Rev. Dr. Labib Kobti

Date: Fri, 1 Aug 97

To all those who are concerned about the current upturn in the continuing crisis in Israel/Palestine, to Israelis and friends of Israel, to Palestinians and friends of Palestine:

I implore all of you, while mourning the death of innocent people on both sides of the conflict, and while praying for the speedy recovery of those who have been wounded in recent days, both physically and psychologically, to begin to educate yourselves on the source of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

(1) The time will come, when other nations will wash their hands of this conflict, when you, the Israelis and the Palestinians, will be the only ones to deal with your differences, your hopes and your mutual futures. History has shown repeatedly that third parties, major powers, will divorce themselves from any conflict when their own perceived strategic interests are no longer involved. Thus Great Britain gave up the Palestine Mandate in the past, and eventually the United States will tire of being drawn into this quagmire everytime there is a breach in the ineluctible process of mutual recognition. Ultimately THE ONLY PEOPLE that need to deal with the crisis is YOUR OWN PEOPLE. It is imperative that a friendship be developed that is based on trust and love. YOUR CHILDREN WANT THIS. If you will not do it for yourselves, at least do it for them.

(2) WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE IN JERUSALEM? The late Rabbi Elmer Berger, said eighteen years ago: " Violence inexorably follows violations of human rights if the consequent injustices are not eradicated by peaceful processes and established by law. When the deprived victims are of one ethnic group, with familial and national or ethnic ties to neighboring states, the violence has great potential for internationalization."

(3) Rabbi Berger's words were prescient, as recent incidents have proven. Violation of human rights, frustration, dispair, and the halting of the peace process will in the end, ultimately burst into violence. This is the only option left, when all other options have not been tried to their fullest dimensions, or perceived as having been exhausted. This recent bombing in Jerusalem came as no surprise to anyone who has followed the events of the past months. Rabbi Berger was right, as were such luminaries as Pople John Paul II, The Secretary General of the United Nations, The President of the United States, The President of France, King Hussein of Jordan, President Mubarak of Egypt, Shimon Peres, the former Israeli Prime Minister, and many many others. Both religious and national authorities inside and outside the Holy Land, all warned of their fears that violence such as we have seen in current days, as being imminent. These same fears were made evident by those who seek a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, via meetings, dialogues and letters to Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, to President Yassir Arafat, and their respective peoples.

(4) However, instead of containing these fears, we hear instead about "security for peace" as violations on both sides continued to nourish the agendas of the extremists. Such deliberately provocative actions, seen as irresponsible by much of the world, as expressed in condemnation by the UN General Assembly, as housing construction in East Jerusalem, the continuing co-optation of land on the West Bank in violation of several international agreements, the tunnel under the Temple Mount, the HarHoma/Jabal Abu Ghneim incidents, the confiscation of ID cards from Palestinians, the continuing construction of Jewish settlements on the West Bank, or the promises of more confiscations of properties and lands, the bulldozing of the homes of Palestinians, the two vetoes in the Security Council by the United States, the inane vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to transfer the United States Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (counter to existing U.S. policy, which WILL not occur, this was a blatant act of political pandering. Official U.S. policy is consistent with UN resolution 181 on the final status of Jerusalem and will remain so.), the deliberate slowing and even reversal of the peace process, the effects of Israeli government closure of the Occupied Territories on the human rights of the individuals living there, the continuing impostion of collective punishment under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of the Palestine Mandate which Israel finds it convenient to still use when necessary, as well as individual acts of lunacy by mentally imbalanced individuals, such as deicting the founder of Islam and an image of the Virgin Maryin the guise of a farm animals, calculated to inflame the religious sensibilities of believers in either of those faiths,l Muslims and Christians. It is all these factors, and others that have not been mentioned, that are the cause of frustration, anger, and a desire to retaliate against "the other". This is what occurs when people perceive that they have no hope for the future, and therefore nothing left to lose.

(5) Violence has surfaced in Hebron, in Nablus, in Bethlehem and other locations. Instead of attempting to contain the underlying anger and frustration, fuel was added to the fire with the constant exclusivist claims, and with the threatening of retaliation toward the other side. Even the United States, the great ally of Israel, found it necessary to halt it's diplomacy, finding itself frustrated in its attempts to halt violations of fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people.

(6) The Palestinian people are no less nationalistic in their aspirations than Native Americans, or the blacks of South Africa, or the French people under the yoke of the Nazi controlled Vichy government during World War II, or any other nation who has claimed its right to exist. The resistance to occupation by a foreign power, the resistance to persistent injustice, is a fundamental right recognized by international law. The Jews and Israelis who utilize this law when they make claims against former injustices perpetrated on them by the Nazis (such as the current revelations of the sequestering of personal life savings by Swiss banks who aided the Nazis) are well within their human rights to do so. The whole world sympathized with them and helped them. (7) In the biblical story of Samson, we see how his enemies tried by every means to kill him. Yet, they could not kill his SOUL, his indomintable SPIRTIT, his WILL to return. And in order to win, SAMSON sacrificed himself, knowingly, but it also brought disaster upon others. All Jews know the story of Masada, the high desert fortress that was placed under seige by Roman legions. The Jews of Masada chose mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans, and by their deaths, they served as an inspiration, even today, to their spiritual descendents. Induction ceremonies into the IDF are conducted on Masada to this day. What was the lesson of Masada? People who committed suicide in the name of an idea, are viewed as heroes. The mighty Roman empire, the most powerful force on earth at that time, could not destroy their SOUL, their SPIRIT or their WILL to remain independent. What was the lesson of the Nazi death camps? The banality of the evil of the Nazis, the perpetration of unjust suffering, and death, of innocent people, only served to strengthen the Jewish WILL, to unite worldwide Jewry and make it ultimately stronger than it had been. The Nazis could not kill the SPIRIT, or the SOUL or the WILL of the Jews to survive. The great lessons of Masada, of the Nazi death camps, are reflected in the SPIRIT and the SOUL and the WILL of the Palestinian people, who desire nothing more than the same dignity and justice in their lives, that the Jews rightly deserved in theirs. It is the same determination possessd by all people under the oppression of another. Who should know this lesson better than the Jewish people? The same Jewish people who marched side by side with Martin Luther King Jr. in the freedom marches of the fifties for equal rights for African Americans, the same Jewish people who decried the injustices of the apartheid state of South Africa. This same story will eventually come true for the Arab peoples who suffer in countries like Iraq or Syria or Lebanon.

(8) To all of you whom I addressed this letter,

Rest assured that the violence will continue, if you both continue (Israelis and Palestinians) to forget that it is necessary to deal with each other as human beings equal in rights and dignity. Do not do this, and your children, your descendents will not forgive you for the lost opportunity. Little children can play together and love each other. They have no knowledge of history. Your children, and your grandchildren need to live side by side, hand in hand. Raw power, armaments, mean nothing. There is no SECURITY, there is no SANCTUARY without Trust and without Love. I implore all of you: DO NOT LET EXCLUSIVISM, FUNDAMENTALISM, AND HATRED FILL YOUR MINDS AND YOUR HEARTS.

Think about the Babies. They were born as Babies (as says Fr. Chacour Elias). They were not born as Jews or Christians or Muslims. If humanity is to live, They need to live, they already have the will to survive, do not try to kill their Soul or their Spirit or their Will for ultimately you will fail.

History teaches us that.

Yours with profound respect,

Fr. Labib Kobti Al-Bushra http://www.al-bushra.org