Middle East

Open Season on Activists?

Standing for peace in a war zone is never easy, but it's becoming next to impossible for Middle East human rights groups. Israel has instituted a new wave of restrictions on internationals who want to enter the region, citing that the presence of groups such as the International Solidarity Movement endangers Israeli soldiers and the groups' own members. In May, Israeli soldiers raided ISM offices in the West Bank, arresting one Palestinian and two foreign volunteers, one of whom is awaiting deportation. The government maintains that tough policies, such as arrests and deportations, are necessary due to legitimate security concerns. For example, a British suicide bomber's recent attack on a nightclub followed quickly on the heels of the deaths and injuries of several foreign activists. Peace groups, however, believe the intent of the crackdown is to remove eyewitnesses from the region and prevent scrutiny of the conduct of the Israeli Defense Force. At a recent press conference, peace groups called on Israel to lift the new restrictions. "Human rights monitoring should be part and parcel of the road map to peace," said Rory Mungoven of Human Rights Watch.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine September-October 2003
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Anti-Semitism and Justice

WHILE ARTHUR WASKOW ("Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Anti-Occupation," May-June 2003) makes a few valid points about the anti-war movement and anti-Semitism therein, I am not comfortable being pigeonholed into some particular category of his choosing. We all have individual feelings about justice, humanity, and how we should treat one another based on our own research, conversations, experiences, and relationships.

I have studied the history of the region of Palestine for many years, and there are simply elements of that history that will never be just, compassionate, or fair. For some reason, where this subject is concerned, the ability to empathize or place oneself in another's position seem to be nonexistent. How in the world can anyone justify rounding up Palestinian citizens in 1948, putting them on trucks, moving them to internment camps to live in tents for the next 30 years (until cinderblock shelters were built), and taking their homes, land, and lives from them? If this same thing were to happen in the United States, people would be up in arms. It just wouldn't happen. I know people from the region whose families owned farms and homes for many years and were forcibly removed from those homes so that Jewish families could move into them.

The racist tendencies of the Zionist movement and the complete lack of justice in the whole issue of Palestine-Israel is what fuels the frustration and anger of peace-loving, justice-minded people. The anger and frustration is exacerbated by the fact that any attempt to talk about these truths is countered by calling anyone who disagrees with them "anti-Semitic"—which takes the truth and twists it so that the victim becomes the perpetrator and the perpetrator somehow becomes the victim. It's a complete inversion of morality and truth.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine July-August 2003
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

A Deafening Silence

The death of International Solidarity Movement volunteer Rachel Corrie beneath an Israeli military bulldozer in March sent shock waves through the activist community. In the midst of grief, however, many also hoped that the murder of an unarmed American would finally catapult the plight of occupied Palestine into the international spotlight.

The premise of accompaniment groups like ISM rests on the assumption that, though the United States and Israel have ignored the more than 1,200 Palestinian civilian casualties since September 2000, neither country's government or media could afford to ignore an American's death. "Israel isn't held accountable for killing [Palestinians]," ISM founder Huwaida Arraf told Salon.com just two months before Corrie was killed. "But killing a foreigner is a PR disaster." Especially a young, blond foreigner from Olympia, Washington, who had been trying to protect a Palestinian home from demolition.

Imagine the potential public relations nightmare when Corrie's death was quickly followed by the seemingly deliberate targeting of two other international activists, Brian Avery, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tom Hurndall, from England. Avery is in serious condition, and the shot to Hurndall's head rendered him brain dead.

Peace teams finally had a cause over which mainstream America could express outrage—three internationals targeted in the Middle East!—yet there was little discussion of the incidents. After a flurry of front-page stories and State Department condolences, the government and media returned its focus to Iraq. The Israeli government investigated Corrie's death and quickly exonerated itself, claiming she had behaved with "reprehensible negligence."

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine July-August 2003
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Road Map or Dead End?

Chilean folksinger Victor Jara once sang about "working at the beginning of a story without knowing the end." It aptly describes the proposed "Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"—the "road map" to peace—recently presented to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and newly approved Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Last summer, President Bush delivered a major speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, supporting the creation of a Palestinian state preconditioned on a change in Palestinian leadership. Along with the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations—the "Quartet"—it resulted in the development of the road map in September 2002.

Its formal presentation was derailed by the U.S. administration's focus on the war with Iraq, until mid-March when Bush—under pressure from British Prime Minister Tony Blair—reluctantly pledged to release and support the plan.

The road map outlines a series of reciprocal steps to be taken by both Israel and the Palestinians, with the promise of "an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel" by 2005. It proposes three phases, with completion of each leading to the next.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine July-August 2003
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

It Takes Two

I was moved by Josh Healey's concern for the human rights of Palestinians ("Not in My Name"). It's encouraging to see young people committed to justice. There is a problem, however, with an absence of passionate concern for Israel and the lives of Israeli civilians. American and European peace workers in the Palestinian territories, and their supporters at home, have moved from being peace workers and are now Palestinian partisans. There is no equivalent voice for Israel. We need to be very careful about demonizing one side. Israel and the Palestinians have both contributed to this mess in horrible ways. Both sides, not one side, should be held accountable for their respective contributions.

Harriet Warnock-Graham
Maumee, Ohio

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine March-April 2003
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Worth Noting

When this book was published, the Committee to Protect Journalists had just named the West Bank as "the worst place to be a journalist." Two photojournalists have been killed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) this year, and many others have been injured.

The antagonism between the press and the IDF was obvious during my trip in June to the West Bank town of Bethlehem, on an abortive outing with a Swedish Reuters photographer featured in the book (he lives in the West Bank and is married to a Palestinian). Helmeted and flak-jacketed, we spent most of the time scurrying through Palestinian backyards to avoid patrols, paradoxically looking for "action" while avoiding the attention of those perpetrating it.

One journalist in the book writes about the Syrian head of state that he believes ordered his assassination. Another writes of a suicide bombing at his child's school. With examples like these, I generally regard the notion of an unbiased press as a myth. None of us can shed our contexts and perspectives and conjure the "unbiased insight" that this book's dust jacket touts. Like preachers, reporters are often at their best when they tell stories instead of "truth."

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine November-December 2002
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Cold Comfort

First he took off his hat and coat; then his sweater and shirt. "I told the soldiers I would not put my clothes back on until they released Ziad," said Ohio farmer and Christian Peacemaker Team member Art Gish. It was a cold February evening in Hebron, Palestine, when Gish encountered Amos, an Israeli soldier, detaining an 18-year-old Palestinian named Ziad. Amos claimed he was just holding Ziad for a few minutes to check his identity card. Ziad said he'd already been there in the freezing cold for hours. Art insisted that Amos release Ziad. Amos insisted that Gish depart. As things heated up, five other soldiers arrived who also ordered Gish to mind his own business. He refused. Slowly, then, he began to disrobe. Soon he was stripped and shivering with his new Palestinian friend, attracting a crowd. Within 10 minutes both Gish and Ziad were on their way. "I put back on my clothes and greeted the soldiers with ‘shalom,'" said Gish.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine July-August 2002
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

A Light in the Darkness

This edition of Sojourners went to press just as the U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan began, which makes this special issue even more critical. Regular responses to fast-changing events can be found on www.sojo.net and in SojoMail.

 

Lighting candles at prayer vigils is something many of us have done more times than we can remember. Speaking the language of darkness and light at interfaith services, in liturgical seasons, and in the streets has become a matter of habit. But our darkness feels very real and powerful in this moment-almost impenetrable, and threatening to close in on us. And our need for the light feels most urgent.

Old familiar spiritual words must take on a new reality for us now, and a new sense of mission. Words like "Let there be light!" And "A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." We must not just light candles now; we must make a new commitment.

More than we knew before Sept. 11, there are many dark places in the world where unspeakable terrorist violence against large numbers of innocent people is being planned. Those places must be exposed to the light of day and the violence be thwarted. There are dark places within us and in our nation that might lash out from our deep woundedness, grief, and anger, carelessly inflicting more pain on innocent people. The light of compassion and reason must prevent us from spreading our pain.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine November-December 2001
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

A Platform for a Movement

Both politics and religion lend themselves to absolutes-all too often even minor points of divergence are treated like uncrossable chasms. For starters, it's not easy to sort out the trivial from the substantial, for every judgment is accompanied by a nagging sense that you may be compromising your deepest convictions for the sake of a false unity.

Be that as it may, I will propose 10 planks of a platform around which we can build a movement, transcending our more trivial political and religious differences.

1) The intentional murder of innocents must never be justified, neither legally, morally, nor strategically (i.e. for some greater end). That's how we define a terrorist act, whether it is carried out by a political cell group or a nation-state.

2) Agents of terrorism must be held accountable for their crimes. The safety of innocents demands their apprehension; justice demands their punishment.

3) The U.S. government and its security forces are pursuing outlaws who have committed crimes against humanity. Using these events as an opportunity for extending global hegemony and economic self-interest will be obvious to the Arab world and will lead to continued instability and conflict in the region.

4) Osama bin Laden and his "base" network are not freedom fighters struggling against globalization, economic oppression, or Western imperialism. While these are indeed pieces of their ideology-and each of these forces has certainly contributed to our troubled times-bin Laden and his base are fundamentally motivated by a "holy war" that seeks to eradicate sources of social power not aligned with his violent religious ideology, including what he considers "apostates" within the Muslim community.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine November-December 2001
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Against Impossible Odds

I arrived at the Tel Aviv airport and after clearing customs rode the 35 miles to Jerusalem, where I would attend an international peace conference convened by the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. Everywhere I looked were enormous Israeli settlements, always on the highest ground, with the most modern, first-world living conditions anywhere, towering over the much-poorer Palestinian villages down in the valleys.

I saw on this trip how Israeli settlements loom over the West Bank and Gaza-and likewise loom over the chances for peace in the Middle East. They are the "facts on the ground" that shape virtually everything about Middle East politics today. Long before he became prime minister, Ariel Sharon controlled the future as the chief architect of the settlement policy. Settlements are aggressive forays into Palestinian territory by people who believe that God has given them all the land. Each one makes lasting peace that much more difficult. It's obvious now that this was the intent of the policy from the beginning.

Many of the settlers are American Jewish immigrants to Israel. Picture an SUV pulling up alongside a Palestinian family whose roots go back 10 generations. An American Jew from New York City, here only two weeks, screams at the Palestinian family: "Get off this land! God gave it to us!" With the settlements policy, that's now happening. Israeli soldiers are in the West Bank and Gaza not to keep law and order, not to protect Palestinians from violence or crime-but only to protect the settlements and the settlers. Control the roads, control movement, control the daily life of the entire Palestinian population-that's the settlements policy.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine September-October 2001
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Pages

Subscribe