity to worship at these Muslim shrines/houses of worship. Palestinians fear being displaced from their places of worship, held very sacred by Muslims in Jerusalem. There have been consultations with Jordan’s officials, “custodians” of the worship places on the plateau.

We tend to listen to Ghassan Khatib more than the official Israeli viewpoint: “Somebody needs to think of removing the causes for this, and the causes are rooted within the Israeli policies and practices in East Jerusalem,” said Ghassan Khatib, vice president of Birzeit University in the West Bank. Whether the escalation continues, he added, “depends on the way Israel is going to handle this wave.”

“They can handle it in the same arrogant way of using force, and if it doesn’t work, you go to more force,” he said. “This is the recipe that accelerated all previous waves of violence into full-fledged intifadas.”

Mr. Khatib pointed out that poverty, unemployment, addiction and many other socioeconomic plagues were far worse in East Jerusalem than in the West Bank; To give one stark example, he said 40 percent of Palestinian students in Jerusalem drop out of high school, compared with 0.4 percent of their West Bank counterparts.

“The two sides need to do things, but the Israelis need to do more because the Palestinian officials do not have any say in East Jerusalem,” he argued. “In West Bank, things seem to be calmer, under the Palestinian Authority, so I think Israel is to be blamed more than the Palestinian side in this particular situation” (NY Times report, Nov. 19, 2014, Jodi Rudoren).

Unattended offenses that have been allowed to fester are coming to a head. Changes are required. More repressive violence from the Israelis can and will spiral into all-out war, with dire consequences for all of us.

Pray for the leadership of both peoples that underlying issues may (finally) be addressed. Matters seem to be spiraling out of control. Bloodshed is NOT the way forward. Respectfully yours, JRK

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jerusalem: The First and Last Battleground!

Dear Friend,

Rami Khouri is a trusted (Christian) observer residing in Beirut, Lebanon. Here is his assessment of what is really happening right now on the ground, as tensions mount throughout I/P and especially in Jerusalem.

Let me preface his comments by thanking our son-in-law Jim and the Lake Michigan Presbytery for granting me a private audience with Fr. George Makhlouf, an Antiochian Orthodox priest, now living in retirement with his son in Atlanta, Georgia. (He spoke at various venues throughout the Presbytery over the last few weeks).

The most striking memory of my visit with him (last Saturday) was his recollection, as a five-year old boy, of an announcement over the PA system where he and his family were living in W. Jerusalem (yes, W. not E): "Unless you leave [your homes], you will share the fate of the residents of Yeir Dassin". (This was in 1948. He was born in 1943)

Background: The Hagganah (predecessors of the Israeli Defense Forces - IDF) massacred 250 of the villagers in that community, terrorizing Arab Palestinians so that, in fear for their lives, they fled and became refugees. Over 450 villages were destroyed!

Of course, Fr. George's family fled.

With that as a personal reference, please read Rami Khouri's commentary on the situation on the ground as we speak. One last caveat: I strongly dislike Rami's conclusion, as though there is NO hope for a different outcome than MAD - Mutual Assured Destruction. Our better natures, our "second nature" insists there is a better, nonviolent way. We need to be about planting seeds that will grow to fruition to bring about a joint harvesting of liberty and justice for all. JRK

Rami G. Khouri| The Daily Star (Jerusalem as the Last Battle) (Nov. 12, 2014 edition)

The escalating isolated incidents of violence between Israelis and Palestinians during the past few months have focused heavily on Jerusalem, and for good reason. The reason is not only the religious significance of the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount area that is holy to both people; it is that Jerusalem today is a microcosm of the whole Zionism-Arabism conflict, and a replay of the nationalist contestation that Zionism won in the period from the 1930s to 1948.

Jerusalem today is more than a major symbol of identity and sovereignty for Israelis and Palestinians. It is the place where all the key elements of conflict, identity and national rights converge and where the two battling communities are most closely intertwined with one another, thus heightening the sense of vulnerability that defines both sides.

Clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian demonstrators have occurred virtually daily in the past few months, and reached a peak in the past week after Israeli troops stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque last Wednesday. On Monday, Palestinians killed an Israeli soldier and a woman and wounded two others in stabbing incidents in Tel Aviv and the occupied West Bank. Jerusalem is the emotional focal point of the Palestinian attacks against Israelis, but such incidents have occurred across Palestine, including Jerusalem, the West Bank Israeli settlement of Alon Shvut and Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem today for Palestinians is about the battle between Israel’s attempts to Judaize the city after formally “annexing” it (which virtually the whole world does not recognize) and the Palestinian insistence on resisting the Zionist efforts to control and own the land of mandated Palestine. This battle has been taking place for nearly a century now. Israeli settlers have been trying for years to move into Arab areas of Jerusalem, like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, either by buying homes surreptitiously or forcibly by inhabiting real estate that Israel declares to be state-owned. Because the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization (the two overlapping but moribund leadership agencies for Palestinians) are not present in Jerusalem, the Arab residents of the city are on their own in defending their homes and lands.

The absence of forces under the control of President Mahmoud Abbas also means that the PA cannot quell Palestinian demonstrations against Israel, as happens in all other parts of the West Bank, where PA forces more often than not act to defend Israel as much as to keep peace among Palestinians, unfortunately. Arab Jerusalemites are essentially ungoverned and unrepresented politically, because they do not fall under Palestinian authority and they are under-served by an Israeli state that also keeps building new settlements on lands surrounding the holy city. Because of this condition of living in a political vacuum, Palestinians in Jerusalem have only themselves to rely on to defend their lands and rights, and in cases of extreme threats and violence used against them, they resort to violence such as we are witnessing these days.

The intense symbolism of Jerusalem for Palestinians includes two dimensions: the holy sites of the Noble Sanctuary, especially the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, but also the city as the capital of Palestine, even though a Palestinian state does not exist yet. If Jerusalem is allowed to fall to Zionist colonialism and become fully Judaized, the entire Palestinian national cause would have been dealt a fatal blow. Jerusalem has always been a central battle in the Arab war with Zionism – but for many Palestinians it is now also the last battle.

Typically, Israeli leaders misinterpret the reasons why Palestinians defend themselves by attacking Israelis who are eating up the remaining Arab parts of Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told parliament after the attacks against Israelis in Tel Aviv that, “Terror ... is being directed at all parts of the country for a simple reason: The terrorists, the inciters, want to drive us from everywhere. As far as they are concerned, we should not be in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or anywhere.”

This brazen lie by Israel’s top leader reflects a widespread sentiment among Israelis and some Western Jews that Palestinians are violent anti-Semites who want to drive all Jews out of Israel and Palestine, and that the Palestinian leadership under Abbas incites ordinary Palestinians to attack and kill Israelis. This is a bizarre thing for Israelis to say, after they have been directly negotiating with Abbas and Yasser Arafat before him for 20 years now, to achieve a two-state solution that sees Israeli and Palestinian states living peacefully side by side.

The historic struggle for the land of Palestine has now symbolically boiled down to Israeli settlers and soldiers with guns, and Palestinian young men with knives, stones and cars, trying to kill, dominate or expel the other.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly in THE DAILY STAR and can be followed on Twitter @ramikhouri.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 12, 2014, on page 7.

Read more:

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There is no PEACE without JUSTICE; there is no justice without LOVE.

Monday, October 27, 2014

ILAN PAPPE at the Isr/Pal Mission Network

I attended the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) last week.
Here is a summary of what Ilan Pappe said (in his new book) and at the conference. JRK

Ilan Pappé on I/P

Isr/Palestine Mission Network Conference, 2014
(summary by John Kleinheksel Sr)

Today’s headline in the NY Times screams: Benjamin Netanyahu Expedites Plan for 1,000 New Homes in East Jerusalem. JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Monday expedited the planning for more than 1,000 new apartments in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, a move certain to ignite international outrage as well as to exacerbate fissures in Mr. Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

The announcement, along with a parallel push for new roads and other infrastructure projects in the occupied West Bank, came amid escalating protests and violence by Palestinian residents of Jerusalem that many see as the stirrings of a third intifada, or uprising (Jodi Rudoren, 10/27/14).

This is but one more consistent step in the Israeli government’s clear (but disguised) attempt to expand into every square inch of I/P at the expense of the minority Palestinians.

The 80 + or – attendees of the Isr/Pal Mission Network at the Cenacle Retreat Center (Oct. 23-25, 2014) had come to hear Professor Ilan Pappé, one of the celebrated “New Historians” in Exile in the UK from his homeland, Israel. He spoke as an historian and observer of the current state of affairs in I/P.

First a word of background: He has just finished publishing The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge. In it he debunks the idea that there can be an “objective” history of the land and the people. He shows how the “aliens” the Jews found in the land became “terrorists” when they demanded their land back. In Part II he outlines Israel’s “Post-Zionist moment” when he and other “new historians” called into question the official “idea of Israel” as a “just, democratic movement of national liberation” (p. 7).

He outlines the eclipse and co-opting of the Post-Zionist period (roughly 1990 – 2000) with what he calls the “Triumph of New Zionism” (chapters 11, 12) and the “branding” of Israel as “a war of liberation against inexplicable Arab barbarism” (p. 296).

The first words out of his mouth (at the conference) were, “We need to challenge [the above] common view”. “Every day is worse than the day before. The suffering [of the Palestinians] gets worse day by day”.

He then proceeded to describe how early Zionists dreamed of a Jewish democracy that would exclude the natives, from the beginning of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century. By the 1930s, the settlers began creating the infrastructure for the future state. It was to include as much land as possible with as few Arabs as possible.

By enthroning Holocaust memory and forbidding any mention of the Nakba (the Arab version of what happened in 1948), they disallowed any Palestinian history of suffering. When the Occupation really established control over virtually all of the land in 1967, discontent from Arab Palestinians intensified. Since then, it has been virtually impossible to contain the rebellion.

Then the speaker, Ilan Pappé, went on. Granting full citizenship rights to the 20% Palestinian minority in Israel was unthinkable. Nor would they would be free to join with West Bank Palestinian Arabs. The refugees in Gaza would be their prison. The River Jordan would be the non-negotiable national border for the Israeli State.
From 2000 (and the 2nd Intifada), the Israeli public has turned decidedly to the right, desperately seeking to keep the lid on the boiling pot of acid that is Palestinian rebellion against the takeover of their land and their rights.

On the next day, a four-person panel discussed issues the IPMN should address in the coming years. Mr. Pappé gave three or four suggestions:

1. Disregard hysterical Israeli criticism of BDS (boycotts, divestment & sanctions) and embrace it

2. Use the word “Colonialism” in regards to what Israel has wrought and renounce it

3. Use the word “Apartheid” and insist on equal rights for all the inhabitants of the land

4. Be aware of Israeli attempts to curb Muslim worship in Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques and resist it

(Today, Yusef Munayyer, of the Jerusalem Fund) reports: In recent weeks, tensions have been ratcheting up because of circumstances on the ground,” Munayyer said. “You’re seeing much stricter Israeli policies when it comes to who gets to go where, including Muslims going to pray in Al-Aqsa mosque. Increasing visits by Jewish groups to the precincts of Al-Aqsa, while keeping the Palestinians out of the compound, is adding “fuel to the fire,” [Daniel] Goldenblatt said. (Oct. 27, 2014).

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Obama's UN speech in re I/P: a Critique

A lot has been commented on in re broader US Middle East policies. Little about how the American President articulated the US position in re I/P. What follows is a summary, a critique and tentative conclusion. JRK

The Barack Obama Declaration on Middle East (I/P) “Peace”

(Excerpts from the President’s UN speech, Sept. 24, 2014)

. . . .We deeply believe it is in our interest to see a Middle East and North Africa that is peaceful and prosperous; and will continue to promote democracy, human rights, and open markets, because we believe these practices achieve peace and prosperity. But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action – particularly with military action. Iraq shows us that democracy cannot be imposed by force. Rather, these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community, and with the countries and people of the region.
What does this mean going forward? In the near term, America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: 1) Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, 2) and the Arab-Israeli conflict. While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace. . . . [then follows a section on the US and Iran. . . .Then, the following paragraphs in re I/P]:

We are also determined to resolve a conflict that goes back even further than our differences with Iran: the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. I have made clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state. Earlier this year, in Jerusalem, I was inspired by young Israelis who stood up for the belief that peace was necessary, just, and possible, and I believe there is a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state. But the children of Israel have the right to live in a world where the nations assembled in this body fully recognize their country, and unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes or incite others to hate them.

Likewise, the United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state. On the same trip, I had the opportunity to meet with young Palestinians in Ramallah whose ambition and potential are matched by the pain they feel in having no firm place in the community of nations. They are understandably cynical that real progress will ever be made, and frustrated by their families enduring the daily indignity of occupation. But they recognize that two states is the only real path to peace: because just as the Palestinian people must not be displaced, the state of Israel is here to stay.
The time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace. Already, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks. President Abbas has put aside efforts to short-cut the pursuit of peace and come to the negotiating table. Prime Minister Netanyahu has released Palestinian prisoners, and reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state. Current talks are focused on final status issues of borders and security, refugees and Jerusalem.

Now the rest of us must also be willing to take risks. Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depends upon the realization of a Palestinian state. Arab states – and those who have supported the Palestinians – must recognize that stability will only be served through a two-state solution with a secure Israel. All of us must recognize that peace will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists, and embolden those who are prepared to build a better future. Moreover, ties of trade and commerce between Israelis and Arabs could be an engine of growth and opportunity at a time when too many young people in the region are languishing without work. So let us emerge from the familiar corners of blame and prejudice, and support Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are prepared to walk the difficult road to peace.

Real breakthroughs on these two issues – Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli-Palestinian peace – would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa. But the current convulsions arising out of the Arab Spring remind us that a just and lasting peace cannot be measured only by agreements between nations. It must also be measured by our ability to resolve conflict and promote justice within nations. And by that measure, it is clear to all of us that there is much more work to be done.

1. The US is determined to “resolve a conflict” between Arab Palestinians and Israelis

2. The US will continue to support the existence of the (present) Jewish (democratic) State

3. The “Occupation” is “tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish State”

4. The US (Pres. Obama) reiterates our commitment to the “Two State” solution to the “conflict”

5. Israel has the right to secure state, defined borders. So do the Palestinians (as declared during my I/P visit)

6. Leaders from both sides must show a “willingness to take risks” to achieve this goal

7. There are current talks “focused on final status issues” to accomplish this goal

8. “Friends of Israel” need to realize the Two State solution is vital for the security and viability of the Jewish State

9. Arab States (and pro-Palestinians) must recognize that STABILITY will only be served when the Two State solution is realized (with a “secure Israel”)


1. It is beyond US power to resolve any “conflict” between Palestinians and Israelis. We’ve tried that. A lot

2. The US’s unqualified support of the present Status Quo militates against any incentive to make the necessary changes toward Two State solution by either party, especially by the Israelis

3. Israel has never publically faced up to their being an Occupying Power in land that “belongs” to Palestinians, who have long been denied basic rights as full citizens, right of return, compensation, etc

4. Neither the present extremist Zionist government, nor the HAMAS extremists desire a Two State “solution”

5. Israel has never shown any willingness ever to “define its borders”; rather it insists on open-ended, evolving land use for the development of their ethnocentric (Jewish) state (that excludes non-Jews)

6. The self-preservation instincts of both Israeli and Palestinian leadership militate against “taking risks”

7. There is no reason to believe the “current talks” will lead anywhere, certainly not toward the Two State

8. Friends of Israel, especially in the US, insist on the right of Israel to pursue its present One State agenda

9. Arab States have long realized the futility of reaching the “Two State” solution (and are less than enthusiastic about a “secure” Israel, given the systematic discrimination against Palestinian citizens and refugees)

The President’s prescription/outline takes us nowhere. It is a non-starter. It is “same old, same old”

This “Declaration” puts all the burden on failed leaders whose inclinations are to take NO RISKS for resolution!

It is a reiteration of failed US policies that have not “worked” in the past, and will not “work” into the future

Progress will depend on the grassroots/groundswell that the President and Congress begin questioning and withholding unqualified support for the Status Quo.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


There can no longer be any doubt of Israeli intentions in the West Bank. We have conquered your land. You have no right to it. It is ours by Military Might and Divine Right. You have NO rights to it whatsoever. International (and US) opinion be DAMNED. Accept it. Submit to it. Get used to it.

Here is the proof: the latest evidence, especially since the successful 1967 war: JRK

Israel Claims Nearly 1,000 Acres of West Bank Land Near Bethlehem

AUG. 31, 2014 (NY Times)

JERUSALEM — Israel on Sunday laid claim to nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land in a Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem — a step that could herald significant Israeli construction in the area — defying Palestinian demands for a halt in settlement expansion and challenging world opinion.

Peace Now, an Israeli group that opposes the construction of settlements in the West Bank, said that the action on Sunday might be the largest single appropriation of West Bank land in decades and that it could “dramatically change the reality” in the area.

Palestinians aspire to form a state in the lands that Israel conquered in 1967.

Israeli officials said the political directive to expedite a survey of the status of the land came after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in June while hitchhiking in that area. In July, the Israeli authorities arrested a Palestinian who was accused of being the prime mover in the kidnapping and killing of the teenagers. The timing of the land appropriation suggested that it was meant as a kind of compensation for the settlers and punishment for the Palestinians.

The land, which is near the small Jewish settlement of Gvaot in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, has now officially been declared “state land,” as opposed to land privately owned by Palestinians, clearing the way for the potential approval of Israeli building plans there.

But the mayor of the nearby Palestinian town of Surif, Ahmad Lafi, said the land belonged to Palestinian families from the area. He told the official Palestinian news agency Wafa that Israeli Army forces and personnel arrived in the town early Sunday and posted orders announcing the seizure of land that was planted with olive and forest trees in Surif and the nearby villages of Al-Jaba’a and Wadi Fukin.

The kidnapping of the teenagers prompted an Israeli military clampdown in the West Bank against Hamas, the Islamic group that dominates Gaza and that Israel said was behind the abductions. The subsequent tensions along the Israel-Gaza border erupted into a 50-day war that ended last week with an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire.

The land appropriation has quickly turned attention back to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and exposed the contradictory visions in the Israeli government that hamper the prospects of any broader Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the announcement and called for a reversal of the land claim, saying that it would “further deteriorate the situation” and that all settlement was illegal.

Though Israel says that it intends to keep the Etzion settlement bloc under any permanent agreement with the Palestinians and that most recent peace plans have involved land swaps, most countries consider Israeli settlements to be a violation of international law. The continued construction has also been a constant source of tension between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel and its most important Western allies.

The last round of American-brokered peace talks broke down in April. Israelsuspended the troubled talks after Mr. Abbas forged a reconciliation pact with the Palestinian Authority’s rival, Hamas, which rejects Israel’s right to exist. American officials also said that Israel’s repeated announcements of new settlement construction contributed to the collapse of the talks.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister, who has spoken out in favor of a new diplomatic process, told reporters on Sunday that he “was not aware of the decision” about the land around Gvaot and had instructed his team to look into it. “We are against any swift changes in the West Bank right now because we need to go back to some kind of process there,” he said. He added that the Israeli government was now talking to the Palestinian Authority about the situation in Gaza, “and this is a good thing.”

But Yariv Oppenheimer, general director of Peace Now, said that instead of strengthening the Palestinian moderates, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel “turns his back on the Palestinian Authority and sticks a political knife in the back” of Mr. Abbas, referring to the latest land appropriation. “Since the 1980s, we don’t remember a declaration of such dimensions,” Mr. Oppenheimer told Israel Radio.

Israeli officials said that the land declaration Sunday was open to judicial review and that interested parties had 45 days in which to register objections.

And the US is expected to "go along" with this latest outrage. Guess what? We will. Congress is bought and paid for. The White House is thinking of this year's election, and will express "emphatic disappointment" at best. It's one more vote for BDS, IMHO. And for One, Pluralist, Democratic State, with liberty and justice for all. The Two State "solution" is DEAD, DEAD, DEAD. JRK

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Escaping the Cycle of Hatred

Dear Friend,
Now that an "open-ended" truce is declared in Gaza, I'm spiritually, mentally and emotionally exhausted. What heartache. What waste. What wickedness in high places and low.

Of all the hundreds of things crossing my screen, these words by friend Sami Awad (Holy Land Trust) stand out. We must eat these words and digest them. The "war" that has to be waged must be against demonizing of "The Other" that justifies killing him. We need strategies that will humanize "The Other"; make room for the other, find our common humanity in each other.

Thank you Sami Awad for all you and your friends are doing to create an environment where respectful listening and empathy replaces the virulent stereotypes of bigotry and racism. JRK

A statement of Holy Land Trust regarding the current situation in the Holy Land [July 22, 2014]

Fear, anger, hatred, demonizing and dehumanization have for decades been boiling like hot lava in the belly of the Holy Land. This lava has been concealed and restrained from full eruption by a thin layer of illusions made by the political elite in both the Palestinian and Israeli communities. We have been told year after year that that our conflict is mostly a political conflict between two nation-states and that all that is needed is to reach a political agreement through a diplomatic mechanism referred to as a “peace process”. Once an agreement is reached, two independent states will be established and peace will prevail.

This illusion not only concealed the underlying issues mentioned above but also concealed the power dynamics of the conflict by presenting it as a symmetrical one. Even referring to it as a “peace process” (a process of peacemaking between two equal parties) negated the reality of what was happening on the ground. The world began to ignore the fact that there is a stronger power that controls everything it wants to control and a weaker one that is only allowed access to what is granted by the stronger. The world forgot that every individual who lives in the Holy Land has to adhere to laws issued by the State of Israel and within that there are two different sets of laws: one for Israeli citizens (civil laws) and one for non-Israeli Palestinians (Israeli military orders and regulations). The world also forgot that there is something called the “occupation” in this conflict, which means there is an occupier and an occupied and this practically translates into land confiscation; detention of individuals without trial, uneven distribution of water, denial of self-determination, restrictions on freedom to movement, denial of freedom to worship, etc.

The political rhetoric of “peace making” remained on the surface but was limited from progress within Israeli society through the calculated infusion of that lava (fear, hatred, anger, demonizing, etc) by the establishment itself. The occupation was justified, the denial of human rights was neglected, and the recognition of Palestinian historic wounds and/or fighting for Palestinian rights became treason. Through indoctrination and public responses to even Palestinian actions (violent or not) “security” became for the most part the only language spoken. Mistrust, fear, demonizing, and hatred became the mechanisms to lead Israeli public opinion and discourse.

Within the Palestinian community, the political elite continued to insist on the negotiated process as the “only way” to attain Palestinian rights; the Palestinian public began to perceive this as continuous compromise by the victim to the victimizer. At the same time focus by most political leaders was on fighting over leadership of the Palestinian Authority or maintaining it rather than putting everything on line for resisting and ending the occupation (despite the rhetoric). The repeated failures of the peace negotiations made the community lose its trust and the occupation itself continued to deepen its roots and aggression. All this led to greater infusion of the lava (fear, hatred, mistrust, etc.) in Palestinian discourse. Of course we cannot ignore voices that also perpetuated hatred, revenge and retaliation towards the other.

The recent violence has once and for all shattered all illusions. The volcano has erupted exposing the reality that many have denied and did not want to acknowledge let alone confront. The reason why we have not been able to reach a “political peace agreement” in over two decades of negotiations and over sixty years of conflict–and may never reach–is due to the continuous, systemic process of building, indoctrinating, manipulating and multiplying fear, hatred and incitement, of a sense of superiority, racism, victimization, demonization, and dehumanization of the other.

The sad reality is that it is far easier to motivate people by fear and hatred than by peace, compassion, and love. We have history (selective or not), that we can refer to that proves that the other is to be feared, mistrusted, hated, and even retaliated against–but when it comes to peace, respect, equality, etc., we have very little to show regarding the intentions and actions of the other. Worse, we have lots of rhetoric that has not only abused, but has even deformed these words and their meaning. Palestinians and Israelis, for the most part, have now fallen into an uncontrolled downward spiral of hatred towards the other.

As the volcano erupts, it is upsetting and angering to see what is happening in this land, especially to our own beloved community and families in the Gaza Strip who are facing the brunt of it all. There is no doubt that we must all stand strong against the killing of any human being, despite his or her identity, wherever they live, whatever their affiliation, or even their past actions.

We can easily and justifiably go into blaming, complaining and analyzing: "Who started it and who is responsible," but there are other options.

First: all acts of violence and aggression must cease, as well as the language of incitement and hatred used by the political, religious and economic elite as well as the media (locally and internationally). Peace, security, and freedom will never come from killing or terrorizing others. No matter how just a cause might be, violence undermines it.

Second: Leaders (no matter what party they represent, what nation they belong to, and what ideology or religion they adhere to) must acknowledge their failure to bringing any sense of peace to the land or to its people (even their own). If they were true leaders–with courage and vision–they would repent publicly, to their peoples and then to others for having failed all these years and decades.

Third: Civil society organizations need to acknowledge our own entrapment in the “political illusions” and thus our inability to create any real change at the grassroots level. For years, millions of dollars have been spent in programs, training, and activities that have barely scratched the surface. We have convinced ourselves that we have been creating change by highlighting the few (but limited) activities that take place but have never reached (for whatever reason) the masses on both sides who continue to be swayed by the language of victimization, hatred, and fear. Grass roots organizations now need to develop programs to address these issues–rather than looking into “political solutions” only. Politicians need to follow their communities and not the other way around.

Fourth: It is time that a nonviolent movement emerges which transcends political processes and illusions: a movement of Palestinians and Israelis as communities addressing all aspects of injustice in this land; to work together in building a new vision and model for what peace, justice and equality mean in the Holy Land (socially, economically, environmentally, spiritually) and link it with a strategy that breaks down all the physical and psychological barriers that perpetuate hatred, anger and thus separation and violence–even if the removal of such barriers challenges the core political assumptions and ideological beliefs we carry and whose existence we think we need for our own survival.

Finally: a core component of the movement will need to focus on working internally and separately within each community in order to create the space for healing and transformation: to address the challenges from within. Peace work is not what happens between two as much as what happens within one.

This is a call to action, a call to create a new paradigm in understanding and addressing the challenges facing the communities of the Holy Land, from within and in relation to others. It is a call for a new leadership to emerge that breaks ties with old patterns, assumptions and expectations and creates new and viable alternatives and models that bring true peace, justice, dignity and equality to all.

Holy Land Trust stands committed to such a vision. Even in the midst of violent atrocities and incitement to hatred. The peace we seek is not about political solutions and frameworks; it is not about compromising for the sake of agreement; it is not seeking the peace that neglects to address the core issues and challenges of the oppression and the suppression of communities based on their ethnic, religious or national background. It is that peace whereby all the rights of all the communities of this land are recognized and honored as being equal and respected despite whatever political framework is created.

Statement written by Holy Land Trust Founder and Executive Director Sami Awad.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Beauty and the Beast

It’s a war out there!

Let’s admit it. A large part of our nature is to view life in black and white terms. We’re uncomfortable dealing with shades of gray, especially if we are oblivious of the beastly black streaks besmirching our phosphorous-white, now gray armor. You don’t embrace the Beast, you shun it, deny the Beast is in you and kill it in someone else.
We crave the certainty of being in the “right” and will act in the interest of “the right” even if we have to use force, sometimes deadly force!

When others don’t see “the right” as I do, it is natural for me to see them not only as “wrong” but as “The Enemy” to be sidelined and not addressed as a fellow human being. It’s totalitarian. The Enemy is totally, completely wrong and deserves no sympathy whatsoever. Never. Ever. End of discussion.

It gets more complicated in Israel/Palestine.

If The Enemy’s view of “right” prevails and our existence/survival is at stake, we will destroy The Enemy with the only truly effective option left, the might of the military to make things right: rockets, missiles, tanks and guns! Both the Israelis and HAMAS (in Gaza) see their survival at stake and are using the world’s weapons to keep their vision of reality alive. HAMAS won’t stop shooting their pathetic, unguided rockets and Israel won’t stop building settlements on Arab land.

The Likud-led Israeli government rules all of the land. The HAMAS-led Gazans aspire to rule all the land. It is a mismatch. There are no people in the Israeli government working for an American or European-style democracy (one person, one vote, with liberty and justice for all). Israel wants Jews in the majority, with Arabs as a minority; HAMAS want a Muslim majority with Jews in the minority.

Many citizens of the world lament the lack of human rights for the original people of the land. Most are also outraged at the disproportionate response to HAMAS militarism in the death of so many women, the elderly and children in the killing of combatants. And that of course, is the fault of HAMAS as well.

Israel (and their Christian Zionist supporters) is deeply convinced that the only true face of Islam is the Extremist face. Any and all efforts by “moderate” Arab leaders to accede to Israeli demands are met with suspicion, further efforts to separate from them, divide them into warring factions, demonize and ultimately destroy them (if they will not be “pacified”). “They-are-only-intent-is-destroy-us” is so deeply ingrained in the Israeli psyche as to be virtually irremovable. Vulnerability can never be permitted. To give the Arabs any shred of credibility as to the rightness of their vision (say, of an autonomous Palestinian State) puts a hole in the dyke which, unchecked, will destroy Israel in the Deluge. The Extremist view of Islam is the only true view. “There are no moderates. There are none willing to share the land with us. Besides, it is all our land. All of it will be under our exclusive control, even the 20% of our citizens that are Arab Palestinian must remain second class citizens.”

Nothing that the US, the Russians, the UN or the Europeans have said or done in the last 60 years has changed this Israeli vision of what is “right”. And “by God” (yes, the religious dimension is at work too), “we shall defend ‘the right’”, no matter the cost in human life”.

What is further maddening is that basic US values are compromised as The US gives full, unqualified support to this Israeli ethnocracy, even though it has meant disenfranchising, degrading, and dehumanizing our other friends, the Arab natives.

Efforts to ethnically cleanse the One State of non-Jews seem to have failed, although our Israeli friends keep trying to make it work. “Be pacified or die” are the only two options they will consider. The Israeli military superiority will not bring about change. Dependent as they are on Israeli money to keep their seats, change will not come from the US Congress. The White House doesn’t even dare to threaten withholding our financial largesse, even though we should. No change coming from there. So the Palestinians continue to suffer. . .and resist, the vast majority, nonviolently, but unheeded by the opinion makers in our media. Support for the Israeli State is unwaveringly strong and unbending, despite cracks appearing in the Wall, the younger generation, Jews and Gentiles, here and around the world giving leadership.

There is no longer any chance for a Two State solution, with the two peoples living side by side in peace and security. That option came and went when Israel decided to colonize all the land after defeating the Arabs in 1967 and giving the middle finger to UN insistence on the rule of international law. Human rights are in.
This is why many of us now see the boycott, divestment and sanction movement (BDS) as about the only way to get the Israelis to open their State to their Arab neighbors. Even that option is iffy. Seven Nobel winners and a host of public figures in the UK are calling for “an international arms embargo on Israel” because of what’s happening in Gaza now. More entertainers, educators, pension planners and the travel industry will join the boycott. Only grass-roots efforts by hundreds, now thousands, of common people, banding together to identify and boycott companies that are profiting from the Occupation of historic Arab land will bring any significant change. It “worked” in South Africa and many believe it will work in Israel/Palestine.

The extremists on both sides now insist that Rachel and every mother must weep for their children (Jer. 31:15, Matthew 2:18). They must be sacrificed for the greater good (John 11:49, 50). Jealous Pharoahs and cruel Herods demand the death of children. What we need is more Shiphrahs and Puahs (Ex. 1:15-22) who refuse to kill the children (Breaking the Silence anyone?).

To see ourselves as The Enemy is impossible. It is this self-hating, self-righteous mask behind which the Phantom hides that must be peeled away. The major religions of the world (think Judaism, Christianity and Islam), declare that only love for neighbors in distress can unmask self-righteous hypocrisy. The Princess will need to kiss the Frog. Beauty will have to embrace the Beast. The Lamb will have to lie down with the Wolf. This truly is a tall order to fill. It goes against our “nature”. We will need a “second nature”, a rebirth.

When winning at any cost is the goal, no matter how many innocents are killed, you know that World Empire is dominant. When hearts remain cold, expect more violence. When hearts warm to the plight of neighbors in distress, expect justice. Without justice there will be no peace; without love there will be no justice. When we get in touch with the Beast in each of us, change has a chance. Respectfully, JRK

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Response to a Jewish Critic

Dear KUSA - Holland Community, and FPI List-serve,

Friends, thank you for tracking with me in the light of the ferocious assault on Gaza (and Hamas' determination to fight fire with fire). In June, 2013, when I went with Paul Parker's group to I/P, I met many Israelis and Palestinians. Sheldon Schorer was one of them, a Jewish constitutional lawyer.

A few days after I forwarded the JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace) request to you for action, he sent me (and JVP) a strongly worded (but respectful) objection to the assertion that "the Occupation" was the source of the violence going on there right now. What follows is my response to his objection:

Dear Sheldon (copy JVP), Thank you for taking the time to respond to JVP's (and my) request for action.

You strongly object to the assertion that the "Occupation" is the root cause of violence in I/P. Sheldon, the occupation is a code word for what the Israeli State intended to do and has been doing to the people living on the land from the time the (mostly secular) European Jews arrived: Displace/remove them as though they never existed, had no rights and were a bothersome irritation. The Declaration of Independence (1947/8) says it wanted equality with the Arab population, but actions trumped any follow-through on this laudable ideal.

Let's take a look at your comments with comments from me (in red):

Sheldon: In a recent email, you [Jewish Voice for Peace] suggest that the root cause of violence in the Middle East is the occupation. This is utter nonsense.

JRK: The Occupation is indeed the issue when you consider that the express intent of "Zionism" from the beginning was the displacement of the native population. Here is a memoir from Nahum Goldmann who recalls what David Ben-Gurion said in the sunset years of his life:
One day, or rather night, in 1956 I sat up at his [Ben-Gurion's] house till three in the morning. That night, a beautiful summer night, we had a forthright discussion on the Arab problem. "I don't understand your optimism," Ben-Gurion declared. "Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations' time, [sorry, this has not happened!] but for the moment there is no chance. So it's simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out. . . .[Goldmann]:That was Ben-Gurion all over: he had told me that so as to show me how well he knew in his heart that Israel could not exist without peace with the Arabs, but his stubborn, aggressive unbending character prevented him from following what his own intelligence told him. . . .
Nahum Goldmann, in The Jewish Paradox : A Personal Memoir of Historic Encounters that Shaped the Drama of Modern Jewry (1978), as translated from the French by Steve Cox, pp 99-100 ISBN 0-448-15166-9 . One quote appearing here has sometimes been given erroneously as "That is natural: they think we have taken their country." The original "C'est normal; nous avons pris leur pays." is properly translated as "That is natural: we have taken their country" (taken from Wikipedia, Quotes, David Ben-Gurion)

Sheldon: There was no occupation in 1948, when 5 Arab countries attacked to destroy the fledgling state. [JRK: Zionist actions from 1934-1939, 1947-48, and 1967 especially, made it clear that Jews were coming to displace the natives, not live side by side in peace and equality with them. A Jewish State was to be formed on that land. There would be nothing left for the natives, who after all, didn't really exist as a people group anyway. So how can you say there was "no occupation"?].

Sheldon: Nor was there an occupation that inspired fellahin violence preparatory to the Suez Campaign of 1956. Nor was there an occupation prior to the Six-Day War of 1967, yet it [violence] happened anyway.[JRK: How can you say this? The whole post-1947 era has been to occupy all of the land!]

Sheldon: And there is no occupation in Gaza, Israel having fully withdrawn from there, [JRK: Come on, Sheldon, you know who really controls Gaza! It is now a prison run by the Israelis with Hamas as the warden]

Sheldon: and yet Gazans have kidnapped Jewish teenagers [JRK: Where is the evidence that [Hamas] Gazans were responsible for the reprehensible death of the three Jewish teens?]

Sheldon: and have sent thousands of rockets into civilian population centers in Israel. [Yes, huge mistake by "militants" in Gaza. It plays right into the hand of the Likud-led government, looking for any excuse to annihilate the enemy entities militarily, which is so futile, only contributing to more and more violence].

Sheldon: Of course, if you extend the word "occupation" to imply Jewish settlement in any part of Israel, and not just the West Bank or Gaza, then I stand corrected. [JRK: You imply it has been OK for "Jews" to "occupy" any part of Israel, but not the West Bank or Gaza. From meeting you, I know the settlement actions by the religious-inspired settlers is troublesome to many especially secular Israelis]

Sheldon: Since the root cause of violence is the steadfast refusal of the Palestinians and some other Arab countries to accept the existence of the state of Israel, in any form. [JRK: Sheldon, "to accept the existence of the state of Israel" is a code phrase for accepting the One State status quo. It implies no compensation for confiscating stolen land, no equal treatment as citizens of the State of Israel for Arab Palestinians, no right of return for those forcibly evicted. Why not admit it? Arab Palestinians are pests and should disappear. They are a nuisance, standing in the way of majority rule by a Jewish (theocratic) State, who has the God of Sarah and Isaac as "God" and makes no room for the God of Hagar and Ishmael.

Sheldon: Read the PLO and the Hamas charters, and you will learn the true root cause of violence in this region.
[JRK: I am aware that the HAMAS Charter states its goal is to end the Zionist monopoly of all the land and aspires to an Islamic State with all of the land under Islamic rule. This is surely a huge problem. But, as a constitutional lawyer, you know, Sheldon, that the Likud "charter" clearly states it is the goal of the party to colonize ALL of the land of Israel, including the Galilee, Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank"). This is "In-Your-Face occupation of ALL the land. The extremes seem to be driving the agenda now, Sheldon, with NO accommodation to moderates who want to make room for each other. I know Israelis feel that if they give an inch, Hamas will take a mile. The Arab Palestinians have gotten the unmistakable and correct notion that it is not and has never been the intention of the Israeli State to SHARE the land, especially under a Likud-led administration.

Sheldon: Take away the guns and ammunition from Israelis, and there would be a massacre of Jewish residents throughout the country. Take away the guns and ammunition from Palestinians and Arab countries, and there would be peace. [JRK: Trust-building exercises have failed to happen. Each side accuses the "other" of wanting the whole pie, and not wanting to share the pieces. Palestinians have pledged a non-militarized regime (which is disbelieved by Israel, who continues to hold all the earthly power). I remind you, Israel cannot extinguish the flame of self-determination, freedom from the Occupation, and equal treatment under one set of laws (which is set forth as the command in Deuteronomy 1:16).

With respect, and a deep desire for reconciliation and resolution of long-standing disputes. JRK

JRK: I and many others subscribe to the views of Jeff Halper (ICAHD founder, an American Jew, now living and working in I/P), whose comments follow:

Jeff Halper: The Kerry initiative may have ended with a whimper instead of a bang, but its impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was significant and fundamental nonetheless. The end of the political process, futile as it may have been, triggered the collapse of the status quo as we have known it for the past 47 years. It set in motion a series of events that will confront us with two stark alternatives regarding Israel and Palestine: either the permanent warehousing of an entire population or the emergence of a single democratic state.
Both the blatantly disproportionate response to the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli boys and, as I write, the all-out air strikes on Gaza, have been cast by Israel as military operations: Operations Brothers’ Keeper and Operation Protective Edge. Neither had anything to do with the operations’ purported triggers, the search for the boys or rocket fire from Gaza. Palestinian cities supposedly enjoying extra-territorial status were invaded in Operation Brothers’ Keeper, more than 2000 homes were ransacked, some 700 people arrested. Who knows as yet the devastation wrought on Gaza – 100 dead in more than 1,100 air attacks so far, mostly civilians according to reports; deafening around-the-clock bombing of communities by American-supplied F-15 and artillery from the ground and sea that amounts to collective torture; Israel’s Foreign Minister calling for cutting off all electricity and water amidst threats to completely obliterate Gaza’s infrastructure; and the prospect of almost two million people being permanently imprisoned, reduced to bare existence just this side of starvation.

What is clear is that the military operations had a purpose of their own, that they would have been launched regardless, that they were merely waiting on a pretext. They had to come because the vacuum left by Kerry had to be filled. “Closure” was necessary – and it was clear that the Palestinian Authority, which had several months to take an initiative that would have bolstered the Palestinians’ position, would not do so, even though Martin Indyk, the American’s chief negotiator and former AIPAC leader, placed the blame squarely on Israel for talks’ failure.

In fact, the end of the Kerry initiative marked the culmination of a decades-old campaign, systematic and deliberate, of eliminating the two-state solution. From the start, in 1967, successive Israeli governments officially denied that there even was an occupation, claiming that since the Palestinians had never had a state of their own they had no national claim to the land. The Labor Party denied the very applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention that protects civilian populations finding themselves under hostile rule with no means of self-defense – and which had been formulated specifically with the intent of providing the protection denied to Jews during the Holocaust. It therefore embarked on a project of establishing settlements, now numbering some 200, in clear violation of international law that prohibits an Occupying Power from moving its civilian population into an occupied territory.

Indeed, Labor (the “Zionist left”) bears more responsibility for eliminating the two-state solution than does the Likud of Begin, Sharon and Netanyahu. It was Labor who ruled during almost all seven years of the Oslo peace process, and it was Labor that chose to double Israel’s settler population during that period. Labor fragmented the Palestinian territories into tiny and impoverished enclaves, Labor imposed the economic closure and impediments to Palestinian movement these last 21 years, and Labor – not Likud, which actually opposed the project – initiated the construction of the Separation Barrier, the Apartheid Wall.

The Likud, of course, was a willing partner, as were all the secular and religious parties from the center to the extreme right, but it has fallen to Netanyahu to kill the two-state solution for once and for all. The first step was to decisively end Kerry’s initiative and any that might follow it. This Netanyahu did by raising his demands to intolerable levels. He declared that the Palestinians must relinquish their own national narrative and civil rights by recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and he held to the position that Israel would retain permanently East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and Israel’s main settlement blocs (about a third of the West Bank), as well as the water and natural gas resources, the country’s electro-magnetic sphere (communications) and all of its airspace.

He left the Palestinians with less than a Bantustan, non-viable and non-sovereign, a prison comprised of the 70 islands of Areas A and B of the West Bank, ghettos in “east” Jerusalem, tightly contained enclaves within Israel, and he cage which is Gaza – half the population of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River confined to dozens of islands on 15% of historic Palestine.

Operations Brothers’ Keeper and Protective Edge represent the imposition of a regime of warehousing, of outright imprisonment of an entire people. The seemingly blind and atavistic destruction and hatred unleashed on the Palestinians over the past few weeks is not merely yet another “round of violence” in an interminable struggle. It is the declaration of a new political reality. The message is clear, unilateral and final: This country has been Judaized: it is now the Land of Israel in the process of being incorporated into the state of Israel. You Arabs (or “Palestinians” as you call yourselves) are not a people and have no national rights, certainly to our exclusively Jewish country. You are not a “side” to a “conflict.” Once and for all we must disabuse you of the notion that we are actually negotiating with you. We never have and never will. You are nothing but inmates in prison cells, and we hereby declare through our military and political actions that you have three options before you: (1) You can submit as inmates are required to you, in which case we will allow you to remain in your enclave-cells. (2) You can leave, as hundreds of thousands have done before you. Or, (3) if you choose to resist, you will die. . . .

Friends: As I wrote to another friend recently, [The Ben-Gurion quote and Jeff Halper] lay out the implacable chasm between the two narratives. I really don't know what will bridge it, except showing humility, being willing to be vulnerable, realizing what is just, repenting (saying, "I'm sorry"), and finding new ways of living side by side with each other, which can only come about if we care enough to bridge the chasm [and tear down The Wall]. Faithfully yours, JRK for KUSA - Holland Community

Thursday, July 3, 2014

First Gathering: Kairos USA - Holland Community!

Dear FPI - Holland Friend, (now, KUSA - Holland Community!)

AS you know, tensions are terribly heightened over the deaths of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers.

I think there is evidence that the kidnapping of the 3 Israelis teens was a rouge action, for the earlier death of two Palestinian youths, caught on security cameras along the street, which the Israelis have been hard-pressed to deny. The deaths of the Israeli teens is atrocious and unacceptable, as is the subsequent death of the Palestinian youth a few days ago. Matters seem to be escalating. We can no longer sit idly by!

Friends, we need a community of us to gather around in support of actions that will address the root causes of the I/P conflict. We need to join forces with grass roots growing up all over America, to get the attention of US governmental officials and examine our unqualified support of the Occupation, while mouthing platitudes about how "disappointed" we are over settlement activity without ever threatening the loss of financial support for going against US policies in the region.

Our topic Tuesday evening will be taking a good, hard look at Tent of Nations farm (Daoud Nasser) who had 1,500 + mature fruit trees uprooted by military forces against the court's jurisdiction. Dr. Ron Caldwell will show a power point program. We will clarify Israeli motivation for this kind of action. The meeting is in the Auditorium (lower level) of the Holland Public Library, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

Mike Spath, an organizer with Kairos-USA, (the USA response to Palestinian Christians asking for help) will cast the vision of how we will be networking with "communities" all over the US from an ecumenical and evangelical background, joining the groundswell of opposition to present US/Israeli policies.

Here is part of a call to action by our friends in the Israel/Palestinian Mission Network of the PC(USA):

Despite the General Assembly’s prophetic actions toward bringing about a just peace in Israel/Palestine, we are reminded by recent atrocities that much work remains to be done.

. . . .In addition to Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, Israeli ground troops in the West Bank have killed twelve Palestinians and wounded 180. More than 500 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been arrested over the past three weeks, close to 200 without charge or trial. Israel erected ten new checkpoints within the West Bank and approved $1.5 million for illegal settlements. The Israeli government has renewed its long dormant policy of retributive home demolitions against the families of Palestinian terror suspects. Southern Israel is subject to increased rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. . . . .

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network condemns the use of violence in every case and we mourn with the families and friends of all those who have lost their lives in this ever tragic situation.

We continue to seek resolutions to the root causes of this conflict, including an end to the occupation of Palestinian territory, equal rights for all Palestinians and Israelis, and the cessation of violence, whether it is used as a means of liberation, repression, or revenge. While the intensity of the bloodshed may leave us feeling helpless, there are some things you can do right now to help achieve these goals:

PRAY for Israelis, Palestinians, and all those affected by the conflict
SUPPORT the Palestinian economy by buying Palestinian products
CONTACT members of Congress to stop funding the occupation
BOYCOTT illegal Israeli settlement products
TRAVEL to the Holy Land
LEARN more about Israel/Palestine
JOIN one of our partners (like KUSA - Holland Community!) . .
SPEAK prophetic truth to entrenched power
Together, and through the grace of God, we can witness the empowerment of all oppressed people and the emergence of a just and lasting peace in Israel/Palestine.

Friends in Holland, we need "community" to move from advocacy to action. Many of us know the issues. It's time for concerted ACTION! JRK for FPI - Holland, now KUSA - Holland Community

John for FPI - KUSA- Holland Community ()
There is no PEACE without JUSTICE; there is no justice without LOVE.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jews and Christians in Dialogue

Dear Friend,

There have been many positive and negative reactions to the PCUSA divestment decision.

One of the best is from our friend, Rabbi Brant Rosen, whose synagogue is in Evanston, IL, He is aligned with Jewish Voices for Peace, progressive Jews who are working to End the Occupation of Palestinian land. He is a friend of KUSA as well.

In his blog, Rabbi Rosen summarizes the stiff opposition by mainline Jewish establishment organizations and leaders. He (and JVP) is being vilified by fellow Jews, yet is on the right side of God and history on this call.

To view his blog, go to Shalom Rav (your search engine), and read his post! Click on his link for the full message. Thank you Brant Rosen!

BTW, when Brant talks about a "new model", he means the end of the "old model" of relationships with Jewish neighbors, the model that permitted no criticism of Israeli State policies. That model is dead!

We will be working with KUSA to bring him to W. MI in the days ahead. Please put our first meeting on your calendar, July 8, 7:00 p.m. downstairs at the Holland Public Library. JRK for KUSA - Holland Commmunity

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Presbyterian Debate Divestment in Detroit

Dear Friend,
The Presbyterian Church (PC/USA) will be voting later this week on divesting Pension funds from Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and Motorola, companies profiting from the Occupation of Palestinian land.

Watch for results by this Saturday.

Here is an op-ed that appeared in today's edition of the daily newspaper in my hometown of Holland, MI, the Holland Sentinel.

Note that YOU are invited to the kickoff of the (new) KUSA-Holland community, on Tuesday night, July 8, 7:00 p.m. in the (lower) auditorium of the Holland Public Library. We will learn more about the destruction of the 1,500 fruit trees on the Nasser farm (Tent of Nations), in a national network of evangelical and ecumenical Christians, KUSA (the response to Kairos Palestine call for help.

(The headline was "Church Should Divest from Israel" which totally missed the point of the article. Read it and you'll see!). JRK

Presbyterians Debate Divestment at General Assembly

A Brief Overview/Summary by John Kleinheksel, KUSA-Holland Community

I want to cut through the rhetorical clutter swirling around the debate to divest in Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, and Caterpillar. It’s going on now in Detroit at the biennial General Assembly meeting.

The Israeli/Palestinian Mission Network, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and MRTI (the church’s advisory group on Church Pension investments) are urging divestment of Pension Funds from these companies that are “profiting from” and enabling the occupation of Palestinian land.

That the PCUSA has a long history of making these moral decisions on investment monies and that after 10 years of meetings with the three companies, they have shown no willingness to end business dealings with the Israeli government.

On Friday, June 13, a letter was sent to each of the GA commissioners urging them to vote against divestment because such a vote would imply that Presbyterians would be denying the right of Israel to exist!
Kairos Palestine (KPalestine in 2009) got all the diverse Christians in Palestine to “call for help” in righting wrongs.

Kairos USA (KUSA) picked up that “Call to Action” and seeks to enlist evangelical and ecumenical Christians to join their Palestinian brothers and sisters, demanding an end to discriminatory actions by the Israeli government. (Disclosure: “Friends of Palestinians and Israelis”)-FPI will be forming a KUSA-Holland MI chapter on July 8, beginning in the Holland Public Library, at 7:00 p.m, as we learn more about the destruction of 1,500 fruit trees at the Nasser (Tent of Nations) farm on May 19, 2014 by government forces, illegally, (with help from a modified D-9 Caterpillar bulldozer!)

The PC (USA) came within two votes of passing a similar divestment overture/recommendation at their 2012 General Assembly. My sense is that the momentum to divest has been growing, not diminishing and that the so-called “moderates” will not prevail. Moderates claim the divestment proponents leave no room for the State of Israel! Divestment proponents claim they want an end to human rights abuses, not the end of the Israeli State!

By now, you can see where my sentiments lay. “Moderation” (all talk and no bite) has been going on for over 60 years and the Occupation has strengthened, not diminished. I came kicking and screaming into the BDS movement years ago, convinced that because it worked in South Africa, it can work in I/P in the face of conditions that rival what blacks and coloreds faced in South Africa.

Hearts and minds are on display in Detroit this week. What is the Spirit saying to the churches?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

More Destruction

Dear Friends

Daoud Nasser is a friend at Tent of Nations, the West Bank, seeking to maintain a nonviolent presence in the midst of Israeli encroachment. Here is his message that came early this morning:

Tent of Nations / Nassar Farm

Today at 08.00, Israeli bulldozers came to the fertile valley of the farm where we planted fruit trees 10 years ago, and destroyed the terraces and all our trees there. More than 1500 apricot and apple trees as well as grape plants were smashed and destroyed.

We informed our lawyer who is preparing the papers for appeal. Please be prepared to respond. We will need your support as you inform friends, churches and representatives when action is needed. Please wait for the moment and we will soon let you know about next steps and actions.

Thank you so much for all your support and solidarity.

Blessings and Salaam,

Dear Friend,
Soon, I will be issuing a call for a Kairos Community to be formed here in the Holland, MI area, for us to come alongside each other, to be part of a growing network of advocacy and action groups seeking justice for Palestinians and security for Israelis. We/I will be working with Kairos USA, the follow-up response to Kairos Palestine, the call from Palestinian Christians for support in their journey toward greater justice. I'm not content to continue with just a "listserv". We need to be linked with others, in churches and communities around the nation. KUSA is the vehicle I've chosen to allow this to happen.

KUSA now has a couple of organizers and will be working with so-called ecumenical and evangelical churches. Pray with me for this. JRK

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

US Caves In, Again

Dear Friend,

I'm asking you to read and ponder these wise words from Rami Khouri, a Palestinian Christian who writes 2x/week in the Daily Star, a Lebanese newspaper.

Sec. Kerry was caught in an unguarded moment, speaking truth to the Trilateral Council, movers and shakers in New York city. Word got out to our friends, the Israelis. "Don't you remember? You're not supposed to ever use the "A" word in public parlance".

Secretary Kerry: "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. We will continue to unequivocally support the Occupation. We will keep informing people that all is well. Israel is NOT moving in the direction of enthroning its JEWISH identity in all the land. There is NO danger of any further discrimination against the native inhabitants of the land. Please totally disregard what I mistakenly uttered to these folks in NY city."

Now read what Rami Khoury has written, and form your own conclusions:

Israel shows Zionism’s true colors
April 23, 2014
By Rami G. Khouri
The Daily Star

This week, the Israeli Transportation Ministry announced that it would establish designated bus routes for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, allowing Jewish Israelis to travel on buses without Palestinians.

Some months ago, the Israeli government started discussing a bill in parliament that would identify Palestinian Christians with Israeli citizenship as “non-Arabs.” These are among the continuing actions by the state of Israel that cause more and more people around the world to roll their eyes in disbelief – for they see Israel slowly turning into an apartheid-like state that plays with the demography of its citizens and those under its occupation, in order to enhance the well-being of the politically dominant Zionist and Jewish majority.

The Israeli government and others who support such moves offer various reasons to support them, claiming that they are in the best interest of the affected minority. The more logical conclusion that most people will reach, I suspect, is that five generations after its birth in the late 1800s, modern political Zionism is showing its racist roots, as it finds it increasingly difficult to keep working for its basic tenet of a Jewish-only state in a land that had been mostly owned and inhabited by Muslims and Christians for many centuries.

The consequence of trying to create a Jewish state in such an environment is that those millions of people who are not Jewish either have to be isolated and penned into restricted zones of residence, work and travel, according to apartheid-like rules, or else detached from their non-Jewish compatriots and enticed into the Zionist endeavor. The latter is what happened to the Druze population in Israel, which Israel has tried with some success to separate from the rest of the Palestinian population that ended up with Israeli citizenship after 1948.

The creation of bus routes for Palestinians alongside other routes that Jewish Israelis and settlers use will certainly strengthen criticisms of Israel and expand the circles of those who condemn it for conducting policies that are very reminiscent of how apartheid South Africa treated its black and colored citizens. The Israeli government argues that bus routes for Palestinians are for their own good and will ease congestion, while also lowering tensions between Palestinians and Israelis using the same buses.

This sounds alarmingly like what was said about separate services for American or South African blacks half a century ago. It was no accident that last year when some Palestinians in the West Bank wanted to challenge the practice of roads built in the occupied territories for use by Jewish Israelis only, they called themselves the Palestinian “Freedom Riders” – reviving the name of those American whites and blacks in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s who rode together on intercity buses that previously had refused to carry blacks.

The growing analogies between Zionism and apartheid understandably anger Israelis, who understand very well that heretofore ironclad support for Israel in many countries would weaken. The growing criticisms in this respect have started to spawn political responses by foreign actors. Various governments, professional associations, churches, student groups and others have started to apply sanctions, divestment or boycott measures to Israeli or international institutions that can be verified as benefiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. This limited trend keeps growing and has increasingly penetrated mainstream institutions. It is no longer a fringe movement of Palestinian activists and their politically marginal colleagues here and there.

Separating Palestinian Christians from other Palestinians and operating bus lines only for Arabs will make it easier for people around the world, including Jews who feel strongly about Judaism’s ethical core, to speak out clearly, forcefully and in public in criticism of such Israeli actions. This will also spur greater examination of Israeli behavior in other fields. Some people who have no knowledge of Israel and Palestine or interest in the matter may speak out against Israel, because they feel powerful disgust and fear when they see people classified, separated and treated differently on the basis of religion.

A white South African rabbi who recently spoke at a Palestinian Christian liberation theology conference I attended in the U.S. eloquently recounted the precise moment when his previously total support for Israel transformed into criticisms of it. It was when he saw “Jews-only” streets in occupied Hebron that were cleansed of Palestinian Arabs and patrolled by the Israeli army. The sight reminded him of the horrors of his own South African apartheid years.

We will see more such reactions to these latest extreme Israeli moves in the months ahead. Some people will conclude that Israel is veering off into strange and dangerous paths, and others will suggest that it is merely showing the heretofore hidden true colors of Zionism.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR. He can be followed @RamiKhouri.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Revisiting Lydda: A Passover/Easter Story!

Dear Friend,

My 102 1/2 year old mother died on Thursday. I'm reflecting on family values to speak at her funeral this coming Monday, April 14, 2014.

A friend from I/P (Salim Munayer, from MUSALAHA), shares the attached story about his father, Yacoub, who was visited by Joseph Ben-Eliezer, part of the military detachment in 1948 that drove out the Palestinians who were living there, to make way for the State of Israel.

I'm attaching two things:

1) Salim Munayer's introduction to a 12 minute MUST SEE video of Joseph Ben-Eliezer's visit to Salim's father Yacoub, in Lydda (Lod) with the link to the YouTube video; and,

2) My review of Ari Shavit's chapter on Lydda in his book, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. (For a copy, ask me for it at The man who reached out to bless my father: The story of Joseph Ben-Eliezer

I recently wrote the forward to a book, which was translated into Arabic, about the life of Joseph Ben-Eliezer. This is a story that I have been asked to share many times. It is a story about an act of forgiveness and reconciliation. In his book, Ben-Eliezer, a Jewish follower of Jesus shares about his suffering at the hands of the Nazis during the horrifying events of World War II, his journey to the land and fighting in the war of 1948. His unit served in Lydda, where many atrocities were committed against the people of this town. Years later, Ben-Eliezer returned to the land to seek forgiveness from my father, Yacoub Munayer, a Palestinian from Lydda. These two men are no longer living with us today, but they are examples and role models for all of us. Their stories are not easy to tell because it speaks of the painful histories of our peoples in this land. Yet, at the same time their stories give a vision for the future, and hope and encouragement to those of us working in reconciliation.

I would like to honor both Joseph Ben-Eliezer and my father Yacoub Munayer by sharing with you the video Crossroads at Lod that Joseph Ben-Eliezer’s family has provided. May it be a blessing to all this coming Passover and Easter! [Salim Munayer, from MUSALAHA]

To view the short video clip about Joseph Ben-Eliezer and Yacoub Munayer: (Don't forget my review of Shavit's take on Lydda, in the attachment below, to which the video is an illustration!)

John Kleinheksel for FPI (There is no PEACE without JUSTICE; there is no justice without LOVE).