The following is the text of the intervention, titled ‘Hope, Where There is No Hope,’ of His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Jerusalem of Latins and President of the Conference of Latin Bishops in the Arab Regions, at Leipzig Catholic Day 2016, May 28. Patriarch Twal has provided his address to ZENIT:
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LEIPZIG CATHOLIC DAY 2016
“Hope, where there is no hope”
Good morning! I wish to approach the subject “Hope, where there is no hope!” from three points.
- The local situation
- International intervention
- What can the Church do?
- In general, our local situation is caught in a deadlock. After more than 50 years of talks, Palestinian incompetence and Israeli arrogance have led to two intifadas and several wars, and produced deep disappointment, discouragement, despair and the present explosion of violence. The facts on the ground are the cause of hopelessness, and many respected writers have written of the “funeral of the two-state solution”.
The former director of the Israeli Internal Security Service, Yuval Diskin, said one year ago: “This government has no intention in resolving anything with the Palestinians and I say this with certainty” (quoted in an article by Akiva Eldar in Al-Monitor’s “Israeli Pulse”). This may explain why there has been no solution from all of the discussions over the years.
The situation in which we live is a “Land of the blind and the deaf”; blind and deaf to the views, concepts and narrative of the other side. We are in a bad place: Occupation controls the Palestinian people in every conceivable way, and all in the name of security. Israel, however, refuses to call it occupation, rather, “disputed territory”. Despite the fact that Israel has put billions of dollars into security, its security has not been guaranteed.
The result is a harsh occupation that has deprived Palestinians of human rights – freedom, equality, and self-determination, rights that you take for granted here in Germany.
No reasonable person or people will ever agree to live under these conditions. Occupation is bad for both the occupier and the occupied.
Palestinians will never give up their struggle to be free; sadly, Palestinian violence will be with us until the occupation ends. This is THE factor underlying all other problems in the conflict. For the most part, Israeli leaders have successfully managed to portray the occupation of Palestine, as part of the war on terrorism
The rebuilding of Gaza has yet to take shape. And likewise, legitimate travel and trade between Gaza and the West Bank remains impossible. Gaza is closed on all sides, except for the illegal tunnels they dig.
Developing a farm or building a factory is out of the question in 60% of the West Bank. The right to work their own land is compromised by settlements. Palestinians look around them and see Israeli control, Israeli soldiers, and Israeli settlers – some of those settlers ideologically opposed to any Palestinian presence on Palestinian land, and are all ready to use violence to move them off it. Of course, Israel wields far more power over Palestinians, than does the Palestinian Authority.
There are 650,000 illegal settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Mr. Netanyahu says that there will be no freeze on settlements; international law be damned. In this situation, the International community does not do anything to restrain violations of the law. It is no surprise that the two-state solution , living side by side in mutual security, is dying or dead in many minds.
- So, where are we going, and what‘s about International Intervention?
Earlier, I said that we are in a bad place, and I fear that we are going to a worse place. Obviously, a bad choice would be to perpetuate the status quo or the choice of one state, from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan. The outcome of this option, is that there will not be a Palestinian State. But if there is one democratic state, where all citizens, Israeli and Palestinians, can vote, it could well be that the future Prime Minister of such a state, will be a Palestinian.
Europe’s decisive role
Today the effort to resolve this unmanageable conflict, is at an impasse. The USA has concluded that a further effort to find common ground, between the parties, will not work. The dynamic status quo is going rapidly in the wrong direction. We ask, what helpful role can Europe play, and why Europe, especially England and Germany?
England, at one time, looked favorably on the creation of a home for the Jewish people on Palestinian Land, but not to make all Palestine a home for Israel! In the 1917 Balfour Declaration, it was clearly understood that nothing would be done, that would prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. (Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917, United Kingdom Foreign Secretary.)
Germany has a heavy historical debt to the Jewish people. It also has a heavy, indirect debt to the Palestinian people, on whose land Israel was built following the Holocaust. It is not helpful, when Germany avoids its duty by absolving Israel of its immediate responsibility to end occupation. When the German Chancellor tells Mr. Netanyahu that “This is not the time to make comprehensive progress on the two-state solution”, she is saying, in essence, that Palestinians must continue to live under the tyranny of occupation. This is shirking Germany’s responsibility to Palestinians.
- When has there been a more opportune time in the past? or
- When will there be an opportune time in the future to end a conflict that has extended for more than 100 years?
- When will the time come to put an end to the occupation, which will soon see its 50th anniversary?
Europe must uphold International Law and show the political will to give effect to that Law, without fear or favor. Despite the German Chancellor’s comments, now is the time for Europe to recognize the state of Palestine on 1967 lines; it takes nothing away from Israel that belongs to Israel.
This action would be a wakeup call to both sides, that the two-state solution lives on, and would change the mindset. It is time for Europe to regain its own balance, play a political role, and not leave the Middle East Affair as a monopoly for Israel and the United States.
On a positive note, there are several courageous Israeli writers, who love their country enough to write critically of unjust government and military policies and actions.
Of one thing we can be sure, in the conflicts, Palestinians do not win and neither does Israel. Both sides have lost sons and daughters, fathers and mothers. In this never-ending conflict, it seems that the last traces of genuine humanity are being rapidly erased. There is a sad and dreadful dehumanizing on both sides.
Another factor that has brought nervous ‘excitement’ earlier this year was the critical comments of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, against Israeli authorities, in which he suggested that Israel has a legal double standard when it comes to investigating crimes in the West Bank: one for Israelis and one for Palestinians.” A little later, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, also attempted to bring some helpful understanding to the cause of the violence, by stating what many have already said, namely, Occupation!
The Israeli reaction was a “chorus of outrage”! An exception was the Jewish journalist, Gideon Levy, who wrote, “Even Mahatma Gandhi would understand the reasons behind the violence. Even men and women who recoil from violence, who see it as immoral and useless, cannot help but understand how it breaks out periodically. The question is why it does not break out more often. It is possible that it will.”
One day we had a beautiful dream called the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, that Israel refused: end the occupation, go back to the 1967 borders, and create mutual political, cultural and commercial relations with the 56 Arab Muslim countries. This dream is still valid…and it is still a dream.
- What can the Church do?
The Catholic Church has declared 2016 a Year of Mercy. In light of Mercy, there are practical steps that can be recommended for adoption, if we are to have “hope where there is no hope.”
- CALL for Advocacy AND FORGIVENESS
Both sides should begin their own process of truth and reconciliation. Each side must be urged to forgive and accept forgiveness graciously. Each religion needs to acknowledge one another, accept their legitimacy and not see the other as the enemy. Recognize each other’s narrative; this prevents or greatly minimizes the respective fundamentalisms from being an instrument of foreign policy.
Israelis and Palestinians need to change school curricula, textbooks and other learning sources, to accept the other. Those on both sides, who do not know the other, are the most aggressive, because the other has no face, which results in de-humanizing and de-legitimizing the other.
The Churches must continue and move ahead with their many institutions, schools, hospitals, housing projects, universities to create a new mentality, and a new generation of leaders for a new society.
The Church must use its potential and good relations with worldwide humanitarian and religious organizations for greater solidarity and advocacy, and especially, to break down all kinds of walls. Only in doing so, can we be faithful to our mission.
Jews, Christians and Muslims have equal rights in Jerusalem. All sides must take the dirty “politics of interests” out of the Old City.
JERUSALEM must be a city for worship and reconciliation, not a city for soldiers and settler guards. Jerusalem must gather all believers, it does not belong to any one body, and everybody belongs to Jerusalem. All must enjoy freedom to reach their own holy places; this free access must be guaranteed by an international institution and not by Israel or Palestine authorities. The journey towards justice and peace, requires a great awakening, and more courage than to declare and fight a war.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
And so, we can really hope…
[Original Text: English] [Text Provided by Patriarch Twal]