CPTNET HEBRON CPT:

OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT CLINTON (Please reprint, circulate and publish this)

President Bill Clinton
The White House
Washington DC 20510

Dear President Clinton,

We, the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, are writing to you publicly because all other avenues thus far have failed to convince the government of Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian homes. Since the signing of the Hebron redeployment agreement on January 17, more than 20 Palestinian homes have been bulldozed. Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is an initiative among Mennonite and Brethren congregations, and Friends meetings who support violence reduction teams around the world.

On March 1, Christian Peacemaker Teams, which has maintained a 21 month violence reduction presence in Hebron at the invitation of the Hebron Municipality, began a 700 hour (29 day) fast in response to the ongoing demolition of Palestinian homes -- 1 hour for each of the 700 homes that have been targeted for demolition.

It is often reported that Palestinian homes are demolished because they were built without permits. However, it is rarely mentioned that it has been nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain the appropriate building licenses to build on their own land from Israeli authorities for the past two decades. Without the necessary building permits, Palestinian families are either forced to live in overcrowded conditions, leave their own land, or build "illegally" and risk demolition.

As a father I am sure you understand the importance of providing shelter for your family. For Palestinians, a home represents the life savings of a family and in many cases of an extended family. Once a home is demolished, a family's entire life savings are gone. We are aware of areas in the West Bank where numerous homes belonging to the same extended family have all been issued demolition orders.

This past week we visited the home of a family of four in the Hebron area who had been informed that their small home was to be demolished because it was located too close to a new Israeli bypass road which serves the Israeli settlements in the area. When we arrived, the family was huddled around a fire outside the home. All the family possessions -- furniture, clothing, appliances and even doors and windows from the home -- lay in a pile in the mud at some distance from the home.

The Palestinian owner of this particular home had worked for 12 years in a hotel inside Israel. Speaking of his Israeli neighbors he said, "My hand is open to help any of you. Why do you now destroy me." As we waited with the family, one daughter arrived home from school. As she approached we saw the tears streaming down her cheeks. We've seen those same tears, from mothers, children, grandparents and fathers time and time again as home after home is demolished.

Many of these families have asked us, "Does the United States know about these demolitions? Why does the United States remain silent?" And so we write to ask you these questions, Mr. President, on behalf of these families. We know that US officials are aware of these actions. We know that the administration is opposed to these actions, but like the Palestinian families who have lost and are threatened with losing their homes, we do not understand your silence.

President Clinton, as a father and as a co-sponsor to the peace process, we encourage you to employ all diplomatic means to ensure that the government of Israel immediately abandon its policy of demolishing Palestinian homes. The demolition of homes is not an action which makes for peace.

Sincerely,

CPT Hebron Team


Christian Peacemaker Teams PO Box 6508 Chicago, IL tel. 312-455-1199 FAX 312-666-2677 email cpt@igc.org