March 7, 2001
From: Corinne Whitlatch

ACTION ALERT - SUPPORT SEC. POWELL'S CALL FOR ISRAEL TO LIFT THE SIEGE

The Washington Post on February 26 reported that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell voiced his  "deep concern for the dire economic situation that everyday Palestinians must bear. It is my view that economic pressure contributes to an overall deterioration in the situation here in the territories."  The article says that after meeting with Arafat in Ramallah, "Powell repeated his call for Israel to ease economic pressure on the Palestinian territories. In particular, he said it was necessary to ‘lift the siege' on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a condition that Israel defends on security grounds but Palestinians see as unjustified collective punishment."

On February 21 the Bush Administration urged that Israel turn over an estimated $54 million in tax money owed to the Palestinian Authority and urgently needed to pay the salaries of security forces and civil servants.  The same request was made by Powell two weeks earlier during phone conversations with Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon.  Additionally, the request was conveyed to the Israeli government by Martin Indyk, the American ambassador to Israel.

You are urged to send a brief message commending the Administration and Secretary Powell for their request that Israel lift the siege and turn over the tax money owed the Palestinians.  Urge the Administration to insist that Israel do so.

Email your message to secretary@state.gov
Write to The Honorable Colin Powell, Secretary of State,
U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520
Call the White House comments line at 202/456-1414

Following is a message from the United Methodist liaison in Jerusalem,  Rev. Sandra Olewine which includes an editorial from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
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The Terror of Siege
Date:    3/7/2001 4:08:50 AM Eastern Standard Time

Dear Friends,

The sights on Sunday morning of a bomb blast in Netanya meant that another
group of Israeli families would be gathered in days of grief and loss.
Over the weekend, four Palestinians families similarly were gathered as
they mourned their loved ones killed by Israeli sharpshooters.  The spiral
of senseless violence seems to go on and on.

With the bomb blast come increasing calls by some Israelis to tighten even
further the siege on Palestinian towns, villages and cities, hoping that
such actions would protect Israelis from the possibility of other such
bombs.  Yet, the siege that exists now on Palestinians is tighter than it
ever has been.  This siege has lead to an economic crisis for Palestinians.
Estimates are that unemployment is running at 50% and that within weeks
the Palestinian Authority will be completely insolvent, which could mean
the closing of all pubic services run by the PA (including hospitals and
schools).

In 1997, I attended a conference in Amman that drew together people from
Israel, Palestine, Egypt and Jordan.  One of the speakers was Shlomo Gazit,
a former head of Israeli security.  When asked about closures then, he
admitted that everyone knew that the closures didn't stop anyone who was
committed to carrying out a 'terrorist act'.  I will never forget his
statement. "You can't stop a terrorist.  I know because I once was one."
He went on to explain that closure is purely a measure to make Israeli feel
secure.  I would add to his statement that it is also a form of collective
punishment as almost 3 million people are prevented from moving beyond the
boundaries of their hometowns.

This siege has lead to the brink of economic collapse for Palestinians.
More and more families are without any resources to feed their family.  One
hears more and more stories about mothers feeding their children bread and
water, because there is no other food in the home.  In conversations with a
number of Palestinians over the weekend, every single one expressed to me
that they didn't want countries to send them aid or food.  All they wanted
was to be able to go back to work, to provide by themselves for their
families needs.

The Israeli government keeps demanding for the violence to end and yet
keeps pulling the noose tighter and tighter around Palestinians who have no
interest in terror attacks or killing Israelis, seemingly not understanding
the very violence of the siege.  To not understand this, though, means that
Palestinian desperation will continue to grow.   Desperation is the soil
for desperate acts.   As more and more tanks are placed around Palestinian
villages and the siege grows tighter and tighter, we are certainly likely
to see more and more Palestinian and Israeli families mourning their loved
ones.

Below I've copied an editorial which appeared in the Ha'aretz on Sunday.
Gideon Levy, one of Israel's most respected journalists, wrote a compelling
piece about the impact of the Israeli siege.  I offer it to you for your
reflection and action.

In these days of Lent, the suffering of all God's people here is great.
May we continue to give ourselves to ending the suffering and living a new
creation.

Sincerely,
Sandra

Rev. Sandra Olewine
United Methodist Liaison - Jerusalem