In view of the terrible situation on the West Bank, Gaza and the Bethlehem area, the following letter was sent on behalf of the Association to the White House, the State Department and the Palestine/Israel desk.
Please feel free to circulate it among your members and the media.
Edward A. Hazboun,
President, The Bethlehem Association.
December 5, 2000
Mr. Edward S. Walker, Jr.,
Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs,
Department of State,
Washington, D.C. 20520
Re: Peace in Palestine/Israel.
Dear Mr Walker:
Over the small town of Bethlehem this Christmas time, there are no angels proclaiming peace to the world!. Instead, there are Apache and Cobra gun ships shelling civilians in their homes and fields. Shepherd's Field and Manger Square have become refugee quarters for people whose homes have been destroyed by American weapons.
For the past ten weeks Palestinian children and teenagers have been killed and maimed everyday. Israel says that the lives of its soldiers are being threatened and they feel obliged to protect themselves. The world is asking how can children and teenagers, throwing stones, frighten the hell out of trained Israeli soldiers who are hidden in their tanks, armored vehicles and behind their shields. The world is asking which is more lethal - the stones thrown by children or Israeli machine gun bullets, long range snipers, missiles, tank shells and Apache gun ships?
Everyday the list of victims is increased by many names, 280 killed or murdered, 10,000 wounded and maimed, and thousands detained and tortured. Civilians are being shelled in their homes and whole neighborhoods demolished. Thousands are being made refugees in their own towns. People are running out of fuel, medicine, and basic food supplies while their towns, villages and camps are besieged by Israeli tanks and army checkpoints, while their skies are being violated by Cobra and Apache gun ships relentlessly shelling their homes. New refugee camps are sprouting everywhere, from shepherd field near Bethlehem to the suburbs of Ramallah and Nablus. Instead of celebrating Christmas and world peace, people in Bethlehem are mourning their dead and caring for their wounded and handicapped.
These are American supplied helicopters, missiles and shells that are killing, maiming and terrorrizing innocent civilians and destroying their homes and property. People are blaming the United States not Israel.
It is the moral responsibility of the United States, the champion of human rights and world order, to put end to this brutal terrorism by telling Israel "STOP IT, THAT'S ENOUGH!" It is time the United States publicly denounced the evil at work in the Israeli Government and its military and to demand that American weapons not be used against civilians.
There can be no reason why two million people should live under a military occupation for thirty-three years, have their lands confiscated, children murdered, houses demolished, orchards bulldozed, towns and villages besieged, economy destroyed, their water stolen, freedoms curtailed and rights violated even in the course of negotiations. The road to peace and stability in Palestine and the region begins with the need to end the Israeli domination, humiliation and massacre of the Palestinian people and ethnic cleansing of their territories which Israel wants to keep.
As a first step, the United States must demand that its weapons, which were supplied to Israel for defensive purposes only, may not be used for aggression against civilians, otherwise, immediate severe sanctions will be imposed and implemented.
Second the United States, which led international intervention in such hot spots as Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo, can't turn a blind eye to the yearnings of Palestinians for peace and freedom. It must demand that Israel withdraw its forces from the occupied Palestinian areas. It should then support the immediate dispatch of an international observer force to protect the Palestinians and to enforce a just and internationally sanctioned peace in the area.
Nothing short of forceful actions by the United States can bring a just and permanent peace to the area.
Edward A. Hazboun
The Bethlehem Association.