While our days here are filled with uncertainty, we give thanks to God for our faith that undergirds us and the constant support and care of our partners who share our burdens with us.
While our days here are filled with uncertainty, we give thanks to God for our faith that undergirds us and the constant support and care of our partners who share our burdens with us. We have had many visits from these partners, including the annual meeting of the Coordinating Committee for Cooperation among Overseas Partners (COCOP).
The situation here continues to change daily for us here in and around the Jersualem, Bethlehem and Ramallah regions, including new checkpoints, road closures and movement restrictions. The northern and southern West Bank are virtually separate now, or can be passed by the lucky few who have permits and are willing to travel 8 hours for what should be an hour journey.
Gaza is a pressure cooker with its lid and borders sealed, 1.3 million people in a 20 by 6 mile strip, 37% of whom are PA employees supporting 6-7 people each who are in their third month with no salaries. The continued closures or reduced capacity of the borders, in violation to the agreement Israel signed, means that people are dying for want of basic medical supplies and drugs. The new Hamas security force trying to restore law and order has racheted up the tension. The poverty rate is 75%. Last month, thirty non-governmental organizations wrote a statement together calling on world leaders to see that international law and agreements must be upheld to alleviate the situation. They said that just three things would help much more than humanitarian aid: Allow the democratically-elected government to function, as it runs 75% of the health care, schools and other key services; uphold the Agreement on Movement and Access for Gaza signed on Nov.15, 2005, by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, to allow free passage of goods and workers; and stop the illegal withholding of the Palestinian tax receipts which provide roughly half of Palestinian monthly income.
There are some small positive steps recently, such as the partial lifting of the international boycott of humanitarian aid for Palestinians and a promise by Israeli to let some medical supplies get through. But these are band-aids and temporary solutions. We don’t want to rely on humanitarian aid, we want justice. We want to live and work and build our communities as freedom, democracy and the West supposedly allow. Gazans want to stop watching their produce rotting in trucks because borders have been closed or slowed to a trickle for more than half the year. The most disturbing thing about this humanitarian crisis is that it is mostly man-made, caused mostly by the occupation and its movement and trade restrictions, destruction of infrastructure, personal property and farmland.
Bishop Younan and other Palestinian church leaders attended part of the teleconferenced Palestinian Dialogue on Unity. The Bishop has spoken out clearly for an end to violence of all kinds, by all Palestinians and Israelis. This must include in-fighting, which only weakens us and strengthens the occupation and its disastrous hold upon us. All sides and factions must be held accountable to stop all violence, and this must include the disproportional use of force the military, extra-judicial assassinations, unwarranted arrests, home demolitions, movement restrictions and land confiscation. While Prime Minister Olmert was in the US extending his hand in peace, the Israeli army sent in more than a dozen military vehicles and soldiers into the center of Ramallah, which killed 4 and wounded 50. This does not make it any easier to convince Palestinians to renounce violence. We call on the international community to stop this hypocrisy and hold all accountable to the ways of peace and justice.