On this Easter weekend in sad Jerusalem in the midst of complex realities, the mixed motives of those who hold the matrix of control, By Tom Getman, World Vision, Jersualem www.hcef.org Tom Getman, World Vision, Jerusalem April 13, 2001 Dear Family and Friends: On this Easter weekend in sad Jerusalem in the midst of complex realities, the mixed motives of those who hold the matrix of control, and confusing rhetoric that is usually uncritiqued by the international media, a brutal and illegal siege continues against an essentially defenseless and misperceived Palestinian people. It is a bleak Good Friday. Urgently it is time for accusations of anti-semitism to be refuted…as much for the sake of “God’s Chosen People” as for the Palestinians who are being oppressed. Those who are courageous enough to tell the stories of people driven from their homes, traumatized, trapped in besieged communities, killed or injured by withering tank and missile fire, driven to desperate acts of revenge, and demonized by a misperceiving world, should not have to defend themselves as Jew haters. It is eerily quiet as we seek to still our hearts during the Good Friday disciplines…in large measure because most Muslims and Christians from the Occupied Territories are forbidden to come to the Holy City today for prayers. So much for the well constructed myth that “Jerusalem is open to worshippers of all faiths”. The one intrusive sound during the three hour “Watch on the Cross” has been a circling Apache war helicopter armed with American missiles assuring Passover worshippers also going into the Old City that no unwelcome “strangers” would be in their midst. For the last 24 hours impromptu roadblocks have been mercilessly harassing the few workers with permits even as they were returning to the West Bank. CHILLING ILLUSTRATIONS One of the most chilling pictures yesterday was the sight of forty or more detained workers returning home on the rarely used Shepherd’s Field road into besieged Bethlehem below the intrusive settlement of Har Homa – Abu Ghneim. Soldiers seemed quite surprised to find a witness to their brutality as they forced these defenseless laborers anxious to return home with their meager wages to stand at attention in the afternoon sun while each was taken in turn and rudely interrogated behind the rickety bus stopped on a deeply rutted agricultural road just off the formerly beautiful now construction scrape-strewn road. The terrorized workers only crime was their desire to put food on their families’ tables when unemployment is at nearly 60%. Another shocking sight was the string of shops in occupied Hebron that rampaging Jewish settlers broke into and burned in response to the murder (apparently by a Palestinian sniper) of the 8-month-old baby girl of Hebron settlers. This was indeed a horrible crime, but the collective punishment for this terrible tragedy was a curfew on 30,000 Hebronites who then suffered the destruction of their vegetable market and numerous shops. To the German newspaper reporter who accompanied us it was reminiscent of another period in history. To their credit the editors of Ha’aretz newspaper on April 3 responded: The Jewish settlement in Hebron is a major nuisance, and the lawless behavior of Jews there in recent days leads to the conclusion that the settlement should be evacuated…the illegal settlements were deliberate provocations of the Arab population of the city. It is like a bone in the throat of the Arabs. REAL TERRORISM The occupation is the real terrorism here and the body of faithful people of all religions is suffering an awful Via Dolorosa this day…. unaccompanied by the usual throngs of pilgrims from around the world along with those from the West Bank and Gaza. Whereas we usually experience the support of 20,000 faithful on the Palm Sunday walk only 5000, mostly Jerusalemites, made the journey from Bethphage where tradition has it that Jesus began the triumphal ride into the Holy City as the beginning of His walk to Golgatha a week later. The cumulative effect of the military siege is devastating. In modern history no effort to crush an ethnic or religious minority has gone so unreported and without a protective military intervention. The USA veto of the UN Security Council effort to provide an observer force for Palestine was a crushing blow not only to a population on its knees but to the image of America as a place that protects and encourages human rights. THE STRAWMAN OF ANTI-SEMITISM For those who love both Israelis and Palestinians the kid glove treatment of Israeli atrocities must come off. History will reveal this later with tragic consequences. We cannot be frightened away by the propagandists who will always use the sad deaths of those few Israelis who are putting their children into harm’s way in places like Gaza and Hebron as a sign that another anti-Semitism is raising its ugly head and that the Jews are going to be “pushed into the sea”! Nonsense. More to the point is that Palestinian officials have risked their lives to seek peace and continue “security coordination” talks with Israeli officials. The result has been that they are subjected to well planned Israeli gunfire upon their return from a joint meeting sponsored by the American ambassador. Extra-judicial assassinations continue against even moderate Palestinian officials. Scores of homes (57 in the last two weeks in a Gaza refugee camp along…rendering 500 homeless!) are being demolished while other news stories get the precious minutes of television newscasts. And all of this against the backdrop of ever-burgeoning settlements gobbling up more and more of the increasingly scarce Palestinian farm and village land and water. One cluster of 3 villages where World Vision works has lost 70% of its land to an orthodox settlement Betir Illit. It could more appropriately be called Betir Illicit. As Jewish progressive Israel Shamir says, “the true purpose [of anti-Semitism fighters] is not to fight anti-Semitism but to frighten ordinary Jews (and I dare say other human rights advocates) into submission” when it is time to “object to the policies of the organized Jewish community”. And it is more apparent each day that the Palestinian people and a few prophets of the Israeli left were right to support Mr. Arafat in his refusal to submit to the apartheid accord of Camp David. Prime Minister Sharon has admitted in this weekend’s Passover interview that in fact the government only intends to give back 42% of the Occupied Territories confiscated in violation of the Geneva Accords in 1967. And that none of the onerous settlements that hover over every Palestinian village and city will be removed. There can be no viable peaceful future for either people under these conditions. CALL FOR PRAYERS A prayer from the recent Washington, DC, Churches for Middle East Peace Vigil is appropriate: Give us ears to hear, O Lord To hear the cries of people living under occupation Of farmers whose land has been taken Of parents whose children have been killed or wounded Of faithful Christians and Muslims barred from worshipping in the Holy City, Hear our prayers for justice and peace for the Palestinians. Give us ears to hear, O Lord to hear the voices of those who bear the scars of the Holocaust Of mourners grieving the deaths of those killed in recent conflicts Of those who seek new ways of bringing reconciliation Of those whose bright hopes for a “promised land” have ended in despair, Hear us as we pray for security and peace for the people of Israel. I have attached a few articles or references about the on-going siege and calls for engagement by religious leaders. I pray that your Easter or Passover celebrations will be troubled by the situation here, the location of the birth of our monotheistic faith…whether we be Christian, Muslim or Jew. And that you will be stirred to action to help mobilize an informed body of faithful people who will stand against this cancerous evil marked by siege and settlement colonies that is destroying any hope for a viable just peace. May the false safety of silence be put to an end and those who live in that darkness discover their voice in the Light of truth. Easter/Passover hope and peace, tg