“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood.
“Excessive and disproportionate”
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate” (Matthews 23, 37-38). Jesus spoke those words before he went to Jerusalem for the last time. Similar words might have been just as befitting at Passover time last week, almost 2,000 years later.
While American television focused on the usual Good Friday and Easter rituals here and at the Vatican, the brutal realities of the bloodshed in the Holy Land did not seem to disturb the festive mood of America’s Easter parades. CNN had no time to give the carnage in occupied Palestine its “complete in-depth” coverage. CNN barely mentioned the Israeli helicopters firing precision missiles into the overcrowded quarters of Gaza. Secretary of State Colin Powell, however, did call the assaults “excessive and disproportionate” in comparison to the violence caused by Palestinian resistance. Since billions of American dollars are providing Israel’s weapons, the extent of the killing since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada is particularly discomforting news for the American taxpayer: 400 Palestinians and 72 Israelis killed, over a thousand wounded, and millions of dollars worth of destroyed buildings.
“We are celebrating the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” wrote Father Dr. Louis Hazboun, the priest of the Latin Church of Visitation in Zababdeh near Nablus. “This feast has special meaning this year for us who are in a situation of deep oppression from military occupation and economic deprivation. The words of peace so long promised by our leaders remain unfulfilled. We are isolated; we are cut off from the world, cut off from our neighbors, cut off from each other. We are facing the darkness of death–physical, political, national.”
The only foreign leader who took pity on the mourning Palestinians and Israelis was Jordan’s foreign minister, Abdullah Khatib. He went directly to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to offer him a plan that might, just might, end the violence. The Palestinians would have reason to stop their uprising, Khatib argued, if Sharon pulled his troops away from the Palestinian towns, removed the travel restrictions, transferred the tax refunds withheld from the Palestinians, and froze the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had made a similar proposal in his meeting with President Bush.
While Bush remained non-committal, Sharon’s response was unequivocal: No quid pro quo. There will be no compromise and no peace talks unless the Palestinians unilaterally end their uprising. Yet, they had started the stone throwing because the peace talks failed to give them genuine national independence. Now Sharon is asking the same Palestinians to stop throwing stones without giving them any kind of promise of an end to the Israeli occupation. How can Sharon and his allies in Israel and the United States ever hope to end the conflict if they do not offer the Palestinians a normal national existence with full control over their own territory? Unless the hardliners believe that they can keep the Palestinians indefinitely under Israeli domination, or make them leave their homeland in desperation, there is no peace in sight for decades to come.
The United Nations defines terrorism as violence against third parties who are non-participants in military conflicts. By that standard, both Palestinians and Israelis are committing terrorist acts almost daily, the former as suicide bombers, the latter with helicopter gunships.
Mrs. Suad Younan, the principal of the Helen Keller School for the Blind in Jerusalem, recently bemoaned the widespread anguish in the Holy Land when she wrote: “As a mother, I call upon all mothers in the world to intervene and stop the spiral of violence in the Middle East. We do not want the children of Palestine or Israel killed or grow up in hatred, revenge, and fear. When I see that a child is killed, I see my own children. I appeal to the good-willed politicians in the U.S.A., Europe, and other parts of the world … not merely to issue statements but to do the utmost possible to bring comprehensive just peace to our country.”
Are Americans and Europeans not willing to take such messages serious?