Op-Ed articles in the San Antonio Express-News:
Grave consequences should Trump move embassy
February 28, 2017
Now that Donald Trump is President of the United States, one of the most contentious foreign policy issues is moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Trump has been making his decisions by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; David Friedman, his pick for ambassador to Israel; and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser who has ties to illegal Israeli settlements.
For me, the question of Jerusalem is a personal one. I am Palestinian, and I was born in Jerusalem long before Israel was established. Mine was one of the city’s leading families, tracing our roots for century’s in the Holy Land. My family owned several tracts of valuable property in the Old City’s Christian Quarter.
In 1948, during what we Palestinians call al-Nakba, or “the great catastrophe”, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee from their land. My family was walking to the German Convent in Jerusalem to seek shelter when my father and oldest brother Mihran were abducted and imprisoned by Jewish militias looking to take over the land. My mother and her seven children (we ranged in age from four to 16) were placed in a fenced prison zone. There we remained under the gaze of soldiers until the state of Israel was established. There was no school, food was rationed, and the entrances were heavily guarded.
After our release, we tried to return to our home, which was built by my grandfather in the 1880s, but it had been taken over and all our possessions were gone. My brother was released four years later, in 1952, but my father was not sent home until he became ill in 1955 – in the end, his imprisonment led to his untimely death.
We found ourselves living in a segregated society: As Palestinians, we were not allowed to attend Jewish public schools, and jobs were difficult to come by. This lack of opportunity made it impossible to fathom staying in our beloved city. With no viable future, we all immigrated to Western countries.
The expulsion of Palestinians continues to this day, even in the city of Jerusalem itself. Recently, emboldened by President Trump’s vocal support and in spite of widespread international condemnation, the Israeli government approved the building of 2,500 new settlement units. Of those, 566 will be in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians have lived under Israeli military occupation for nearly half a century. And recently, they added thousands more settlement homes to the list.
It is evident that Trump and his advisers do not comprehend the magnitude and the importance of Jerusalem as the Holy City of Peace, and a place for all people. Prior to the current crisis and for thousands of years, prophets, scientists, scholars, merchants and poets populated Jerusalem and it became the religious, cultural and political center of civilization. It is the holiest city for the three Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It is known as the city of miracles — the location of Christ’s resurrection, Mohammad’s ascension to heaven and Abraham’s near sacrifice. It is a sacred place, and deeply significant to many worldwide.
The decision to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would have grave consequences — it is a highly provocative move that flies in the face of longtime US policy and shows little respect for or understanding of the city’s multi-religious, multi-ethnic identity.
Under the Trump administration, I fear any minimal progress that has been made will be rapidly undone. How can we have peace in the Holy Land when the most powerful nation in the world ups its already excessive support for Israel, and provocatively threatens to move the embassy to Jerusalem? President Obama promised Israel $38 billion over the next ten years, more than any previous military aid package and more aid than to any other country in the world. With such support, what will motivate Israel to want to seek peace and share the land?
I can only hope that President Trump will think twice before moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and standing in the way of Palestinian freedom, so long overdue.
By Jacob Nammar, January 7, 2009
As a Christian Palestinian born in Jerusalem, I am outraged and saddened to read Jonathan Gurwitz’s distorted view (“Bombs in Gaza rooted in extremists’ bloodthirsty decisions,” Other Views, Dec. 31). His irresponsibly distasteful article purposely inflames the conflict by creating hatred among Muslims, Christians and Jews. Instead of narrating a balanced view to create a peaceful solution, he introduces unrelated trash of extreme fanatics. He knows very well there are as many documented fanatical quotations of Jewish Zionist hatemongers.
World leaders and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have demanded an immediate stop to this horrific madness. General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann stated: “The behavior by Israel in bombarding Gaza is simply the commission of wanton aggression by a very powerful state against a territory that it illegally occupies.” And U.S. friend Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal described Israel’s assault as “a massacre and a crime against humanity.”
What the San Antonio community needs now is the truth, not mere propaganda.
Israel’s policy keeps Mideast conflict alive
by Jacob Nammar, March 14, 2007
Palestinian Christians are on their last breath in the Holy Land. This was the overwhelming conclusion of more than 300 international religious leaders and scholars recently at an impressive conference in Cleveland. The conference was co-sponsored by the Interfaith Council for Peace in theMiddle East and Sabeel, a voice for Palestinian Christians.
How would the 1 billion world Christians feel about the systematic removal of their brothers and sisters from the Holy Land? Would it matter to them that the holy cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehemand Nazareth are becoming primarily Jewish cities? And would it be acceptable to reduce Christianity in theHoly Land to basically a caretaker function for empty churches, museums and holy shrines?
As chairman of Palestinians for Peace and Democracy, I had the privilege to participate in this conference and screen our San Antonio-produced film “The Iron Wall,” which documents the illegal Jewish settlements and the wall’s deep encroachment into the West Bank. Former President Jimmy Carter endorsed this award-winning film in his recent book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who opened the sold-out conference via video, eloquently set forth the analogy between the Palestinian struggle for justice and his experience with the South African apartheid. Then speaker after speaker, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, electrified the participants by telling them about the Palestinians’ grave and inhumane suffering under Israel’s 40 years of colonial occupation.
Today, Palestine-Israel, the land that gave birth to Christ and Christianity, is less than 2 percent Christians. Speakers emphasized that during the British Mandate,Palestine was officially considered a Christian country, with 50 percent of the population in Jerusalem and 90 percent in Bethlehem. However, with the creation of Israelin 1948, more than 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their ancestral land, and in the 1967 war an additional 350,000 were driven from their homes.
According to Ma’an, an online Palestinian news agency, the Palestinian National Information Center reports that since the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, the uprising since September 2000, the Israeli military has “killed 5,050 Palestinians, mostly civilian men, women and children, wounding 49,760 and increasing to a total of 10,400 prisoners.” In addition, in one way or another, Israelis occupying and controlling the entire land and suppressing the daily lives of the Palestinian population.
Professor of anthropology Jeff Halper, an Israeli American peace activist, 2006 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions in Palestine, insisted “the Jewish state of Israel is not a democracy as it is perceived in the U.S. but an ethnocracy and, as the occupier and oppressor, is directly responsible for the conflict” in the Holy Land.
Not surprisingly, an investigation of Israel’s military occupation and brutal policy reveals that it continues to violate the Palestinians’ human rights, the United States’ official policy, the United Nations’ many resolutions and the International Court of Justice.
Further, Israel has refused to accept or live up to the 1978 Camp David Accords, the 1993 Oslo Agreement, the international Quartet road map for peace and the 2002 peace proposal by the 23 Arab nations, which are all based on a complete withdrawal from the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.
The United States must not continue to finance and legitimize Israel’s illegal colonization, which does not serve our best interests. This one-sided policy has become a liability and an embarrassment to Americans and has created enemies throughout the world. To change this, theU.S.must genuinely support the Palestinians’ right of self-determination and become an honest broker for justice and lasting peace.
Since Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in the 1967 war in six days, it can evacuate in six days, so it can rest on the seventh. Then we can begin to live together in peace.
Mideast strategy must include Palestine
by Jacob Nammar, December 18, 2006
The bipartisan Iraq Study Group, chaired by Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton, recently presented its controversial findings. It clearly expressed that the war inIraq and the current “U.S. foreign policy is doomed to failure … if it is not supported by a broad, sustained consensus.”
This conclusion is a fresh “doctrine” from these senior knowledgeable experts on theMiddle East. In addition, it should now be evident to self-serving “neoconservatives” and their ill-informed supporters that their aggressive agenda should be buried under the ruins of this disastrous war, which got theUnited Statesin such a horrible mess.
The report recognizes that the unjust war includes important broad linkages to the rest of theMiddle Eastcountries. It provides a new reality and means for theU.S.to end the war and begin engaging diplomatically with all governments and factions, particularly regarding the Palestinian-Israel conflict.
For this to happen, theU.S.government must initiate in this country an honest and open debate onIsrael’s 40 years of continued occupation and annexation of Palestinian territories.
Interestingly and ironically, former President Jimmy Carter recently published a provocative book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” which has made the New York Times best-seller list.
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed on Dec. 8, Carter passionately explains, “The many controversial issues concerningPalestineand the path to peace forIsraelare intensely debated among Israelis and throughout other nations — but not in theUnited States. For the past 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts. This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices.”
He further argues, “It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position betweenIsraelandPalestine, to support thatIsraelcomply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians.”
Two weeks ago, Mohammed Omer, a 22-year-old reporter/photographer fromGaza, winner of the Best Youth Voice for the National Ethnic Media Award, visitedSan Antoniowith his videos and pictures to eloquently articulate the conditions inPalestine.
He documented that the Palestinians are systematically under continuous military attacks by Israeli occupation forces, including home demolitions, annexation and expropriation of land, denial of access to work, hospitals and schools, restriction of freedom and movement, detention and imprisonment of more than 10,000 men, women and children without trial.
In addition, he spoke of the continuous construction of the illegal walls on Palestinian lands, private Jewish-only roads, military checkpoints, blockades and deliberate discrimination, which all support Carter’s thesis of labelingIsraelas an “apartheid state,” the same as it was inSouth Africa.
It is important to acknowledge that Israel was created in Palestine as a result of the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 for a two-state solution, one Jewish and the other a secular Christian/Muslim state to share the land peacefully, side by side.
However, the Jewish Zionist state achieved its goal in 1948 but continues to deny the Palestinians the same rightful aspiration by expanding and colonizing its people against all international legal agreements.
It is time for theU.S.government and international community to exercise their power and moral obligation to actively support the creation of an acceptable, just, contiguous and sustainable Palestinian state. And unless we become serious and committed about resolving the Palestinians’ horrendous suffering, theU.S., under any plan, will not achieve its objectives and respect in theMiddle East.
Policy in Mideast ripe for overhaul
by Jacob Nammar, September 6, 2006
Now that the United Nations has agreed to deploy a peacekeeping force betweenIsrael andLebanon, it is my hope that this will begin a more civilized and peaceful dialogue between the two countries.
Sadly, the war madness has resulted in horrific civilian deaths and destruction that will stay in our hearts and memories for years.
The war betweenIsraelandLebanonhas overshadowed the root causes of the conflict in theMiddle East. In fact, it has hijacked and knocked the Palestinian-Israeli conflict off the radar screen of the American corporate media.
The Palestinian people inGaza, the West Bank andEast Jerusalemcontinue, tragically, to remain under a brutal siege and occupation by the Israeli military.Israelis now accelerating the construction of the “annexation wall” on Palestinian lands and continues expanding the settlements. This has resulted in severe economic and social conditions, which have deteriorated to the point of a human catastrophe.
In a speech inBoston’s oldSouthChurchon April 13, 2002, Anglican Archbishop Bishop Desmond Tutu remarked: “I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us blacks inSouth Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks. They suffer like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. They seemed to derive so much joy from our humiliation.”
This underlying reality raises serious moral questions that must become a concern to each of us inAmericaand that we cannot continue to ignore; we must not become apathetic. We should have no illusions thatIsrael’s unilateral policy and military might will resolve the conflict.
If we have learned anything in the past few weeks, it is that people have lost confidence inIsrael’s unilateralism.Israel’s failure and inability to seek a just peace has been highlighted.Israelshould now begin to engage and focus on dialogue with the Palestinians and stop negotiating only among themselves.
As an American Christian Palestinian Semite fromJerusalem, I deplore theUnited States’ unconditional, one-sided support ofIsrael’s continuous occupation ofPalestinewith my taxes.
It is hypocritical and political folly to treat the Israelis as the “good guys” and the Palestinians as the “bad guys.” This misguided double standard undermines theUnited Statesand complicates our relationship with not only Palestinian Christians and Muslims, but throughout theMiddle East.
Congressional behavior is the driving force keeping theUnited Statesfrom implementing an evenhanded and sound policy toward the conflict.U.S.policy has increased hostilities againstAmericaand are out of step with the rest of the world.
It is time for both Republican and Democratic members of Congress to look at American self-interest as mandated by their constituents.Israelhas weakenedU.S.policy in theMiddle Eastand has become a liability, not a strategic asset as is claimed.
TheUnited Statesshould advocate an open, sober debate to explore new alternatives to empower the moderate forces for dialogue and peace. We must not allow extremes to dictate our policies; instead, we must support the pragmatic and moderate voices who are the majority on both sides. We need to speak more about peace and less about war.Israel’s security will depend on justice for the Palestinian people and their struggle for independence, not its military power and ability to dominate the region.
The recent conflict has opened a new political reality, and there is now a golden opportunity to resume the peace process for a two-state solution as envisioned by President Bush and the international community.
Lebanon needs Israeli respect, global support
by Jacob Nammar, August 2, 2006
The conflict betweenIsrael and the Palestinians/Lebanese has been at the height of the news in recent weeks and has affected many lives on both sides, particularly among the civilian populations.
Israelmaintains the current conflict came as a result of the capture of Israeli soldiers by Hamas and Hezbollah. However, instead of negotiating an exchange of their release,Israellaunched a massive maritime, land and air assault onLebanonandGaza.
Israel’s “unilateral policy,” the massive imbalance of force (Israelis the fourth strongest military in the world, including nuclear weapons) and the unconditional support of theUnited Statesmake it impossible to establish a balance for peaceful coexistence with its neighbors.
In addition, the Palestinians/Lebanese insist the Israeli military is not fighting terrorism as it claims, but the people, since the majority of deaths and destruction have been civilian.
It is very important for Americans to understand the grievance and suffering of the people who are actually living in this conflict.
In 1947, the United Nations partitionedPalestineinto approximately two equal states withJerusalemas an international city. However, as noted by Henry Siegman on July 16 in the Guardian, in “1988 and 1993, as part of the Oslo agreement, the Palestinians recognized Israel’s legitimacy in 78 percent of what used to be the Palestinian mandate, and leaving themselves with only 22 percent, less than half the territory assigned to them by the United Nations.”
On July 16 in the Mail & Guardian Web site, Willie Madisha, president of the Congress of South Africa Trade Union, said the “apartheidIsraelstate” is worse today than the apartheid that was conducted inSouth Africa.
At the U.N. Security Council meeting, most diplomats expressed frustration atIsrael’s “disproportionate” incursion, and U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said on BBC World News thatIsraelmust immediately stop all aggression against the Lebanese and Palestinians.
It is imperative theUnited Statesexert its world leadership to actively begin dialogue with all players and employ its influence onIsraelto end this conflict. And it is necessary for theUnited Statesto stop its double standard and become evenhanded, particularly in Congress.
Immediately, theUnited Statesshould demand a cease-fire and support the establishment of the U.N. peacekeeping force. Second,Israelmust recognize the legitimate rights and dignity of the Palestinian and Lebanese people.
Road map must not detour peace process
by Jacob Nammar, May 16, 2003
Editorial Page Editor Lynnell Burkett’s pessimistic assessment of the newest so-called road map for the Middle East peace process is timely and shared by many knowledgeable scholars of the Israel-Palestinian conflict (“Peace: simple, but so elusive,” Sunday).
Unfortunately, this road map for a “permanent two-state solution” for peace is already becoming a road block only a few days after it was presented to both parties.
The three-phase peace plan, which was penned by the so-called Quartet, made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, is the latest comprehensive initiative offering to restart the peace process. It is an impressive effort toward ending the 55-year-old conflict in which more than 2,500 Palestinians and 760 Israelis have met a violent death in just the past 31 months.
The road to peace requires both the Palestinians and Israelis to start taking immediate, decisive and parallel steps to end the conflict. As stated by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, it is a “momentous opportunity for peace.”
Phase one of the plan demands that the Palestinians crack down on the Islamic militants.
At the same time, it requiresIsraelto remove illegal checkpoints and freeze the expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. Newly elected Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has endorsed the plan, stating:
“We have accepted it as it is. We look forward to stopping, ending – totally ending – settlement, ending the siege, ending the separation wall, assassinations, the collective punishments, destruction of farms and the infrastructure and (restrictions on) the movement of citizens and Palestinian institutions and to set out to free thousands of Palestinians prisoners.”
On the other hand, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not accepted the plan, saying, “When it comes to security, the security of the citizens ofIsraeland the security of the state ofIsrael,Israelwill not be able to make any concessions, and there are no compromises, when it comes to security – not now, and not in the future.”
U.S.foreign policy in theMiddle Easthas traditionally been a one-sided strategy that unilaterally supports the Jewish state while it ignores the Palestinian legitimate right of self-determination.
This uneven-handedness has been the primary obstacle to resolving the conflict. TheUnited Stateshas contributed more than $90 billion in military and financial aid toIsrael, vetoed more than 35 U.N. resolutions condemning Israeli aggression and provided both a military and political umbrella shieldingIsraelagainst world opinion.
This strategy has resulted in widespread condemnation and hatred of theU.S.government throughout theMiddle East. As a result ofU.S.support, since 1948Israelhas ignored the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, which has been categorically affirmed by more than 70 U.N resolutions requiringIsraelto end its occupation.
In addition,Israelhas already confiscated 78 percent of the Palestinian land between 1948 and the 1967 war and is now occupying the remaining 22 percent.
With the aftermath of the Iraqi war and theU.S.dilemma of continued dependency on Arab oil, it is now, more than ever, necessary to re-evaluate ourMiddle Eastpolicy so we may ensure and maintain the supply of cheap oil. This awareness is fundamental and vital toU.S.national security and our economy.
It is, therefore, in theUnited States’ self-interest to present a more balanced policy to achieve peace and stability in the region.
President Bush’s bold vision and determination to resolve this conflict is a significant improvement in American foreign policy in theMiddle East. He recognizes the central core of the antagonism -Israel’s unwillingness to bend, which the world community has realized for many years.
Will Bush stopSharon’s attempt to roadblock the “road map,” and will he have the courage to stand firm againstSharon’s longstanding determination never to allow a separate Palestinian state? Let’s hope Bush prevails, in both cases – or it’s back to gridlock and violence.
Losing Sharon can rekindle peace
by Jacob Nammar, January 25, 2003
While the mainstream media focus on an impending war with Iraq, the Tuesday parliamentary election in Israel may prove much more important for peace in the Middle East.
Perhaps during this week when we celebrated the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we should apply his belief in nonviolent conflict settlement to theMiddle East.
The election presents a unique opportunity for breaking the horrific cycle of violence between the Palestinians and Israelis. Now the Israeli people have the chance to show their peaceful intentions. They may do so by electing Amram Mitzna, the leader of the moderate Labor Party and a man committed to peace. His election would remove Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his hawkish Likud Party from office.
Sharon’s hard-line policies have resulted in the killing of more than 2,800 Palestinians and 600 Israelis. His design is to drive both Christians and Muslims out of theHoly Land. In the process,Sharonhas brutalized, humiliated and subjugated the Palestinian people.
Under a 24-hour curfew, the Palestinians have seen their children starved, the demolition of their homes, the flattening of their olive groves and the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements.
Sharonjustifies these actions by insisting there is no peace partner in PLO leader Yasser Arafat and that he must maintain a strong upper hand.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This quote from King may be aptly applied to theMiddle Eastsituation. Innocent Palestinians and Israelis are victims of their governments’ intransigence.
To move to a long overdue peaceful resolution of this conflict, President Bush has proposed his “road map to peace,” which is endorsed by the “Quartet of mediators” – the European Union,Russia, the United Nations and theUnited States.
Bush’s plan requires the Palestinians to initiate a change in leadership, institute political reforms and seek an end to violence. At the same time,Israelwould freeze settlement construction, withdraw from all territories occupied in 1967, ease curfews and travel restrictions and release taxes collected from the Palestinians.
Once accomplished, Bush’s “vision of two states” would be realized – the side-by-side coexistence of two neighboring, independent countries,IsraelandPalestine.
Sharonrecently was quoted in Newsweek as saying “Oh, the Quartet is nothing! Don’t take it seriously! There is (another) plan that will work.”
What plan? To continue his disastrous policies of the past 28 months? As a result of those policies,Israel’s economy is in shambles. And to bail out his country,Sharonquietly asks theUnited Statesfor $4 billion in new military aid plus $10 billion in loan guarantees. This is in addition to the $3 billion already earmarked forIsraelthis year.
Sharonappears to be against any peaceful initiative and has destroyed all hope for coexistence with the Palestinian people. His request for economic aid comes at a time when theU.S.economy is faltering. No American in his right mind should send his tax dollars to support the policies of such a government.
The election of Mitzna will stop this mad cycle of violence. It will give Palestinians new hope and purpose to make the necessary leadership changes. Their new leaders will halt the Palestinian intifada and suspend suicide bombings against Israeli citizens, which, in turn, will open the door for the resumption of the peace process.
King once stated, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” The entire world would benefit from a shift toward reconciliation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But ifSharonis re-elected, there is no chance for peace.
Palestinian Christians in Holy Land are forgotten
by Jacob Nammar, October 26, 2002
In the extensive coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the mainstreamU.S.media have obscured the plight of Christian Palestinians in theHoly Land.
This issue was brought home by Rateb Rabie, president of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, who spoke of the suffering of the “forgotten faithful” in a presentation here Aug. 29.
“Christian families are still living and worshipping in the land where Jesus was born, died and was resurrected,” he said. “They are the descendants of those who first believed in Jesus Christ.”
Christians represented more than 25 percent of the Palestinian population whenIsraelwas created in 1948. Sadly, they are now less than 2 percent.
Should this trend continue, the future Christian presence in theHoly Landwill be reduced to no more than a caretaker’s function for empty churches, museums and holy shrines. The world consensus is that the main reason for their decline is the continuing Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territory and the lack of a Palestinian state.
Christians, like their Muslim neighbors, experience the continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, the killing of innocent civilians, the eviction from and confiscation or bulldozing of their homes, the systematic humiliation, curfew and physical isolation.
EvenBethlehem, the holiest of cities for Christians, has been affected by Israeli incursions. Palestinian Christians are denied mobility and access to worship in holy places. Christian clergy are frequently disrupted from travel between towns and villages to minister to sick or dying parishioners.
Many Palestinians have moved away, including Christians. A 2001 study by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the Roman Catholic diocese there determined that 53 percent of the Christian residents of Beit Sahour, a predominantly Christian town, had taken steps to emigrate during the previous year.
Arab Palestinian Christians are a very diverse group. They represent almost all denominations – Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and others.
They generally blame Western Christianity for causing the rise of Zionism. They ask, “Why must we, along with our Muslim brothers, suffer and pay for the crimes committed against the Jews by Western Christianity?”
Christians inPalestinedo not want to leave the land on which their families have lived for centuries. They maintain that U.S. Christians should support them rather than continuing to pour billions of dollars to supportIsrael’s expansionism. American Christians’ overwhelming support ofIsraelhas given them a sense of abandonment, alienation and isolation.
American Christians should try to copy the success of the Jewish American lobby and make a concerted effort to support the rights of Palestinian Christians.U.S.foreign policy should be fair and balanced in its support of those with whom we have things in common.
Anti-Arab sentiment in theUnited Statesdirectly translates into anti-Palestinian Christian sentiment, because they are Arabs, too. This is unfortunate, as Christians provide an important balance between the Muslims and Jews in theHoly Land- a balance that has existed since these three monotheistic religions came to share this region.
Palestinian Christians are committed to peace, believing their struggle is not only for themselves but to preserve the integrity of Christianity’s birthplace for future generations. As Americans with a long Christian heritage, we should support them.
Israel fighting for power, not peace
by Jacob Nammar, August 11, 2002
The violence betweenIsrael and the Palestinians continues to horrify the world. The situation is now hostage to the extreme elements on both sides.
Mark Freedman’s comment Tuesday (“Hamas’ murderous eyes turn toU.S.”) alluded to the Israeli hawkish view that theUnited Statesshould joinIsraelto “get at the root of evil perpetrated by Hamas .. and destroy them before they wreak more havoc upon innocent civilians.”
He also purported that the Palestinian struggle is against Americans, too, and drew the parallel thatIsrael’s war with the Palestinians is the same as theU.S.war against terrorism.
Mr. Freedman then makes excuses for a government whose leaders are condemned by the majority of the international community. For example, in reference to the destruction of Jenin, Terje Larsen, U.N. envoy to the Middle East, said in April that “the government ofIsraelhas lost all moral ground in this conflict.”
There is no argument that Palestinian suicide bombing against Israeli civilians is morally wrong and must stop. The question is, why would young men and women volunteer to sacrifice their life?
History demonstrates that people will forgive government leaders for making mistakes, but they will not forgive leaders who commit atrocities against civilians. Israeli leaders have lost their conscience and focus on what is important for peaceful coexistence.
As Israeli Prime Minister Sharon said in March, “The Palestinians must be hit and it must be painful.We must cause them losses, victims, so they feel the heavy price.”
The Palestinian view is that as a matter of policy,Israeldefies all U.N. resolutions pertaining to the conflict, ignoresGenevadeclarations and violates international laws. The Israelis refuse U.N. inspections and peacekeeping forces and stop the media from covering their military actions. Hamas and other Palestinian groups came about as a result of the Israeli occupation ofGazaand theWest Bank.
These groups believe their struggle is a just cause for survival and will continue until they establish a Palestinian state, a position no different from other resistance movements throughout history.
They see the new settlers, protected byIsrael’s army, move about freely. Meanwhile, Palestinians are prisoners in their own homeland. A recent U.N. report states that Palestinians have 75 percent unemployment; 50 percent live below the poverty line; and 51 percent suffer from malnutrition. More than 800,000 are under curfew and 3,500 are under arrest.
Many now believe thatIsrael’s war with the Palestinians is not about terrorism but power.Israelhas become the international symbol of “might is right.” Israeli leaders must understand that the conflict will not be settled with military solutions, only by political means.
In apparent agreement, more than 400 reserve officers of the Israel Defense Forces declared in January that “we whose eyes have seen the bloody toll this occupation exacts from both sides … shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.”
To create conditions for peace,America’s leadership is crucial. President Bush’s vision for two states within two years demands that Palestinians elect new leaders, make fundamental reforms and stop attacks againstIsrael.
The time has come for theUnited Statesto also demand changes fromIsrael: the immediate unilateral withdrawal from occupied lands, the dismantling of all settlements, the depl oyment of international peacekeeping forces and international aid to rebuild the Palestinian territories.
What Mr. Freedman must understand is thatU.S.unconditional support ofIsraelis an embarrassing liability that has created enemies throughout the world. A bold statement from Bush demanding Israeli reforms would demonstrate that theUnited Statescan be an honest broker with an even-handed policy, which is essential to creating a mutual trust and a just and lasting peace.
Refocus Bush’s vision, and peace may appear
by Jacob Nammar July 7, 2002
Recently, President Bush unveiled his plan and vision for peace to a mixed reception on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
There was no question of his commitment to the two-state solution, and he is the firstU.S.president to clearly endorse a Palestinian state side by side withIsrael. However, there was no immediate plan of action or international conference.
Bush insisted Palestinians elect new leaders, adopt fundamental political and financial reforms and a new constitution with an independent judiciary. He emphasized the need to battle terrorism and create a law-abiding environment. He offered financial assistance and endorsement of the Palestinian state in return.
In addition, the president stated thatIsraelshould withdraw from Palestinian-controlled lands in the West Bank andGaza, with the ultimate peace agreement based on 1967 borders, which is supported by U.N. resolutions. He requestedIsraelrelease frozen Palestinian revenues.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was quick to endorse the speech, since it unconditionally backed his aspiration to dismiss Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority as a partner for peace.
On the other hand, Palestinians saw the speech as unbalanced, laying most of the burden on them with no immediate requirements ofIsrael.
It is universally accepted that only theUnited Stateshas the power to influence both parties to move back to negotiations. It is, therefore, very important that the United States take an even-handed approach to motivate both people to co-existence and lasting peace. The deadly confrontation must stop and move toward dialogue.
The continuing horrific suicide attacks on Israeli citizens have demonstrated thatSharon’s invasion and devastation of theWest Bankfail to guarantee security for the Israeli people. It is time Israelis understand that peace will not be accomplished by military force, occupation, illegal settlements on confiscated Palestinian lands or the imprisonment and killing of its people.
This unlawful behavior will continue to anger the resistance and breed more suicide bombers, who will sacrifice their life to protect their homeland, which is justly theirs.
The Palestinians have suffered enough destruction and helplessness and are demanding a drastic change within the Palestinian Authority. For years they have yearned for democratic principles to form the foundation of a Palestinian state. The status quo is no longer acceptable. It must elect responsible leaders, dismantle militant organizations to stop suicide bombings and reform its institutions to become a viable member of the world community.
The Bush administration has come a long way by recognizing the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, Bush’s approach did not have a sense of urgency to supply incentives for either side to break the cycle of violence.
Israelcontinues to occupyWest Bankcities and systematically destroy the Palestinian infrastructure. Palestinians do not have enough hope to lay down their legitimate, defiant struggle for peaceful means.
Bush would be better advised to move toward substance and make equal demands on both parties to demonstrate his commitment for a mutual recognition of both peoples.
The first task is to focus on changing the environment so Palestinians can implement the required changes. The current situation is the result of more than 55 years of oppression and despair;Israeland theUnited Statesseem to have no understanding of the difficulties Palestinians encounter daily under the occupation.
The Palestinian people must have hope, relative security to move about, employment, the ability to feed their families and medical treatment.Israel’s destruction has left an enormous vacuum with no vital social, economic and security functions.
The following are essential to begin the peace process:
Israelmust end the occupation and pull back from theWest Bank.
The Palestinians must stop all suicide bombing and incursions inIsrael.
Israelmust stop all new settlements and the confiscation of Palestinian lands.
TheUnited States, European Union, Arab governments and international community must begin meeting humanitarian needs.
The international community should immediately begin to revitalize the Palestinian economy.
The Palestinian people must be allowed to elect their leaders without outside interference.
United Statesshould immediately initiate dialogue betweenIsraeland Palestinian leaders.
Finally, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians believe Arafat is not only the founder but also the symbol of the Palestinian liberation movement. To profess the removal of the democratically elected leader will only further outrage the masses and contribute to extremism, which will be detrimental to the peace process.
One cannot expect reconciliation from despairing people unless we first address these fundamentals and clear the path for peace.
Peaceful Muslims aim for U.S. pocketbook
by Jacob Nammar, June 2, 2002
By now most Americans have become apathetic to the daily coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, few are aware whatU.S.support forIsraelis costing the American people and theU.S.economy.
Israel, with a population of only 5.6 million, has been the largest recipient ofU.S.foreign aid for 50 years. It is currently estimated at more than $5 billion annually.
Because of special interest groups, some senators, congressmen andIsrael’s powerful lobby have invested enormous time and energy to maintainIsraeland finance its war machine. They not only helped establishIsraelinPalestinebut also supported the expansion of its illegal settlements in the remaining territories.
The recent Israeli invasion and destruction of Palestinian cities and life and the continuation ofU.S.policy supportingIsraelhas angered theMiddle Eastand the Muslim world. People from as far asMauritaniain North Africa and all the way toIndonesiain the East are outraged at theU.S.inability to controlIsrael’s aggression.
The people in the region maintain that they like the American people but have problems with theU.S.government’s support ofIsrael.
They say theUnited Statesis quick to criticize human rights violations around the world, but it does not adhere to the same human rights standards for the Palestinian people.
Because of the recent awareness that terrorism and suicide attacks are not politically acceptable by the conscientious and civilized world, a new phenomenon of resistance by peaceful means has emerged.
It is to boycottU.S.companies and products they believe supportIsrael.
The resourcefulness of the Internet and the wide television coverage is now sweeping the more than 1 billion people in these countries.
This new grass-roots campaign is not organized by governments and their leaders. It is organized by the youth, women, citizens and trade associations, and they wage it through television, newspapers, e-mail, telephone and pamphlet distribution.
Detailed lists with hundreds of American company names are circulated. It contains the products, brand names and alternate choices.
The appeal is to stop buying American products and substitute European, Asian or locally manufactured items. This boycott by the masses has intensified and is now echoed in the business community. It is particularly targeted atU.S.companies with an extensive support ofIsrael.
According to the Commerce Department,U.S.exports are down 15 percent for the first quarter of 2002 vs. 2001. This trend will most likely continue with the acceleration of the boycott.
A business acquaintance in Saudi Arabia explains that his family had to wait in line at McDonald’s before the Israeli invasion, but now it is the local ethnic restaurants that have lines; McDonald’s is empty.
The major targets are popular companies such as Coca-Cola, Disney, McDonald’s, Estee Lauder, Johnson & Johnson, Philip Morris and KFC.
In the past few months, Coca-Cola sales have dropped 60 percent inSaudi Arabia, and inMuscat,Oman, sales at McDonald’s have declined 65 percent and KFC 45 percent.
Some Egyptian doctors are boycotting American-made health-care products. They have sent doctors and pharmacies a list of U.S-made medical supplies, telling them to substitute for European-made products.
Some mainstream analysts dismiss this boycott as a phenomenon that will fade and should not be taken seriously. They suggest these actions are symb olic and will have no serious effect on theU.S.economy.
However, people participating in this peaceful boycott hope to make a statement to demonstrate that U.S. Middle East policy continues to be unbalanced in favor ofIsrael.
They want the business community to become aware of American self-interest in the region, which they believe should be a balanced policy to achieve a just peace for both people.
Jacob Nammar of San Antonio is an international business executive.