Category : The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle
In the Gaza Strip fighting, where a cease-fire was reached Wednesday, the Israeli military pounded Gaza with hundreds of airstrikes. Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that rules Gaza, launched hundreds of rocket attacks on Israel.
The weeklong battle temporarily diverted attention from Iran, the archenemy of Israel and a key ally of Hamas. Israeli leaders have threatened to strike Iran over its nuclear program.
Yet the Gaza fight may offer insights into what a possible confrontation between Israel and Iran would look like.
Another day of loud booms and deadly weaponry plummeting from the sky wracked Israel and Gaza on Sunday, with fresh casualties reported on both sides of a conflict that international leaders scrambled to end.
Rescuers pulled the bloodied bodies of children from the wreckage of a Gaza home Sunday after an Israeli airstrike, which Israel said targeted a top Hamas militant. The Israelis initially said the operative was killed, but they later said he may have survived.
And about 120 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces reported. At least 38 were intercepted by Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile-defense system, the IDF said — but one struck a car in the Israeli town of Ofakim, injuring an unspecified number of people, while another hit a woman’s carport while she was inside her house in Ashkelon. Fresh sirens sounded Sunday in Tel Aviv, but the IDF said it had intercepted at least two rockets headed for the city.
Israel, Hamas militants' 3-hour "truce" for Egypt leader's visit fails; Reports of continued attacks
Israel said its air force bombed the house of a Hamas commander in the Gaza Strip after militants fired more than a dozen rockets toward southern Israel, trampling hopes for a three hour ceasefire during a brief visit by Egypt’s premier to the tiny stretch of land.
Israel had agreed to halt it’s three-day assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip if militants refrained from firing rockets at Israel. It would have been the first break in the escalating conflict….
Israeli warplanes struck dozens of militant sites in Gaza early on Thursday, the second day of Israel’s deadly offensive against Hamas and other militant groups, and rockets fired from the enclave reached far into Israel, killing three civilians when one struck an apartment block in this small southern town.
The regional perils of the situation emerged in ever sharper relief, meanwhile, as President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt said in a national address on Thursday that his country stood by the Palestinians against what he termed Israeli aggression, news reports said, echoing similar condemnation on Wednesday.
Thursday’s deaths were the first casualties on the Israeli side since Israel launched its most ferocious assault on Gaza in four years in response to persistent Palestinian rocket fire.
I was recently struck by some photos and reports I saw on the al-Arabiya network, the most respected news outlet in the Middle East. There was a starving child in Yemen, a burnt-out ancient souk in Aleppo, Syria, car bombs in Iraq and destroyed buildings in Libya.
What links all these images is that the destruction and the atrocities were not perpetrated by an outside enemy. The starvation, the killings and the destruction in these Arab countries were carried out by the same hands that are supposed to protect and build the unity of these countries and safeguard their people. Who, therefore, is the real enemy of the Arab world?
Many Arabs would say it is Israel ”” their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they have never recognised. From 1948 to today there have been three full-scale wars and many confrontations. But what was the real cost of these wars to the Arab world and its people? The harder question that no Arab wants to ask is: what was the real cost of not recognising Israel in 1948 and why didn’t the Arab states spend their assets on education, healthcare and infrastructure instead of wars? But the very hardest question of all is whether Israel is the real enemy of the Arab world and the Arab people.
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Israeli military experts Sunday worked around the clock to examine the remains of a mysterious drone that was shot down after penetrating Israeli airspace from the Mediterranean Sea.
The Israeli military announced Saturday that the unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down over the northern Negev Desert. They say the drone did not take off from Gaza, leading them to consider the possibility that it originated in Lebanon.
Israeli security experts point the finger at Israel’s longstanding rival Hezbollah, the Shiite militia based in southern Lebanon.
Yesterday afternoon, the Committee for National and International Concerns heard testimony on about 12 resolutions encouraging the church to act in support of the Palestinian people. Even our own Diocese of Maryland put forth a resolution on this complex issue. After reading the resolutions and listening to the testimony, here is my distillation of the arguments at hand.
No one disagrees that Palestine and the minority community of Palestinian Christians are being oppressed, persecuted, and denied basic human rights. Everyone also agrees that in the United States, the story of the Palestinian Christian people is not widely known and they feel forgotten by their brothers and sisters in the West.
But how do you fight the oppression and discrimination of a people?
Presbyterians in favor of divestment said that their church could not in good conscience hold stock in companies that they said perpetuate an unjust occupation and undermine the search for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. But opponents said that divestment would unfairly vilify Israel, and accomplish little but further polarization.
Arthur Shippee, a delegate from southern New England, said: “What divestment will achieve is this: We will add a whisper soon lost in the storm, but we will further the divisions in our church when we have our own serious problems to address, and we will precipitate divisions with the synagogues within our communities whom we work with frequently on a variety of issues. This will be perceived as picking on Israel, and how could it not?”
Speaking in favor of divestment and against the pro-investment resolution, Tim Simpson, a delegate from the Presbytery of St. Augustine in Jacksonville, Fla., said: “The Palestinians aren’t asking us for a check, sisters and brothers. The Palestinians are asking us for justice. They’re asking us for dignity. How can you write a check to a people who don’t control their own water?”
Several resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be considered by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, meeting here July 5-12.
Among them is Resolution B019, which calls on the church to engage actively in the discipline of advocacy, study, and prayer for peace between Israelis and Palestinians; encourages all Episcopalians to travel to the Holy Land as pilgrims and witnesses; affirms the importance of economic measures designed to support a negotiated two-state solution; and calls for positive investment in the Palestine Territories and in the social service institutions of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East.
The resolution, proposed by Diocese of Northern California Bishop Barry Beisner and endorsed by Olympia Bishop Gregory Rickel and Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Services & Federal Ministries Jay Magness, also commends the leadership of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in calling all Episcopalians to advocate for an end to the conflict and increase support for the Jerusalem diocese and the other Christian communities of the Holy Land.
While the ancient Christian communities around Jerusalem await the miracle of the Holy Fire this week, I pray for another miracle — one that would give full religious freedom to the Christians in the West Bank and Gaza. Holy Week has long been a time of pilgrimage to Jerusalem; Christians have worshiped there since the birth of the church, and these sites are a core aspect of the devotion of Palestinian believers.
The restrictions on travel for worship are not only in force during Holy Week, but also for routine Sunday services, weddings, funerals, and baptisms throughout the year. Certainly, Israel can take care of its own security concerns while accommodating peaceful Palestinian Christian worship.
In a recent letter by 80 Palestinian Christian leaders, including the Greek Orthodox archbishop of Jerusalem, Palestinian Christians spoke out against the lack of religious freedom inside Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. They complained of being forced to endure an “assault on our natural and basic right to worship.”
The President of the Palestinian Authority has met with leaders of the Christian Churches of Britain in London following his talks with the British government over the stalled Middle East peace process.
The meeting between Mahmoud Abbas and Dr. Rowan Williams comes at a nadir in Anglo-Israeli relations and on the same day the Israeli Foreign Ministry chided Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as being grossly “ill informed” about the conflict in the Middle East.
According to a statement released after the 17 Jan 2012, President Abbas told the church leaders that Israel and the Palestinians must resume peace talks. The Arab Spring provided a “rare opportunity” to bring peace to the region, the Palestinian leader said.
On the Sabbath morning of Nov. 5, less than three weeks after the release of Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit in a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas, Jews in synagogues throughout the world will read a Torah portion concerning Abraham’s early journeys. The text recounts how invaders conquered the city of Sodom, taking Abraham’s nephew Lot as a captive, and the way Abraham raised an army to rescue him.
The timing of this Torah reading is an absolute coincidence, an unplanned synchronicity between the religious calendar and breaking news. Yet the passage also offers an essential explanation, one almost entirely ignored in coverage of the Shalit deal, for Israel’s anguished decision to pay a ransom in the form of more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, including the perpetrators of terrorist attacks on civilians.
Two Pittsburgh religious leaders said they felt joy and relief when they learned an Israeli soldier held captive for five years by Hamas had been freed.
“I’m thrilled that that’s happened for the family, but I certainly hope and pray not just for his welfare, but that we don’t have to face this situation again,” said Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese.
Zubik and Aaron Bisno, senior rabbi of Rodef Shalom Congregation in Shadyside, discussed their reactions on Tuesday after Israel exchanged more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Schalit, 25, an Israeli soldier held captive since 2006.
At the outset, it bears noting what The Episcopal Church has said repeatedly over the course of multiple decades: a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians can be achieved only by bilateral negotiations between the two parties themselves. This important principle was reaffirmed just last month by a joint communiquÃ© of the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem. The contours of what such negotiations must produce are as clear as ever: a two-state solution that provides for the security and universal recognition of Israel and the safety of all its people, the viability and territorial integrity of a state for the Palestinian people, and a sharing of the holy city of Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, the gulf between this outcome and the political and moral will needed to achieve it has proven wide. Only a year ago, hope existed that negotiations would commence, and that ”“ particularly with the involvement of the President of the United States ”“ the moment for a peaceful solution might finally have arrived. Tragically, the events of the past year have driven the parties further apart rather than closer together, leading some to question whether international efforts to support the peace process have lost credibility, and whether there is any meaningful path toward negotiations.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has come under sharp criticism from Palestinian activists, who have accused Dr. Rowan Williams of being an ill-informed right-winger bent on “demonizing Islam” and supporting the Israeli government.
However, a spokesman for Dr. Williams tells The Church of England Newspaper that Kairos Palestine had improperly construed the archbishop’s remarks about the plight of Christians across the Middle East to be an endorsement of Israeli government policies.
Episcopalians in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles held silent prayer vigils in protest of Israeli treatment of Palestinians on May 24, the day Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress about the peace process.
They sought to send a message about the Israeli government’s policies towards Palestinians in general and specifically the refusal to grant Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani a permit to reside in Jerusalem. As bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, Dawani, a Palestinian Christian, oversees congregations and institutions in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories.
It is understood that the president’s remarks may have been made to head off a symbolic recognition of pre-1967-borders Palestine at the U.N. General Assembly and to restart negotiations between the parties. This is indeed commendable, but not at the expense of securing an agreement that is just and workable for both Israel and the Palestinian people. It would be tragic if the emergence of a Palestinian state consigned the Palestinians to Salafi-Wahabi servitude rather than leading to a true freedom for Christians as well as Muslims, women as well as men.
Finally, from a Judeo-Christian point of view, I would have welcomed an acknowledgment from the president of the Biblical basis of the idea, expressed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, that women and men are endowed with certain inalienable rights by their Creator. This is the true basis for any struggle to have human equality affirmed and respected.
The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict has revealed that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel’s annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem. This unprecedented proposal was one of a string of concessions that will cause shockwaves among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world.
A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US has been obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian. The papers provide an extraordinary and vivid insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process, which is now regarded as all but dead….
We were very concerned about the fire that destroyed entire forests in the Haifa area. We offer our condolences to the families of victims, and our admiration for the courage of those who died in the line of duty. This sad event made us experience international solidarity. The fact that the Palestinian Authority made available their team of firefighters was a very significant gesture and may be a beginning of a fruitful collaboration in the future, when peace will be established in this troubled land.
We suffer from the failure of direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This should not lead us to despair. We continue to believe that on both sides, and in the international community, there are men of good will who will work and put their energies together in their commitment for peace. We believe that nothing is impossible with God and we want to carry out the wishes sang by the angels on Christmas night: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”(Lk.2 :14) We also wish Europe to play a more significant role in this process.
We were shocked and troubled by the massacre of Christians in Baghdad in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help….
In 2008, the World Council of Churches convened a group of Protestant and Catholic theologians to review the underpinnings of Christian attitudes toward Israel. (No Jews were invited.) The group published the so-called Bern Perspective, which, among other things, instructed Christians to understand all biblical references to Israel only metaphorically.
This understanding denies the connection between today’s Jews and Moses, Jeremiah and Isaiah. It marks a return to “replacement theology,” the medieval view that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s plan and that all biblical references to Israel refer to the “new Israel”””that is, to Christians. For centuries, that view was the theological basis for denying rights to Jews in Church-dominated Europe.
In 2009, on the first day of Chanukah (which Jews again celebrate this week), a group of Christian Palestinians issued the Kairos Palestine Document, which was immediately published on the World Council of Churches website. The document calls for a general boycott of Israel and argues that Christians’ faith requires them to side with the “oppressed,” meaning the Palestinians. It speaks of the evils of the Israeli “occupation,” yet is silent on any evils committed by Palestinians, including the Hamas terrorists who now govern the Gaza Strip.
Several prominent Israelis expressed concern over a statement by the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which said Jews cannot use the Bible to justify injustices.
But tensions increased when a U.S. bishop told reporters at the synod that Jews could no longer regard themselves as God’s “chosen people” or Israel as “the Promised Land,” because Jesus’ message showed that God loved and chose all people to be his own.
The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said Oct. 25 that the final message of the Synod of Bishops reflected the opinion of the synod itself, while the remarks by Melkite Bishop Cyrille S. Bustros of Newton, Mass., were to be considered his personal opinion.
Bishops from the Middle East, summoned by the pope to the Vatican, ended their two-week meeting with a statement that called on Israel to end its “occupation” of Arab lands and to stop using the Bible to defend injustices.
The dwindling numbers of Christians living in the Middle East was to be the principal reason for the meeting called by Pope Benedict XVI, but the joint communiquÃ© also warned Israel about “injustices” against Palestinians.
The synod’s message said that “re course to theological and biblical positions which use the word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable,” in an apparent reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mutual distrust leads many Palestinians and Israelis to think of peace as a mirage. Since religion plays a significant role in justifying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, politicians need the help of religious leaders in their search for a solution.
The problem is that often the patriarchal figures of the three faiths are too focused on “protecting” the community from erosion of piety or the threat of assimilation to pay enough attention to moral empowerment. Too many leaders defend ownership of land at the expense of justice, rationalize war and its spoils, and remind their people to track the enemy vigilantly using partial interpretations of sacred texts for this purpose.
Religious leaders from outside the region oftentimes also fuel the conflict, sometimes without even being aware that they are doing so. Based outside of the area and free from the considerations of local day-to-day life, these authorities too often espouse hardline positions. The American charismatic church, for example, supports Israel automatically, even at the risk of threatening long-term Jewish security. To become enablers of peace, religious authorities will have to shift from a preoccupation with protecting the tradition from change to becoming agents of inter-communal reconciliation.
The Palestinian leadership said Saturday that four-week-old direct talks with Israel should be suspended as long as Jewish settlement housing was being built in the West Bank. It called on the international community to pressure Israel to stop the construction.
A statement issued after a meeting of about 35 Palestinian leaders ”” the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the central committee of the main Fatah movement and a handful of others ”” held at the compound of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, said that Israel was responsible for the deadlock.
“The leadership confirms that the resumption of talks requires tangible steps, the first of them a freeze on settlements,” Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior P.L.O. official said after the three-hour meeting. “The Palestinian leadership holds Israel responsible for obstructing the negotiations.”
Despite tragic violence and discouraging developments, there are signs of hope. Majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians still support a two-state solution. Arab states have declared their commitment to peace in the Arab Peace Initiative. There are U.S. diplomatic efforts to restart Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese negotiations for peace. Official and informal negotiations have produced the outlines of concrete compromises for resolving the conflict, including the final status issues: borders and security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders both here and in the region reject the killing of innocents, support a just peace, and believe sustained negotiations are the only path to peace.
As we said two years ago, there is a real danger that cynicism will replace hope and that people will give up on peace. With the resumption of direct negotiations, clarity is demanded. So let us be clear. As religious leaders, we remain firmly committed to a two-state solution to the conflict as the only viable way forward. We believe that concerted, sustained U.S. leadership for peace is essential. And we know that time is not on the side of peace, that delay is not an option.
The path to peace shuns violence and embraces dialogue. This path demands reciprocal steps that build confidence. This path can lead to a future of two states, Israel and a viable, independent Palestine, living side by side in peace with security and dignity for both peoples, stability in the region, and a comprehensive peace between Israel and all her Arab neighbors.
Saying that they are people of hope who “refuse … to give in to cynicism or despair,” a group of interfaith leaders delivered a declaration to the White House and State Department Sept. 29 uniting in support of “active, fair, and firm U.S. leadership for Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was among the 28 Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders who signed the statement.
Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of government relations for the Episcopal Church, represented Jefferts Schori at the meeting with General James Jones, United States national security adviser, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The US says it is “disappointed” by Israel’s decision not to extend a ban on West Bank settlement building.
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has been sent to the region in an attempt to salvage direct peace talks that were restarted earlier this month.
The 10-month moratorium came to an end at midnight (2200 GMT on Sunday).
Renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are opening in Egypt, amid concern over the imminent expiry of Israel’s partial ban on West Bank settlement building.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are holding three-way talks with Hillary Clinton in Sharm-el-Sheikh.
Before the talks began the US secretary of state had said Israel should extend its freeze on West Bank construction.