As the minds and hearts of Christians throughout the world recently focused on the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we naturally think of the Holy Land.
Throughout much of history, in the land where the world’s savior taught human beings to love one another as he loved us, instead of experiencing love, Palestinians have often experienced the great suffering of injustice, war and foreign occupation.
And today the story is sadly much the same.
In the Occupied Territories of the West Bank in Palestine, Israeli government and military oppression is very real, and yet under reported by corporate owned U.S. media sources.
According to B’Tselem (www.btselem.org) — an Israeli human rights organization comprised of academics, attorneys and members of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) – tens of thousands of hectares of the West Bank including farmland, has been seized from Palestinians by Israel, so that hundreds of thousands of Israelis could populate more than 200 Jewish settlements established in the Palestinian West Bank.
The International Court of Justice ruled that these Israeli settlements are illegal. It also decreed that the Israeli separation barrier of walls, barbed wire and trenches in the West Bank is also illegal.
This barrier — built overwhelmingly in occupied territory — effectively takes more land away from the Palestinians, and prevents many Palestinians from normal access to their vineyards, olive groves and fields.
A friend of mine, Dusty Tyukody, participated in an educational trip to the West Bank sponsored by Friends of Sabeel North America (www.fosna.org) — an ecumenical Christian peace organization. She emailed me a photo she took showing Palestinians herded like cattle into a narrow passageway where they stood for a long period while waiting to pass through an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Another injustice according to B’Tselem is that Israelis living in the West Bank enjoy an unlimited supply of running water all year round, while Palestinians are allotted a small fixed amount, resulting in constant water shortages.
In many ways the situation in Gaza is even worse. With an Israeli land and naval blockade in place, Gaza is known as the world’s largest outdoor prison.
And last year’s Israeli military offensive against the militant group Hamas in Gaza resulted in the deaths of 1,462 civilians, including 495 children according to the United Nations. This offensive also leveled much of Gaza, leaving many with little to no water, food, or habitable shelter.
The U.S. annually gives Israel approximately $3 billion — mostly in military aid — with virtually no conditions. Instead, the U.S. should demand Israel end all injustices towards the Palestinians, and commit to a timetable towards the finalization of a viable independent Palestinian nation and a secure Israel.
At the conclusion of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2009, he said “Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders. Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream.”
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.