REFLECTION #53
               DRAMATIC TIMES...DEFLATED SPIRITS
                        January 12, 2001
 

Dear Family and Friends:

May 2001 finally bring  peace in our souls if not our environs, and a
deeper understanding among the fearful peoples of the Middle East.
Continuing Christmas, Eid  and Hanukkah blessings to each of you.

Uri Savir, the chief negotiator for the Israelis in Oslo said correctly on
BBC last week, "the next 19 days because of the political transitions will
be the most dramatic in the last 10 years".  Not only are they dramatic
they are frightening as the countdown on the fractured peace negotiations
stumbles along.   The Christmas celebrations (which continue here with
Orthodox and Armenian commemorations this week and next) have been nearly
completely curtailed accept for quiet private worships and family
gatherings.  Visitors from outside have been almost nonexistent as the
Israeli government closed Bethlehem to almost all worshippers.  Even
Israeli Palestinian Latin Patriarch Michael Sabbah walked in solidarity
with those under curfew from the Rachel's Tomb checkpoint to the Nativity
Church in the pouring rain.

And last week one of America's best known fundamentalist preachers came to
endorse one of the two Israeli prime minister candidates.   A choice
between the assassin of Aqsa Intifada and the butcher of Beirut.   It
reminded me of the adage I learned from Senator Mark Hatfield that the
"church cannot become partisan without exciting one and inciting the
other".  This is the same minister who along with his fellows urged those
of us who wrote the sanctions legislation against Idi Amin's Uganda and PW
Botha's Apartheid regime that they were God's chosen and we should support
them for their moral battle against "communism" and pornography; among the
same religious leaders who urged us to support Rios Montt in Guatemala as
he was slaughtering Christian liberation leaders.   As before part of the
American church risks having the blood of the martyrs on their hands.

                         CRITICAL ROLE OF THE NGOS

Yet, as we labor in the midst of the discouragement here we still see the
joyous smiles even of children whose fathers have been out of work now for
three months by focusing on what our primary role must be...the delivery of
the holiday festival clothing  or food packages through roadblocks; and the
support for near catatonic  mothers who are in pysch-social drama groups
with their traumatized kids getting support in managing their terror.  As
well operations staff carry on with sustainable water and education
development projects which will survive and thrive no matter how the
oppression deepens.  It makes me aware again that we in the NGO community
cannot be recruited for either of the partisans in the election or in the
negotiations.  But even as I try to be faithful to the principle it is hard
in the extreme to not speak out about the monstrous arrogance of power
being imposed in a racist way. Palestinians are not guilt free and if we
can believe the reports they have participated in excesses with responses
too with their desire to be free.  So what we must stand for is the
oppressed poor  on either side of the green line...so far it is just that
there are many more on one side than the other.

World Vision and other NGO staff and church/humanitarian workers are taking
great risks each day to get to offices or the relief and development
projects.   Over the weekend Israeli soldiers killed 3 more Palestinians
whose names weren't important enough to name...a young woman hanging out
the laundry, a 10 year old child standing in the street trying to avoid
Israeli shelling of Arab homes in Hebron, and an unarmed manacled gentlemen
crying out because of the humiliation he was suffering in Gaza.  The total
of Palestinian dead is now more than 360.   Even Deputy Latin Patriarch
Archbishop Boulos Marcuzzo was insulted and then fired on by Israel
soldiers as he was traveling in the West Bank.   And as well hundreds more
acres of fruit trees and irrigation equipment worth $600,000 were "shaved"
in Gaza, the Israelis say to protect their soldiers and settlers who are
present illegally in Gaza. Even after the American Ambassador intervened
with the Israeli Minister of Defense in an effort, it turned out too late,
to stop this economic warfare.  On Shabbat evening last Friday a friend
lost many acres to the bulldozers which never rest.   And the Israeli
government has the temerity to say that there will be no more peace talks
unless the Palestinians reduce the violence.   The occupation itself is
belligerent and persistent violence.

                    CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

It is time the world community stands boldly against offenses that no less
than UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson calls "crimes against
humanity"  being perpetrated here.  Even some brave Israeli officials
declared last week that extra-judicial "assassinations of Palestinian
leaders are not having their intended result and in fact are illegal".
Courageous journalists declare that "encirclement, or more bluntly, siege
of Palestinian villages, lacks even pretense of having a security purpose -
this is a real tool of severe and collective punishment...on humanitarian
grounds, this is unacceptable punishment; in terms of practical
consequences, it is mere folly."  In fact it is increasing support by
Palestinians to stand up against the occupation with any means necessary as
undisciplined Israeli soldiers are using deadly force against innocents in
their priority to protect settlers.  Fortunately there are a few voices of
conscience in the Israeli government.  Foreign Minister Ben Ami it is
reported said in this week's cabinet meeting, "economic choking of
Palestinians contributes nothing to security, and turns the territories
into a pressure cooker which begets more violence."   Other sane officials
are calling for investigations and charges of manslaughter against soldiers
who are killing unarmed civilians far from conflict areas.  Other soldiers
are refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories.

But the ideological momentum is great in the other direction as several
hundred thousand of the settlers, a large majority children, from illegally
confiscated land  in the West Bank marched into Jerusalem and gathered at
Jaffa Gate for a "one Jerusalem" rally to oppose the Israeli governments
announced "peace process" intentions to allow a few Palestinian refugees to
return to Israel, to share the sovereignty of Jerusalem and to dismantle
some of the offending settlement enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza.    The
radical partisans threatened Palestinians as they moved along so called
"bypass safe passage roads".  My wife Karen and two diplomat wives were
turned back at the Tantur Bethlehem checkpoint even in a car with
diplomatic plates because Israeli soldiers feared for the safety of settler
young people gathering before the demonstration.   The two generals, Ehud
Barak and Ariel Sharon, who are standing for Prime Minister, seem to be
declaring that the only way to peace is apartheid or regional war.   Mr.
Barak spoke to several thousand of the Jewish young people from around the
world here on an all expense paid "Birthright" program to encourage them to
claim their prerogative  and "return" to their "homeland".  Most of them
have never been here before.  And the core of his address was that "never
never never will Palestinians gain the right of return to Israel"!    How
ironic that the morally right solution undergirded by international law and
UN resolutions is being denied to Palestinians languishing in squalid
refugee camps while Jewish young people are being recruited to come and
partake of the fruits of Zionism.   One wonders if the fruit won't sour in
their mouths.

                         TRUE ANTI-APARTHEID SPIRIT

A message from a friend in South Africa, with a poem written in the darkest
days of apartheid, seems appropriate at this dramatic moment:

     In a time when excuses
     for bitterness hang ripe for picking
     sweet revenge
     numb callousness
     are freely available,
     an easy vent
     for deep fears
     and lurching instincts

     In this time I look
     for tenderness
     a heart of tears instead of ice
     a fresh knowledge of others
     not stale self and sin

     Breaking the habitual distortions
     I look for your eyes not the tribe
     your nobility and bearing
     not the scars and stench
     an all pervading
     ever persevering hope

     The knowledge of a
     new emerging order
     a Kingdom for which to lose life
     is to find it
     and to give all
     and to finally attain

          Nic 1986

                    PRAY FOR END TO ALL VIOLENCE

As President Clinton declared clearly in his New York speech to the Jewish
organization's gala, the violence must stop from both sides for there to be
any possibility of peace, and the humiliation of Palestinians and rapid
growth of settlements must stop. With witnesses such as the ones attached
below (a Lutheran pastor and an Israeli activist), it hardly seems
possible.  But as Christmas continues on in its most subdued fashion here
we cling to the hope of the Nativity that in fact peace is possible so that
light can break into this bleak midwinter gloom.

All of the Lutheran churches of the Middle East prayed together last
Sunday:

"God of justice and deep peace, you stand with those who are poor and
vulnerable.  You ask us to be the voice of the voiceless.  We call upon you
for those who have suffered the injustice of bloodshed and greed.  From the
depths of our being we together cry out to you for a comprehensive, lasting
and just peace for a shared Jerusalem for two nations and the three
Abrahamic religions.

For traumatized children and parents who live in fear, horror and terror,
that they may be comforted by the star of Bethlehem that proclaims the
incarnation of love, justice, peace and reconciliation.  For the bereaved
and injured and for all victims of current violence.

For Christians, Muslims and Jews in this land and the world that their
faith may positively contribute to a just peace and teach the noble values
of 'loving your neighbor as yourself' and 'bless your enemy'.

Lord in your mercy.  Hear our prayer."

Faithfully,
tg

Tom Getman
World Vision Palestine
Box 51399
East Jerusalem, Via Israel

ph: 972-2-628-1793
fx:  972-2-626-4260