“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

From Jerusalem # 29

I am proud to be an American, but I am no longer proud of American policy toward democracy and justice. It is with a heavy heart that I write these words, because I know some people in my country will choose to condemn me rather than think about what I write.

I am proud to be an American, but I am no longer proud of American policy toward democracy and justice. It is with a heavy heart that I write these words, because I know some people in my country will choose to condemn me rather than think about what I write. It is far less taxing to shout than to think critically. I realize that criticism of American policy is often perceived as a threat to our American wealth and comfort.

I am proud to be a Lutheran Christian, but I wonder if my church values the rights and welfare of others enough to put itself on the line. It is marvelous to have thousands of congregations pray for peace, but peace with justice will only come about when millions of the committed people in those congregations demand it from their lawmakers, their pastors, their bishops&when their prayers take the form and shape of a prophetic call to the world.

Gaza is the trigger. Gaza is the catalyst. The suffering and death in Gaza is at the fore of every life here in this land. Yet the tragedy is so much greater than most people at home would ever think possible. All the evidence indicates that the nation and government of Israel are determined to guarantee that the Palestinian people will never have a country able to sustain itself or live interdependently with the world's community of nations. And America is Israel's partner in this endeavor. Only the terminally naïve or the blindly partisan accept the rationale that Israel's re-invasion of Gaza is a response to a very small military operation which resulted in a toll of two Israelis dead and one captured. Ever since the Palestinians elections in January when the Hamas Party won a clear majority in the Palestinian National Assembly, Israel has been harassing, prodding, goading Palestinians to respond: they closed the Karni Crossing for weeks at a time, the only passage for food, fuel, and medical supplies to reach the Gazans and for their products to reach willing customers.thousands of tons of fruits and vegetables rotted at the terminals while pediatric and elderly patients waited in vain for medicines; targeted assassinations resumed, by which I mean helicopter or jet rocket fire at a single vehicle, often in the midst of a crowded, public area; while the world believed that the "disengagement" from Gaza meant at least a limited amount of freedom and self-determination, Israel maintained a death grip on all land, sea, and air traffic into and out of the territory; while the Palestinians in northern Gaza did continue their bombardment of nearby areas of Israel with the now-infamous homemade Kassam rockets which to this date have resulted in exactly zero deaths, Israel retaliated with a rain of deadly shells and missiles which killed combatants and civilians alike.

It then seized on the pretext of the one incursion into its state to wage all-out war on both the combatants and the civilians in Gaza. I do not condone the Palestinian action which left two Israeli men dead and one soldier a captive, but there is no way on earth that that episode justified the bombing of an electric power plant which left one-half the population without electricity! No power means no sewage disposal, no clean water, no cooking, no lights. Nor did it justify the deaths of the Palestinian civilians, including children, who have died from the attacks. The entire operation, right down to the bombing of highway bridges, was a well-planned, well-executed military operation which had virtually nothing to do with the capture of Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

And my country stood by, blessing the entire operation with a smattering of cautionary words about proportionate response while implicitly granting its approval. You see, the truth is that both Israelis and Palestinians, along with all the internationals here, know that America will allow the Israeli administration to do just about anything it wishes. The Palestinians ask me, "Why does Mr. Bush hate us?" The Israelis who have their eyes on all the land just smile. The Israelis who long for peace with justice and often put their lives and reputations on the line sadly shake their heads. My international friends and colleagues just ask a plaintive "Why?" The United States has led the rest of a willing, compliant western world to impose a near-total boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian government. For better or far worse, the Palestinian people have come to a state of existence in which they are almost totally dependent on outside assistance. Israel has divided the West Bank into a series of disconnected cantons and, in addition, has cut those cantons off from their heart.Jerusalem. With this separation of people from their villages, markets, and greater families, the result of the U.S. cutoff of aid is widespread hunger and deprivation. Please do not think that there is even a hint of exaggeration in these words. The despair is palpable. One recent morning, as my wife and I walked on the primary Arab shopping street in Jerusalem, we noticed that nearly all the shops were shuttered.this on the biggest shopping day of the week. A question to a friend confirmed our thought that this was in protest of Israel's gigantic military incursion into Gaza. It is readily apparent that the merchants were diminishing their own meager incomes to proclaim their solidarity with their sisters and brothers in Gaza. The coffee I was carrying that I thought I must have grew suddenly heavy at the thought of the suffering so close to our home.

For several months now I have been listening to reports of heavy-handed American orders to cease all relief and development projects with Palestinians that were U.S. funded. Citing laws that my country has frequently ignored or circumvented when it suited political objectives, U.S. officials have been very candid that their aim is to bring down the Hamas government. On countless occasions I have been asked why America encourages people in the Middle East to have democratic elections and then condemns their choices when they are not to America's liking. Any response I make sounds hollow even to my ears when it is offered within the reality where it is obvious that America does not really object when ordinary folk must pay the price with their homes, their families, their lives. That is precisely what is happening in Gaza and, by virtue of Israeli actions, in the West Bank.

There is not one iota of support or approval in these lines for terrorist acts, especially the sort than Israel and the United States are accusing Hamas of in their attempt to force the duly-elected government out of power. I fervently believe that there are far better ways to deal with the situation. As we have done on so many other occasions, we can do all in our power to bring the parties to the negotiating table, voice our concerns and differences, and work hard to hammer out agreements and solutions. Because we refuse to do so in this instance sends a clear message to people here: America is far more interested in getting its own way than in justice and peace.

How do I know that message is heard here? People tell me every day!

Russell O. Siler, Pastor
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer
English-speaking Congregation
Jerusalem, Old City

2016-10-24T07:29:26+00:00 July 25th, 2006|Categories: News|