Planted By the Waters

Winter / Spring 2004

Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC
P. O. Box 9334 • Berkeley, CA 94709 • (510) 548-4141



PEACE” by Gloria Escalona, OPL;

– from the Board President by Janet Gibson;

Marshall Windmiller's talk, notes by Marilyn Jackson; 

Good Friday at Livermore;

Iraq – what’s going on? by Carolyn Scarr;

Making Stubborn Prisoners Talk – Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2002; 

60th Session, Palais des Nations, Geneva; 

Israel and Palestine: Where are we now?
by Esther Ho;


Israeli and Palestinian Death Tolls Continue to Mount;

Voices from the Faith-Based Peace and Justice Community
Ecumenical Peace Institute /Clergy & Laity Concerned;

Doing Right by Our Children 
by Carolyn Scarr;


Haiti – what’s going on? by Carolyn Scarr;

Livermore Action – August 8
Books Not Bombs...;

Calendar & Announcements;

Tuesday Noon Vigil – still being held;

Regarding that Envelope... 

“Planted”s are archived – just click on the little file folder:
Winter 1999
Spring 2000
Winter 2001
Summer 2002
Winter 2002/’03
Spring/Summer 2003
Winter 2003/’04



Earl Johnson

Earl Johnson died on June 30 of last year. He was 73. Earl was a leader in the peace and justice movement for many years. As Sherry Larsen-Beville wrote, he was a an anti-nuclear activist extraordinaire. He was often at the Nevada Test Site for the August actions. If anyone complained how hot is was, he said, "It was hotter in Hiroshima." He was at the Livermore Labs on every possible occasion. He served as EPI’s board president, a fountain of spiritual and organizational resources. Besides everything else, he was a poet. His favorite form was the Haiku.

Earl Johnson, ¡presente!

Father Bill O’Donnell

Father Bill died on December 8, 2003. He was 73. Bill had recently returned from six months in Federal prison for crossing the line at the School of the Americas. He was on the front lines of almost every struggle for justice and peace. Bill worked in the civil rights struggle. He was an early and faithful supporter of the United Farm Workers. He supported labor at every opportunity. He worked to put an end to nuclear weapons. He opposed U.S. intervention in every theatre. His network of fellow workers for justice was astonishing. He covered the waterfront –– all the time.

Father Bill, ¡presente!

Helen Moser

Helen Moser died on January 3, 2004. She had served on the Board of Directors of EPI for many years. She had chaired the California/Nevada United Methodist Conference Board of Church and Society. She was an active member of the Bay View District’s Hunger Action Taskforce. For many years she led a social justice class at First Methodist Church in Napa, shaping several generations of area activists. Helen was 94.

Helen Moser, ¡presente!



by Gloria Escalona, OPL

"Peace, I leave you,"

the Good Lord said.

If I don’t have it,

I must have lost it.

©2004 Gloria Escalona


from the Board President
by Janet Gibson

I doubt there is anyone reading this newsletter who doesn’t believe that our country needs a change in its direction and leadership. Two Sundays ago I attended an evening meeting at the UCC Church in Berkeley billed "to inspire and support you to get involved in the election." Every seat in the sanctuary was filled as speakers and musicians shared in a "Spirited Action: Coming Together for a Change." The clear message was that we can affect November 2004 so that the election will not be decided by a few hundred people in a state such as Florida. Experts tell us that the way this will happen is by focussing on unregistered and under-voting women in 21 swing-vote states. Californians can use our experience, enthusiasm and commitment to seek out, educate and empower the new voices whose votes will be necessary. A number of organizations have been formed which will help us reach beyond our own local churches and communities and affect change nationwide.

Mainstreet Moms Oppose Bush ( "Why Mothers, Why Mainstreet? Open to friends, grandparents, citizens, everyone, The MMOB starts with mothers because the facts say our children’s futures are at risk.... As different as we are, we’re all mainstream when you talk about our children. We want clean air for them, safe food, economic hope, security at home and abroad, fairness and truth in government, more — and we’re ready now to act on it. Alone we have our one, lonesome vote. Together with mothers on the move across the country, we have millions." MMOB offers a variety of ways to get involved—even for the busiest person.

The US Face to Face Voter Project ( is a national movement of citizens educating citizens by providing detailed information about the current administration’s record and policies regarding: Jobs, the Economy, Health Care, Civil Liberties, War and International Affairs, the Environment, Education, and Poverty. Asking: "Are we Better off now than Four Years Ago?" this project provides a 3 page "talking points" summary or a 27 page detailed analysis of information.

With more than 2 million online participants, the leader in online political involvement for progressive causes has been MoveOn has been the vehicle that offers "us ordinary people" a chance to compete with the wealthy and corporate interests of America. They have helped to make the "political playing field" a little more even. This website can lift your spirit with Bush’s "Daily Mislead," help you contribute your frequent-flyer miles so that American troops can get home, or get you a copy of the documentary "Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the Iraq War."

Each week we hear of a new revelation that provides additional evidence which should lead this country to demand new national leadership. But not everyone in our country has "ears to hear" or "eyes to see" what seems so clear to us. The challenge then, for each of us, is to find a way to reach out and "touch" someone whose vote will help make the difference for change.

Marshall Windmiller's talk, notes
by Marilyn Jackson

Marshall Windmiller spoke on Intelligence and Empire at EPI’s annual dinner in early December, 2003.

Dr. Windmiller explained how Intelligence supports the conquest by a few over the many, i.e. by a colonizer over a colony. For empire you need 1) public support (doctrine of the white man’s burden, paternalism, divine authorization of those in power); 2) effective security in the Colony (preserve law and order); 3 intelligence—people in that country willing to work to help colonizers; 4) native leaders who are beholden to colonizers; 5) acquiescent populations in colony; 6) effective civil service in colony; 7) money and investments in colony (major corporations such as Exxon Mobile, involved with American Foreign policy all over the world); and 8) perceptions of progress in colony.

He described an Intelligence Cycle as 1) Tasking: What is the task? 2) Collection: Spies to collect information; and 3) Collation: Put new information together with information already available.

Another process is the Evaluation of Sources. This consists of 1) Analysis, 2) Production and 3) Dissemination—seeing that information gets to the right people at the right time.

Another way to look at it is Sources: Intelligence comes from Radio Signals; Enemy Radar; Satellites; Imaging and photos viewed from Satellite; Espionage; and Open Source Intelligence.

Regarding the support of Israel by our country’s leadership, Windmiller explained how economic investments in oil were at stake in maintaining that relationship. In other words, "It’s the oil, Stupid." (No offense intended.) We get help from Israel’s intelligence, though when we get it, it is slanted toward their interests. To have people working to gather intelligence, they need to blend in to a society and speak the language so as not to be suspected, and the US does not have a lot of this in the Arab world. In return, our country has supported Israel’s policies in the Middle East.

In addition to considerable financial support, one thing the U.S. has done for Israel’s leadership is to operate a preemptive war policy in Iraq, as the latter has been perceived by some in that leadership as a threat to Israel. Also, the U.S. has vetoed anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations.

Good Friday at Livermore
photo by Jeffrey Gould

This Good Friday at Livermore we remembered Father Bill, Earl Johnson, Maylie Scott, Judy Foster, Rose Lucey, Terri Mead, Father Pat Leehan, Abe Zwickel and many more. We heard from Bill’s sister, Mary O’Donnell. Pierre Labossiere read from the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. He and his family brought the travail of the people of Haiti among us. Billy Wigfall of St. Mary’s Center punctuated our confessional prayer with his drumming. You had to have been there.

On our procession to the gates of the lab, we carried pictures of Father Bill and the others. Many people brought pictures of those who had inspired them in their work for justice and peace.

Curiously, our witness at the gate was observed by a mountain lion who watched from behind the sign at the entrance of the Livermore Weapons Lab. We were careful not to startle it. Our singing was quiet. We stayed on the far side of the entry road. After fifty-something people were arrested and the procession returned to the corner, the authorities and the lion remained. We learned that later, after our group had long left since left the corner, the lion was shot. We do not know why. We had been told by lab security that the lion was often on lab property and that if necessary it would be sedated and relocated.

Perhaps that use of excessive force is a metaphor for what happens every day at the labs, where weapons of mass destruction have been researched and developed since Edward Teller founded Livermore Labs in the 1950’s. Since their inception, nuclear weapons have been the trump card in the U.S. military deck and their threatened use has played a part in numerous conflicts. In recent years the Livermore Labs have expanded their work to include the design of biological weapons.

So we return, year in and year out, to pray, to sing, to stand in witness, determined to continue to oppose our country’s use of violence and the development of more weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq – what’s going on?
by Carolyn Scarr

It will be next to impossible to write about what is going on and have it current by the time this newsletter arrives. There has been the seige of Fallujah, complete with blocking civilians from hospitals, snipers shooting at ambulances, casualties almost certainly exceeding one thousand when they are all counted –– mostly civilians with a high proportion of women and children.

Planted readers will certainly have been following the appalling stories about torture and humiliation of prisoners by U.S. military personnel in Abu Ghraib. Some of the questions not generally asked include: "Who are these prisoners?"; "Are our troops taught about the Geneva Conventions?"; "Are the U.S. soldiers acting under orders, and if so who is giving the orders?"

Some of the answers to the last question are beginning to come out and we are hearing about the strange twistings of U.S. military chain of command, U.S. intelligence personnel, and civilian contractors specializing in Military Intelligence. "Who’s in charge here?" is not at all clear at the time of this writing. What is being said is that the order to "soften up" prisoners in advance of questioning seems to have reached soldiers. Whether specific actions were suggested has not at this time been made clear.

The Geneva Conventions Professor Tom Nagy of George Washington University, in a recent visit to the Bay Area, told us that the Geneva Conventions are not part of the curriculum taught to soldiers who will be in a position to need them. This will leave our own soldiers unprotected in at least three ways that come to mind.

Firstly, young men and women in the military have been through the processes in boot camp designed to remove the inhibitions against killing fellow humans. Regarding boot camp, recommended reading is Helen Michaelowski’s article "The Army will make a ‘man’ out of you," first published in WIN Magazine, March 1, 1980 and reprinted in the AFSC collection A Certain Terror in 1993. Then they are not given the limits set in international law to which they are in fact legally required to adhere. Thus we see U.S. soldiers, trained to violence, having violated laws they were not told existed.

Secondly, those soldiers who feel that the acts which they are ordered or induced to do are wrong are not given the support the Geneva Conventions would provide them to refuse unlawful orders and possibly even to try to put a stop to unlawful acts.

Thirdly, the rampant violation of Geneva Conventions may very likely result in the erosion of the protection the Conventions would offer soldiers worldwide, and particularly U.S. soldiers.

Who are the prisoners? U.S. news media are not examining this question. Given the reports of abductions from homes and off the streets of what appears to be random Iraqi citizens, they could be almost anyone. Some of the top leaders of Saddam Hussein’s government were imprisoned long ago. It is reported that their treatment has been harsh well beyond legal limits; this has not been corrected. But there is no indication that these are the people whose torture has been recently reported. If they had been, it would not justify or excuse the torture.

These are the questions which come to mind in the light of this week’s revelations. What next week’s questions will be is anybody’s guess, but it is likely that this week’s questions will not have been answered.

Rebuilding Iraq

Included in this issue of Planted is the statement to the UN Human Rights Commission on March 25, 2004 by Philippe LeBlanc OP – Permanent Representative of the Order of Preachers to the UN. It includes the following paragraphs:

The role of the international community in providing assistance through aid programs is not to substitute itself to the Iraqis sovereign authorities but to help them bring about the conditions for the material, economic and psychological reconstruction of the country.

… One of the primary aims of financial aid must be to produce a real effect on the living conditions of the people. Aid programs must lead to creating more employment and jobs, which is one of the necessary conditions for allowing access to security, as well as associating and incorporating more fully the Iraqi people in the rebuilding their country.

The word "sovereignty" appears again and again in the Dominican statement, which helps us evaluate the way in which the United States, through its instrument the "Coalition Provisional Authority" (CPA), has allocated the money it is purportedly using to "rebuild Iraq".

The funds used by the CPA derive from several sources. One source is appropriations from the U.S. Congress. Another is the revenue from the sale of Iraqi oil. A third is the balance of funds in the account of the United Nations Iraq Programme which had not been spent under Oil for Food — funds not spent because of the processes by which the 661 Committee evaluated Iraq’s contracts to purchase and refused a great number of necessary imports.

When the CPA took over, on the heels of the U.S. invasion, it granted contracts to "rebuild", largely to companies close to the Bush administration. In almost every instance these companies employed foreign personnel rather than hiring Iraqis. Iraqi engineers had been maintaining Iraq’s infrastructure under the very difficult conditions of sanctions, to such an extent that electricity was more available before the invasion than subsequently. Clean water is more scarce now than before. Hospitals are reporting that the death rates from diseases caused by the sanctions have in fact doubled. Now they see 10,000 children under the age of five dying from water-borne diseases rather than 5,000.

Water and "rebuilding"

Professor Tom Nagy has been watching the situation of water in Iraq since his discovery of the DIA document proving that as early as January 1991, U.S. military analysts anticipated the epidemic of water borne diseases and deaths resulting from sanctions. He reports that the experienced international agency, Care, International, formerly Care, Australia, put in a bid to the CPA to rebuild Iraq’s water system. They would have brought in their years of experience, to work with the Iraqi engineers who knew their own waterways. Care’s bid was lower than the one which won.

Guess who won the bid? Bechtel. Bechtel is the company which contracted to run the water company in Cochabamba, Bolivia, after the World Bank required Bolivia to privatize, and promptly jacked up the price of water. Under Bechtel the water system has not been rebuilt, although studies have been made and glossy-paper reports have been written. And lots of money has entered Bechtel’s coffers from U.S. taxes and the oil profits which should belong to the people of Iraq.


We must keep in mind the key concept of "sovereignty" as we work for an end to the war against Iraq. The people of Iraq will not settle for less. They should not be expected to. As we interface with the broader community in the U.S. we will hear the allegation that without continued U.S. military presence there will be chaos, civil war. The whole region will be in turmoil.

The idea that the U.S. needs to be in charge in Iraq is an essentially racist proposition. Iraq is an old civilization. The literacy rate in Iraq is one of the highest in the world –– in spite of the impact of 13 years of sanctions on the educational system. The history of interdenominational struggles within Islam is no worse than that of Christians in Europe. In Islamic countries Muslims, Jews and Christians have a history of living together in harmony.

Iraqis do not need US to keep the peace. Our leaders have not come to bring peace but empire. Americans need to recognize that fact and turn away from that practice.

Resources –

A partial list of alternative information and perspective:

Democracy Now, broadcast on KPFA, often includes breaking news and analysis on Iraq. Flashpoints and other programs also frequently cover Iraq.

A short list of some resources on the net – and Voices in the Wilderness. Chicago based group founded by Kathy Kelly to oppose sanctions. Excellent assortment of links. A really good source of on the spot observation. This is the blog of a young woman in Baghdad who has been posting her observations, opinions, reports of what her family and friends are experiencing since early August of 2003. She says she's Iraqi, female, 24 and she survived the war. news specifically focused on what's happening in Iraq. Lots of first hand reports. The count of those deaths actually reported in the media. Not the unreported deaths. U.S. and allied deaths, names and other information. Arab view on world events. A chance "to see ourselves as others see us." Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people who are opposed to war in Iraq and who have relatives or loved ones in the military.

*From these sources and others a brand-new flyer is made almost every week and distributed at the vigil each Tuesday noon at the Oakland Federal Building. You are all invited.

Making Stubborn Prisoners Talk
Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2002

U.S. Army’s interrogation school at Fort Huachuca "pushes tactical envelope."

Staff Sgt. Geirsdorf tells his students the job is "is just a hair’s-breadth away from being an illegal specialty under the Geneva Accords."

The students, many under 20 years old, often enter Fort Huachuca fresh from basic training. About 80% pass the course, and then go on to language school.

(E-mail to get the complete article.)


60th Session, Palais des Nations, Geneva

Item 9: Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world

Delivered March 25, 2004 by Philippe LeBlanc OP – Permanent Representative of the Order of Preachers to the UN

Dominicans for Justice and Peace and its co-sponsors, Dominican Leadership Conference (DLC), Caritas Internationalis, Canadian Council of Churches, International Presentation Association: Sisters of the Presentation, Congregations of Saint Joseph, Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, Maryknoll Sisters of St Dominic and Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, in conjunction with Franciscans International, are seriously concerned about the ongoing violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Iraq. Dominicans have lived in Iraq for over 250 years where they work with and among the Iraqi people. They are involved in the fields of education, health care including running hospitals, and in other forms of humanitarian endeavors.

The major long-term issue is the recovery and reconstruction of a devastated country. One of the key factors for this is the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty whereby the Iraqi people can take full responsibility for the re-building of their society. One of the necessary steps to restore a representative and sovereign Iraq is the guaranty of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities.

We are seriously concerned about the grave lack of security and the ongoing disrespect for the rule of law in the country. Both factors create instability and cause irreparable harm to the people. In addition, the people of Iraq still bear the scars of being cut off for a number of years from the rest of the world, having suffered through 13 years of sanctions and destructive wars. It has been twelve months since the last war, yet the country is still reeling from the ravages and the destruction caused by the conflict and its aftermath.

The lack of security in Iraq has an impact on a daily basis on the lives of people. The insecurity creates an atmosphere of vulnerability and hopelessness. In Iraq, the most common and trivial actions of daily life can now lead to instant death, near fatal injuries and total disruption of the lives of the population. Further, while the Occupying Forces are also called upon to ensure the security of their own troops, they are not justified in taking indiscriminate actions that endanger the lives and security of civilians and protected persons. Their mission and legal obligation, especially according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, is to protect them.

We express concern about the attacks against humanitarian and other organizations that lead to the loss of so many innocent people. In this respect, we express deep regret over the tragic and untimely death of Sergio Vieira de Mello who along with 22 UN colleagues were killed most tragically in an act of terrorism against the UN Headquarters in Baghdad, on August 18, 2003. Sergio’s death was a great loss to the human rights community and a terrible setback in the process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction of Iraq.

Impunity contributes to maintaining a high level of tension, fear and anxiety within the Iraqi population. Given the absence of a functioning legal system, there is no possibility of recourse on the part of the victims against the misconduct or the offences committed by the members of the Occupying Forces and others. Another cause of the rampant impunity is the absence of a sovereign authority that can ensure justice and re-establish security. Furthermore, impunity re-enforces the sentiment of hostility of the people against the Coalition forces. It therefore contributes to the violence that hinders the work for the reconstruction in the country.

The role of the international community in providing assistance through aid programs is not to substitute itself to the Iraqis sovereign authorities but to help them bring about the conditions for the material, economic and psychological reconstruction of the country.

To rebuild their country, the Iraqi people need to recover control over their own future as recognition of their dignity. They also need both financial and technical assistance from the international community through their financial institutions to assist them to take responsibility and leadership for the reconstruction of their own country. In this respect there is a great need for re-training of administrative and professional staff.

In another area, there is need to re-establish the networks of energy, transport and communications. Electrical power remains in disrepair. One year after the arrival of the occupying forces, the telephone network is still not fully operative. All this has consequences on people’s daily lives and on the economy of the country.

One of the primary aims of financial aid must be to produce a real effect on the living conditions of the people. Aid programs must lead to creating more employment and jobs, which is one of the necessary conditions for allowing access to security, as well as associating and incorporating more fully the Iraqi people in the rebuilding their country.

One year after the arrival of the Occupying Forces, the right to health of the people of Iraq is far from being fulfilled. There is still a great lack of medication and supplies of all kinds, especially for the treatment of chronic illnesses. A real threat to the health of the next generation is caused by the lack of proper sanitation and the ongoing effects of the environmental pollution caused by the war.

The international community, in cooperation with the Iraqi people can alleviate the situation in various ways. For example, it can cooperate with the Iraqi authorities in the reorganizing of the importation and distribution of medical supplies in the country. Moreover, it can provide opportunities for training in new techniques and methods in the medical field.

Following 13 years of sanctions, the right to education remains seriously jeopardized. The educational system in Iraq is in disarray. There is a great need for the development of new programs and the training of teachers in new technologies. Joint exchanges of professors and partnerships between universities could contribute to reestablishment of links with the external world.

To ensure that a sovereign Iraqi government is established, based on the respect for the rule of law and on a fair and equitable justice system, the international community should provide electoral assistance as well as help in reorganizing and renewing of national, regional and local administrations.

Additionally, it should also provide assistance to the Iraqi authorities for the re-establishment and re-enforcement of the legal institutions and offer assistance for the training of justice and police personnel.

In a restored sovereign Iraq, the rights of ethnic and religious minorities also need to be guaranteed, including the right of religious freedom and the right to education.


Dominicans for Justice and Peace and its co-sponsors, Dominican Leadership Conference, Caritas Internationalis, Canadian Council of Churches, International Presentation Association: Sisters of the Presentation, Congregations of Saint Joseph, Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic and Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, in conjunction with Franciscans International, therefore recommend that:

1. The international community ensure that the Occupying Powers in Iraq uphold and respect the rules of international law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians and non-combatants.

2. The international community assist in ensuring that a representative and sovereign Iraqi government is established since it is one of the conditions for achieving peace and security in the country.

3. The international community ensure that in providing assistance through aid programs that it does not substitute itself to the Iraqi sovereign authorities but that these programs help the authorities to bring about the conditions for the material, economic, and psychological reconstruction of the country.

4. The international financial assistance focus on areas such as the re-building of the infrastructure of the country, on needs in the areas of health and education as well as providing assistance for the re-establishment and re-enforcement of legal institutions and the training of justice and police personnel.

5. The international community contribute to the re-establishment of bilateral relations in matters of aid and cooperation.

6. The United Nations should have a key role in the period of transition to a representative and sovereign government in Iraq and that the Commission on Human Rights continue to monitor the human rights situation in the country.


Israel and Palestine:
Where are we now?
by Esther Ho

The catastrophic events of the past few weeks in regard to Israel and the Palestinian territories are mind-boggling. George W. Bush seems to have laid aside the last remnants of a plausible claim to be an honest broker of the situation by swallowing whole Ariel Sharon’s unilateral plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and leave most settlements in the West Bank intact.

Church leaders express alarm

U.S. church leaders have expressed disappointment and alarm at the April 14 remarks by the President that appear to reverse 35 years of longstanding U.S. policy on Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for peace. Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of 19 mainline U.S. Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches, criticized the President’s prejudging of negotiations by his endorsement of Israel’s Jewish settlements in the West Bank and of Israel’s wish to prevent any Palestinian refugees from ever being resettled within Israel. They stated further that both Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the denial of the right for refugees to return are contrary to international law and UN resolutions.

Many analysts believe that President Bush’s uncritical acceptance of Prime Minister Sharon’s plan played a major role in emboldening Israel to carry out further assassinations and other killings.

UN Special Rapporteur indicts Israel

In an article on March 24 (*.shtml) Jean Shaoul quoted a recent report by John Dugard, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights’ Special Rapporteur, stating that Israeli forces had "inflicted a reign of terror upon innocent Palestinians in the course of their assassinations of militants in densely populated towns, their destruction of homes, and their random firing in built up areas—not to mention the methodical intimidation and humiliation of civilians at checkpoints."

After visiting the Occupied Territories last February, Dugard said that the situation was "characterised by serious violations of general international law, of human rights law and of international humanitarian law." His mandate was to investigate Israel’s "violations of the principles and bases of international law, international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons of 1949" in the Occupied Territories.

Shaoul states that "the Israeli Defence Force has openly flouted all the international conventions aimed at securing humane treatment for people under occupation. Despite the fact that more than 2,500 Palestinians have died at the hands of the Israeli armed forces since September 2000, the start of the intifada, only 15 soldiers have been charged, usually with minor offences."

Most certainly Israel’s continuing rapid erection of a massive separation barrier that cuts away substantial chunks of the land that was supposed to be a part of the proposed Palestinian state and separates thousands of Palestinians from their source of livelihood is a major obstacle to hopes for peace in the region.

Reasons for Israeli actions

People of good will are able to recognize the great fear and near hysteria that has gripped the Jewish residents of Israel because of the suicide bombers. While we sympathize with this great concern, which has ample basis in fact, and strongly condemn the actions of suicide bombers, we also strongly condemn the violence of the oppressive occupation the State of Israel has carried out against the Palestinians for more than 35 years. This violence has been not only in the form of killings (see statistics in side-bar) and bodily injuries, but also in hunger, malnutrition, the destruction of homes, the systematic destruction of the means of livelihood and many other forms of victimization.

I am personally convinced that most Israelis are fearfully aware –– at least on a sub-conscious level –– that their situation of struggling for survival in a "hostile sea of Arab nations" is caused, at least in part, by the violence of Israel’s founding and the continuing illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. I believe that it was this understandable fear which caused them to choose an iron-fisted leader. However, I am also convinced that the policies of this leader are further undermining their precarious position, rather than providing an opportunity for survival among the family of nations in the Middle East. In the words of conservative columnist Thomas Friedman, "Israel must get out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as soon as possible and evacuate most of the settlements. I have long advocated this, but it is now an urgent necessity. Otherwise, the Jewish state is in peril….This can’t happen too soon, and the United States should be forcing it."

Society-deep change required

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center writes that the Bush-Sharon alliance "is cementing right-wing power in Israel" and is intended to do so in the USA. "This alliance between right-wing governments feeds the growing alienation between Israeli and American societies on the one hand and the Arab and broader Muslim worlds on the other. Both Israelis and Americans are already suffering from these policies –– and will suffer more –– but their welfare is less important to either government than is arrogating to themselves more power. This clutching at more and more power and control by those who already have most of it is a spiritual, not merely political, failing; and it will take a society-deep change –– not an election only –– to heal the disease."

Dilemmas for those who report

The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) Peace-Builders delegation to Israel/Palestine in March of this year discusses some of the dilemmas which face those who dare to report and interpret the situation in this part of the world. Visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial and museum to the Jewish Holocaust, had a profound emotional effect on members of the delegation. Many of them could not help but contrast and compare the inhumanities they were seeing with the realities being experienced by the Palestinians. They asked: "Are there similarities between the Warsaw Ghetto and life in Hebron? Should there be some mention that the museum is built on a former Palestinian community?" They recalled the words of the brass plaque in the concluding room of the museum: "Son of man, keep not silent, cry out at the disaster of a people. Recount it unto your children, and they unto theirs from generation to generation, that hoards swept in, ran wild and savage, there was no deliverance, valiance and revolt." Members of the delegation asked whether those words should not also apply to the Palestinians. Some of their leaders cautioned them not to draw too many parallels too closely and to remain focused on the powerful trauma that continues to impact Jewish behavior. A member of Women in Black observed to them later that Israelis cannot handle comparisons with the Holocaust.

Another report from the FOR delegation tells of the feelings of helplessness, sorrow and shame which threatened to overwhelm them and were "barely capable of being comprehended" as they observed the "vast array of roads, barriers and boundaries" of the $8 billion separation barrier which Israel is erecting. They concluded that "the bottom line was painfully clear: Palestinians in the West Bank have been reduced to a status of inferiority and virtually complete (outside) control of their lives." (To receive copies of the FOR reports, contact

Drastic results of Separation Barrier

Jerry Levine, journalist and Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) member, writes of the 29-foot-high concrete wall slicing through Abu Dis in the East Jerusalem area which cuts off Al-Quds University from students and faculty living inside the city. "Due to the well-known Palestinian will to learn and teach, the obscene barrier created the always inconvenient and sometimes perilous situation of people being compelled to find ways to sneak from one side of the wall to the other in order to pursue their education or academic livelihood."

Levine continues, "The dynamically developing map of this newly emerging contiguous ‘greater’ Israel continues to be defined by each new acre of Palestinian land covered over by the ‘annexation’ wall/fence. …for every acre of Palestinian territory that ended up on the ‘wrong’ side of the ‘annexation’ wall/fence, the ratio of Palestinian suffering increased and continues to increase proportionally. …This state of desperate affairs, echoed in every corner of the shrinking Palestinian West Bank map, added up to escalating macro distress and pervasive chronic despair throughout the Occupied Territories." (To receive Levine’s reports write:

The separation barrier has raised another concern for those who are interested that religious sites in Israel/Palestine be preserved. In recent weeks Israeli bulldozers have begun uprooting hundreds of ancient olive trees in the Mount of Olives, cutting off the route that Christians have followed to trace the steps of Jesus on Palm Sunday. These actions violate a 1993 agreement between the Vatican and Israel, but the Sharon government is refusing to negotiate. Rep. Henry Hyde, chair of the House International Relations Committee, sent a letter on March 25 to Secretary of State Powell detailing this concern.

Another example of increasing intransigence of the Sharon government is the mounting visa difficulties that international workers are experiencing. On March 11 CPT member Greg Rollins was denied entry to Israel at Ben Gurion airport and returned as far as Amsterdam. This occurred despite a settlement reached a few months previously in which the Israeli court stated that there were no restrictions on his entering Israel. In addition, Catholic religious personnel who have been working in the region for years have recently had difficulty receiving visas to return to their work.

What are we to do?

The fact that massive violations of human rights and international law being carried out by the Israeli government are largely underwritten by our taxes places a huge burden upon the consciences of those of us who are aware of these abominations. But how can we have an effect on our government which will in turn affect the actions of Israel? The answer is not easy.

A small example of the difficulties we face happened to me recently. At the suggestion of Jewish Voice for Peace, Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Loretto I wrote e-mail messages to a dozen or more board members of the Caterpillar corporation asking them to release a condemnation of Israel’s use of Caterpillar equipment to demolish homes and uproot olive and other trees. One of the messages was returned to me undelivered with the following reason: "The subject of the message is blocked. For security reasons the message was not delivered to the recipient. The blocked subject is: ‘palestine.’ The subject line is ‘Caterpillars in Israel/Palestine." Get it? Any message that has the word "Palestine" in the subject line is automatically rejected for security reasons! The implication is clear: anyone mentioning the word Palestine might be a terrorist. The mind-set which refuses to look at anything related to Palestine is an outstanding case of "hiding one’s head in the sand." However, I choose to give it a different interpretation. It is obvious to me that protests to Caterpillar regarding the use of their equipment ARE being heard. They have heard so much that they can’t stand hearing anymore! That is a sign that we are making a big impression. We must keep up the pressure.

In addition to contacting corporations which are assisting in the rape of Palestine, we must influence the general public. Again, this is not easy because of the constant distortions of mainstream media. We must speak up to our neighbors, relatives and friends, and we must publicize the speeches being made by people who have been to the area recently or are otherwise well-informed. It is of utmost importance to try to break through the media blockade of accurate information. We must urge our media outlets to carry stories that reveal rather than obscure the truth. Letters to the editor are an excellent way of influencing both editors and the public.

Some of the most important persons to influence are our senators, representatives and other public officials. We dare not flag in sending an unending flow of faxes, e-mail, and phone calls. Obviously, we must inform ourselves before we can effectively influence the public and those who represent us in government. Any of the websites or e-mail addresses listed in this article are good starting points. But do not wait to become fully informed before starting to act. If you are appalled by what your country is doing with your tax dollars, promise yourself to immediately begin or increase information-gathering and action.

Otherwise, what will we say to the children when they ask where we were while the plunder and bloodshed was raging?

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