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Home arrow Blog arrow June 2007 arrow June 4, 2007

June 4, 2007

Once again, I have been banned from posting on the Daily Kos, without any explanation from the Administration as to WHY and without any way to respond to the multitudes of slanderous, sophomoric and innacurate attacks against me.

The following series excerpted from my MEMOIRS began here yesterday, and was my final crosspost at the Daily Kos; a supposedly progressive site dedicated to elect democrats.

Freedom of Speech is NOT a part of the Daily Kos agenda: more on THAT coming soon...

Today: PART 2: Sabeel: The Way and Christian Zionism: The Way NOT!

"Christian Zionists are the most destructive group of all and they want Israel to use their bomb."-Muhammed Jaradat, Founder of BADIL [Arabic for Alternative] Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights.

On March 14, 2006, my group was in the impoverished Christian West Bank village of Zababdeh. That was the very same day that the Israeli Defense Forces/IDF stormed the Jericho prison and the Al Aqsa Brigade issued a warning and demanded that all USA and British citizens immediately vacate the West Bank or they would be abducted.

Ahmed Sa’adat and four other Palestinians had been detained at the Jericho Prison since 2002, despite a court decision ordering their release. They were accused of assassinating the former Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001. They had been detained under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority under the supervision of guards provided by the UK and USA in accordance with an agreement reached between the British, USA, Israel and the PA.

It was after the withdrawal of the American and British troops that the raid took place. The guards had announced their intention to withdraw from the prison but they made no alternative arrangements for their absence. The IDF then began their assault in the absence of any alternative safety-nets. After the American and British forces abandoned the Jericho prison and the IDF showed up demanding Saadate come out with his hands up, rumors began flying throughout the West Bank that the Third Intifada had begun.

Our group had planned to be in Jericho the very next day, but as John Lennon sang, life is what happens while you are busy making other plans, so we did.


Our group learned the news of Jericho while we were breaking bread with the Christians in the village of Zababdeh. I had first visited Zababdeh in June 2005, with Dr. Khaled Diab, the founder of the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace. The first-and so far only- Olive Trees Foundation for Peace’s Keep Hope Alive Olive Grove and Playground is in Zababdeh. In June 2005, the grounds around the Melkite/Greek Catholic Church were rocky and barren. Nine months later, the transformation was staggering. The priest, Frias Khoury Diab, had built a decorative stone wall that now embraces the area where one hundred trees, thick green ground cover, benches, a swing set and a slide now fill the once desolate area.

Our Sabeel group had been advised by the locals that although we were perfectly safe with them, we should leave the West Bank ASAP and forget about our plans to visit the Jenin Refugee Camp and our meeting with Badil: the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. 

We went to Nazareth instead and experienced two Terminals that day. We had spent the night before in Bethlehem and although we had previously been waved through that checkpoint by the IDF, on that morning the soldiers demanded that we all disembark from our bus and walk through the stone and concrete Terminal, just as all Palestinians must.

Walking through the Terminal, which is akin to a steel cage, I thought of cattle that are forced through a similar structure on the way to their slaughter. The concrete ground descends in a circular path and one is then funneled into a single line until one faces two signs.

The sign to the right announces “Further Investigation” but we all went left and passed through the turnstiles. A fully armed soldier paced above us on a platform and cameras are attached to the wall every few yards that lead the way to the soldiers who check passports and ID as they sit inside small glassed enclosures. I was told by Palestinians, that they often are forced to wait two to three hours to exit, but my group passed through within fifteen minutes, except for the six who never made it out of the Terminal in Zababdeh.  Five Japanese and the one and only Palestinian in our group were never allowed to exit. The Anglican Father Diab [brother of the Melkite Priest, Frias Khoury Diab] had arranged and received permission that everyone in our group would be allowed to go to Zababdeh, but permission granted is not often received in occupied territory, for any soldier can deny anyone entry without giving any reason or cause.

I did learn that the Japanese did not have their Passports stamped upon arrival in Tel Aviv and were considered to be illegal. Instead of having their passports stamped, they had received a slip of paper with the stamp instead. They did not realize when they passed through customs after their flight into Tel Aviv, they should not have handed away their slips of paper to the guard who is posted at the doorway that leads to baggage claim. The Japanese did not realize that the slip of paper was their only documentation of passing through customs. Without it, they were considered to be illegal.

The Palestinian with us was from Jerusalem and she was told she could not enter because she was an Israeli citizen. She had requested and received permission before traveling with us, but she was still denied entry into the northern West Bank. We left them behind but picked them back up after we learned that there are 5,000 Christians left in all of the northern West Bank. 3,500 are in Zababdeh and over one million Muslims surround them. Father Diab stated, “We all have lived in peace together for centuries.”

Father Diab took us on a tour of the modest and clean medical clinic that the Anglican Church had built to serve the surrounding community. Over half the patients do not have any money to pay for any health care at all, yet everyone receives every service that is available and the clinic operates six days a week.

The Melkite priest Firas Khoury told us, “We need your love, we need your presence. We need your eyes and voices to share with the world the suffering of our people. We need you to come and see how we carry the Cross of Christ for we are the Living Stones; the forgotten one’s whose destiny is to love everyone, be they Jew, Muslim, Druze. We practice the love of our Lord and we ask you to tell your government we are people of peace!”

The brother’s mother had been Anglican and their father had been the only Melkite priest for Zababdeh until his death. There had not been another Melkite priest for twenty years until Frias Khoury Diab was ordained.

Father Diab, the Anglican told us, “Your problems getting through The Terminal are what we endure daily. I was assured everyone on the list would be allowed to enter. As usual they refuse some to enter just to make life difficult. My wife is Jordanian and the Israeli government demands she return to Jordan every six months and reapplies for permission to live with her husband! Permission takes seven to eight months to come and can be denied at any time for any reason.

“This part of the West Bank is where two of the four settlements that were evacuated for the Disengagement had been. The truth is there had only been one family in one settlement and the other settlers had already left before the disengagement!

“Gaza is the poorest area in the entire Middle East and the average family lives on less than $2.00 a day. There is 56% unemployment here and over 100,000 employees of the PA have not received any salary since February. One million Palestinians depend on those salaries; they are medical and police workers who are not being paid!

“I must go to Ramallah every three months to renew my permission. Ramallah is 80 kilometers away and there are five checkpoints which take five hours each way. I read the Bible while I wait.”

“To resist hatred, division, conflict, war and death is indeed divine worship.”-Henri Nouwen.

On March 15, 2006, our group traveled to Nazareth and learned from Fuad Farah, Board member of Sabeel and the Chairman of the Orthodox National Council in Israel, that “90% of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, never even meet any Palestinian Christians!”

While 90% of Christian visitors to the Holy Land may only visit churches made of stone, our group of over 60 ecumenical Christian Internationals from the USA, England, Wales, Ireland, Netherlands, Japan, Korea and the Philippines met many of the “Living Stones” AKA: “The Forgotten Faithful” who are the Palestinian Christians.

We had been shepherded throughout our journey by Palestinian Christians-and a few Muslims. These sisters and brothers live lives very similar to those of first century Christians, who also lived under occupation and oppression. We went from Nazareth to Mjadel, an Arab village which has two Christian churches surrounded by Jewish abodes.

Our guide, Fuad Farah informed us, “No Christians can live here anymore. They fled in ‘48 and their homes were destroyed in the ‘50’s for the settlers. Christians once were 20% of the total population of the Holy land, today we are less than 2% and maybe in thirty years there will be no Christians here if things do not change soon. There are more Christians in India and Syria than there are in the Holy Land!

“The reasons are many and include our low birth rate, migration due to lack of economic opportunities especially for the most highly educated, Muslim and Jewish fundamentalism, land confiscation and now Nazareth has become a retirement community because our young people all leave!”

I imagine if I were a young Palestinian with an opportunity to leave the country, I would too.

Palestinians tell me, that is exactly what the Israeli government hopes for.

After our tour of Nazareth, our group visited the BADIL [Arabic for Alternative] Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. The Founder, Muhammed Jaradat, told us with a grin, “I learned to speak English in prison, I was arrested first at 13 years old and spent a total of 5 ½ years in prison because I was a peace activist. I was arrested for winning a high school student union election in my village and charged with terrorism!”

“They said I was a gangster, that I was against Israeli rights, but justice for Palestinians means justice for Israelis too... The issue of the right to return is the ultimate issue. The refugee issue is the core issue and since 1948, 800,000 Palestinians have been evicted from their homes and their families land...What happened in Jericho is the beginning of the end of the occupation for the Israelis have proved they have lost their ethics.

“Two-thirds of Palestinian people are refugees. A democracy is supposed to be that the majority rules. But we have been told to SHUT UP about the refugee issue. If you really want to solve a problem you must attack the roots and that leads to the refugee issue.

“International Law, the Declaration of Human Rights and UN Resolutions all affirm the rights of refugees. For 57 years and 157 times the UN General Assembly has affirmed the right for refugees to return home, resettle with compensation or to choose a new country.

“The Israelis claim there is not enough room in the Holy Land but according to their own documentation in 2000, 86% of Israeli Jews live on 15% of Israel proper. 90% of state land is Palestinian land! The problem is not that there is not enough room, the problem is racism. I was born here but I am not a citizen of any country. They can revoke my residency at any moment.

“From 1989 to 1993 Israel absorbed 1.1 million new immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have illegally settled in the West Bank and Gaza. Historic Palestine is 26,000 square kilometers, about the size of Texas. The separation mentality has been at work since the 1930’s. Uniting this country with universal and basic human rights is the only way to success in the future. Israel has built the facts on the ground to not have two states. We are not stupid, we live under the harshest of conditions and we have survived. We have been divided into 28 different countries but we are united on the goal to achieve our human rights.

“The future depends on what happens to Palestinians and we are the legal owners of this land and Israel needs to get its nose down and realize they are living in the Arab world. Christian Zionists are the most destructive group of all and they want Israel to use their bomb. Who will they destroy? They will destroy themselves. The Dimona reactor is leaking and will cost more to remove than it did to build.”


   
 
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The Paradoxical Commandments
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People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
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Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
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