An open letter from Palestinian-American Christian Zahi Khouri to Congresswoman Kay Granger

Posted on Nov 9, 2015

Zahi W. Khouri

Zahi W. Khouri

Following the warning to President Mahmud Abbas by Representative Kay Granger (R) of Texas, Palestinian-American businessman and entrepreneur, offers this response:

Click for the 151104 Letter to Congresswoman Granger or read below.

 

 

Zahi W. Khouri

5555 S.Kirkman Rd-Suite 201 Orlando, Florida 32819 Tel: 1-407-354-2200 Fax: 1-407-363-3831 Email: zwkhouri@gmail.com

P.O Box 1359, Industrial Zone Ramallah, Palestine Tel: +972-2-298-7559 Fax: +972-2-298-8222 Mob: +972 599 310 713 Email: zwkhouri@gmail.com

November 4, 2015

The Honorable Congresswoman Kay Granger
Chairwoman
Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, & Related Programs
1026 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Your letter to the President Mahmud Abbas

Dear Chairwoman Granger,

It was my sincere pleasure to meet you through our mutual friend Rev. Bob Roberts and to have had the opportunity, along with my colleagues from the Palestine Business Committee for Peace and Reform, to speak with you in both Washington and at the Dead Sea on the occasion of the World Economic Forum.

We appreciated the attention you showed us as we shared with you the many challenges faced by Palestinian Christians living under Israeli military occupation in the Holy Land. I write to you today after reading your letter of October 20, 2015 to President Mahmud Abbas in which you express your regret for the loss of Israeli lives in the recent violence in Palestine/Israel.

I was greatly disappointed that you did not also mention to the Palestinian President your regret for the loss Palestinian lives, over sixty since the beginning of October. Thousands of Palestinians have also been injured. The vast majority of these casualties were innocents: killed or injured at the hands of racist Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers under a ‘shoot to kill’ order that placed between the crosshairs any Palestinian man, woman or child suspected of being “a threat” to Israelis. The media is less likely to report on the day-to-day violence of Israel’s military occupation, however, until there are Israeli deaths. This is neither Christian nor American.

I know you share my belief that we are all children of God and all human life is sacred whether one worships as a Christian, Muslim or Jew. Failure of US public officials and the media to recognize this self-evident truth is exactly the reason why there is little hope among our youth in Palestine with US-sponsored negotiations with Israel—negotiations that have lasted longer than any other in recorded history. When Palestinian deaths go unnoticed or are reported as collateral damage to Israel’s “security,” our young people feel that their lives have no value.

Chairwoman Granger, three days ago, Abeer Rajabi, her husband and six children ages six to 18 began to demolish their own home in East Jerusalem with their own hands. They were not remodeling; they were purposefully making themselves homeless. Why would anyone intentionally destroy his or her own home? The Rajabis did so to avoid having Israeli authorities charge them over US $15,000 for the demolition. You see, they were already burdened with US $64,000 in penalties for building the addition to their home without a permit to accommodate their large family. They built without a permit because Israel rarely grants Palestinians building permits in Jerusalem or in the 61 percent of the occupied Palestine known as Area C. Can you imagine a similar situation in Texas and what it might have been like for those six children to destroy the only home they have ever known, where they grew up and played together knowing that they had nowhere to go that night?

I am sure that it must be difficult for those living in the US, a country that has never had to know what it might be like to live without freedom and basic human dignity for close to a half century. Military occupation is a brutal reality for Palestinians, especially for those living in and around Jerusalem. There have been more than 14,000 revocations of Palestinian residency permits in Jerusalem since 1967, and over 48,000 Palestinian homes and structures have been demolished in favor of new Jewish settlements with around a third threatened with demolition.

The violence we ought to be talking about—the original sin—is Israel’s military occupation, the strong arm of Israel’s settlement enterprise. Things have boiled over under Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leadership precisely because he has been accelerating settlement construction in the occupied Palestine contrary to longstanding bi-partisan US policy and international law. According to Americans for Peace Now, a respected authority on settlement construction in occupied Palestine, “…the number of settlement starts in East Jerusalem under Netanyahu, averaged across his entire time in office, is higher than at any time since Ehud Barak was prime minister (1999-2000), and almost double the annual average when Netanyahu was Prime Minister in the 1990s.”

As Secretary of State John Kerry rightly suggested recently, Palestinian frustration over settlement expansion is what is fueling Palestinian violence. It is not due to incitement on the part of the Palestinian leadership. The House Foreign Affairs Committee ought to have invited the senior official with the Shin Bet—Israel’s secret service—who was reported refuting claims that President Abbas was inciting his people to attack Israelis.

Oddly, there was also no mention at the hearing of remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, only the day before the hearing, in which he made the outlandish claim that the Palestinian grand mufti of Jerusalem was responsible for Hitler’s decision to exterminate the Jews during the Holocaust. If there were any statement that might incite Israeli Jews (and Jews around the world) to commit acts of violence against Palestinians, that most assuredly would be it.

Unfortunately, the Israeli Prime Minister is not alone in his effort to incite Jews. It is par for the course under his Administration. Attached I have included a list of statements made by members of his cabinet and his advisors prepared by the Institute for Middle East Understanding documenting Israeli incitement.

Chairwoman Granger, what we need from the US is not more calls to go back to negotiations without any commitment from Israel to stop its settlement expansion and provocations at the Al Aqsa Mosque. Installation of surveillance cameras is not a solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict. We need you and your colleagues to make unprecedented moves and push both sides to agree on a just solution within an agreed timeframe. Many Israelis believe without a strong US stand and aggressive, impartial involvement, there will be no peace in the Holy Land. Is this in the US best interest?

Rather than conditioning US military assistance to Israel, as required by the Arms Export Control Act, on Israel’s demonstrated commitment to international human rights standards, your letter questions continued US assistance to the Palestinian Authority if President Abbas doesn’t abide by the Oslo Accords.

How can President Abbas be expected to religiously abide by a document that Israel has not shown respect for in more than two decades and a half a million Israeli settlers later? Still, President Abbas has done his utmost for over ten years to maintain security in the areas under his jurisdiction. For this he should be commended by you and the Foreign Affairs Committee, not subjected to false claims of incitement.

I appreciate your kind consideration of my concerns.

Respectfully and God bless,

Zahi Khouri

Cc: The Honorable Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, & Related Programs

Institute for Middle East Understanding

The Institute for Middle East Understanding has been collecting the statements of current Israeli officials with respect to incitement:

  • “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human.” 
- Then-deputy minister of religious services and current deputy minister of defense, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, 2013.
  • “What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy?… They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”
- Current minister of justice, Ayelet Shaked, quoting a former settler activist and speechwriter and advisor for Netanyahu, 2014.
  • “The Sudanese are a cancer in our body. We will do everything to send them back where they came from.”
– Miri Regev, current minister of culture and sport, 2012.
  • “Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe,”
– Then-foreign minister and leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, 2015.
  • “Our soldiers are the only innocents in Gaza. Under no circumstances should they be killed because of false morality that prefers to protect enemy civilians. One hair on the head of an Israeli soldier is more precious than the entire Gazan populace, which elected the Hamas and supports and encourages anyone who murders Israelis.”
– Then-deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) from Netanyahu’s Likud party, Moshe Feiglin, 2014.
  • “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.”
– Then-deputy minister of religious services and current deputy minister of defense, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, 2013.
  • “I am happy to be a fascist!”
– Miri Regev, current minister of culture and sport, 2012.
  • “[There are] 92,000 families in Israel in which one of the partners is not Jewish – we have a real problem that we have to deal with.”
 – Tzipi Hotovely, current deputy foreign minister, 2011.
  • “The Palestinian threat harbors cancer-like attributes that have to be severed. There are all kinds of solutions to cancer. Some say it’s necessary to amputate organs but at the moment I am applying chemotherapy.”
- Then-general and current defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, 2002.
  • “[The way to deal with Palestinians is to] beat them up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable.”
– Benjamin Netanyahu, current prime minister, while in the opposition following his first term as prime minister, caught on video speaking to Israeli settlers, 2001.