Department of Social Development and World Peace 321 1 4th Street. N.E. Washington. DC 20017-1194 FAX (2O2)541 -3339
August 28, 1997
His Excellency Eliahu Ben-Elissar
Embassy of Israel
3514 International Drive NW Washington, D.C. 2Q008
Dear Mr Ambassador:
The deaths of the victims of the suicide bombers at the Mahane Yehuda market a month ago will be remernbered as a terrible tragedy, and we continue to hold all survivors and their families in Our prayers.
At the same time, we are also sorely distressed at the harmful effects to hurnan life of the "super-closure" imposed on the West Bank and Gaza by the Govermnent of Israel in response to the bombing. Last week we observed additional effects of the closure in apparently pushing Palestinian leadership to take steps away from a negotiated peace process and even seemingly abandoning recent assurances to the U.S. mediator, Ambassador Dennis Ross.
Just as we have stated our support for Israel and our opposition to all forms of terrorism, we have been outspoken for several years in our opposition to extended closure as a remedy for terrorism. Closure is no defense against terrorists who come from abroad or from within Israel itself, nor even from the territories. The facts tell another story.
The suffering imposed on millions of people as a result of the closures cannot be justified by military necessity or national security: Emergency medical cases, the chronically ill, and pregnant mothers denied access to hospital or needed medical treatment; two million people cordoned off into their towns and villages like so many prisoners, unable to move from one place to another; professors and students unable to travel to their classrooms; commerce, particularly in foodstuffs, brought to a halt, so there are not even fresh vegetables in the markets.
We appreciate the partial lifting of the closing on Bethlehem. The Bethlehem area, as you know, is of singular concern to us, because it is not only the birthplace of our Lord, but represents the last sizable Christian population on the West Bank. We remain very concerned about the free passage of clergy and church officials between Bethlehem and Jerusalem as well as the unimpeded movement of faculty, staff and students of Bethlehem University.
We are dismayed, moreover, that contrary to the 1993 Fundamental Agreement with the Holy See, busloads of pilgrims were turned back for many days from Bethlehem and other pilgrim sites.
To be sure those connected with the Mahane Yehuda bombing and the bomb factory recently found in Bethlehem some weeks ago need to be apprehended and effective steps taken to prevent similar activities from recurring but collective punishment of the whole community is simply wrong and should not be countenanced. Such mass deprivation has to be counterproductive for the cause of peace fueling resentment and despair about ever reaching a negotiated settlement.
We truly believe that the way to peace will be made smooth not just by diplomatic agrements but by the ability of Israelis to live in security, and the ability of Palestinians to live their daily lives in dignity and security. We appreciate the steps already taken by your governrnent to mitigate the closure in Betlilehern and other areas.
StilI, we strongly believe that fully lifting the present closures in their multiple dimensions and promising not to resort to closures again would be a serious step in the direction of building a just peace. There can be no dishonor in renouncing such a repressive tool as closure.
Mr. Ambassador, while I am traveling for much of the next couple of weeks, I would look forward to an opportunity to meet with you in Washington in the near future to discuss this and other issues.
Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark Chairman, USCC Committee on