It is time for the world to act here. Many of us have said that many times, but some times are more urgent than others and this is one of them. The last month has been very quiet here in Jerusalem, primarily because the Palestinians have finally decided to stop suicide bombers. Thanks be to God for that.
But the quietness does not mean violence is not happening, just that the world is paying little attention. The reason for the world to act is that Palestine must see some progress being made, some reason for them to avoid a return to desperation violence.
At this point the opposite is happening. Right-wing Israelis (Prime Minister Sharon’s primary constituency) are interpreting the cessation of bombers as victory and the time to turn the screws even tighter on the Palestinians to ensure that they will never again be able to organize.
Since the Palestinians unilaterally declared a cease-fire, consider the following:
- So many innocent unarmed civilians have been killed by unprovoked gunfire that even the Israeli Minister of Defense has called for an investigation of the Army. Historically such investigations have never been heard from again.
- Peace Now reports that during the month of August eight new settlements were begun, though they have changed the name to "Outposts".
- Two Palestinian leaders have been assassinated by Israel, though they now refer to them as "Pinpoint preventions".
- Prime Minister Sharon quite accurately in a speech to his constituency defended the much-publicized withdrawal from Bethlehem as "no more than moving a couple of jeeps".
- Many Palestinians remain confined to their homes twenty-four hours a day. The 40,000 residents of Nablus have now been confined for eighty days, with only a few hours out every few days.
- Home demolitions have continued without a change. On 2 September six homes in the Hebron area were destroyed leaving 50 Palestinians, including 26 children, homeless. More homes were destroyed on the 7th.
It is wonderful for the Palestinians to forego violent protest to such treatment and we pray that remains the case. But that leaves them without any effective means of protest until leadership in non-violent methods can develop. That leadership would have to develop even as Israel is defining all protest as terrorism and assassinating its leaders.
The only reasonable help for Palestine must come from international sources. The truth is that too many Israelis are just too caught up in the frenzy of violence for them to escape without help as well. They too need to be saved from that frenzy.
An international peacekeeping force should come with the recognition that such crimes against humanity as are occurring here degrade all of humanity. It degrades the abused, the abusers, and those who simply refuse to speak up.
Religion is a part of the struggle here because our relationship with God is a part of our identity. We are created in His image. It is time for all of us in this world to stop tarnishing that image and work together for a world that can return to God’s intention.
A wonderful first step for that return would be here in the Holy Land. This is being written the day after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to welcome a New Year?
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