OPEN LETTER TO US SECRETARY OF STATE, GENERAL COLIN POWELL

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    SECRETARY OF STATE, GENERAL COLIN POWELL
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    Members of English-Speaking Christian Communities in the Holy Land
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Dear Mr. Secretary,

"... No one can remain indifferent to the injustice of which the Palestinian people have been victims for more than fifty years. No one can contest the right of the Israeli people to live in security. But neither can anyone forget the innocent victims who on both sides fall day after day under the blows of violence. Weapons and bloody attacks will never be the right means for making a political statement to the other side. Nor is the logic of the law of retaliation capable any longer of leading to paths of peace."
John Paul II (January 10, 2002)

We, the undersigned, have experienced and can attest to the truth of these words of Pope John Paul II. We are members of several English-speaking Christian communities in the Holy Land who have been living in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. Our length of residence ranges from six months to twenty years. We represent a number of English-speaking nationalities, predominantly American but also many others, and a wide variety of backgrounds and professions. We include students and professors, parents and clergy, US government/ USAID personnel, heads/personnel of American and other non-governmental aid agencies, international diplomats, officials working for UN agencies and health and education professionals.

We are writing to you out of a deep concern and urgency. The violent and horrible events in this land have escalated in recent weeks. America is deeply involved in this conflict both as a broker of the peace process and as a supplier of weapons. The increased violence has underscored the failure of successive American administrations to implement defined policies for the resolution of this conflict.

Twenty-five years have passed since President Sadat visited Jerusalem and opened the way to the Camp David peace process. Camp David was eventually succeeded by the Oslo Accords, then the Wye River Agreement, and more recently by the Mitchell and Tenet reports. None of these agreements have been implemented. A generation of Israeli and Palestinian youth has grown up observing the lack of political will of the United States government to implement our defined policies for the Middle East. Moderates on both sides of this conflict have been marginalized and discredited by the failure to bring about a just and lasting peace. Both the Israeli creation of "facts on the ground", and the terror attacks against innocent civilians, have succeeded in delaying the timeframe and in presenting further obstacles to the search for a just and lasting peace.

The US government has accepted such negative developments with apparent equanimity. It has capitulated to the demands and excesses of the extremists and radicals on both sides who have no interest in peace and reconciliation. To date, it has failed to address the major cause of the problem - the oppressive and illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The legitimate human and civil rights of the Palestinian people and their right to their own national homeland have been denied - rights that most peoples of the earth enjoy and take for granted. Palestinians daily face the expropriation of their land and the unrelenting construction on this land of Israeli settlements and settlement roads. Over the last 18 months ordinary Palestinians have also suffered under the Israeli 'closures' and military siege, which have cut them off from their places of employment, study, basic health-care and families.

During this period, our Christian communities have seen the horrific effects of the work of suicide-bombers and other militants on the people and cities of Israel, and some have narrowly escaped injury in such incidents. Some among us, however, can also testify to having personally eye-witnessed a wide range of violations of Palestinian basic human rights and personal freedoms by the Israeli authorities, including:

* house demolitions with families made homeless;

* uprooting of ancient olive and citrus groves on which multiple families are dependent for their livelihoods;

* families cowering in terror as US-manufactured missiles shower down indiscriminately on civilian areas from US-manufactured Apache helicopters and F-16 bombers, or from Israeli tanks;

* shelling of buildings right beside foreign diplomatic and UN offices in Ramallah and Gaza, recklessly endangering their international and other staff;

* indiscriminate shootings by IDF soldiers at checkpoints of civilians, including children, women, the elderly and the disabled; as well as firing of tear gas at such people crossing the checkpoints on foot by young, seemingly bored or frightened IDF recruits;

* severe harassment and physical abuse of Palestinians of all ages at such checkpoints;

* inappropriate handling of young Arab women at these locations;

* regular obstruction of teachers and students trying to reach schools and universities;

* harassment and obstruction of ambulances trying to carry emergency cases to hospital and blocking of UNRWA and other humanitarian relief operations.
Similar incidents of this kind have been widely reported on by almost all the main Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights and humanitarian organizations.

All the members of our Christian communities unequivocally condemn and reject terrorism and violence as a means of advancing the political cause of the Palestinians, and fully recognize the right of the Israeli people to live in peace and security in their own state. Our experience here also helps us understand why, in their desperation, some young Palestinians see no other options available to them and nothing for them to live for. The US Administration has focused predominantly on the admittedly horrific and unacceptable violence of the Palestinian militants against Israelis but it has given insufficient attention both to the causes of Palestinian militancy and terror, and the daily terror and war that Israel is inflicting with impunity on the largely civilian Palestinian population. This has, not surprisingly, led to the emergence of a strong sense of moral outrage on the part of the majority of Arabs and Muslims worldwide. It has also generated a major questioning among millions of people of conscience internationally of the credibility, impartiality and moral authority of the US government and its policies. This in turn has contributed significantly to the hostility felt by many people internationally towards the US, its government and its citizens.

There is an urgent need for the resolution of this conflict. There is a solution possible, but it is neither a military one, nor a terrorist one. The parameters of the solution have been clearly delineated and the vision spelled out by you yourself, Mr. Secretary, in Louisville, and by President Bush at the UN. They are expressed in US-sponsored Security Council Resolution 1397, a very welcome initiative indeed; and also in the proposals recently set forth by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and, most tantalizingly of all, in the Taba talks that ended in January last year, which brought the two sides to the brink of an historic breakthrough on most of the highly complex and deeply entrenched issues dividing the two sides. It is no longer appropriate to discuss proposals about interim solutions or arrangements. These interim policies have been the framework under which Israel has extended and expanded its illegal presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The US government has been a proponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now is the time for the US government to operate within the rubric of the United Nations and to finalize a settlement to this conflict in accordance with Resolutions 242, 338 and 1397. This is a period in history that requires clear policy definition, firm political will, and consistency in action by the US government. The US government needs to display a type of "tough love" that links funding assistance with policy decisions that express its concern for all the peoples of this land.

We welcome General Zinni to Jerusalem and recognize the very severe obstacles he faces. We express the fervent hope that he will continue to receive the firm political backing, and strong, balanced mandate he needs from the top levels of his Administration in order to broker a just and lasting peace. It is the consensus of the undersigned members of our Christian communities that the only way to achieve success will be a firm, even-handed approach exerting equal pressure on both parties to halt the violence and provocation. The presence of international observers is also crucial for achieving this halt to violence and facilitating the return to negotiations. Necessary also is a simultaneous move to develop the political dimension, through the implementation of the Mitchell Report and the resumption of final status negotiations. To demand that President Arafat deliver a unilateral cease-fire while the closures remain firmly in place and Israeli military offensives and provocation continue, cannot and will not succeed. In the interests of the Israeli people who are suffering so much from the conflict, the United States must also persuade the Israeli government to play its part, by implementing parallel measures to lift the military and economic siege and by progressing toward finalizing negotiations. Consistency of will to move beyond the rhetoric of US policy and to implement its stated goals will restore the credibility to the peace process and to the role the US government seeks to play as the honest broker of the peace process.

As people of faith, committed to the struggle for peace, justice and reconciliation, we are convinced that greed and arrogance, violence and death, will not have the final word. We have a deep love for this Land and for all of its people. Our experience here has taught us to make our own this simple insight from John Paul II: One against the other, neither Israelis nor Palestinians can win the war. But together they can win the peace. We hope and pray that all sides in this present conflict come to the same recognition.

...
Members of English-Speaking Christian Communities in the Holy Land
25 March 2002

Encl: Signatories to the Open Letter

English speaking Catholic Community of Jerusalem

Rev. Donald J. Moore, S.J., acting pastor, professor of theology
Rev. Charles H. Miller, R.C. priest, administrator
Rev. Robert Fortrin, Jerusalem, R.C. Priest, administrator
Niamh Gallagher, student
Maeve Gallagher, student
Teresena Gallagher, Lecturer
Sr. Mary K. Milne, O.S.U., Journalist
Evie McNally, student
Carolina Aznar, Jerusalem, graduate student
Kathleen Pierson, Bethany, recreation director
Michael Humpheys, Lt. Colonel, Australian Army
Jillian Kearns, Lawyer, Australia
Tom McNally, East Jerusalem
Denis Gallagher, Development consultant to USAID
Marie Andre Mitchell, R.C. sister
Daragh McNally, student
Isolde Moylan, diplomat, Ramallah
Maureen McElhattan, Jerusalem
Andrea Rogers, Jerusalem
Donald J. Rogers, administrator
David Burrell, C.S.C., priest, professor
Sr. Susan Sheehan, D.C., administrator
Sr. Norma More, D.C., therapist for handicapped children
Dennis Hamm, S.J., professor of scripture
Tom Fitzalan-Howard, British Defense Attache
Jo Fitzalan-Howard, Interior designer
Tom Neu, East Jerusalem,
Patricia Neu, planning and evaluation manager
Debbie Santalese, formerly East Jerusalem, office manager

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer English-speaking Congregation, Jerusalem

The Rev. Susan P. Thomas, Pastor, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem
The Rev. Michael P. Thomas, Pastor, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer,
Jerusalem
Christopher Doyle, Presbyterian Church USA missionary, Bethlehem
Hala Doyle, Presbyterian Church USA missionary, Bethlehem
The Rev. David Selzer, Episcopal priest
Ann E. Miller, RN, nurse practitioner
Mark Frey, Christian Peacemaker Team, peacemaker
Peter Holland, OXFAM-Quebec
Kate Moynihan, Roman Catholic, working for a US NGO
The Rev. Andrew Bush, Minister with the United Bible Society, Bir Zeit, West
Bank
Karen M. Bush, midwife, Red Crescent Hospital, Ramallah
Bethany G. Bush, student, age 15, The Friends' Boys School, Ramallah
The Rev. Marthame Sanders, Presbyterian mission worker, Zababdeh, Palestine
Ms. Elizabeth Sanders, Presbyterian mission worker, Zababdeh, Palestine
Bob May, United Methodist missionary, Bethlehem
Nancy Dinsmore, Development Officer, Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem
The Rev. Christine Caton, Christian Peacemaker Team, Hebron, Presbyterian
minister
Bret Davis, human rights worker
Rebekah Miles, student
The Rev. Mary Lawrence, United Methodist minister, Christian Peacemaker Team
LeAnne Clausen, human rights worker, Christian Peacemaker Team
Chris George, Jerusalem
Karin Boyadgian, Jerusalem
Alain Epp Weaver, Director, Christian Development Agency
Sonia Weaver, Co-Director, Christian Development Agency
Heather Britt, International development and aid worker
The Rev. Susan P. Wilder, St. Andrew's Scots' Memorial Church, Jerusalem
Shane McNally, volunteer
Tony Boyadgian, Tour guide in the Holy Land
Kathleen Kern, human rights activist
The Rev. Mary Jensen, journalist, Jerusalem
Karin Hallin, recently a student in Jerusalem, now in Sweden
Seth Thomas, student, Jerusalem
Elaine Zoughbi, Bethlehem
Zoughbi Zoughbi, Wi'am Center for Reconciliation, Bethlehem

St. Andrew's Scottish Church, Jerusalem

Rizek Abusharr, YMCA
Gang Tai-Yum, Director of Joy House Kindergarten
Alice Alouohem, housewife
Margarita Claesson, eye surgeon
John Brownridan, retired
Yvonne Grogev, student
Glenn Witmer, professor
Joyce Wilson, minister
Ann V. Staal, teacher
Thomas H. Staal, diplomat
Sara J. Bailey, editor
Len Wilson, administrator YMCA
Magda Zaher, CPA
Joan Musgrave, Scottish Church
Chi Chang-Yim, Joy House Kindergarten
Catriona Lalhlan, church volunteer
Clarence Musgrave, Minister, Scottish Church
Kay Munayer, sales manageress
Sophie Sarikas, retired

Bethlehem University

Br. Cyril Litecky, administrator, educator
Br. David Scarpa, educator
Br. Joseph Loewenstein, religious educator
Br. Mark Boyle, teacher
Br. Neil Kieffe, educator
Br. Dominic Smith, educator
Br. Myron Collins, educator

Pontifical Biblical Institute, Jerusalem

Thomas Fitzpatrick, S.J., Director
Agnelo Vaz, S.J., administrator

St. George's College, Jerusalem

E. Ross Jones, Dean, priest
Gwin Jones, lecturer

Notre Dame de Sion

Maureen Murphy, teacher
Carina Arnold, nurse
Benigna Hwang, religious
Coran Hedley, teacher
Gertrude Nabuurs, teacher, administrator
Ellen Knox, religious
Irailde Maria Ferreira, social worker
Jane Taylor, Writer
Peter Dorfield, R.C. priest
Ellse Heinrich, housewife
Sylvia Marchant, secretary
Rita Kammermayer, teacher
Vicky Vargas Saenz, religious

The following have sent by email their support of the letter:

Dr. James R. Kelly, Professor of Sociology, Fordham University, NY
Rev. Jack Podsiadlo, SJ, priest and school administrator, Baltimore, MD
Cathie and Lenny Sclafani, teachers and church workers, Flushing, NY
Dr. Astrid O'Brien, prof of Philosophy, Fordham University, NY
Rev. William McCurdy, SJ, Jesuit priest and administrator, Rochester, NY
Raymond Helmick, SJ, senior associate Conflict Analysis Center, Washington DC
Rev. John Dear, SJ, writer and peace activist, NYC
Rev. Francis Gillespie, SJ, parish priest and pastor
Rev. Michael Lynch, SJ, social councelor, NYC
Sr. Mary Angela Perez, RSM, religious administrator, Guam, Pacific Islands
Francis McCormick, U.S. Foreign Service (ret)
Dr. Julia Specher-McLaughlin, child psychiatrist, Red Hook, NY
Chris McLoughlin, sales representative, Red Hook, NY
Sharon Herbert, archeologist (U of Michigan), Albright Institute
Jose Vicente Niclos, teacher of Spanish Hebrew U,
Janet Williams, retired health professional, MA, USA
Dr. Maria Khoury, education consultant, Taybeh-Ramallah,
Fr Labib KobTi, Arab American Community, San Francisco,
Fr Kevin McCaffrey, OP, librarian St Stephan's Priory, Jerus,
Eileen Hren, Palestinian Human Ridhts Monitorin Group, administrator, East Jerus
Anthony Axe, OP, prof of archeology Ecole B, '93-97, Prior Blackfriars in G.B.,
Henrietta Wiley, Albright Institute, grad student
Joseph C. Donnelly, KHS, NY,
Justin Taylor, SM, Catholic priest and writer
Fr Rick Van de Water, parish priest Jifna
Eduardo Nigore, Valencia Spain, Health professional
Joseph F. Lynch, retired CIA officer
Christopher Frechette, SJ, grad student, Harvard U
Dr. Yamada Shoh, Sendai, Japan, archeologist out of Harvard
Fr J. Carlos Coupeau, SJ, Gregorian University, Rome
James Schryver, archeologist
Maureen McCormack,nurse, Bronx, USA
Dr. Miguel Perez Fernandez, U of Grenada (Spain)
Dr. Josep Ribera, U of Barcelona
Prof. Julio Trebolle, former Director of Spanish Institute for Biblical and Archeological Studies, Jerusalem,
Prof Pablo Torijano. Facultad de Filologia,Universidad de Complutense de Madrid.
Sam Bahour, Palestinian American businessman in Al-Bireh/Ramallah

PO Box 497, 91004 Jerusalem, Israel E-mail: [email protected]