Since June 1967, the Palestinian people have suffered from an illegal military occupation of their land. Shortly after the1967 Arab-Israeli war, the UN Security Council passed a resolution “emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and affirmed the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forced from territories occupied in the recent conflict”
Since June 1967, the Palestinian people have suffered from an illegal military occupation of their land. Shortly after the1967 Arab-Israeli war, the UN Security Council passed a resolution “emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and affirmed the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forced from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (http://www.un.org/documents/sc/res/1967/s67r242e.pdf). Recently, President George W. Bush confirmed U.S. policy in an April 4, 2002 Rose Garden speech saying “the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognize boundaries consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/04/20020404-1.html).
However, the occupation persists, and in the past 35 years more than 3 million people were directly or indirectly forced to leave their homeland to take refuge in many countries around the world. Until now, the Palestinian people are the only people in the world still living under military occupation. This occupation affects our daily lives as all of our movement and activity is at the mercy of Israeli military. Simple tasks such as commuting to work and traveling to the local schools are fraught with frustration, humiliation and delays. Bishop Desmond Tutu, in a speech in Boston’s Old South Church on April 13, 2002 remarked, “I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us blacks in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks. They suffer like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. They seemed to derive so much joy from our humiliation.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/africa/1957644.stm)
We need your help to change the situation so that all in this region can live in peace and enjoy the benefits of a just society. Below are 25 ways in which you can personally participate with us working for peace. Together we will grow in our understanding of the value of every life and in basic human rights of freedom. We can’t do it by ourselves. We need each other.
All people of good will are invited to take the initiative and share with us in our dream that one day a Palestinian and Israeli child can play peacefully with dignity in the foothills of Jerusalem. Even if our actions do not appear to influence the overall outcome of events, at the very least we succeed in changing ourselves. And that, in and of itself, is an important victory.
1. Pray: Pray to God and to our Lord Jesus Christ to bring a just peace to the Holy Land. Every prayer is heard. Pray for the leaders from both sides of the conflict to discover true peace, love and the beauty of reconciliation. Pray for the injured, for the prisoners, and for those who are mourning the loss of a loved one (at least 1,503 Palestinians and 588 Israelis have lost their lives in this bloody conflict in the past two years – many of them women and children. For a profile of Palestinians killed in the conflict, see the website of The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights & the Environment – http://www.lawsociety.org/Intifada2000/list.htm. CNN has compiled a profile of Israeli victims – http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2002/terror.victims/index.html). Pray for those who are under military siege and curfew. More than one million Palestinians are now under curfew. Pray for the people who can’t leave their homes to look for work or to get medical treatment. Pray for the unemployed who are unsure of the source of their next meal. World Bank figures show that about half of all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are living in poverty on $2/day, and the US Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer recently warned that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory was “a humanitarian disaster.” Pray for children who are suffering physical and psychological trauma as a result of the conflict. A recent study by USAID found that more than one-fifth of young Palestinian children are malnourished at the same horrible level of children in Nigeria and Chad (http://www.usaid.gov/wbg/reports/Nutritional_Assessment.pdf). Other studies show an alarming increase in the incidence of post-traumatic stress syndrome and bedwetting among children.
2. Accept that God is Love: God is not blind to the suffering of widows and orphans or to the pain of those in prison. In fact, He loved us so much that He became flesh and dwelt among us to set us free from sin and pain and death.
3. Live your faith: In practicing your faith, you will draw nearer to God and to your brothers and sisters in Christ and in humanity. Loving God and following Christ will compel you to refuse and reject evil, suffering and injustice.
4. Thank God for his many miracles: Despite the daily suffering, fear, pain, injuries, closures, destruction and deep poverty, the Palestinian people still desire and believe in peace where they can live a “normal life”.
5. Get the facts: The Internet is a great resource for getting an accurate picture of what is really happening. There are many websites, which present a more complete picture of the conflict. Below are some useful addresses listed alphabetically. While I may not agree with everything written in these websites, they are a good source of information on the complexities of the conflict.
www.Al-bushra.org (Al Bushra)
www.ariga.com (Oz v’Shalom-Netivot Shalom, religious Zionist anti-Occupation)
www.arij.org (Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem) Good Maps
www.batshalom.org (Bat Shalom, Israeli Women for Peace)
www.bitterlemons.org (Israeli / Palestinian dialogue on political issues)
www.btselem.org (Israeli Human Rights Group)
www.cmep.org (Churches for Middle East Peace)
www.fmep.org (Foundation for Middle East Peace)
www.gush-shalom.org (Gush Shalom)
www.haaretzdaily.com (Prominent Jews writing articles in Haaretz)
www.hcef.org (Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation)
www.hdip.org (Health Development Information and Policy Institute)
www.jerusalem-times.net (Jerusalem Times)
www.jewishpeacefellowship.org (Jewish Peace Fellowship)
www.jewsagainsttheoccupation.org (Jews Against Occupation)
www.jewsnotzionists.org (Jews NOT Zionists)
www.jppi.org (Jews for Peace in Israel and Palestine)
www.keck.ucsf.edu/~yoram/amesp.html (Alliance of Middle East Scientists & Physicians)
www.loga.org/mideastforum/home.htm (Lutheran Church World Service)
www.mecchurches.org (Middle East Council of Churches)
www.nimn.org (Not in Our Name Coalition)
www.opentent.org/jews.html (Jewish Alliance Against the Occupation)
www.palestinecs.org (Palestine Red Crescent Society)
www.pmwatch.org (Palestine Media Watch)
www.refusersolidarity.net (Israeli soldiers refusing to serve in the West Bank and Gaza)
www.rhr.israel.net (Rabbis for Human Rights)
www.sabeel.org (Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center)
www.searchforjustice.org (Search for justice and equality)
www.seruv.org.il/defaulteng.asp (Israeli reservists refusing to serve in West Bank and Gaza)
www.tikkun.org (A Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture and Society)
www.vopj.org (Visions for peace with justice in Israel/Palestine)
www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/international/palestine/index.html (World Council of Churches)
www.yesh-gvul.org/english.html (Yesh Gvul – “There is a Limit”)
6. Know the truth about the Palestinian people: Contrary to what some may tell you, the Palestinian people are not all terrorists. The majority of Palestinians want peace and are working for it. There are many non-violent activities in the Palestinian territories that do not get much press (e.g. The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Among People – www.rapprochement.org). Also, among the Palestinian people there is a very active Christian community that traces its roots back to the first century. Remember that resistance to occupation is not terrorism. Our situation is not too different from that of India in the 1940s or South Africa in the 1980s. Know that we don’t hate Jewish people. On the contrary, we have much in common with them as fellow-Semites. We are simply against what the Israeli government and army are doing to civilians. We are eager and ready to live together in peace after getting our rights.
7. Be reasonable: In war times, extremists arise on both sides. Know the truth and try to understand the facts with an objective point of view. Very rarely in a conflict is one side always right and one side always wrong. Look at the conflict through a desire to seek justice, and consider more than one parties’ view on the issue. You will find it valuable to review international resolutions and perspectives on this conflict. Also interesting are some of former US President Jimmy Carter’s writings such as the April 24, New York Times Op-ed entitled, “America Can Persuade Israel to Make a Just Peace” (http://www.cartercenter.org).
8. Speak out: The media and the press have a very critical influence and are often influenced by lobbyists and interest groups. Get the facts regarding a people who have suffered for over half a century and have few resources to make their voices loud and clear. Write an opinion piece for your local newspaper, set up information tables at your high school or college, or simply talk to people. Be a roving ambassador for the Palestinians by explaining the true facts to everyone you meet. Even the cashier in the supermarket needs good information. You never know how your contribution may affect someone else’s views. The possibilities are endless. The worst thing that one can do is to remain quiet in times like this. Do something! By remaining silent, you contribute to the injustice.
9. Protest Israeli bias in the media: The media has a powerful influence on public opinion and government policy. When you discover bias, immediately contact the news agency and complain. Keep your remarks respectful and stick to the facts. Build a list of e-mail addresses of friends and colleagues, so when you discover bias, you can alert others to also file a complaint. There is power in the number of responses, even if your specific letter is not printed.
10. Visit Palestine: The Palestinians are very kind, hospitable and welcoming people and would love the opportunity to share their story with you. If you can’t come, at least stay in touch with us. If you make plans to come, but end up canceling your trip due to the political situation, consider sending the funds covering the cost of your trip to feed the hungry, to help pay for the educational costs of the young generation, help a sick person in his treatment, or to create job opportunities.
11. Fight child abuse! Extremists on both sides insist on demonizing each other and clamor for war. Sadly, they often target the impressionable younger generation. The Palestinians and the Israelis are like connected twins: we have to be separated carefully and fairly, and not by force.
12. Fight Israeli Military Excesses: What the Israeli army is doing to the Palestinian civilians is brutal and must be stopped. There is a growing movement among Israeli Reservists that has grown to almost 500 soldiers who to refuse to serve in the West Bank and Gaza because, they “were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people. We, whose eyes have seen the bloody toll this Occupation exacts from both sides…shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.” (http://www.seruv.org.il/defaulteng.asp or http://www.refusersolidarity.net/).
13. Get a clear vision of terrorism: Killing civilians and innocent people is terrorism – for both sides. Dictionary.com’s definition of terrorism is: “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.”
14. Boycott the Israeli products and services made in the settlements: Israeli settlements were built on land confiscated by force from Palestinians landowners making them illegal according to international law. Buying products made in these settlements supports injustice. Boycott brands like Elite, Telma, Osem, Ahava products, and some fruits and vegetables. For more information see http://www.bigcampaign.org.uk/index.asp or http://www.boycottisraeligoods.org/index.php.
15. Sponsor a Child: The Palestinian economy has broken down and resulting in an average annual income $1100 per family, however the cost to send one child to school is $700 a year. The Christians of the Holy Land need your help! They ask for support in giving their children a Christian education. Through you sponsorship you provide important benefits for the Christians of the Holy Land. The children and their families come to know that they are not alone as they face difficult and often hostile conditions.
16. Support the Red Cross of the Middle East: Palestinian health and medical services are in shambles. Doctors are in need of virtually every kind of medical supply and health-related resource. Pharmacists are in need of almost every available medicine.
17. Donate to charity: More than 50% of the Palestinian people are living beneath the poverty line. Help them to find a job opportunity or to pay for a good education by supplementing school and university fees. Work with the churches and private organizations to obtain detailed reports of how your money is being used.
18. Fix a house: The Israeli army has destroyed many civilian homes and caused massive destruction by using bombs and bullets. They also often destroy houses they use as camps and observance points during military incursions into the cities, towns and villages. There are thousands of damaged houses that have been reduced to rubble. Most of these homeowners cannot fix their homes as they are already struggling to feed their families due to massive unemployment and the crippling of the Palestinian economy.
19. Call Palestine: Pick up the phone and call your Palestinian friends and relatives. If you don’t know someone personally, ask someone who does. Call that person from time to time, and assure them that you share their pain and are trying to understand what they are going through. Commend that person for having the courage and the strength to live in Palestine now. Let them know that they are not alone! Encourage them not to leave their homeland, but to work for a just peace.
20. Fly the Palestinian flag: Put a Palestinian flag in front of your home or display a flag on your car or clothing. Use the flag as a conversation starter to let everyone know that you are in support of the enforcement of international laws and are working for a just solution to the crisis in the Middle East. Let people know that you support the creation of a Palestinian state to stand side-by-side with Israel so that all in the region can live in peace and security.
21. Rally for Palestine: Organize a rally in your city. When thousands of people turn out for a public display of support, it affects all segments of your community – the politicians, the media, and general public opinion. And most importantly, it engenders unity and pride among peace loving Palestinians.
22. Register and vote: Vote for candidates who you believe will work for justice and peace, not for financial or personal interests.
23. Visit your congressperson or parliament member: Form a concerned citizen’s group, contact your congressperson or member of Parliament, and then make an appointment to see him or her. Show your government representatives your serious concern about the crisis and the impact of global political posturing on everyday people. These are YOUR government representatives. Be sure they are aware of your convictions.
24. Contact the president or prime minister: Call or email them daily or weekly. Commend their true involvement to solve the conflict in a fair and just way. Ask them to take a strong mediating role. Write a short, personal email with a subject line like: “Thank you for standing for Justice and Peace”. Every call, letter, and fax is counted.
25. Brainstorm: Sit with a group of friends, and spend some time thinking of additional ideas that will be a force for positive change in this conflict. In so doing, you will help us fight for justice and bring peace to both Palestinians and Israelis who have a right to live in peace and security in the region.