Marie Dennis recently formed part of a Pax Christi International delegation to Israel/Palestine. [Pax Christi USA program director Roxana Bendezú also participated.] During the 10-day visit, the delegation met with Pax Christi members in Bethlehem (known as the Arab Education Institute) as well as several sister organizations: the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel; the Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center; Kairos Palestine; Youth Against Settlements; to name a few.
While still there Marie sent the following report on the dire situation of Palestinians trying to live in what here in the United States call “the only democracy in the Middle East,” Israel.
“This has been a packed, heartbreaking but also hopeful week … We have heard from so many people (mostly Palestinians but also Israelis) the same devastating story of occupation, apartheid, shrinking space and outrageous behavior on the part of the far-right Israeli government.
“We have seen recently demolished houses and heard so many stories of people trying to hold on to their homes and land. We have heard about Palestinians who had tried for 20 years to get a permit to repair their house, who found out that an Israeli settler had a permit to build on their same plot of land. We saw so many places where the Israeli Wall separated families from their land and from each other, children from their schools, people from their olive trees.
“The new infrastructure of tunnels, huge bridges and new highways to connect settlements to Jerusalem is shocking. Relentless insults like the new sewage vent that regularly releases foul odors right next to a Bedouin elementary school classroom.
“Most have no hope at all in a two-state solution and think one state is impossible also. The stories of heartbreak are not old stories; they are ongoing … We heard again and again specifics about the deliberate, horrific control/exclusion of the Palestinian people that has to be clearly identified as carefully orchestrated apartheid. That is not anti-Semitic; it is the truth.”
Compare that dire situation with a remark written by columnist Thomas Friedman in the February 13 opinion page of The New York Times. Approving of President Biden’s recent warning to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to proceed with diminishing the
principal corrective place which the Judiciary has in that country, Friedman affirms the
following: “[I]f [Israel] engages in some human rights abuses against the Palestinians, Israel often tells us we should cut it some slack.” Some human rights abuses!
Unsurprisingly, Marie, who leads the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, found hope in the people of Palestine. She continued in her report: “The people stay. I have been deeply impressed with the significance of sumud (steadfastness) as an expression of nonviolent resistance. I have had many conversations about nonviolence here, trying to understand what role, if any, nonviolence had/can have in the struggle…”
Marie’s conclusion from these conversations: “People and communities affected by the
violence have to decide for themselves whether or not nonviolence is useful in their
A datum on Palestine/Israel vis-à-vis the Vatican:
- For 48 years after the creation of the State of Israel, the Vatican had withheld such recognition.
- In 1989 Archbishop Renato Martino, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the United Nations, explained the rationale for this position: Diplomatic relations must “await the resolutions of certain outstanding problems. [Among them] the rights of the Palestinians … The Holy See defends equally the rights of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to their own homeland.”
- Pope John Paul II’s Vatican recognized Israel 1993.
- The Vatican recognized Palestine as a State in 2015.
- The “Palestinian question” does not lend itself to easy answers. However, our unconditional support of Israel is skewed. In the article referenced above, Mr. Friedman wrote in graphic and current terms: “President Biden is as pro-Israel in his gut as any president I have ever covered.”
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.