“Peace will be the fruit of Justice and my people will dwell in the beauty of Peace” By Fr. Raed Abusahlia, Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Monday, 30 October 2000
From today on, I will try all my best to send you a full report as I used to do, but in this new form, hoping to provide you with the latest first hand news and documents from Jerusalem.
I renew my same policy that you are free to use all what I send as you want, to forward it to your mailing list, or simply to delete it. And if you are fed up with what I send, you can ask me kindly to delete you address from my mailing list, because I will never oblige any one of you to receive from me things he is not convinced of its credibility or importance.
I stress also, that our main goal from this work is only to inform you, we propose and we don’t impose at all, and if you find that what we send you is worthy to be shared with others, to react or to ask more information or questions, please, don’t hesitate to ask for that. I don’t promise that be able to do this work each day, because it takes a lot of time, but I will keep you in touch of all the important event or documents published by our Patriarch Michel Sabbah, or from our Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in addition to some news about the Christians and the churches in the Holy Land. Normally, I am committed to send you these things when I have it and as soon as possible. I will try to be short, and I will not storm you with so many of massages – probably one message a week – but due to the special actual situation, I allow myself to send you more, if necessary.
What is sent do not express completely the official position of our Patriarch Michel Sabbah, unless he signs it personally, such as official documents, homilies and press releases. All the other documents are personal points of view which are not at all absolute and subject to discussion and dialogue. You might agree with me, and you might contradict me, but at the end, I believe in the freedom of expression and I am ready to discuss and receive all kind of other different opinions.
Finally, I thank all and each of your for your patience and collaboration; support, assistance and understanding; above all, your friendship, prayers and love to the Holy Land and to the Christians who are the living stones of the Holy Places.
We pray for peace and reconciliation, but also, for justice and victory of the truth.
Best wishes from Jerusalem,
Fr. Raed Abusahlia
1) Homily of H.B. Patriarch Michel Sabbah during the annual celebration of the feast of our Lady Queen of Palestine: As promised I send you the English text of the Homily, which is really strong and clear.
2) The second issue of Bethlehem Diary: written by Toine van teefflen, who is as you remember, a volunteer from Netherlands who is working with Pax Christi International, working actually in the “College des Freres”, and married with a Palestinian Christian woman from Bethlehem working in the Bethlehem University.
3) A report about the debate concerning the involvement of Children in the Actual Intifada.
H.B. Patriarch Michel Sabbah, left today to Rome where he was invited to preside the prayer of the rosary in the Basilica of St Peter, in the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the assumption of Mary to Heaven. This prayer of the rosary will be dedicated for the prayer for peace in the Homeland of Mary, and well be attended by thousands of faithful because it is scheduled as a major event of the Jubilee year in Rome. Msgr. Saepe, prefect of the congregation for the bishops, invited the Patriarch who is expected also to give the homily during this ceremony, that I will send you in tomorrow’s report.
Before this event, His Beatitude will meet with the Holy Father for a private audience, which was scheduled for him by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State in the Vatican. Of course the Patriarch will explain to H.H. John Paul II what is happening in the Holy Land during these days. (more details about this very important meeting, will be sent to you soon later).
Homily of H. B. Patriarch Michel Sabbah
Feast of our Lady Queen of Palestine
Deir Rafat, 29 October 2000
Dear brothers and sisters,
We celebrate today the feast of our Lady Queen of Palestine, a feast which began in early thirties which where difficult days like the ones we are living now. This feast began to ask the protection from God through the intercession of our Lady daughter of this Holy Land, and who was chosen to become the mother of his eternal word incarnated, who took a body like ours in order to redeem us, and become man like us in everything not in sin.
I greet you all dear brothers and sisters with the greeting of peace, which was founded and consolidated in our hearts by our Lord Jesus Christ. He died and was risen again defeating death all the power of evil. In him we put our trust and hope in these days and in every day.
We meditate today in the hymn of our Lady known “Magnificat” that we find in the gospel of St Luke. This hymn began deep in her heart and soul. A hymn that we used to sing often, but it is a hymn for our difficult days, because it began in a very difficult days that Mary faced very decisive for the whole world. It is concerning the destiny of the whole humanity and the love of God to his creatures and the mystery of the incarnation and redemption… Mary accepted the call of God through his messenger the angel Gabriel. He asked her to become a mother not by the strength of the spirit not that humans, and in this way, to enter in the unconceivable mystery of God, she didn’t understand this mystery, but she accepted and said “let what you have said be done to me”. She accepted and the mystery of God was fulfilled in the humanity, the mystery of salvation, which began with the incarnation, through the cross and the death, and ended by the resurrection, after which all men were capable to be free, with the freedom given to him by God, and each human obtained a double dignity: Fist because he is created at God’s image and likeness, second because he is saved through the priceless blood of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
The hymn of “Magnificat” was in the spirit of Mary and itself like a battle, which ended with the victory of the grace of God in her, and the grace of God is the fullness of every good. Humanity obtained through the victory of Mary the fullness of every good also, and this good was reveled through the salvation and the resurrection with all its joy and hope. Every battle begins within the self of the humanity, before the battles in the streets, it’s the battle between good and evil, between justice and injustice, between our selfishness and the sacrifice of other’s lives. Each battle which doesn’t end by the victory over man’s self, the victory of Justice, dignity and love, goes out to the streets to saw destruction and death as we see in these days. The death caused by weapon indicates the death of the human spirit and the death of those who decide to use it.
Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord… for the Almighty has done great things for me”, and she said also: “He had pulled down princes from their thrones… The hungry he has filled with good things..”. We came in this feast to pray, to say in front of God : peace. From him only we ask for peace, founded over justice and love, which are factors for justice and a fruit from it.
You are listening to us now, the Palestinians are listening and the Israelis are listening also: The word of God is one for all of us. God created man for peace and justice, in order to have the fullness of freedom. There is no freedom and no justice when it is on the account of others, and on the account of what is just for others. In these difficult days, in the midst of the actual conflict, we say that the Palestinian people should regain his freedom and justice, which are part of his legitimate rights. The Israeli people should have also his justice and security. Both of them are linked together, the peace of one of them is the peace of the other, and the deprivation of peace or justice to one of them is a deprivation of peace and justice for the other.
The psalmist said: “some boast of chariots, some of horses, but we boast about the name of Yahweh our God” (20:8). Weapons destroy and don’t build peace. In from of God we pray through the intercession of our Lady Mary we ask God to have justice in us, then to have peace in our days and for ever, in this Holy Land and every where in the world. These days require more than any day else, peace in the spirits, prayer in the hearts of the faithful, courage without fear in spite all difficulties. All of us, each one of us, in any other people, we are exposed to such difficulties. Every faithful people is called to remain steadfast in his house and land, in spite of the destruction even death which might face. Justice and peace in our days require a sacrifice from our leaders: the martyrdom of the leaders more that of the people, because the people is more important than the chairs where our leaders sit.
The Virgin Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord… for the Almighty has done great things for me”, and these great things are the love of God to mankind, and each human being. It is the reconciliation between God and human beings, between men with each others. In this we believe, and we have a firm hope that this what will be. Mary also said: “He had pulled down princes from their thrones… The hungry he has filled with good things”. Those hungry for goodness, stability and peace, those hungry to the vision of God, in spite of all the difficulty, battle, destruction or any decision of men to spread terror and death.
We meditate today the glory of our Lady Queen of Palestine and we ask for her intercession, because she is the example of our faith, she is the example of the strength which should fill our spirits, that strength which comes from God to strengthen us in all the circumstances of life. We ask her to support us and to enlighten all of us, especially the leaders of our two peoples who are fighting each other, so that we can know what is justice, truth and peace in this Holy Land.
+ Michel Sabbah
Latin Patriarch of Jerusaelm
BETHLEHEM DIARY (2)
October 23-30, ?2000
Written by Toine van Teeffelen
Volunteer for Pax Christi International in Bethlehem
Once again Beit Jala has been bombed, in the night from Friday to Saturday. The bombing was accompanied by shooting sprees across the area. Mary, Jara and I slept deeply but most of Beit Jala, Bethlehem and Beit Sahour were terrified, the whole night. Next morning, students from Beit Jala arrived at the Freres School with pale faces. They told stories of bullets breaking into living rooms or flying over the head of a family member, or of a rocket that went straight through a three-storey house to end up in the kitchen. Miraculously, no people were killed. In Beit Jala, there is now little ordinary life. A student told he studies under his bed. One boy said to refuse to take out his clothes and shoes when going asleep, as he does not want to loose time in case he would need to run away. The local TV mentions that at the beginning of last week, a girl wanted to return to her family house after it was bombed. When asked why, she said that she wanted to rescue her dolls from the fire. “I don’t want them to die.” Some people go on top of the roof to watch the bombing. In Dheisha refugee camp south of Bethlehem some of them were in fact injured by flying bullets. Mary is angry at them. “The Israelis go to their bunkers, we go to the roofs.”
It is not clear how long the bombing raids will continue. People expect that they will be a weekly phenomena. After Israeli warnings, the Palestinian Authority asked some families in houses not far from Rachel’s Tomb to leave, but the inhabitants refused. How can the city cope with all this? In front of a TV camera, Bethlehem’s municipal secretary wonders how prepared Bethlehem and the adjacent towns really are when coping with an emergency situation like this. It is not just the bombing but also the loss of jobs of those who cannot go to Jerusalem and Israel, or -in case they are able to sneak along checkpoints – who found out that their jobs were taken over by other, usually foreign workers.
Under the circumstances it is not a surprise that families leave. Bishop Sabbah, who last week visited Christian and Moslem sites that were bombed, tells local TV about the pain he observes on the faces. He advises the local Christians not to leave. Despite the difficulties, “their place is here.” The question of staying and leaving keeps everybody busy. A Dutch couple working voluntarily at the Freres School as drama and music teachers seriously consider to leave. They like to stay but the woman is pregnant and understandably worried about the influence of the tensions upon her child.
Daily life goes on. During an evening, Mary asks me to bring diapers for Jara. Shooting starts but soon subsides. I’ll go out but there is again shooting, a few hundred meters further down near Paradise Hotel ( now renamed by some as “Hell Hotel”). I’ll quickly go to my parents-in-law. When I proudly return with the diapers, Mary is not impressed. With an inviting gesture – “Come my hero” – she sets me cleaning the dishes. Other concerns keep her more busy. Her father is now a few days in hospital. He is 82 years old but still works in his garage opposite Rachel’s Tomb, selling car accessories. After the closure of Jerusalem in the beginning 1990s, he lost many of his customers. Nowadays his work serves as much to keep him in a daily routine as to get a little income. Lately he complained that walking doesn’t go as fast as it used to be. His close friends opposite his shop, a family from Beit Jala, left last week. Recently, he was forced to stay at home – Rachel’s Tomb is the scene of daily clashes. His health is now his worry. After a cold his cough did not leave, and he went two days ago for observation to a private hospital south of Bethlehem. Yesterday, the doctors gave Mary a sample of fluid from his lung for examination at Moqassed Hospital in Jerusalem. The doctor gestured to me, “he is an ‘ajnabi’ (foreigner), he can pass the checkpoint.” Mary thought it was better that she would go herself, she knows that visiting hospitals – both Israeli or Palestinian – usually involves a long search, and I am not able to read the Arabic signs well. As it turned out, the soldiers let her pass. Initially she was ordered to get out of the van. She was so angry that she barely could speak. It was likely the presence of two international TV crews that brought the soldiers to wave her back into the car.
Work at the Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem also moves on, though haltingly. One of the projects involves an exchange between three Dutch schools and three Bethlehem schools. The 16-17 year old students write each other stories about “social violence.” No lack of such stories now. But the problem is to bring the students at the institute, where they can use the Internet. For three weeks now, Suzy Atallah tries to bring her St Joseph students to the Institute. It has to be done on their free weekend day, the Friday. During the week students have to do their homework and cannot come back late in the afternoon. Certainly now, parents want them to be at home before dark. But each new Friday another incident happens which keep the students from the street. This Friday, finally, it seems that they are able to come. Together with Karishma Budhdev, a Kenyan from Indian origin who works on various projects of the Institute, we prepare the lesson. But the email and Internet connection fails. It seems that there are so many Palestinians using the server to whom we are connected, that the main computer cannot absorb all incoming information. We speculate that there must be a hugh increase in email exchanges and Internet use these days. Many Palestinians have friends and family members all over the world. Mary and I, too, regularly receive emails from family members abroad with expressions of concerns, articles, analyses, and jokes.
The girls are waiting outside the classroom. We pray. After a few attempts, there is still no connection. The girls again have come for nothing… I like to vanish. Karishma and Suzy, still composed, explain the students what happened. The girls look not too much affected and blow chewing gum. Suzy warns them that it is an English class and that they have to speak English. That remark usually keeps them silent, at least for a while, she explains to me. The next class, scheduled an hour later, is cancelled but some girls, living in the villages, cannot be informed in time. They had to leave early from home. Traveling from nearby villages to Bethlehem can now take more than one and a half hour. The students have to circumvent checkpoints within the West Bank itself. Fortunately, these girls at least did not come for nothing. After a while, another telephone number happened to work. At last, a semblance of normal study.
While supervising, Suzy gives me a letter written by one of her students:
To Whom It May Concern
“I think that we have reached a time in which God, the creator of this world, is looking at us and crying. If we see the world from outside, we realize that it is burning. I am a Palestinian and I’m not talking for myself. I am talking for every other Palestinian person, man, woman, boy and girl. What we are dealing with is not new: we stayed fifty-two years under the occupation waiting for peace. We don’t want anything impossible. We just want to live peacefully like any other human being in this world. If we are dealing with human beings, things would have changed earlier. But it is as if we are not dealing with human beings. It is as if they don’t have feelings, it is as if they want us all to be dead. I really don’t want you to feel sorry for us, we don’t want tears, we want actions. Help our helpless people. We cried enough and we suffered enough. Israel is killing hundreds of children and young teenagers with all the weapons it has, and Palestinians are defending their lands and bodies with stones. Why can’t the world just stop these crimes? I blame the United States for all these victims because they see the truth but their interests are more important than our lives. Don’t look at us as Palestinians, look at us as human beings who have rights as anyone else. In the US, there are rights even for animals. When Madeleine Albright said that the Arabs must end the violence, which violence is she talking about, for God’s sake? The Palestinians must stop the violence that the Israelis started. Who has the weapons, who kills the innocent people? What is their faith, their fear of God, their conscience? I don’t want anything from the Americans, I just want them to wake up. Let them forget for a moment their interests, and remember that there is God and justice in this world.
When Mohammed Al-Dura was killed, he shook everyone’s feelings not because he was a child – many other children were killed. It was the way how he was killed, the way he was screaming, trying to hide his body from the bullets behind his father’s weak arm. What damage would he have done if he had stayed alive? What were they thinking when they killed him? We cried and cried with his family and I feel now that I am the sister of all these children, these innocent angels. They should have lived the best life, having a perfect education, live like any other children in this world, play, laugh and enjoy. But where are they now, under the ground, dead. And “we have to stop the violence”!
I believe that even though we are alone, God is always with us. So I ask everyone to wake up, realize what is really happening, according to their conscience, their faith.
At last. I want you to know the truth, the real case of Palestine. Be sure that we Christians and Moslems are one forever.”
Mary Mohammed al-Dura
October 25, 2000
Who Will Protect Palestine’s Children?
By Jumana Odeh
International Herald Tribune, Paris, Friday, October 27, 2000
RAMALLAH, West Bank – I was 11 in 1967 when the Israeli army occupied Ramallah and I hid with my brothers and sisters beneath our beds, waiting until we would die under the heavy Israeli fire. I tried after that to live a ”normal” life with my family, to go to school, play, dance my favorite dabkeh (a folk dance) and dream of a better life.
I was 12 when I participated in a demonstration against the Israeli occupation for the first time. I still cannot forget the pain I felt when a soldier beat me until I lost consciousness. It took me a long time to realize why that soldier had beaten me so harshly. I had done nothing except to say peacefully: ”I don’t want you here.”
When I was 18 I left my country on a scholarship to study medicine abroad. I used to come and go via the bridge to Jordan and each time I crossed I felt the humiliation that the Israeli occupiers inflicted on us Palestinians. Each time I was kept for many hours by Israeli soldiers, just like many other students and young people, and asked questions about my studies, my friends and my political views.
Once I was interrogated for two hours because I was reading a book while waiting for my turn to go through. Once an Israeli soldier on the Allenby Bridge was punished by his commander for giving me water to drink after I had been interrogated for three hours.
When I started working in our hospitals I learned what medical schools couldn’t teach us: what it means to work under military occupation, to feel so frustrated that you are running out of alcohol or cotton or bandages or essential antibiotics for a dying baby. Or to be faced by injured youths when you are not trained to deal with ‘war casualties.’
Still, I had a space for ”the other.” I was on call in the emergency room when casualties from a traffic accident arrived at the hospital. I can still hear the voice of the Israeli settler mother calling for her tinok (baby in Hebrew). I brought her baby to the semiconscious mother to tell her that her baby was safe. I kept the baby with me until an Israeli ambulance came to pick up the casualties.
And I can’t forget the eyes of an injured Israeli soldier, calling for help, who had run away from a confrontation with Palestinian youths. I treated him and helped him to escape: I saved his life. I have no regrets.
I always tried to see the other side of each and every Israeli I met, including the Israeli soldiers on the many checkpoints I had to pass through four or five times a day, on my way to work as a pediatrician in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or Gaza. I even tried to learn more about the Israeli people, their culture, their religion and their language. And I made some Israeli friends.
To know what it means to live under occupation, you have to go through it. It means to be humiliated and harassed every minute. Your water, your electricity, your economy, your freedom to move around, your freedom to express yourself and your land all are controlled by a foreign military force. You ingest the occupation in the oxygen that you breathe, the water that you drink, the food that you eat, and the news that you read or watch at the end of the day.
I tried my best, not to accept it but rather to try to adapt to it and find ways to live a ”normal life,” as people all over the world do. I wanted to live in peace with myself and with my family, and to be honest with my daughters.
I tried to love rather than to hate. But to see Mohammed Durra, 12, being killed in cold blood! And to read that Lieutenant General Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli chief of staff, thinks that Mohammed had been participating in demonstrations against the occupiers once before, when he was 7, and so Mohammed deserved to die! And Sarrah, not yet 2 years old, killed by an Israeli settler! Why? And what should I tell my daughters Dana, 16, and Tala, 11, when they ask me: ”Mom, can you protect us? Mohammed’s father and Sarrah’s father couldn’t protect them!”
After three weeks of the current uprising, an analysis on Oct. 24 by the Palestinian Ministry of Health of casualties and types of injuries yielded the following figures: 8 percent of the dead and 10 percent of the wounded are under 18 years old; on one day, Oct. 23, 15 percent of those wounded died; the overall percentage of wounds to the upper parts of the body (heart and head), initially 50.2 percent, has gone up to 83.2 percent; the use of live ammunition has gone from 20.2 percent to 57.7 percent, and now to 82 percent; 18 percent of all wounded are in a state of clinical death, critically wounded, paraplegic or quadriplegic; 20 percent of all the wounded are likely to remain saddled with a permanent disability; the average age of all dead or wounded persons is 21 years.
These are the statistics that lie behind my daughters’ fears and my own shifting convictions regarding Israeli intentions. The psychological scars our people will endure from the present slaughter are incalculable. I hear behind the din of these cold statistics and of my daughters’ cries the echo of Mohammed Durra’s voice, asking for protection for our people in the 21st century. This plea must be heeded by all those who still believe in humanity.
The writer, a pediatrician, is director of the Palestinian Happy Child Center, a multidisciplinary organization tending to the well being of Palestinian children. She contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.
(c) International Herald Tribune
Tel Aviv – Gush Shalom press release October 29
West Bank villages under tight siege, water cut off, olive trees cut down.
“Hares village is surrounded on all sides already for a week, and the army is making the siege tighter by the day. All entrances and roads, even the unpaved side roads, were blocked with enormous rocks, and soldiers are preventing people from going in or out.
“The army is systematically cutting down our olive trees, which we were just going to harvest. Two hundred trees were already destroyed. Our land does not produce enough food for our daily needs, we relied on what we could buy from outside. Now, even if we succeed in slipping around the soldiers and getting to neighboring village, it does not help because they are in the same position, also besieged by the army.
“The officer in the roadblock told me it was all in punishment for our throwing stones. Last night our water was also cut off.
This description of the situation was given by inhabitants of Palestinian villages Hares (5000 inhabitants) Kifl Hares (4000) and Dir Istiya (8000) in the northeastern parts of the West Bank, who spoke to activists of Gush Shalom.
The three villages are surrounded by the Israeli settlements Ariel (one of the biggest on the West Bank) Yakir and Revava. This makes them part of a “settlement bloc” whose annexation to Israel Prime Minister Barak demanded at camp David, and which is currently mentioned as one of the areas to be unilaterally annexed in case of a Palestinian Declaration of Independence.
The Palestinian villagers report settlement security guards working in close cooperation with the soldiers besieging their villages. In recent weeks, settler leaders demanded that the army increase its punitive measures against the Palestinians, and some settler groups made open threats to take such punitive steps on their own.
News of such sieges have come also from other parts of the West Bank, where access roads to various villages had been blocked by the army with rocks or concrete blocks, causing extreme hardship to whole populations.
“Subjecting tens of thousands of civilians collectively to cruel forms of structural violence is among other things a breach of the Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory, and turns Barak’s call upon the Palestinians for a ‘reduction of the violence’ into sheer hypocrisy” says the Gush Shalom movement.
Hosni (Hares Village) 972-(0)54-293399
Fuad or Hassan (Hares Village) 972-(0)54-370683
Neta Golan (Liaison Centre) 972-(0)50-757504
Adam Keller (Gush Shalom Spokesperson) 972-(0)3-5565804
Urgent: DCI/PS and Palestinian Children UNDER ATTACK
28 October 2000
On behalf of Defense for Children International/Palestine Section, I am writing to request your support in countering Israeli attempts to blame Palestinian adults for the death of Palestinian children, as well as false accusations printed against DCI/PS in yesterday’s edition of The Jerusalem Post.
In the Opinion section of yesterday’s (27 October) edition, an article was published entitled “Child sacrifice is Palestinian paganism.” The article states that these children died “in the front lines, providing cover for Palestinian militias armed with machine guns and other weapons, seeking to overwhelm isolated Israeli guard posts.” The article goes on to say that “The outnumbered Israeli soldiers, defending the civilians behind these outposts, cannot see the children through the small slits and openings–as was clearly the case at the Netzarim crossing in Gaza.”
Such attempts to place blame on Palestinian adults for the deaths of Palestinian children are a clear effort to portray the Palestinian population as sub-human and to divert attention away from the ongoing siege against Palestinian civilians. Moreover, they are an attempt to excuse or justify the deaths of these children. In addition, by focusing on Palestinian adults and parents, other gross violations of Palestinian children’s rights are being overlooked, such as the nightly attacks on Palestinian cities and villages, the closure of over 30 schools and the virtual imprisonment of thousands of children in their homes in the H2 (Israeli controlled) area of Hebron, and the inability of approximately 13,000 Palestinian students to travel to school as a result of the Israeli imposed closure (according to the Palestinian Ministry of Education), and the list goes on.
In addition to asserting that Palestinian adults use Palestinian children as human shields, the article states that:
” The Palestinian branch of DCI, which is supported by donations designed for protecting children, uses these funds for propaganda attacks against Israel, while ignoring the abuses of children by the Palestinian leadership.
“In a recent conference on the dangers of landmines that took place in Geneva, the Palestinian members of DCI were too busy circulating denunciations of Israel, to discuss means for cooperation in protecting children from these dangers.”
Those of you who are familiar with the work of DCI/PS know that such claims are completely inaccurate and constitute a blatant attempt to discredit our work on behalf of Palestinian children. This is not the first attempt by the article’s author to call into questions DCI/PS’s credibility. As such, we need your help immediately.
Defence for Children International/Palestine Section
For immediate release
27 October 2000
BLAMING THE VICTIM:
DCI/PS Views with Grave Concern Attempts to Blame Palestinian Parents for the Death of their Children
Defense for Children International/Palestine Section views with grave concern current attempts to blame Palestinian adults for the deaths of Palestinian children. Such efforts not only skew the reality of the present conflict, but divert attention away from the roots of the problem: that of ongoing and systematic abuses of Palestinian human rights resulting from the 33 year long Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territory.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), as of midnight, 26 October, 122 Palestinians have been killed and 5,252 injured, as a result of the ongoing Israeli siege against Palestinian civilians. Of those, DCI/PS has documented the deaths of 43 Palestinian children, with an additional 3 who have been declared clinically dead, and the injury of over 1,000 children. The circumstances surrounding the deaths of these children range from children who participated in protests against the Israeli occupation, children who were hit with live ammunition while playing in their backyard or walking to school, and children who were denied prompt access to medical care.
The notion that Palestinian parents send their children to die is yet the latest reincarnation of a well-known scapegoating strategy known as ‘blaming the victim.’ In a clear attempt to avoid Israeli culpability for the deaths of Palestinian children, animosity or suspicion is directed towards the victim, thereby justifying or excusing the original violation the victim suffered. Similar to the battered wife who “drove” her spouse to physical abuse, Palestinian adults are blamed for the death and injury of their children by Israeli military forces. No less, Palestinian parents are accused of placing their children in dangerous situations, the implication being that Palestinian parents do not love their children in the same way that other parents do. No mention is made that contact with Israeli military forces is often unavoidable as Israeli soldiers are posted near schools, homes, and community centers throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In addition to the attempt to de-humanize the Palestinian people, such an approach allows for the oversight of how it is that these children are actually being killed and wounded. When attention is focused on the parents of Palestinian children, the Israeli soldier who points his weapon and fires at the child, along with the Israeli government that sanctions these actions, escapes all accountability. Moreover, attention is diverted away from the countless other Israeli violations of Palestinian children’s rights, including the closure of over 30 schools and confining thousands of Palestinian children to their homes for days on end as a result of the curfew imposed on the Old City in Hebron. The end result is that Palestinians are blamed for their own victimization.
Of particular concern to DCI/PS is the article “Child Sacrifice is Palestinian paganism,” published in today’s edition of “The Jerusalem Post.” In addition to asserting that Palestinian adults use children as human shields during confrontations, the article’s author states that DCI/PS launches “propaganda attacks against Israel, while ignoring the abuses of children by the Palestinian leadership.” As a child-rights organization advocating, in particular, for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), we work to ensure that all parties to the present conflict act in the best interests of the child and according to the rule of law. With reference to Israel, we advocate that Israel upholds its obligations under international law, both those it has willingly assumed and those to which it is bound through customary international law. To date, and in addition to numerous other violations, Israel has failed to implement the CRC in the Occupied Territories, despite its 2 November 1991 entry into force in Israel, or to submit the required country report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
As a child-rights organization, DCI/PS mourns the death of each of these children. DCI/PS regrets that any child is forced to live in violent circumstances, but the Israeli military
occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has made that an inevitable fact of life for approximately 1.5 million Palestinian children. These conditions will only improve upon the complete Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.
Child sacrifice is Palestinian paganism
Gerald M. Steinberg
(October 27) – According to the Palestinians, over 40 children have been killed in the waves of violence and confrontations that began at the end of September. They have been killed in the front lines, providing cover for Palestinian militias armed with machine guns and other weapons, seeking to overwhelm isolated Israeli guard posts.
The outnumbered Israeli soldiers, defending the civilians behind these outposts, cannot see the children through the small slits and openings – as was clearly the case at the Netzarim crossing in Gaza. The tragic images of these young victims provide first- rate propaganda to use against Israel. Interviewed by journalists after these tragedies, some of the parents of these young victims refer to their children as shaheeds (martyrs), whose lives were given willingly and proudly to the Palestinian cause in fighting the hated Zionist enemy.
In an unbelievably shocking scene, one mother boasted that she bore her son precisely for this purpose, and the father proudly claimed credit for providing the training. The parents will also receive a sizeable financial “reward” from the Palestinian Authority.
For a people who count Abraham (or Ibrahim) among their ancestors, this willful child sacrifice violates the fundamental tenets of morality and ethics. The message of Abraham’s non-
sacrifice of Isaac was, and remains first and foremost, the absolute rejection of such practices. This prohibition, for the children of Abraham -Jews, and later Christians and Moslems – stands in sharp contrast to the paganism and idolatry that existed at that time, and apparently still exists in some cultures. Child sacrifice was the most fundamental expression of idolatry and forms the basis for the central biblical message, prohibiting any contact with, or tolerance for, such practices.
That the Palestinian leadership could encourage such behavior as part of their political and military campaign against Israel, or for any other purpose, is beyond belief or explanation.
After first buying into the Palestinian propaganda, the forces of morality in the world are beginning to confront this horrible reality. Sweden’s Queen Silvia was among the first voices of conscience outside of Israel to raise this issue. In a meeting of the World Childhood Foundation that took place at the UN, she strongly criticized Palestinian parents for abusing their children in this way.
“As a mother I’m very worried about this. I’d like to tell them to quit. This is very dangerous. The children should not take part.”
While the Palestinian leaders were cynically pursuing their political efforts to isolate Israel in a special meeting of the UN General Assembly, the Swedish queen, placing the responsibility precisely where it belongs, declared: “The Palestinian leaders are exploiting them and risking their lives in a political fight.”
Queen Silvia’s is not the only voice to be raised against this practice. Several journalists have begun to ask difficult questions of the Palestinian spokesmen whose presence on interview programs in newspaper reports is so ubiquitous. There are, of course, no good answers, and the questions as well as the very visible discomfort of the Palestinians, speak for themselves.
The dispatch of children to the front lines, in a brutal war that has no purpose or justification, will haunt Palestinian society for generations. Indeed, there are also an increasing number of
Palestinians who are upset by the high price of Arafat’s adventures, and, in particular, the cynical exploitation of their children.
As these young victims are buried, and the war produces only more suffering, primarily for the Palestinians themselves, the promise of martyrdom seems less appealing. Suddenly, the game of provoking the Israeli soldiers and playing before the news cameras, while Palestinian gunmen fire from behind, has become deadly.
Eventually, enough of these parents, and the children themselves, will bring the sacrifices for Arafat’s war to a stop. They will need the support from many other parents and voices of morality around the world.
Instead of investigating politically based charges of Israeli human rights violations, Mary Robinson, the commissioner responsible for human rights for the UN, can save the lives of
Palestinian children by following the lead of Queen Silvia.
The committee for the Defense of Children International, based in Geneva, has an important role to play as well. The Palestinian branch of DCI, which is supported by donations designed for protecting children, uses these funds for propaganda attacks against Israel, while ignoring the abuses of children by the Palestinian leadership.
In a recent conference on the dangers of landmines that took place in Geneva, the Palestinian members of DCI were too busy circulating denunciations of Israel, to discuss means for cooperation in protecting children from these dangers.
When Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, it was not for sending children to be sacrificed as part of a wider war of terrorism and brutality against Israel. By revoking this award, the Norwegian prize committee would reverse some of the damage it caused in the first place, and send a powerful message in support of basic human morality. It would also help to save Palestinian children.
Sateh Marhaba, Al-Khulafa’ Street
Al-Sartawi Building, 2nd floor
Tel: +972 2 240 7530
Fax: +972 2 240 7018
(Note: please try and use +970, if the above country code does not work)
Website: www.dci-pal.org (click on ‘new’ for updates)
Mail: P.O. Box 55201 Jerusalem
Defense for Children International/Palestine Section is an independent, Palestinian non-governmental organization, established in 1992 to promote and protect the rights of Palestinian children as articulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as in other international instruments.
Tuesday, 31 October 2000
You will find in today’s message the details of the visit of the Patriarch Michel Sabbah to the Vatican and his meeting with His Holiness Pope John Paul II. In fact, after the audience with the pope, the Patriarch was invited to have launch with the pope in order to continue the discussion about the very important issue of the actual situation in the Holy Land, which means that the Holy See is very concerned about what is going on here.
The Patriarch presented to the Holy Father through the secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano a list of proposals to be taken in consideration in order to activate the role of the Holy See to help reaching a solution which might put an end to the conflict in the region.
The afternoon the Patriarch presided the prayer of the Rosary in the Basilica of St Peter in the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the dogma of the assumption of the Virgin Mary to Heaven. The whole prayer was dedicated for peace in the Holy Land. He gave the Homily in which he meditated the Glory of Mary in her heavenly beatitude and asked her to protect her earthly Homeland.
You will find also a press release from Bethlehem University, the only catholic University which was founded in 1973 upon the desire of the late Pope Paul IV.
It seems, and this is clear, that the university is passing through very difficult and critical financial crisis due to the actual situation and the closure of the territories. I think that it needs our help and support because it is providing a very special education to more than 3000 students from all over the country.
I am very concerned in these last days about the escalation of the violence from both sides, resistance action and brutal reaction with excessive force and all the unimaginable creative means and ways. Shooting, killing, launching missiles, destroying houses of the civilians, terrorizing children who can’t even sleep and dream during the darkness of these heavy nigh and long nights. The last unacceptable brutality is devastating lands and uprooting olive trees. They don’t know how precious is an olive tree for a Palestinian farmer who is linked and attached to his land. Let me tell you the story of my father who is an old farmer, owner of more than 400 olive trees. 40 years ago, when he was building our house he need some money to continue the work, so he was obliged to sell a small piece of land in which there were five olive trees. Until now, 40 years later, he tells me always, that he can’t pass by that road near by this land, because he is ashamed to see these five olive trees, because he feels that he betrayed it by selling this small land.
I am afraid that they are destroying our Palestinian Trinity: Land, olive tree and Man. They confiscate land; they uproot olive trees and kill young men. How will we forget and forgive after all that? Will this build peace? Why can’t we live like all the other peoples of the world? Don’t we have the right to live in peace in our own land of our fathers and forfaters?
Preghiera del Rosario
Roma, San Pietro, 31.10.00
Siamo riuniti qui, in comunione col Santo Padre, Giovanni Paolo II, capo e padre della Chiesa universale, per concludere un altra giornata giubilare colla preghiera a Maria, nostra Madre, e Madre della Chiesa. Raccolti davanti al suo mistero, ricordiamo, oggi 31 ottobre, il cinquantesimo anniversario della promulgazione del dogma dell’Assunzione della Vergine Maria, festivitÃ sorta a Gerusalemme nei primi secoli.
Contempliamo dunque la gloria di Maria assunta in cielo, che Ã¨ stato il suo premio perchÃ© “ha creduto nell’adempimento delle parole del Signore” (45). La sua vita sulla terra fu ripiena del mistero del suo Figlio, il Verbo di Dio Incarnato, del mistero della Redenzione, per la salvezza dell’umanitÃ . Colla sua fede, ha aderito al mistero della presenza e dell’azione di Dio nella sua Creazione, ha accettato di vivere senza capire: ha creduto nell’Onnipotente, il Creatore che sa e puÃ²’ disporre della sua creazione. Camminare nelle vie di Dio, Ã¨ cosa sublime, a volte penosa, ma sempre possibile, perchÃ© Dio guarda l’umiltÃ dei suoi figli, e “ricolma di beni gli affamati di giustizia” (53), cioÃ¨ affamati della sua presenza. Colla sua fede, Maria ha sempre sperato: oltre il mistero, oltre le sofferenze ha sperato perchÃ© ha creduto. Ed ha amato perchÃ© ha creduto, finchÃ© fosse arrivata all’amore supremo quello di dare la sua vita, in quella del proprio figlio, per coloro che Dio ha amato, cioÃ¨ tutta l’umanitÃ : “Dio infatti ha tanto amato il mondo da dare il suo Figlio unigenito, perchÃ© chiunque crede in lui non muoia, ma abbia la vita eterna” (Gv 3,16). E’questa la gloria di Maria che contempliamo in questa nostra preghiera vespertina nella gloria dell’Assunzione.
Coloro che Dio ha creati, li ha amati. Colla gloria di Maria nel cielo, guardiamo alla sua patria terrestre oggi, dove troviamo sempre vivo e profondo il mistero di Dio in essa. Terra in cui Ã¨ sorta la salvezza e la riconciliazione per l’umanitÃ , si trova oggi alla ricerca della propria salvezza nella riconciliazione dei suoi due popoli. E’ oggi terra di violenza, di morte, di odio, di distruzione, e grida verso il Signore domandando giustizia.
Lodiamo Dio con Maria: “L’anima mia magnifica il Signore, perchÃ© grande cose ha fatto il in me l’Onnipotente” (46.49). E preghiamo perchÃ© l’Onnipotente faccia oggi grande cose nella sua terra, eletta per manifestarvi il suo amore. Preghiamo perchÃ© Dio dia alla sua terra dei capi che lo temano, che abbiano il coraggio di vedere la dignitÃ di ogni uomo e vedano nell’amico come nel nemico l’immagine di Dio, e che abbiano il coraggio di fare giustizia per se e per gli altri.
La bella e sublime figura di Maria, eletta da Dio, ci mette oggi di fronte a tutto il martirio che subisce la sua patria terrestre. Ricordiamo la gloria del cielo, ricordiamo le sofferenze della terra. Questo ricordo ci invita a meditare la parola di GesÃ¹ su Gerusalemme: “Quando fu vicino, alla vista della cittÃ , pianse su di essa, dicendo: Se avessi compreso anche tu, in questo giorno, la via della pace” (Lc 19, 41-42). Per questa pace, la preghiera e l’azione della Chiesa dei credenti Ã¨ necessaria. Amen.
+ Michel Sabbah
Patriarca Latino di Gerusalemme
Homily during the Rosary Prayer
Rome, St. Peter, 31.10.2000
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have gathered here, in communion with the Holy Father John Paul II, head and father of the universal Church, to conclude another jubilee day with the prayer to Maria, our Mother and Mother of the Church. Picked in front of her mystery, we remember, today 31 October, the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the dogma of the assumption of the Virgin Mary, a festivity which began in Jerusalem in the first centuries.
We contemplate Mary’s glory assumed in heaven, that has been her prize because “She has believed in the fulfilment of the words of the Lord” (45). Her life on the earth was full of the mystery of her son, God’s Incarnate Verb, of the mystery of the Redemption, for the salvation of the humanity. Through her faith, she stuck to the mystery of the presence and the action of God in his Creation, she has accepted to live without understanding: she has believed in the almighty one, the Creator that knows and can use his creation. To walk in the ways of God, is very sublime, at times painful, but always possible, because God looks at the humility of his children, and “fills of good things those hungry for justice” (53), those hungry for his presence.
Through her faith, Mary has always hoped: in spite of the mystery, in spite the sufferings she has hoped because she has believed. And she has loved because she has believed, until she has arrived to the supreme love, which is to give her life, in that of her own son, for those people whom God has loved, which means the whole humanity: “God in fact, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life” (John 3,16). This is the glory of the Gory of Mary that we contemplate in this evening prayer in the glory of the assumption.
With those people whom God has created, has loved. Through the glory of Mary in the heaven, we look at her terrestrial land today, where we find always alive and very deep the mystery of God in it. Land in which was realised the salvation and the reconciliation for the humanity. This same land is today searching for its own salvation and the reconciliation of its two peoples. It became the Land of violence, of death, of hate, of destruction, which cries toward the Lord asking for justice.
We praise God with Mary: “My spirit exults in God my saviour, for the Almighty has done great things for me” (46.49). And we pray that the Almighty does today great things in his Land, chosen to manifest his love. We pray that God gives to his Land leaders who fear him, who have the courage to see the dignity of every man and see in the friend as in the enemy God’s image, and that they have courage to achieve justice for themselves and for the others.
The beautiful and sublime figure of Mary, elected by God, puts us today in front of the whole martyrdom that suffers her terrestrial Land. We remember the glory of heaven; we remember the sufferings of the earth. This memory invites us to meditate the words of Jesus on Jerusalem: “When he drew near, and came in sight of the city, he shed tears on it and said: If you had only understood, on this day, the way of the peace” (Lk 19, 41-42). For this peace, the prayer and the action of the whole Church with all the believers, is necessary. Amen.
+ Michel Sabbah
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
P. O. Box 9 – Bethlehem, Palestine
Tel. 972 – 2- 274 12 42
Fax 972 – 2 – 274 44 40
Office of the President-Vice Chancellor
Bethlehem University Struggles to Remain Open
October 31, 2000
Since the end of September, Bethlehem University has had to contend with the fact that many students and teachers are unable to reach the campus. Military closures, checkpoints, and roadblocks have severely restricted travel to the University. Areas are isolated from one another and it is uncertain from day to day which students and staff will be present.
Even though all students and staff have Bethlehem University identity cards, the lack of uniform policy at the Israeli checkpoints as to who is allowed into Bethlehem continues to cause great frustration and humiliation. It seems that many times the decision for permission for passage is at the whim of the individual soldier at the checkpoint.
Recently the University has revised the class schedule to allow for an earlier ending of the school day to facilitate travel with a higher degree of safety. While it is difficult to say that Bethlehem University has started its fall semester because of so many uncertainties and interruptions, it is now impossible to predict when the fall semester will be completed. Specific programs such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have definite exam dates already scheduled with preparations for these exams greatly jeopardized due to the unpredictability of regular classes.
In the early evening of October 25th Israeli machine gunfire hit a classroom at Bethlehem University. Fortunately no one was injured but considerable property damage was sustained. The bullets broke windows, ricocheted in the classroom leaving holes in the chalkboard and wall. The outer wall of Bethlehem Hall facing Manger Road was also hit by several bullets breaking the stone facing. A strong protest was lodged with the Israeli military since there was absolutely no provocation from within the University for this unwarranted action.
We are calling upon churches and religious institutions world- wide, along with universities and human rights organizations, to show support to our demand for a normal semester with safety for our students and personnel. We are appealing to all who are concerned about our strategic educational mission here, to talk to their representatives in their respective parliaments, in order to have the Israeli army ease its restrictions and allow students and staff admittance into Bethlehem. Whatever influence you as an individual or your organization can exert will be greatly appreciated. May we continue to work together to bring justice and peace to this land.