March 26, 2002

At this Easter Season, in the midst of a very dark and painful situation, we, members of the Justice and Peace Commission in Jerusalem, send you our most sincere greetings and wishes. In the Holy Land we are at present living a very peculiar Holy Week. Never since 1967 have the Palestinian experienced so much oppression, hardship, humiliation and hopelessness. We have the feeling that we reached the depths of tragedy. It is impossible to go on like this.
Oppression, injustice, mutual violence and death seem to prevail everywhere. Innocent people are killed everyday. Many fear for their own life and that of their dear ones. All observers agree that there is no military solution, nevertheless the deadly spiral of occupation, resistance, reprisal and renewed violence continues.
For many months now, the Israeli military checkpoints are virtual frontiers that subdivide the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, making mobility between one town or village and the other practically impossible and in fact very dangerous. The continuous harassements at these checkpoints and the targeted killings of so-called Palestinian militants have created an unbearable and explosive atmosphere. The economic situation of the Palestinian society has become disastrous and a great number of families are without any source of income. Sadness, disappointment, frustration and desperate acts of resistance are the direct consequences.
The recent massive invasions by the Israeli Army into Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps, with the indiscriminate use of heavy and sophisticated weaponry, have caused numerous deaths and terrorized the entire Palestinian population, particularly to women and children. Hundreds of young men were rounded up, humiliated in public and taken away from their families. Huge unwarranted damage was caused to public buildings, clinics, schools and private houses. For instance, the Catholic University in Bethlehem and the Latin Parish School in Gaza have suffered heavy impacts by teleguided missiles.
We have reached a moment of truth. If Israelis and Palestinians - and the international community with them - want to find a solution, they have to face reality and to tackle the real problems. The State of Israel is internationally recognized within its pre-1967 borders, on 78% of the Mandate territory. Now it is time to recognize a fully independent Palestinian State on the remaining 22%, with internationally established borders, and to find a solution for the Palestinian refugee problem, according to the relevant UN resolutions. True security for Israel will come with the full recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people.
Violence cannot bring a lasting solution. It is time to start serious negociations with clearly defined objectives and a built-in verification process. Only by tackling the basic issue that is at the root of the whole problem once and for all will some hope for the future be possible. It is absolutely necessary to recognize the military occupation of the Palestinian Territories by Israel for what it is and put an end to it. The responsibility to take the first step in that direction lies with Israel as the occupying and overwhelmingly most powerful party. After so much violence and bloodshed, Palestinians and Israelis are not able to overcome the present deadlock without the active involvement of an assertive third party. The United States of America and the European Union bear a heavy responsibility in this.
In spite of the sadness that the current situation instils in our hearts, we wish the message of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ to reinvigorate all of us in our striving for a true and lasting peace, with justice and dignity for all. May peace eventually prevail in this Holy Land. We count on your thoughts, yours prayers, your solidarity, and greet you with our traditional Easter greeting:

"Christ is Risen!" - "He is truly Risen!"

Justice and Peace Commission,
Jerusalem, Holy Week 2002
Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
Box 20459, Tel/ Fax: 02/6287719