Legal Blow to Monastery, Marathon with a Message
The Israeli Special Appeals Committee for land seizure under emergency law released its verdict on Wednesday April 24, 2013 regarding the case of the Cremisan Valley against the separation wall. The Society of St. Yves, a Catholic human rights group, had represented the monastery in the Israeli courts in this case that has gone on for seven years. Israel is now expected to press ahead with construction of the vast West Bank barrier around a convent near the Christian town of Beit Jala.
The barrier will cut the Cremisan convent off of 75 percent of their land as well as a monastery with which they have close relations. Additionally, over 50 Palestinian Christian families of Beit Jala will no longer have access to their agricultural land. Xavier Abu Eid, a diplomat in the Palestine Liberation Organization explains: "The occupation hurts Christians and Muslims both, but affects the Christian community more because it's a smaller percentage of the population […] This is a matter of their survival, as this is one of the last pieces of land the community owns.”
The U.S. State Department released its annual human rights report last week that details abuses around the world. The Israel and the Occupied Territories sections do not reveal anything new, but they do catalog the incidents where human rights abuses carried out by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
According to the report, “the three most significant human rights abuses across the occupied territories were arbitrary arrest and associated torture and abuse, often with impunity, by multiple actors in the region; restrictions on civil liberties; and the inability of residents of the Gaza Strip under Hamas to choose their own government or hold it accountable.”
The report is also critical of the Palestinian Authority for “mistreatment of detainees, poor and overcrowded detention facilities, prolonged detention, and infringements on privacy rights. Restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and assembly continued… At times the PA allowed anti-Semitic expression.”
The abuses in Gaza committed by Hamas are vast and included “security forces killing, torturing, arbitrarily detaining, and harassing opponents, Fatah members, and other Palestinians with impunity. Hamas and various other terrorist organizations and militant factions in the Gaza Strip launched rockets and mortars against civilian targets in Israel, killing and injuring civilians…Hamas restricted the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement of Gaza Strip residents…. Hamas frequently promoted anti-Semitism.”
Over the weekend, Palestinians and internationals came together to run the first ever Bethlehem marathon. As with most things in the region, even this fun event was fraught with political issues but the symbolism stood out. The participants jogged four times around Bethlehem because there wasn't enough space to do a straight marathon due to the separation barrier. The marathon raised awareness of the restrictions on movement Palestinians face. Jabril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee said hope that this first Palestinian marathon will carry a message that “it is our right not only to freedom of movement, but also to life and to live in a free and independent state.”
Before the race took off at Nativity Square, Rajoub announced, “As we stand here at the Nativity Square, we should bow in silence for one minute for the victims who died in the terrorist act last week in the Boston Marathon.” According to the AP, “Participant Demitri Awwad, a Palestinian-American from Michigan wore a T-shirt honoring the Boston Marathon victims under his official marathon shirt as he ran in the 10-kilometer race. It had a picture of 8-year-old Martin Richard, with the words ‘No more hurting people’ emblazoned below.”
Days before the marathon, Israeli authorities announced it would not allow any Gazans to travel to the West Bank to participate including Nader Al-Masri who represented Palestine in the 5,000-meter race at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Want to learn more about the trip? Please join us for a national conference call on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. The call will begin at 4:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.
Dial-in Number: 1-646-307-1300
CMEP Condemns Abduction of Syrian Bishops Churches for Middle East Peace has strongly condemned the kidnappings on April 22 of two Orthodox Bishops near Aleppo, Syria. CMEP calls for the immediate and unconditional release of these Bishops.
Jewish settlers illegally occupy Christian hermitage in Taybeh [Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem] On Friday, April 19, 2013, settlers illegally occupied a small hermitage with a chapel built on a land belonging to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in the vicinity of the town of Taybeh.
Israeli army to halt use of white phosphorous [Associated Press] Israel's army says it will soon halt its use of white phosphorous shells after years of international criticism for using the incendiary munitions in crowded Palestinian areas.
Israel to allow UNESCO inspections in Jerusalem after Palestinians agree to pull damning resolutions [Haaretz] UNESCO inspectors will visit Old City on May 19 to inspect renovation and rehabilitation projects, but will not visit the Temple Mount; Foreign Ministry officials say deal is the result of Israeli diplomatic initiative.
In Jerusalem, road project takes political turn as it cuts through Arab neighborhood [Washington Post] Cutting a wide swath through the stone homes and terraced olive groves of an Arab neighborhood in southern Jerusalem, a new Israeli road-building project is stirring growing discontent.
Top Israeli lawyer rebuffs criticism of email checks at border [Reuters] Israel's top legal adviser on Wednesday rebuffed criticism of authorities for asking travelers entering the Jewish state to show border officers their emails, saying the checks affecting only certain foreign nationals were lawful.
Salam Fayyad: Emerging as he Exits [Huffington Post] If outgoing Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is just a technocrat or administrator, as is often claimed, why is his resignation causing so much commotion? The answer is that Fayyad is not merely a technocrat, but is also a singularly important Palestinian politician, although of a new variety.
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a coalition of 24 national Church denominations and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. It works to encourage U.S. government policies that actively promote a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights and religious freedom for all people of the region.