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Update: Silenced Israel

By S Ross Jones - posted Monday, 15 July 2002

My last Update spoke of the growing tendency here to silence all dissent of the official policies of the State of Israel. That tendency is continuing. At 4:00pm yesterday a group of 19 Americans (two of whom also had Israeli citizenship) from the Fellowship of Reconciliation arrived at Ben Gurion Airport.

The FOR is an 86-year old international interfaith organization committed to non-violence. The authorities decided their proposed itinerary "looked too dangerous", and denied entry to all but the two with dual citizenship. The rest had to remain in the airport until they could board a plane out at 8:00am.

Almost certainly the authorities felt that this group would be too pro-Palestinian—even though their itinerary included Yad Vashem as well as Gaza. Stories like this are common here, but I happened to have some personal involvement in this one. Such actions are surely designed to protect the official spin on events here.


My own fear is that a major uprising may soon be in the cards. I pray it does not happen, but you cannot continue to treat people like animals without some such reaction. The combination of events on the ground and President Bush’s last speech is not a good one. According to the daily paper (Ha’aretz), over 700,000 people have been confined to their homes for two weeks now with only occasional breaks for necessities.

Another couple of million live in cities that are surrounded by troops and denied access to food, medical help, and commerce. Virtually every expatriate organization here quickly gets involved in trying to supply humanitarian assistance to those being confined. Last week my wife and I were asked to find colostomy bags for a man having surgery in Bethlehem. The hospital had only one and the Red Cross could not deliver in Bethlehem. (Eventually the hospital decided to wash and re-use their one bag until a UN vehicle could bring fresh bags from a Jerusalem hospital.)

The Palestinians simply have no resources left. Their only hope was that the United States would eventually bring some balance to its support of Israel. Bush’s speech effectively closed that door, for what most Palestinians heard was "There is a new world waiting for you as soon as you scale this sheer 300-foot wall with no help." The joke on the streets is that the speech was delayed several times because Bush had to wait on its translation from Hebrew.

Israelis constantly fall back on its right to exist, and to exist in peace. I agree with that right. No one wants to fear bombs when they go to the store. But that right also belongs to the Palestinians, and current Israeli policies only exacerbate the problem. The Israeli public knows that de-humanization will never bring peace.

Polls show that two-thirds of the Israelis now support withdrawal of the settlements from the West Bank. Sharon’s popularity is dropping (again from the newspaper) as disillusionment spreads. Yet Bush backs Sharon. Lots of people would like to support Israel, but it is impossible to condone what is going on in the name of defense. Please say your prayers that reason and sanity may prevail before it is too late.

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This article was first published as the Dean's e-mail message on 2 July 2002.

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About the Author

The Very Reverend S Ross Jones is Dean of St. George's College Jerusalem.

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