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

VIOLENCE BEGETS VIOLENCE, Reflections # 52

Dear Family and Friends: The situation here seems to be spinning out of control…with so many bent over with grief and disbelief about what the horrific violence is bringing. By Tom Getman, World Vision, Jerusalem November 28, 2000 Dear Family and Friends:
The situation here seems to be spinning out of control…with so many bent over with grief and disbelief about what the horrific violence is bringing. The Palestinian liberation protests, of rocks and small arms after 33 years of the systemic violence of torture, dispossession of occupation, and refugee diaspora has now escalated. A roadside attack on an Israeli school bus, a Palestinian car riddled with tank machine gun bullets and scores of rockets against civilian homes in Nablus and occupied Gaza. Most recently Israeli tanks have fired on civilian vehicles, killing four, and critically injuring eight Palestinians. What an awful maelstrom has been stirred up out of an inadequate political structure built on personal agendas. The bus attack in Gaza underscores how settler children are placed in harm's way in Gaza on confiscated Palestinian land. This makes a mockery of Israeli charges that Arab children are being used for "cannon fodder" in the clashes. Especially when so many of them with school bags on their backs have been killed or injured. It is now clearer than ever if the occupation would end the largely symbolic violence of the Palestinians would also. During the withering nighttime bombardment, which occurred coincidentally with the live broadcasts and post mortems from the interminable elections courtroom drama in Florida, I was talking every 30 minutes with our manager Yasser Toshtash. He held up the communications radio so that I could hear, as he said "the voices of the bullets flying outside my house while my children hover in the corner crying. Bishar our two year old won't stop screaming or get off my lap. The small light of peace went out in my heart…the only light I have left is from the God". While they continue to count ballots in the USA, we are counting the injuries from bullets and the resulting humanitarian needs here. Clearly violence of any kind is counter productive. And it is adding to the sadness that while cooler heads on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides keep pushing for a de-escalation others are crying for more extraordinary force and assassination of leaders. This is even after President Arafat expressed sorrow for what happened to the Israeli children on the bus, denounced all acts of violence, claimed no responsibility for the act as it was under full Israeli occupation security control. The biblical message that it is only in weakness that strength is found seems to be totally lost. It puts people in the humanitarian community in a position where it is clear that we must align ourselves unequivocally with the nonviolent, marginalized, frightened, traumatized, and weak. Each political side is trying to enlist outsiders (journalists, visiting politicians, diplomats, aid workers and expatriate church employees) to sign on for the battle for world opinion. We cannot be in complicity with the powers of domination and oppression…whether Palestinian or Israeli. But when we see injustice we must speak even if it appears to be "political". A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS I have attached two pictures which tell much more than I could with words. The first is of my colleague Dave Robinson from our Regional Office in Vienna who is holding the guidance system from a heat-seeking missile. This was fired by an American made Apache helicopter into the kitchen and living room of the home I mentioned several weeks ago where 15 children and their parents and grandparents from three families were cowering in the basement in Beit Jala. This is the same village near Bethlehem where German doctor Dr. Harry Fischer was killed recently by another "anti-tank" missile while aiding the wounded in the streets. These weapons are an American product of the Clifton Manufacturing Company and have warnings which indicate "illegal for use on civilian targets". It causes us as American citizens to wrestle with the violence that our country is producing. The second photo is of Hanna Jeraiseh and her grandson Tamer. A similar projectile to those above was fired from a tank less than 150 meters away totally destroying their home. The 80-year-old Jeraiseh couple, their son and widowed daughter-in-law, and their families including five grandchildren live in the village of Beit Sahour, the traditional Shepherd's Field of the Bible. Tamar was shuffling through the ashes of his room looking for his toys crying and visibly upset by the destruction around him. He is carrying a bullet in his little three year old fist. It is an illegal tumbling bullet which are pointed on both ends. These were shot at the fire brigade and scores of volunteers who tried to save the house. When I called from the site and asked the NGO liaison from the Israeli army why this home along with 166 others in the town were fired upon he said "someone shot at our base from there." I asked him to come with me to meet the families as soon as possible and see for him that these nonviolent people would not shoot at Israelis themselves and would not harbor people who do. I pray that there will be something left for him to see if and when he finally comes. One owner of a demolished house near the military site said in his grief, "how can this be? The soldiers from that fortress even knew my children and mothers' names!" He said on Israeli TV that night with his ruined home as a backdrop, "we still must seek peace and a way to live together." HUMANITARIAN CRISIS DEEPENS While all of this overt violence continues, the more subtle but in some ways more damaging closures and curfews on thousands of people in villages tighten. Jusef Awad, married with two children, and a good friend of our development manager in the villages south of Bethlehem was trying to get home through roadblocks last Friday. The soldiers demanded he give them his car. When he refused they shot him fatally in the head. We were at the cemetery on Saturday in Beit Ummar, his home, when hundreds of his townspeople carried him to his rest. To further aggrieve his family and village, scores of Israeli soldiers in tanks invaded the town after the funeral and fired tear gas into the mourners causing further violence and injury. Another Palestinian friend from a sister humanitarian agency lost 700 orange trees maliciously uprooted two weeks before harvest by soldiers creating a free fire zone near an illegal settlement in Gaza. Palestinian villages are now completely cut off from each other by Israeli settler by pass roads, barricades, and checkpoints. Breadwinners have not worked for now 60 days. Food and other essentials are getting short. Relief efforts are obstructed. Palestinians crops are being systematically destroyed by settlers and soldiers. Fragile economies in both countries are threatened. Israel has now announced an embargo on cooking and heating gas into the Occupied Territories. Pray for people of good will here that none would end up aiding and abetting the powers of domination, or give in to the appeals of the violent powers of oppression. Please pray for those who are suffering not only severe shortages but a diminishing of their humanity…that they will not succumb to the counterproductive but understandable slide toward actions driven by hopelessness only to bring more tragedy upon their heads. Grace, mercy, and peace, tg Tom Getman World Vision Palestine Box 51399 East Jerusalem via Israel 972-2-628-1793 ph 972-2-673-3298 fx For the "Jerusalem Emergency Fund"" World Vision International Attn: Jim Canning 800 West Chestnut Ave Monrovia, CA. 91016-3198 (See attached file: missile.JPG) (See attached file: hanna & tamer.JPG) ******************************************************************************************************************** The Promise and the Reality: Humanitarian crisis parallels Israeli/Palestinian violence By Thomas Getman JERUSALEM — The reporting of the Middle East crisis has become mundane: TV news reports show grim-looking politicians endlessly walking in and out of meetings, and then flash pictures of "mob" clashes or the day's detritus of violence. Meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis exists? And deepens, which means the suffering of children worsens. The world did notice for one day last month when 12-year-old Mohammed al Durra died in his father's arms while the two were cynically targeted. Young Mohammed, like countless others, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tens of millions witnessed his death on television screens. As one traumatized Gazan child told his mother "I no longer want to go any where with father because fathers cannot protect their children". Seven weeks later, the world barely notices. One month ago, Israeli Acting Foreign Minister Sholmo Ben Ami released a statement assuring humanitarian organizations that Israel would not block their efforts. Rather, it would help to facilitate the life-saving and trauma-reducing humanitarian activities. "Israel will not prevent and has not prevented, the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians," Ben Ami said. Relevant authorities had been ordered to transfer aid "without delay" and with Israeli assistance. We in the aid community were greatly relieved–until the reality proved to be much different from the promises. These are the facts on the ground: Authorities are detaining winter clothing, food, and emergency surgical supplies at Ben Gurion Airport, the Ashdod port, the Allenby Bridge from Jordan, and the Gaza checkpoints. Food and clothes are needed by families whose fathers haven't worked in more than a month, and medical supplies are intended for more than 9000 people lying in overburdened Palestinian hospitals. Four times in five weeks, authorities at checkpoints leading into Gaza have turned away UN trucks carrying several tons of World Health Organization health kits, and medical supplies donated by aid organizations, including American Near East Refugee Aid and the French and Austrian people. Israeli soldiers and settlers are preventing humanitarian vehicles from entering or leaving Palestinian villages, sometimes for hours. On November 6 an Ariel Israeli settler with the aid of the Israeli army barricaded a road being used by a relief distribution team escorted and funded by Canadian diplomats carrying 50 tons of food to desperate villagers. On November 14 the Australian funded community center that was used for the planning of the relief operation was destroyed in the early morning hours by Israeli soldiers. The center was to be the World Vision USAID project management office. Other humanitarian organizations, such as the Union of Health Workers Committees and the Red Cross/Red Crescent, report that medical emergency cases are being delayed or turned back at blockades, in violation of Articles 59, 60, and 61 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects civilians during war. Ambulances and the Hebron hospital have been fired upon as well by Israeli helicopters. Barricades around Palestinian villages and neighborhoods under curfew have been booby-trapped. On October 14, a World Vision truck with 12 tons of food couldn't enter the village of Beni Niam near Hebron because of an obstruction in the road. Israeli soldiers watched from a safe distance without sounding an alarm while our well-identified staff, traveling in clearly marked vehicles, began to remove debris mined with explosives. Only villagers' warnings saved our five staff members. This harassment occurs against the backdrop of a despairing population in which families are selling furniture to purchase food for their children. The Israeli government is undermining the work of the international community even as these organizations do courageous service to deliver urgently needed supplies and to continue sustainable education, water, health, and agricultural development projects. The world must know that the least-told story of this crisis is the illegal humanitarian siege that adds to the rage of an occupied people. A collective punishment is being imposed on a civilian population. Speaking practically, this situation can only exacerbate the ongoing tensions and assure more rage in the future. What are some concrete solutions? More than 120,000 Palestinian workers must be allowed back to work immediately to relieve the pressure on both the Israeli and Palestinian economies. The UN estimates that more than $650 million has been lost already to the previously fragile Palestinian economy. Each day's loss in worker wages alone totals $4 million. Israeli industrial and agricultural sectors are reporting huge losses for lack of employees. Both economies are suffering from the reduction of tourist revenue. Second, an international protective shield must be put into place. A UN peacekeeping force is desperately needed in the various flash points around the occupied territories. This objective presence is essential to forestall further loss of life and civilians' deteriorating access to work, food, and medical supplies and services. The peacekeeping force would also lay a foundation for the implementation of UN Resolution 242, which calls for the withdrawal of all Israeli military forces from the occupied territories. Third and most important, Israeli ministries and military must honor and quickly implement Mr. Ben Ami's well-intentioned pledge, in keeping with international humanitarian law, Article 59 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. This article pertains to the free flow of humanitarian goods to occupied areas. Israel is a signatory to this convention. Those who care about the integrity, moral core and survival of Israel and a viable Palestinian state must heed this alert, or the suffering will increase for all the people of the Middle East. It is being said that Israel may be winning the military battle but losing the moral war. The humanitarian siege must stop while politicians negotiate the cease fire and peace treaty, or the resulting agreements will not be sustainable in the mid term, not to mention the years ahead. Tom Getman, World Vision's director in Israel/Palestine, chairs the Emergency Planning and Response Committee of the 40-member Association of International Development Agencies, a member of the UN Humanitarian Task Force.

2016-10-24T07:36:00+00:00 December 1st, 2000|Categories: News|