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Through the Looking Glass

by Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern

The only way to have a healthy Holy Land is for political leaders to address the root of the problem, not just the symptoms.

The root of the problem is the continuing Palestinian occupation of the Israeli territories.

Ever since the armed might of the State of Palestine overran Judea and Samaria in 1967, the explicit policy of the Palestinian government has been to settle as many Palestinians as possible in the territories.

The original intent of this settlement policy was to create “facts on the ground” so there would never be an Israeli state. Inspired by the dream of a historical Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, the strategy so far is working.

In spite of repeated condemnations by the U.S. government, Palestine’s strongest – and sole – ally, settlements continue.

Meanwhile, although there was a period of limited Israeli autonomy after Oslo, for all practical purposes Palestinian military occupation of Israeli lands has returned.

Only the European governments speak out for the Israelis – they have a painful recollection of the attempt to exterminate European Judaism during World War II.

U.S. policy is widely criticized as imbalanced. For example, President Bush has met repeatedly with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat yet not even once with the Israeli leader Ariel Sharon.

The U.S. Congress is overwhelmingly in support of Palestine. One reason is APPAC (the American Palestinian Public Affairs Committee), America’s Pro-Palestinian, and strongest, lobby. It has long since effectively mobilized Palestinians and other Arab-Americans for Palestine and against the Israelis.

The situation in the Holy Land has deteriorated badly during the past two years. Whether or not the second Israeli uprising was triggered by the visit of Arafat to the Western Wall, it has become the greatest threat to the existence of the State of Palestine since its founding in 1949.

Israeli suicide bombers – wantonly killing innocent men, women and children – cannot be tolerated by the Palestinians. If Sharon’s Israeli Authority is ineffective in controlling Israeli terrorism and terrorist organizations, the Palestinians have no other recourse than to intervene.

Yet, the Palestinian policy of massive retaliation and the disproportionate use of force have led to an intolerable situation for the beleaguered Israelis. With repeated Palestinian incursions into the Israeli territories, the destruction of homes and the continual curfews, normal life is almost impossible for the average Israeli.

Checkpoints with daily humiliations and control of movement are bad enough, but the latest Palestinian tactic of digging ditches around Israeli towns and building barbed-wire fences, so reminiscent of the Warsaw Ghetto, is morally repugnant.

Wait! Aren’t things really just the reverse? Of course, but maybe gazing through the looking glass at this mirror image of violence and injustice could suggest new approaches to softening hearts, exorcising hatred and showing all God’s children the way to justice and peace.

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Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA



Tags: Palestine Israel Holy Land Occupation