A call for peace and justice in the Holy Land

 

by Bishop Pat Power*

The Canberra Times 27 March 2012

Israel must stop abusing Palestinians so trust and respect
can prevail,

Hardly a day passes without me being appalled by the plight of the
Palestinian people and the apparent indifference of much of the Western
world to the injustices suffered by these beleaguered people. I have to
admit that before visits to the Holy Land in 1973 and 1988, my sympathies
were with Israel whom I saw as a fledgling nation surrounded by hostile Arab
neighbours.

The scales fell from my eyes on those visits where I saw a heavy military
presence in Jerusalem and other towns, armoured vehicles rumbling up and
down the streets, threatening war planes flying overhead and on one occasion
just escaping from a tear-gas assault in a busy alleyway in Jerusalem.

In the years since then, successive Israeli governments, with the seeming
complicity of the United States, have become more and more emboldened in
their violence towards the Palestinian people.

The destruction of Palestinian homes, tearing down beautiful olive groves,
building a dreadful wall which isolates Palestinians from one another and
makes already difficult movement almost impossible, not to mention the
barbarism committed against the people of Gaza in recent years are all
examples of a major aggressor scorning any effort to find peace based on
justice. Why else would Israel be so consistently in breach on United
Nations resolutions?

At the end of February, I accompanied Ali Kazak, former Palestinian
representative to Australia, to an International Conference on Jerusalem,
held in Doha, Qatar. The conference was convened by the United Arab League
and hosted by the Emir of Qatar and attended by over 350 people from all
over the world.

I was surprised to find among the participants a number of Jewish rabbis who
belong to a group called Jews United Against Zionism. I was able to tell
them of the number of Jewish people here in Canberra who have spoken out
against atrocities perpetrated against the Palestinian people. I was proud
to stand beside Bishop Michael Sabbah, the former Latin Patriarch of
Jerusalem and the first Palestinian to be appointed to that role. He
unsurprisingly spoke strongly in defence of the rights of his people and of
the violence to which they are being subjected.

The Doha Declaration at the end of the two-day conference made a
wide-ranging appeal for the protection of Palestinian people in Jerusalem
and the upholding of their rights.

”We reiterate that the forced eviction of the Jerusalem population by means
of the Judaization plans, denying the rights, obliterating the history and
heritage, usurping land, and confiscating properties are violations of
International Law.

Therefore we are calling on the International powers that are silent about
Israeli violations to assume their responsibilities and oblige Israel to
implement all international resolutions relevant to Jerusalem. Additionally,
we are calling on all relevant agencies of the UN to assume their
responsibility towards Jerusalem and its population, ensuring their
enjoyment of their city, complete civic, economic and social rights,
preserving its sanctities, historical landmarks and human heritage.”

Australia’s new Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr, in his maiden speech
gave some moving historical examples of religious tolerance. It is my hope
that he will raise the awareness of our federal parliamentarians of the need
for greater understanding of the injustices being suffered by the
Palestinian people. Dialogue which is so urgently needed at the political,
racial and religious level will never succeed while there is denial of the
”facts on the ground”.

I tire of seeing our parliamentarians of all political persuasions
unquestioningly supporting Israel’s usurping of fundamental Palestinian
rights. Much of the tension with Iran would be lessened if that country were
to see the Palestinian people being justly treated by Israel and the rest of
the international community.

In a paper submitted to the Conference, I concluded: ”The 64 years of pain
and suffering the Palestinians have endured are enough. The Catholic Church
and other Christians have consistently cried out for peace and justice in
the Holy Land. The Arab League has rightly demanded that Israel end the
occupation and withdraw to the 1967 borders. Jerusalem needs to be secured
as a city for all faiths with Muslims and Christians from outside Jerusalem
being given the opportunity to pray in the Holy City. Provision needs to be
made for the millions of Palestinian refugees by providing right of return
and just compensation in accordance with UN Resolution 194.

”I plead for patience and restraint on the part of the Palestinian people,
for good will, a sense of justice and practical peace-making actions on the
part of Israel and a firm resolve on the part of the international community
to broker a peace which is based on justice and respects the dignity and
rights of all the people involved. I pray for the climate of trust called
for by Pope Benedict and I pray that the God of Abraham will bless these
steps towards a peaceful solution in the Holy Land.”

*Pat Power is the Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn and long-time supporter of the rights of the Palestinian people.


3 responses to “A call for peace and justice in the Holy Land”

  1. Lawyers in Israel says:

    Thanks for this info, I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Isaac says:

    Adam,Some very good points.If this was a noamrl Mid East War I’d agree. I think this is the cap to 60 years of Arab war with Israel.Oil is running out. Time to focus on business. War is not working.Besides the Arabs once owned the Palestinians. That investment was stolen by the Persians. It now seems foolish to acquire property to which you cannot hold title.It seems foolish to acquire property to which you hold title but whose value can be reduced to zero in a minute.Its just business.The masses may be incited by religion. The regimes can read a balance sheet.

  3. Nate says:

    I didn’t say that a massive Gandhi style mmeeovnt would be successful.There is a set of blinders that I believe many dissenters hold, that is that the definition of goal of Palestinian liberation be limited to grass-roots political criteria of liberation or dignity.My sense is that is literally a small component of what makes a healthy, confident society, that feeling on the street.Economy, reliable institutions, good relations with neighbors (close and distant, families and communities), education, culture, ecology.In a strong economy, with reliable legal and other institutions, good relations, education, culture, and a healthy ecology, people naturally become confident. Their dignity is a natural occurrence.But, the grass-roots political path does not guarantee a healthy economy, good relations with internal and external neighbors, reliable color-blind justice within, vibrant culture, healthy ecology.What is the success that you are seeking? (Not just the skirmish)South Africa is an example that is often cited as a success of the boycott mmeeovnt. I think that is false in two respects.1. South Africa changed for a wide complex of reasons, mostly culturally internally. There was cultural integration among a significant minority of South African professionals and elite. Mandela and colleagues were a uniquely confidence offering leadership (not just confidence to the cadre). de Klerk and centrists in the South African government realized the above; they followed, not led, the revolution in mutual humanization had already succeeded among those that were in innovative power (distinct from reactive power). Even with a boycott continuing, intensifying, South Africa would not have changed without the prior actual integration and reliable leadership of Mandela.It is NOT a token concern. In the parallel of Israel/Palestine, it is the difference between a path to reconciliation and none.The Oslo accord did not work because of the war of the stones . To the extent that the war of the stones was a wake-up call to Israel, the second intifada war of nail-studded suicide bombs was a permanent sleep call to that effort.2. After the left succeeded in liberating South Africa, they proceeded to ignore South Africa. The South African leadership continued to realize justice, healing, retaining economy, culture to the extent that they were able. But, South Africa is as poor, as crime-ridden, nearly as divided (by class if not by race as much) as prior.The left’s goal as political, gave them the cover to subsequently ignore the communities.If their goal was comprehensive, rather than only political, South Africa would still have problems, but less so. And, in fact, there have been many in Israeli leadership that have taken a much more comprehensive supporting relationship to Palestinian problems, and largely immediately after Oslo (as well as before, when the West Bank was regarded as annexed, in the 70 s and 80 s).

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