Qaryut, Occupied Palestine – Settlers from the illegal colony of Shilo set fire to land belonging to the nearby village of Qaryut. Around 25 families own land in this area. The land contained wheat crops and olive trees and is next to land previously stolen by settlers, which they had been cultivating for themselves only two days before.
Illegal Shilo settler Moshka takes pictures of his handiwork, torching Palestinian land (Photo by Qaryut villagers)
Red Crescent paramedics went to the scene of the fires at around 6pm, where many villagers had already arrived hoping to put out the fires. However they were prevented from doing so by four settlers and half a dozen soldiers who had turned up to protect the settlers. Villagers were made to stand and watch their future harvest go up in flames. With the fires building up they had nothing to do but argue in vain with the soldiers about the gross immorality of the situation.
The settlers present also prevented the fire from spreading on to the annexed land they have been cultivating. It was clear to see the fires had been deliberately lit as there were many separate fires in a close range, rather than one large fire spreading on the overcast and wet day. Villagers witnessed Moshka, one of the settlers – (who is a regular problem causer; his son is a patrolman for the settlement too) – use a lighter to set fire to their land. The fire was only put out by the arrival of heavy and atypical rain from a thunderstorm an hour later.
Two days prior to this attack the settlers had started ploughing stolen land and cut down four trees. They have been expanding the settlement on the Palestinian side of the highway to Ramallah and Jerusalem. Fifteen dunams of land was torched. Meanwhile two dunums of wheatfields had been burnt in the South Hebron Hills earlier that day.
A familiar sight, soldiers and settlers working together (Photo by Qaryut villagers)
- Tree planting met by tear gas and settlers’ death threats (palsolidarity.org)
- Witnesses: Settlers open fire at Palestinian homes in Hebron village (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Settlers Attack Palestinian Property, Graves, Near Nablus (imemc.org)
Beit Ummar, Occupied Palestine – At 3am on 13th May, Nasri Sabarna of Beit Ummar woke up to the sound of Israeli soldiers kicking down his front door. The sound of them shooting tear gas, rubber bullets and sound bombs at people passing his house on their way to the Mosque for morning prayer also woke up his 3 year old granddaughter, whose crying in turn woke up the rest of the Sabarna household.
The 6 jeeps full of soldiers had come to arrest his 21 year old son Achmed – for the fifth time. Achmed is a 21 year old student who has yet to be charged with any crime. As Achmed was not home at the time the soldiers invaded his home, the whole family were ordered to go to the police station in the illegal settlement of Gush Etzyon the following morning at 9am. It was here that Achmed was taken into interrogation. Despite not being guilty of committing any crime, his father does not expect to see him anytime soon. Achmed has already been forced to miss two years of university because of similar incidents, which have cost his family a lot of money – Achmed was arrested for the first time when he was 13 years old.
His father, Nasri is no stranger to the Israeli culture of injustice practiced against Palestinians. At the age of 13, he himself was arrested by Israeli soldiers without charge and imprisoned for 10 months. His whole life has been shaped by the occupation around him. He remembers seeing Israeli bulldozers demolish three historic homes in his village of Beit Ummar at the age of 10 – such events inspired him to become politically active. In 1978 he established the first student council in Palestine, going on later to become mayor of his home village of Beit Ummar. In Israel’s bid to crush any Palestinian political organisation, Nasri was imprisoned for 6 years between 1988 and 1994 for the sole reason of being a member of the political party Fatah.
Nasri’s main concern now is the effect that Israel’s systematic use of administrative detention, harrassment and abuse will have on the younger generations of Palestinians born under occupation. When he was mayor, 40 soldiers broke into his house and destroyed most of their belongings. They wore balaclavas as they did so and terrified his youngest son Abdullah.
Over the following weeks Abdullah’s teachers told his father that his mood had changed, he had become aggressive, argumentative and unusually violent. Nasri sought the help of psychologists from Medicenes Sans Frontiers who worked with Abdullah regularly. He told the psychologists of times where soldiers had lined him and his classmates up when walking home from school and made them jump over their guns before beating them.
The psychological treatment helped Abdullah, who is now ten, to deal with such issues and his behaviour is now back to normal. But Nasri worries for those hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children who are not so lucky to receive treatment. A combination of abuse and detentions coupled with the daily destruction of homes, land, resources and opportunities for young people in the West Bank diminishes any hope they may have for the future and ultimately leads them to seek out revenge through violence.
Nasri emphasised that this is not a struggle between religions, nor are different religious groups inherently incapable of coexisting in harmony. Colonialism and Zionism are the driving forces behind the brutality of the occupation and only granting Palestinians their freedom can bring around real peace. To summarise, Nasri said “No nation can just get rid of another nation.”
- Israeli settlers’ attacks continue: Vineyards poisoned in Beit Ummar (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Israel’s occupation forces targets medic and injures 17 in clashes in Beit Ummar (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
The name of the report is/was ‘The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘Promised Land.’” Authored by the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, it basically came to the conclusion that the Bible accords the Jews no privileged claim over the land of Palestine, nor does it provide any justification for the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the blockade of Gaza, or the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and lands.
The report was posted at the Church of Scotland’s website—ah, but regrettably only temporarily. It has since mysteriously disappeared, to be replaced by a statement that includes the following:
The Church of Scotland and representatives of the Jewish Community in Scotland and the United Kingdom, held useful discussions facilitated by the Council of Christians and Jews this afternoon, Thursday 8 May. We agreed that the drafting of the report published by the Church and Society Council for discussion at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has given cause for concern and misunderstanding of its position and requires a new introduction to set the context for the report and give clarity about some of the language used.
Did the church cave in to Jewish pressure? This appears to be the case, although the report apparently is to be discussed at the church’s upcoming General Assembly, later this month.
I first became aware of “The Inheritance of Abraham?” after reading an article about it on Wednesday of last week. Intrigued, I went to the church’s website to access the full report. Fortunately, I had the foresight to download it and save it, for when I returned to the site on Saturday, lo and behold it was nowhere to be found. The statement above, dated May 9, 2013, seems to promise a re-posting at some point, though with “a new introduction to set the context for the report”—which presumably means the old introduction will be gone, and that there may be other changes in the original wording as well.
However, you can go here and read the report in its entirety and with the original wording intact. You will find that it cites passages in Genesis—specifically 12:7, 13:15-17, 15:18-21, and 17:7-8—which have God promising the land to Abraham and his descendants without any conditions attached. Or as the report phrases it, “There are no ‘so long as…’ or ‘until…’ clauses in them” and “alone they can be read to show that God promises the land to the Israelites unconditionally.”
But the report, in the next section, goes on to note “a second view,” which, among other things, says we should read “the Pentateuch in the light of the prophets.” In this view, “the land is a gift, not a right, and one which brings with it obligations, most particularly to practice justice and to dwell equitably with the stranger.” The report cites the prophet Jonah as an example.
The book of Jonah is a key text for understanding the Hebrew Bible’s promise of the land to Abraham and his descendants. Written at a time when Jewish people were turning inwards, the book presents Johan as a Jewish nationalist to drive home the point: God’s universal, inclusive love is for all. God in Jonah is merciful, gracious, a liberator of the oppressed and sinful who looks for just living. The people of God even include the hated Assyrians. So Johan suggests a new theology of the land, because God was not confined within the land of Israel, but also embraced the land of Assyria.
And then, of course, there are the New Testament and the words of Jesus, whose teachings the report describes as “inclusive,” not only in their own right, but also in Christ’s view of the Old Testament prophets—a view that is offered in Luke 4:25-30… along with the reaction it provoked among the Jews of Nazareth at the time:
“But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
By expressing the view that God had love in his heart for others than just Jews, Jesus seems, then, to have caused feelings of jealousy and anger amongst his Jewish listeners that day. The report goes on to observe:
Jesus offered a radical critique of Jewish specialness and exclusivism, but the people of Nazareth were not ready for it. John’s gospel speaks of Jesus being lifted up and drawing all people to himself (John 12:32). Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple means not just that the Temple needs to be reformed, but that the Temple is finished. Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 makes it clear that God is no longer confined to the place of the Temple. Temple and land give way to a new understanding so Paul can say that all the barriers that separated Jews from the rest are down—“there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male or female in Christ Jesus.” The new ‘place’ where God is found is wherever people gather in the name of Jesus.
Or in other words, “the promise to Abraham about land is fulfilled through the impact of Jesus, not by restoration of land to the Jewish people” and “no part of the New Testament gives any support to a political state of Israel beyond that to any other state.” Thus, the requirements for justice and the protection of human rights apply to each land, and to every inhabitant in the land.
Promises about the land of Israel were never intended to be taken literally, or as applying to a defined geographical territory. They are a way of speaking about how to live under God so that justice and peace reign, the weak and poor are protected, the stranger is included, and all have a share in the community and a contribution to make to it. The ‘promised land’ in the Bible is not a place, so much as a metaphor of how things ought to be among the people of God. This ‘promised land; can be found—or built—anywhere.
The report also includes several quotes from Kairos Palestine, a document published in 2009 by Palestinian Christians and which I have commented upon previously. Among the quotes from Kairos Palestine we find this one:
Our land is God’s land, as is the case with all countries in the world. It is holy inasmuch as God is present in it, for God alone is holy and sanctifier. It is the duty of those of us who live here, to respect the will of God for this land. It is our duty to liberate it from the evil of injustice and war. It is God’s land and therefore it must be a land of reconciliation, peace and love. This is indeed possible. God has put us here as two peoples, and God gives us the capacity, if we have the will, to live together and establish in it justice and peace, making it in reality God’s land: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).
And also this one:
We believe that our land has a universal mission. In this universality, the meaning of the promises, of the land, of the election, of the people of God, open up to include all of humanity, starting from all the peoples of this land
And this one:
Our Church points to the Kingdom, which cannot be tied to any earthly kingdom. Jesus said before Pilate that he was indeed a king but “my kingdom is not from this world.” St. Paul says: “The Kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:7). Therefore religion cannot favour or support any unjust political regime, but must rather promote justice, truth and human dignity.”
So does the modern day state of Israel meet these conditions? Hardly. And the report says as much.
From this last perspective, the desire of many in the state of Israel to acquire the land of Palestine for the Jewish people is wrong. The fact that the land is currently being taken by settlement expansion, the separation barrier, house clearance, theft and force makes it doubly wrong to seek biblical sanction for this.
Church leaders from South Africa, following a visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the autumn of 2012, observed similarities to the concluding years of the apartheid regime in South Africa. They concur with proposals to consider economic and political measures involving boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against the state of Israel focused on illegal settlements, as the best way of convincing Israeli politicians and voters that what is happening is wrong, and that Christians around the world should not contribute in any way to the viability of illegal settlements. This raises particular questions for the Church of Scotland as we seek to respond to the question: “What does the Lord require of you…?”
And the conclusion reached is:
From this examination of the various views in the Bible about the relation of land to the people of God, it can be concluded that Christians should not be supporting any claims by Jewish or any other people, to an exclusive or even privileged divine right to possess particular territory. It is a misuse of the Bible to use it as a topographic guide to settle contemporary conflicts over land. In the Bible, God’s promises extend in hope to all land and people. Focused as they are on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, these promises call for a commitment in every place to justice in a spirit of reconciliation.
The report then goes on to assert that “the current situation is characterized by an inequality in power and therefore reconciliation can only be possible if the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the blockade of Gaza, are ended.” Note: it does not say that Israel has no right to exist, although this is the interpretation being given by a number of Jews, some of whom seem quite upset over the whole thing.
So let’s cut to the chase, and see what some of these people have been saying about the report.
“Scottish Jews said they were ‘outraged’ by a recent Church of Scotland paper which denies Jews any special claim to the land of Israel.” So begins a report in the JTA dated May 3. The article makes reference to a statement issued by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, who denounce the report as “an outrage to everything that interfaith dialogue stands for”, insisting as well that it “reads like an Inquisition-era polemic against Jews and Judaism.”
In the opinion of the Scottish Council, the report also “closes the door on meaningful dialogue,” and quite naturally we find a demand that the Church of Scotland “withdraw it ahead of its forthcoming General Assembly.”
Interestingly, the Council’s statement additionally frets about “the arrogance of telling the Jewish people how to interpret Jewish texts,” although of course there are plenty of Jews telling Christians how to interpret the New Testament, not to mention those who have lambasted the Gospels as “anti-Semitic.”
Israel Hayom, the Israeli newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson, calls the report “a culmination of more than a decade of increasingly strident anti-Zionism and pro-Palestinian activism by the church, especially by its local Palestinian Christian chapters,” while the always amusing Algemeiner characterizes the Church of Scotland as waging a “war on Judaism,” and committing a “moral crime” to boot, while the church’s report, Algemeiner asserts, is “immersed…in anti-Semitic clichés and malicious distortions of Jewish theology.”
Also, Israel’s ambassador to Britain has gotten in on the act. A later report by the JTA, dated May 11, quotes Ambassador Daniel Taub as saying, “This report not only plays into extremist political positions, but negates and belittles the deeply held Jewish attachment to the land of Israel in a way which is truly hurtful.” Taub reportedly made the comment over Israel’s Army Radio.
Not to be outmatched by these pikers, the ADL’s Abe Foxman has called the report “stunningly offensive,” as well as a “classic rejection of Judaism.”
“By brazenly dismissing Jewish self-understanding of its own bible—the Torah, the Church of Scotland has disregarded nearly five decades of progress in Jewish-Christian theological dialog by promoting religious principles which deny the legitimacy of Judaism and were used for centuries to justify the brutal repression of Jews,” Foxman goes on to add.
Will all this pressure result in a complete capitulation on the part of the Church of Scotland? Will we see the report fundamentally altered, perhaps beyond recognition, or even withdrawn altogether? Hard to say, but you’ll recall I began this article by quoting from a statement on the whole matter which has been posted on the Church of Scotland’s website. The statement, I mentioned, replaces the report itself, which has since been taken down. What I neglected to say is that this is a joint statement, signed not only by the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, but also four Jewish organizations: Here is the rest of it:
In particular the Church of Scotland needs to be explicit about some things that are implicit policies of the Church:
- There is no change in the Church of Scotland’s long held position of the right of Israel to exist.
- The Church condemns all violence and acts of terrorism, where ever they happen in the world.
- The concern of the Church about the injustices faced by the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories remain firm, but that concern should not be misunderstood as questioning the right of the State of Israel to exist.
- That the Church condemns all things that create a culture of anti Semitism.
There is an equal sense of concern amongst both communities for justice and peace for all the people of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Sitting round the table and listening to each other more deeply has created a real opportunity for both communities to better understand each other and that this report now becomes a catalyst for continued and growing conversation.
The two communities have agreed to work together both here and in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to continue what was a very positive dialogue.
Church and Society Council, Church of Scotland
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Board of Deputies of British Jews
Movement for Reform Judaism
Rabbis for Human Rights
Note the dictatorial tone: “the Church of Scotland needs to be explicit…”
One might ask: Or else what?
Of course it isn’t only the Jewish media who have weighed in on the issue. Here is a report from Iran’s Press TV, which includes an interview with Anglican Vicar Stephen Sizer:
During Israel’s latest onslaught against the Gaza Strip in November 2012, a major conference was held in Tel Aviv: the 2nd Israel HLS International Conference. Among the most prominent sponsors of the homeland security event were two of Israel’s largest weapons companies, Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), both of which cooperate closely with the Israeli military. But the conference also had another grandiosely advertised partner: the European Commission.
As is often the case, this undisguised cooperation between the EU and Israeli military companies went fully unchallenged – let alone noticed – in the European media. Not even the rather conspicuous fact that the EU-sponsored conference occurred simultaneously with Israel’s devastating Gaza assault in which Israel used the equipment of both Elbit and IAI.
The same inability, or unwillingness, by the European media to report such collaboration, let alone deplore it, manifested itself even more prominently in January 2009. A day after Israel’s 22-day long assault on the Gaza Strip, the leaders of six European states, including the UK, France, and Italy, arrived in Israel for a gala dinner, voicing their support for Israel. The dinner was hosted by Israel’s then-prime minister Ehud Olmert. The European leaders vowed, of all things, to stop the flow of arms to Hamas. Meanwhile, the Israeli strikes on Gaza would kill 926 civilians.
As a trading and co-sponsoring partner, Elbit is among the most disagreeable of all the Israeli military companies. Being at the very core of Israel’s breaches of international law, Elbit is deeply involved in Israel’s drone programs that have targeted and killed scores of civilians, including children. The former president and chief executive of Elbit proclaimed that the company is “the backbone” of Israel’s drone operations. Elbit also provides surveillance equipment to the illegal wall Israel has built in the West Bank. Besides being an instrumental partner of the Israeli air force, it also sells equipment to the Israeli navy.
The EU also funnels funds to Elbit through allocating EU-taxpayers’ money to the company under the umbrella of scientific research. Indeed, another barely publicized yet lucrative form of EU-Israeli cooperation that directly benefits Israel’s private military sector are scientific research subsidies. David Cronin, who has put together a pioneering compendium on the EU’s complicity in Israel’s illegalities, estimates that by the year 2013, Israel will have received EU research grants for more than €500 million. Israel currently takes part in over 800 schemes with European universities and corporations.
The massive EU-Israel bilateral trade remains one of the least talked about, yet among the most crucial enablers of Israel’s ever-continuing breaches of international law.
The EU is Israel’s main trading partner with a total annual trade of approximately €30 billion (€29.7 billion in 2012). The volume of the trade is more than ten times that of the US foreign aid to Israel. While it is reasonable to assume that US-Israeli relations will remain intact in the coming years, the EU has the required economical leverage and legal means to exert unprecedented pressure on Israel, compelling it to abide by international law.
According to a 2003 European Commission poll, 60 percent of the EU citizenry sees Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. In this respect, European public opinion is more informed than that in the US. Another factor that makes it feasible for EU to alter its policy towards Israel is that the EU-Israel Association Agreement that governs all trade and cooperation between the EU and Israel states that “[r]elations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles.”
Hence, whereas a drastic shift in the US-Israeli relations remains an unlikely scenario, the EU has both the informed public opinion required for, and a no-brainer legal case demanding, relatively swift and highly momentous changes.
As of now, however, the EU is both a major client for Israel’s occupation-powered, export-oriented and multi-billion military manufacturing and homeland security sector as well as a major exporter of military equipment to Israel.
Besides the military and homeland security imports from Israel, the EU also continues to violate its own regulations on arms exports. The EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports states that the EU is “DETERMINED [sic] to prevent the export of equipment which might be used for internal repression or international aggression or contribute to regional instability.”
How determined exactly has the EU been in its adherence to this provision? Based on the criteria set out by the EU in the above regulation, Israel is an illegitimate country for arms exports. After all, in addition to violating a whole list of UN resolutions, Israel has been and remains exceptionally committed to violating international law.
Although Israel is an invalid trading partner according to the EU Code of Conduct regulations, the value of licenses granted by the EU over the past decade for arms exports to Israel amounts to billions of Euros.
Whereas 18 of 27 EU member states export military equipment to Israel, the bulk of the total EU exports originate from the major EU states: Italy, France, Germany and the UK, according to Amnesty International’s “Fuelling conflict: Foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza.”
In terms of violating EU arms exports regulations, Italy has the most abominable track record. Italy’s biggest defense contractor, Finmeccanica, announced in July 2012, that it had won and signed a $1 billion (€752 million) deal with Israel. Finmeccanica will provide training jets to the Israeli air force, which repeatedly carries out egregious attacks against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians and infrastructure.
Out of the total €752 million deal, the most sizable part belongs to Finmeccanica’s subsidiary Alenia Aermacchi which provides 30 M-346 advanced trainer aircraft to the Israeli air force. It is reported that the Italian government played a major role in brokering the contract.
Another EU member state that carries out large-scale military trade with Israel is France. Between 2003 and 2008, France exported more than €521 million worth of weaponry to Israel.
An Amnesty International report from February 2009 revealed that electrical components made in France were found in the rubble of buildings destroyed by the Israeli military during the 2008-2009 Gaza massacre. The components were installed in Hellfire AGM missiles manufactured by the US company Hellfire Systems, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. France also exported specialized equipment for reconnaissance, such as laser systems, to Israel.
Another major arms exporter to Israel is Germany. Germany sold major conventional weaponry to Israel for more than €580 million between 1996 and 2000, including Dolphin Class Submarines, which are assumed to be capable of launching nuclear warheads. In 2000 alone, German weapons trade with Israel was worth more than €130 million. Germany exported torpedoes, armored cars, and parts for the Israeli Merkava tanks used in occupied Palestine.
The UK also exports considerable amounts of military equipment to Israel. In 2009, after Israel had destroyed the Gaza Strip, the UK authorities granted export licenses for electronic warfare equipment, naval radars, and sniper rifles to Israel. In 2009, the then-Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary David Miliband revealed that the Israeli equipment used in Israel’s murderous and destructive assault against Gaza “almost certainly” contained components that had been delivered by the UK.
In recent years, the UK government has annually licensed arms exports directly to Israel for between €12 million and €36 million. In 2008, UK authorities granted military export licenses for more than €34 million.
Besides these major European powers, one state enjoys exceptional clout as a strict adherent to international law, but has excelled at conducting arms trade with Israel, namely Finland. The total value of the Finnish-Israeli arms trade is €200 million.
In addition to the fact the Finland has conducted more military trade with Israel than a number of much bigger EU member states, what sets Finland apart from all the other arms trading partners of Israel is the severity of domestic criticism the trade has elicited.
A petition signed by more than 250 Finnish dignitaries from the arts, academia, and politics is a telling indicator of the wave of criticism arising from the military trade between Israel and Finland. Among those calling for an immediate discontinuation of all forms of military trade with Israel are the foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja and world-renowned expert on international law Martti Koskenniemi.
It merits emphasis that the continuation and, often the mere existence, of the trade has arguably had no support in the Finnish mainstream media.
As the 2003 European Commission poll already revealed, the ever-continuing business-as-usual attitude by the EU to Israel’s actions fully contradicts union public opinion. The freezing of the EU-Israel Association Agreement and the seizing of all weapons exports from the EU to Israel – both actions required by EU provisions – could force Israel to finally recognize and respect the rights of the Palestinians.
- Brazil says no to Israeli arms (bdsmovement.net)
It has been hailed as the first conviction for genocide of a former head of state in his own country, and certainly the first of a former Latin American strongman. Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt was convicted by a Guatemalan court on Friday for his participation in crimes against the Mayans during his rule in 1982 and 1983. His sentences were steep: 50 years for genocide and 30 for crimes against humanity.
As ever with genocide, evidence of an intentioned plan to destroy a race had to be shown. The three-judge panel led by Yassmin Barrios was satisfied that the definition had been made out, finding that there had been a clear and systematic plan to exterminate the Ixil people. Prosecutors allege that up to 1,700 of the Ixil Maya were killed, in addition to torture, rape and the destruction of villages. The acts had occurred as part of a policy of clearing the countryside of Marxist guerrillas and sympathisers.
The heart of the defence by Rios Montt was that, as a political leader, he could not be held accountable for military matters conducted in a rural province some few hours northwest of the Guatemalan capital. “I never authorised it, I never signed, I never proposed, I never ordered that race, ethnicity or religion to be attacked. I never did it!” In this, he was echoing the sentiments of the Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita, who was found constructively guilty for having not stopped the massacres that took place in the Philippines.
Yamashita did have a point, and one picked up by the dissenting judges of the U.S. Supreme Court. To hold such a figure to account in circumstances of military emergency, when contact lines were severed, and the army was fighting for its survival, was a tall order. There was little evidence that those troops had acted under his orders. But Rios Montt could hardly claim to have been Yamashita and, according to the judges, “was aware of everything that was happening, and did not stop it, despite having the power to stop it.”
The trial proved a thorough affair, featuring extensive use of forensics, the examination of mass graves and the DNA of skeletons therein. It was grim but important work, and constituted but a small part of what was a civil war of mass murder. Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala saw conflict that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people. Prior to that, a U.S.-sponsored overthrow of the democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz Guzman ensured that the country would be doomed to decades of bloody instability.
It is often argued that trials do not provide a means of genuine restorative healing to parties or societies. Rios Montt will not be seen as a criminal by conservatives who feel he performed a sterling job in ensuring that the country did not fall into the clutches of left wing revolutionaries. The Cold War subtext here was that he was, if anything, heroic in holding the fort.
Besides, the current Guatemalan president, Otto Perez Molina, refuses to accept that genocide ever took place. This may not be surprising given that Molina’s name came up in trial testimony, in which a former soldier claimed he had ordered executions while serving in the military of the Rios Montt regime. “When I say that Guatemala has seen no genocide, I repeat it now after this ruling. Today’s ruling is not final… the decision will not be final until the moment they run out of appeals.”
There will also be consternation that the atrocities of the government, rather than those of the rebels, have featured prominently. That the former feature, however, is due to the sheer disproportionate role played by the rulers and paramilitary allies. The 1999 report by the country’s truth and reconciliation commission claimed that the government’s role in the atrocities, along with its allies, was a hefty 93 per cent.
The soiled hands of this incident are many. They did not start or stop with Rios Montt. Will the individuals who also cast money and material the way of such regimes be held to account? A case against the higher-ups, and those complicit beyond the borders of the country may well be in the offing, though that will take time. The edifice of accountability is gradually being built. International law, as ever, takes steps not so much in strides as in awkward stumbles, but when it does reach important junctions, effects are felt. What happens with the appeal will be telling.
Binoy Kampmark can be reached at: email@example.com.
- Guatemala: Former Dictator Ríos Montt Guilty of Genocide (alethonews.wordpress.com)
On Wednesday, 8 May 2013, Israel held its annual Jerusalem Day celebration, commemorating its annexation of East Jerusalem and the Old City during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israeli settlers marched through East Jerusalem neighborhoods carrying Israeli flags and singing, celebrating and asserting their control of what is internationally recognized as the capital of any viable future Palestinian state.
Settlers marching in and out of the Damascus Gate, located directly alongside the largest Palestinian shopping center in the city, were met with a pro-Palestine counter-demonstration.
Hundreds of Israeli police were on the scene to put down the Palestinian counter-demonstration. Israeli police detained upwards of 18 individuals and beat dozens of others. Among the detainees were minors as well as several photographers.
(All photos by Dylan Collins)
The Middle East is treading water these days. Two years of rhetoric about ousting dictators, revolution, freedom, honor, dignity, and democracy – without result – has people on edge, their disillusionment now demanding an outlet.
There are no outlets though. Sensing the fast-growing disenchantment with undelivered promises, even the “bright new leaders” are tightening the reins and demanding compliance.
These new heads of state simply can’t deliver the goods for one main reason: they are just as caught up in global and regional power contests as were their predecessors. Nothing has changed with these uprisings – nothing.
Except now the stakes are higher than before. A recession-bound West, the fast-rising BRICS and their respective regional allies are locked in a competition to consolidate power and influence in this important region before it finds its bearings.
The relatively new influencers on the Arab scene like Qatar and Turkey have recognized this as a unique opportunity to slip into region-wide leadership roles. For the entrenched old hands – Washington, Riyadh, Paris, London – a race is on to prevent the region from shrugging off their decades-long dominance and embracing the anti-imperialism of the Resistance Axis.
The result has been an onslaught of interventions. Every tool in the arsenal has come out to play. Money, espionage, propaganda, weapons, assassination and that old colonial trick: divide-and-rule.
The main game is still the old battle of the blocs, Iran versus the United States, with everyone else filing in line behind their team. There have been a few surprises thrown into the mix: the newcomers like Turkey and Qatar have moved over to the US side; the BRICS, however, have lent their considerable clout to team Iran. Iraq has moved behind the latter formation and Hamas still doesn’t know where to stand so it straddles the two.
This is not a game for the faint-hearted, and it permeates every major social, economic, and political decision in the region today. Want a new electrical plant outside Cairo, Beirut, or Kirkuk? Good luck choosing a national supplier who doesn’t offend. IMF loan? Allowing over-flights or passage for ships? Inking a trade deal? Formulating a new constitution? Scheduling a football match?
Mideast states are now paralyzed and polarized over such things, and governance has come to a standstill. But in this paralysis lies a dangerous volatility: a backlash in the brewing, a pressure cooker about to blow.
The Backlash Against Neo-Islamists
After decades of oppression and marginalization by pro-West, secular dictatorships, the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) and similar Islamist parties have catapulted to power and prominence in several states. Quite counter-intuitively, however, these Islamist governments appear to have lined up behind the US bloc, eager to please, or at least placate, the very powers that colluded in their oppression.
It is an unnatural marriage, and the longer this union endures, the more estranged Islamist parties will become from their domestic constituencies – in much the same way as their autocratic predecessors.
There is volatility in this balancing act between the two blocs, as groups like Hamas have come to discover. But for the new Islamist powerhouses in “post-revolution” states, yet another volatile contest is being played out to their detriment, this time on an entirely regional level: Qatar versus Saudi Arabia – or Sunni versus Sunni.
For years the Ikhwanists have been backed by the Qatari arrivistes, who are a thorn in the side of the other, larger Wahhabi state in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, for their own part, are throwing dollars and clout behind Salafists in all the countries where they intend to counter the influence of the Ikhwan and similar parties.
But Qatar and Saudi Arabia are now aggressively exporting their very personal competition to other Arab states – Libya, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Palestine – creating what I believe will evolve into a ferocious backlash among local populations, even as they reap the rewards of direct financial investment from these two Gulf states.
This competition has drawn in others like the UAE, Jordan, and Kuwait, appalled at the Qatari push to Ikhwanize the region. And it has turned the Arab League positively cannibalistic, devouring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states like Libya, Syria, and Palestine that it once pledged to protect.
Qatar finds support from AKP-led Turkey in this fight, but the two are a cause for concern in the United States, which secretly suspects that Ikhwanists are harder to control than Saudi-backed Salafists. Much of this fear is because that lynchpin of all US foreign policy calculations, the state of Israel, borders Ikhwan-heavy Egypt, Gaza, and Jordan – none of which have yet sufficiently proven their loyalty to the idea of Israel’s regional hegemony.
But the biggest victim of the Saudi-Qatari competition to influence the direction of political Sunnism is likely to be political Islam itself.
The rise of political Islam – once an inevitable byproduct of democratization – arrived too hard, too fast; too aggressively championed, organized, and weaponized by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Now, not only have the mentors lost credibility and support, but so have many of their political protégés in Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and Palestine.
Volatility? We haven’t even started.
What yesterday’s global powerbrokers seek from the incoming class of political Islamists is the maintenance of the status quo, including, among other things, embracing Israel and rejecting Iran. But an open pledge of allegiance to Israel is impossible for the Ikhwan and similar parties – their very legitimacy comes in part from denouncing the legitimacy of the Zionist experiment in Palestine.
Nothing tested their limits as dangerously as last November’s eight days of rocket-volley between Gaza and Israel. Each passing day drove home the fact that, despite their standard rhetoric to domestic and regional constituencies, Islamist heads of state in Turkey, Egypt, and Qatar were rendered paralyzed – and mute – as the Israeli army pounded Gaza.
Instead, it was firepower, training and strategic planning by Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria that propped up defiant Palestinians through those dark hours. The unexpected arsenal of rockets that countered Israeli aggression came from Hamas’ Qassam Brigades, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and other smaller resistance groups, who became the heroes of that conflict.
Not one missile, bullet, or slogan came from the three new Qatari, Turkish, and Egyptian “Sunni kings” vying for power on the coattails of the Arab uprisings.
Had the battle gone on for another week or two, the entire Middle East might have been reconfigured in its aftermath. Never have the Israelis so quickly signed a ceasefire agreement.
The global battle of the blocs and the inter-regional Sunni power struggle crossed paths in that Gaza battle. In it, the US bloc and political Islam exposed their vulnerabilities. Both groups are currently upholding – against a tidal wave of popular sentiment – systems, values, and institutions that were supposed to be swept away by honor-and-dignity revolts. Any incident that highlights this fact can serve as a springboard for a backlash against the interests of the West and its Islamist allies in the region.
The Backlash Against Sectarianism
Shia versus Sunni. Christianity versus Islam. Vilifying the “other” is common in conflict, especially when there exists some historic animosity or tension between sects, nationalities, and communities.
But since the onset of the Arab uprisings there has been a concerted effort to escalate the Shia-Sunni divide and link it wholesale to an Iranian-Arab one.
With the loss of its dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, Washington wasted no time in formulating a divide-and-rule strategy to preserve its regional interests. The US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) for the Middle East jump-started the task by initiating a secret exercise to divide Arabs and Iranians in March 2011.
Gulf-backed media channels dove headfirst into exaggerating the threat from Iran, while hardline clerics issued increasingly belligerent fatwas against the Shia. Against this backdrop, Shia civilians began to be targeted with violence throughout the region – with very little outcry or objection from the international community, so successfully have they been conflated with a “threatening” Iran and Hezbollah.
But as Christians began to be targeted, assaulted, and killed in Egypt and Syria, the issue of sectarianism exploded beyond the old, more common storylines, and has made avoidance of this subject impossible.
Dragging the sordid issue of sectarianism – which is invariably accompanied by extremism – into the light has had an interesting effect on regional discourse: most Arabs don’t want to be part of it in much the same way they rejected al-Qaeda a decade ago.
A recent Pew Research Center poll of Muslims worldwide reveals, among other things, that 85 percent of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa view religious freedom for people of other faiths to be “a good thing.” A majority of Muslims are “somewhat or very concerned” about Islamic religious extremism, while a minority of Muslims view Shia-Sunni tensions to be a problem at all. The poll indicates that religious strife remains a major cause for concern among Muslims in many MENA states, and that perceived hostilities between Muslims and Christians are on the high side in Egypt, but low in Lebanon, another country that has experienced these hostilities.
But even as sectarian tensions flare in various countries, the headlines do not tell the whole story. Many Arabs are rejecting these divisions, some of which is attributable to the shocking new level of violence now associated with sectarianism:
From Egypt to Kuwait, Bahrain to Syria, young Arabs are hearing – many for the first time – about women being raped because of their sect; about the cutting of heads, the hacking of limbs, the burning of bodies. This is not yesterday’s segregation of sects; this is the stuff of horror movies and genocidal sprees.
The backlash here has already begun. As violent sectarianism rises, so too does the realization that there is another discourse on the rise besides Shia versus Sunni or Muslim versus Christian.
Simply put, there is a new paradigm forming in the region that didn’t exist when it was just Iraq suffering the consequences of violent sectarian carnage: Today, throughout the Middle East, “sectarian” Shia, Sunni, Muslims, and Christians are increasingly facing down “anti-sectarian” Shia, Sunni, Muslims, and Christians. The re-framing of this issue is crucial in undermining sectarian strife. It offers millions an alternative communal identity to the one that always forces them to “defend sect first.”
Interestingly, one communal identity they are tending to embrace is a national identity, i.e., “I am Bahraini, not Shia or Sunni.”
In Bahrain, despite efforts to paint a two-year popular uprising as an “Iranian project” pitting the majority Shia population against a minority Sunni government, Bahrainis hoist their national flag at every opportunity to defy the negative sectarian characterizations of their “national” democratization project.
In Lebanon, where sectarianism is boiling in reaction to events in neighboring Syria, each incident has so far been thwarted by inter-sect efforts on a national level, and a growing desire among the population to empower the “national” army.
In Syria, widespread revulsion against what has to be the most violent manifestation of sectarianism in the region has morphed into a new language to define the conflict there: Instead of being pro or anti-government/opposition, many Syrians are now underlining their allegiance to Syria first. Despite the international media’s partiality toward framing the Syrian conflict as a sectarian one, many pro-government and pro-opposition figures tend to reject this characterization outright. This is certainly notable among pro-government Syrians, many of whom have undergone a hasty conversion from political apathy to intense nationalism in a short time, and who reject being defined as “pro-Assad.”
“It is too limiting,” says one staunchly secular Syrian about that definition. “This is about my country and keeping it whole – it is not about a person or a government,” says another, an observant Sunni who backs her national army’s efforts to weed out mostly Islamist rebels.
The irony is that the very “sectarianism” encouraged by competing Islamists and their allies in pursuit of political objectives in the region may have spawned the backlash to hasten their demise. Nationalism has long been the enemy of political Islam in the Middle East, and nationalism can once more bury it.
Throughout the Arab world, minority sects and non-sectarian groups are being thrust together to protect against the more zealous elements of political Islam, giving form to important civil coalitions that will form the backbone of new grassroots opposition movements in these countries – previously a position held almost exclusively by Islamists.
The backlashes are here, now. They will target all the interventionists clinging on to the status quo, and those keeping progress at bay. They may grow incrementally and tentatively – or they may explode onto a national or regional stage one fine day. “More of the same” will only hasten their arrival.
And it’s okay. These “backlashes” will be the revolutions you thought we already had.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.
JERUSALEM – Patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem on Sunday released a joint statement denouncing attacks by Israeli police officers on worshipers and pilgrims during Holy Saturday at the Church of Holy Sepulcher.
Signatories of the statement highlighted that they saw “awful scenes of the brutal treatment to clerics, average people and pilgrims in Jerusalem during Holy Saturday.”
They added: “A day of joy was turned into a day of severe sadness and pain for several of our faithful brothers who were mistreated by a number of Israeli police officers at the gates of the Old City of Jerusalem leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.”
It is unacceptable, according to the statement, that clergymen and average people “get beaten brutally and indiscriminately and be denied access to their churches under the pretext of keeping order.”
The statement urged the Israeli government to denounce the violence that police practiced against worshipers and clergymen.
The patriarchs and heads of churches also denied claims of those who blamed the churches for what happened during the Holy week in Jerusalem. “These claims are counter to what happened in reality, and all heads of churches condemn the Israeli procedures and violations of the Christians’ rights,” the statement said.
The statement was signed by heads of all recognized churches in the Holy Land including the Roman Orthodox Church, the Latin Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Custodian of the Holy Land, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, and the Armenian Catholic Church.
- Egyptian assaulted by Israeli police (dailynewsegypt.com)
- More zionist crimes against Christianity: Settlers raise Israeli flag over West Bank church (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Settlers Burn Greek Orthodox Church Land In Jerusalem (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
UKIP leader Nigel Farage
The UK Independence Party has gone from being a joke in the British political landscape to the fourth – or even third – best-supported party after their gains in the recent local elections, where they won a quarter of seats they had sent out a candidate to seize.
Here is a review on the newly-emerging far-right party, which has been repeatedly accused of racism, anti-Islamic bias and lobbying in favor of the Zionists in the British establishments and internationally.
UKIP has been a pro-Israeli regime propagandist and has been lobbying for an end to what it claims to be a despicable anti-Semitism in European history.
The party considers the regime as a victim versus the Palestinian and Middle Eastern resistance movements and considers the Israeli regime’s frequent aggressions against Palestinian civilians in line with Tel Aviv’s right to defend itself.
The party also frowns on the idea of punishing the regime through sanctions or cancellation of trade ties for disproportionate use of force against Palestinians and war crimes in the Gaza Strip, including the 2008 Gaza War in which the regime massacred over 1,000 Palestinians.
The party has also claimed that “Israel has maintained an impeccable human rights record” and has set up a “Friends of Israel” fan club in a bid to secure “true friendship” with Tel Aviv.
This is while, the party’s secretary Michael Zuckerman has boasted of “tremendous support for Israel within UKIP”.
In return for its efforts, UKIP leader Nigel Farage has earned the title of “a good friend of Israel” from Zionist media.
On the other hand, UKIP is understandably an outspoken enemy of Iran, against which it is prepared to use “military means”, and its Commons Norwich North once candidate Glen Tingle has said Britain “should blow them [Iran] up”.
UKIP European Parliament member Gerard Batten has also leveled accusations of terrorism and non-civilian nuclear work against Iran, labeling the country as “barbaric, pro-terrorist and anti-Semitic”.
UKIP has also pledged to provide strategic military support to any party that enters a conflict with Iran over its nuclear program, if the party comes to lead the British government.
This is while, Farage almost u-turned on that attitude in an interview in October 2012 saying Britain needs to sit down and talk with Iran over its nuclear program.
Farage has criticized the Iraq war, because of the waste of money and British soldiers’ lives to destabilize a Middle Eastern country, and also, because the invasion served Iran by removing Iraq’s former dictator Saddam, who had fought an imposed war against Iran between 1980 and 1988.
In the same interview on Iran, he also went on to describe the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq as achieving absolutely “nothing”.
UKIP has been probably most notorious in its Islamophobic attitudes.
Back in May 2012, a candidate for UKIP compared Islam’s holy book Qur’an to Adolf Hitler’s political manifesto Mein Kampf, saying Muslims are “Fascist”.
This comes as Fascism has been the word used by UKIP opponents to describe its political creed especially after UKIP parliament candidate Steve Moxon embraced Norwegian mass-murderer Andres Breivik as a sensible and “convincing” anti-Islam “scholar”.
Meanwhile, UKIP’s former leader Lord Pearson notoriously invited Dutch MP Geert Wilders to the House of Lords to show his sacrilegious anti-Islam film to the British peers while the party’s 2011 candidate for Leicester South parliamentary by-election, Abhijit Pandya, once labeled Islam as “morally flawed and degenerate”.
Farage, himself, was one of the lead campaigners in 2010 for imposing a ban on the Islamic veil, known as burqa, also dismissing the application of Islamic Sharia Law in British major cities as “most certainly … not desirable”, though he has recently tried to distance himself from such comments, considering future expediency.
While the UKIP’s direct attacks on Islam have decreased recently in a bid to appeal to more British voters, the party’s continued Islamophobic approach was exposed by the militant English Defense League back in April after the EDL revealed on Facebook that they enjoy a mutual stance with UKIP on hatred of Islam.
EDL leader Tommy Robinson also explicitly said in an interview on April 4 that he supports UKIP and would vote for them, laying bare UKIP’s true anti-Islam nature.
And finally on Falklands, there is nothing to choose between UKIP and other major British political parties as they welcomed the result of the recent Falklands Islands referendum, with deputy party leader Paul Nuttal saying it led to a “resounding” result that “should surely put an end to Argentina’s frankly arrogant and unfounded claims” over the South Pacific territory.
On May 13, 2013, Washington-based media museum, Newseum, will honor 84 journalists killed in line of duty in various countries in 2012. The list includes two cameramen, Hussam Salama and Mahmoud Al-Kumi, from Hamas-owned Al-Aqsa TV, who were killed by an Israeli air-strike while driving through Gaza City’s Nasser area inside a car clearly marked “TV” in November 2012.
On May 10, the Zionist embassy in Washington DC demanded that Newseum management remove Hussam Salama and Mahmoud Al-Kumi’s names from the honor list saying they’re members of Gaza-ruling Hamas, which Israel and the US have designated as a terrorist group.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper, criticized Newseum saying: “Duct Tape on car with the letters TV does not a journalist make. A shameful decision based on a falsehood that besmirches the true heroes of journalism who died while pursuing their mission of seeking and reporting the Truth.”
“What would the legitimate martyred journalists like Daniel Pearl say as their heroism and humanity is debased and degraded?” Cooper asked.
Daniel Pearl, a US-Israeli Jewish citizen and Wall Street Journal reporter was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan allegedly working for Israeli Mossad. The Center itself is named after the so-called the “Father of Holocaust” Simon Weisenthal (1908-2005) who is described by Israeli historian, Tom Segev, as a fame-seeking myth-maker and an Israeli Mossad agent.
The Washington Free Beacon (May 10, 2013), a pro-Israel Jewish website quoted an adviser to a large Washington DC Jewish organization, saying: “They couldn’t have been legitimate journalists killed in the line of duty because they weren’t working for a legitimate media outlet. They were working for a designated terrorist organization that has a propaganda shop.“
On Friday, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Jewish-Israeli advocacy group, said it’s boycotting Newseum. “I will put a call to the CEO of the Newseum first thing tomorrow morning. I’m hoping he’ll tell me there’s been a misunderstanding – or a re-thinking once it became clear that these ‘journalists’ were members of designated terrorist organizations,” Cliff May, the Zionist Jewish president of the FDD, said in an email to BuzzFeed, a Jewish website.
Despite Israeli protest, Jonathan Thomson, spokesman for the Newseum said the two cameramen, who were killed by an Israeli air-strike, would remain on its roll of slain reporters. “Hussam Salama and Mahmoud Al-Kumi were cameramen in a car clearly marked “TV”. The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers all consider these men journalists killed in the line duty,” said the Newseum spokesperson.
The dedication ceremony will take place at the Journalist Memorial Gallery. The keynote speaker will be Jewish Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC News. Last year, while on assignment in Syria – he along with other members of his crew were kidnapped by USrael-funded anti-Assad rebels and held hostage for five days. NBC identified the kidnappers as members of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, an anti-Assad Wahabi militant group.
Pro-Palestine campaigners from across Britain are to stage a protest in London later this week on Nakba Day, marking the 65th anniversary of evicting Palestinians from their homes by Israelis.
The demonstration is planned to be held at 1 p.m. across Downing Street on Wednesday May 15 in coordination with international rallies around the world.
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) will be also hosting a series of Nakba Week events between 11 and 17 May, including a speaking tour by Palestinian rights activist Mousa Abu Maria in Belfast, Cork, Limerick and Dublin.
Another protest rally dubbed “End the ongoing Nakba-Palestine’s catastrophe” and organized by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), will be held outside the British Parliament on May 18.
Palestinians refer to the May 15, 1948, occupation of Palestine as the “Nakba Day,” which means the Day of Catastrophe in Arabic, to mark the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homeland almost 65 years ago.
Israeli forces have wiped nearly 500 Palestinian villages and towns off the map, leaving an estimated total of 4.7 million Palestinian refugees hoping for an eventual return to their homeland more than six decades later.
On May 13 last year, Palestinians commemorated Nakba Day outside Downing Street in London, carrying placards reading, “free Palestine,” “end ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem,” and “end the siege on Gaza.”
- Commemorate Nakba Day and Continue Work for Palestinian Rights (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Despite threats, students to commemorate Nakba at Tel Aviv University (altahrir.wordpress.com)
Israel has denounced a paper by the Scottish Church which denies “Jews’ special claim to the land of Israel.”
The paper entitled “The Inheritance of Abraham,” which was published last week rejects “claims that scripture offers any peoples a privileged claim for possession of a particular territory.”
According to Israel’s Jerusalem Post, the paper further states that “reconciliation (between Palestinians and Jews) can only be possible if the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the blockade of Gaza are ended.”
The report was published on the Church’s website, but is to be discussed during the Church’s general assembly on May 18. About 723 members are going to vote on whether they are for or against the report. The church is to discuss further economic and political measures against Israel.
In addition, it includes demands to cancel investments in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and “urges the UK Government and the European Union to use pressure to stop further expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank.”
The Israeli ambassador to London said that should the Church adopt the report, it would be a “reverse hit to the powers that push towards tolerance and peace in the region.” He also said that the report serves positions of political extremists in the region.
The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported the writers of the report as saying: “Jewish people have to be provoked in order to stop their belief that they deserve special treatment because they are victims.”
“They have to know that their unjust and unethical treatment with the Palestinians cannot continue forever,” they added.
The Church’s spokesman told the Israeli newspaper that what was mentioned in the report was not “anti-Semitism,” which he held is a theory that does not completely exist.
The Church does not deny the right of Israel to exist, the spokesman told the newspaper, but it questions Israeli policies in the light of a framework that could preserve peace in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The report questions, the spokesman argued, the absence of justice regarding dealing with the Palestinians and dividing the country. “It considered that it is wrong that scriptures are used as a basis to grab the land.”