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