from Members of English-Speaking Christian Communities in the Holy Land
April 7, 2002

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
U.S. State Department
2202 C Street NW
Washington DC 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary,

"... No one can remain indifferent to the injustice of which the Palestinian
people have been victims for more than fifty years. No one can contest the
right of the Israeli people to live in security. But neither can anyone
forget the innocent victims who on both sides fall day after day under the
blows of violence. Weapons and bloody attacks will never be the right means
for making a political statement to the other side. Nor is the logic of the
law of retaliation capable any longer of leading to paths of peace."
John Paul II (January 10, 2002)

We, the undersigned, have experienced and can attest to the truth of these
words of Pope John Paul II. We are members of several English-speaking
Christian communities in the Holy Land who have been living in Israel and in
the Occupied Territories. Our length of residence ranges from six months
to twenty years. We represent a number of English-speaking nationalities,
predominantly American but also many others, and a wide variety of
backgrounds and professions. We include students and professors, parents
and clergy, US government/ USAID personnel, heads/personnel of American and
other non-governmental aid agencies, international diplomats, officials
working for UN agencies and health and education professionals.

We are writing to you out of a deep concern and urgency. The violent and
horrible events in this land have escalated in recent weeks. America is
deeply involved in this conflict both as a broker of the peace process and
as a supplier of weapons. The increased violence has underscored the
failure of successive American administrations to implement defined policies
for the resolution of this conflict.

Twenty-five years have passed since President Sadat visited Jerusalem and
opened the way to the Camp David peace process. Camp David was eventually
succeeded by the Oslo Accords, then the Wye River Agreement, and more
recently by the Mitchell and Tenet reports. None of these agreements have
been implemented. A generation of Israeli and Palestinian youth has grown
up observing the lack of political will of the United States government to
implement our defined policies for the Middle East. Moderates on both sides
of this conflict have been marginalized and discredited by the failure to
bring about a just and lasting peace. Both the Israeli creation of "facts on
the ground", and the terror attacks against innocent civilians, have
succeeded in delaying the timeframe and in presenting further obstacles to
the search for a just and lasting peace.

The US government has accepted such negative developments with apparent
equanimity. It has capitulated to the demands and excesses of the
extremists and radicals on both sides who have no interest in peace and
reconciliation. To date, it has failed to address the major cause of the
problem - the oppressive and illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
The legitimate human and civil rights of the Palestinian people and their
right to their own national homeland have been denied - rights that most
peoples of the earth enjoy and take for granted. Palestinians daily face the
expropriation of their land and the unrelenting construction on this land of
Israeli settlements and settlement roads. Over the last 18 months ordinary
Palestinians have also suffered under the Israeli 'closures' and military
siege, which have cut them off from their places of employment, study, basic
health-care and families.

During this period, our Christian communities have seen the horrific effects
of the work of suicide-bombers and other militants on the people and cities
of Israel, and some have narrowly escaped injury in such incidents. Some
among us, however, can also testify to having personally eye-witnessed a
wide range of violations of Palestinian basic human rights and personal
freedoms by the Israeli authorities, including:
. house demolitions with families made homeless;
. uprooting of ancient olive and citrus groves on which multiple families
are dependent for their livelihoods;
. families cowering in terror as US-manufactured missiles shower down
indiscriminately on civilian areas from US-manufactured Apache helicopters
and F-16 bombers, or from Israeli tanks;
. shelling of buildings right beside foreign diplomatic and UN offices in
Ramallah and Gaza, recklessly endangering their international and other
. indiscriminate shootings by IDF soldiers at checkpoints of civilians,
including children, women, the elderly and the disabled; as well as firing
of tear gas at such people crossing the checkpoints on foot by young,
seemingly bored or frightened IDF recruits;
. severe harassment and physical abuse of Palestinians of all ages at such
. inappropriate handling of young Arab women at these locations;
. regular obstruction of teachers and students trying to reach schools and
. harassment and obstruction of ambulances trying to carry emergency cases
to hospital and blocking of UNRWA and other humanitarian relief operations.
Similar incidents of this kind have been widely reported on by almost all
the main Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights and
humanitarian organizations.

All the members of our Christian communities unequivocally condemn and
reject terrorism and violence as a means of advancing the political cause of
the Palestinians, and fully recognize the right of the Israeli people to
live in peace and security in their own state. Our experience here also
helps us understand why, in their desperation, some young Palestinians see
no other options available to them and nothing for them to live for. The US
Administration has focused predominantly on the admittedly horrific and
unacceptable violence of the Palestinian militants against Israelis but it
has given insufficient attention both to the causes of Palestinian militancy
and terror, and the daily terror and war that Israel is inflicting with
impunity on the largely civilian Palestinian population. This has, not
surprisingly, led to the emergence of a strong sense of moral outrage on the
part of the majority of Arabs and Muslims worldwide. It has also generated a
major questioning among millions of people of conscience internationally of
the credibility, impartiality and moral authority of the US government and
its policies. This in turn has contributed significantly to the hostility
felt by many people internationally towards the US, its government and its

There is an urgent need for the resolution of this conflict. There is a
solution possible, but it is neither a military one, nor a terrorist one.
The parameters of the solution have been clearly delineated and the vision
spelled out by you yourself, Mr. Secretary, in Louisville, and by President
Bush at the UN. They are expressed in US-sponsored Security Council
Resolution 1397, a very welcome initiative indeed; and also in the proposals
recently set forth by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and, most
tantalizingly of all, in the Taba talks that ended in January last year,
which brought the two sides to the brink of an historic breakthrough on most
of the highly complex and deeply entrenched issues dividing the two sides.

It is no longer appropriate to discuss proposals about interim solutions or
arrangements. These interim policies have been the framework under which
Israel has extended and expanded its illegal presence in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip. The US government has been a proponent of a two-state solution
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now is the time for the US government
to operate within the rubric of the United Nations and to finalize a
settlement to this conflict in accordance with Resolutions 242, 338 and
1397. This is a period in history that requires clear policy definition,
firm political will, and consistency in action by the US government. The US
government needs to display a type of "tough love" that links funding
assistance with policy decisions that express its concern for all the
peoples of this land.

We welcome General Zinni to Jerusalem and recognize the very severe
obstacles he faces. We express the fervent hope that he will continue to
receive the firm political backing, and strong, balanced mandate he needs
from the top levels of his Administration in order to broker a just and
lasting peace. It is the consensus of the undersigned members of our
Christian communities that the only way to achieve success will be a firm,
even-handed approach exerting equal pressure on both parties to halt the
violence and provocation. The presence of international observers is also
crucial for achieving this halt to violence and facilitating the return to
negotiations. Necessary also is a simultaneous move to develop the political
dimension, through the implementation of the Mitchell Report and the
resumption of final status negotiations. To demand that President Arafat
deliver a unilateral cease-fire while the closures remain firmly in place
and Israeli military offensives and provocation continue, cannot and will
not succeed. In the interests of the Israeli people who are suffering so
much from the conflict, the United States must also persuade the Israeli
government to play its part, by implementing parallel measures to lift the
military and economic siege and by progressing toward finalizing
negotiations. Consistency of will to move beyond the rhetoric of US policy
and to implement its stated goals will restore the credibility to the peace
process and to the role the US government seeks to play as the honest broker
of the peace process.

As people of faith, committed to the struggle for peace, justice and
reconciliation, we are convinced that greed and arrogance, violence and
death, will not have the final word, We have a deep love for this Land and
for all of its people. Our experience here has taught us to make our own
this simple insight from John Paul II: One against the other, neither
Israelis nor Palestinians can win the war. But together they can win the
peace. We hope and pray that all sides in this present conflict come to the
same recognition
Members of English-Speaking Christian Communities in the Holy Land