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Home arrow Blog arrow June 2009 arrow June 17-18, 2009

June 17-18, 2009
June 17-18, 2009: THE WALL, Hamas, Carter, CODE PINK, Peace, Reconciliation and Harmony 
June 18, 2009: What follows this email is one of my reflection's on The Wall

From: Samia Khoury
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 6:23 PM
To: Alice McArdle
Subject: Feeling the Glory

Dear All:  I would like to share with you the following message and a reflection below it.  By the time I was through with reading it I had tears all over my face.    How brutal I thought to be deprived of a commitment to the YWCA, an organization that we all love and  are so close to,  because of the hard reality of the occupation and its check points. However Rana is probably more fortunate than many people as she had an option, and she could make a choice which very few Palestinians have the privilege of making.  I am grateful to so many of your for your encouragement and hopeful messages in the aftermath of the visit of the Pope, the speech of president Obama, Prime minister Netanyahu, and the visit of Mr. Carter to Gaza.  But we are at a stage after 61 years of dispossession, and 42 years of military occupation, words are no more enough.  Maybe you have noticed that I have reduced a lot of my words myself.  All what needs to be said has been said and heard, and repeated over and over.  What is needed now is action.  Peace, is like faith; "without deeds it  is  dead" and absolutely meaningless.  Indeed we need your prayers and your advocacy, but please translate those prayers into action that will bring about justice and peace to the whole region and its people. Samia

Dear friends,

 As some of you might have already heard, I will be leaving the YWCA of Palestine for a new job with World Vision in Bethlehem. I have to say that the decision was not easy. For me it's more a resignation from the checkpoint than a resignation from my job.

When I first came on board, I didn’t really know much about the YWCA. However, the more I learned about this wonderful global movement, the more I loved and admired it for all the great work that it does for women and girls all over the world. I have had a wonderfully enriching and fulfilling learning experience here that will remain with me wherever I go. I will continue to be a YWCA woman into the future and the YWCA movement will always be part of my life.

 I feel so blessed that I have met amazing women from around the world, and came to realize that we share the same issues and have the same dreams despite our differences. I do hope that our relationship will not end with my resignation. You can always reach me at my personal email wherever I might be.

I have written a short reflection, a sort of a good-bye message to the checkpoint. I am attaching it here for you to read.

Thank you for the great work you are doing and for helping us KEEP HOPE ALIVE in Palestine.

My best wishes to every one of you for continued success and prosperity. I will miss you, so please keep in touch!


Rana Qumsiyeh

Fundraising, Reporting and Communications Officer

YWCA of Palestine

I will stop Feeling the Glory!

“Come and Feel the Glory: Israel.” This is what the caption at the top of the big bright Israeli Ministry of Tourism poster proclaims at the entrance of the main checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Glory? At the checkpoint one feels anything BUT the glory! Below the caption, the poster shows an image of the “Rock of the Agony” which is enshrined within a wrought iron wreath of thorns and olive branches in front of the altar within the sanctuary of the Basilica of the Agony at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The “Rock of the Agony” is thought to be the place Jesus prayed after the Last Supper just before his arrest. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Agony! That’s what it feels like at the checkpoint.   

After six years in a row (14 years in total) I have decided to give up my daily commutes from Bethlehem to Jerusalem through the checkpoint. I have wasted countless hours of my life that if summed up would total over six months of constant humiliation and frustration. 

Hallelujah! I will no longer be squeezed between those cold metal bars, standing in line and suffocating from the pressure of the crowds, wondering if I will make it before I faint from my claustrophobia. I won’t be sweating in the sun, or soaking in the rain, waiting for some soldier to have some mercy and open the door.

I will no longer worry about pants with metal buttons, shirts with metal decorations, or new glasses with metal frames that might beep in the metal detector that I have to go through every day. I will be able to wear any shoes I want! No more worrying about having to take them off to be put on the x-ray machine. My life will change.

I will finally accomplish my life’s dream: Driving from home to work! That will only be possible because I will be working in Bethlehem, one mile away from my home.

My life will seem semi-normal for a change. I will be living in the big open-roof prison called Bethlehem, surrounded by walls and checkpoints. I will slowly become like everyone else in the little town of Bethlehem. I will feel that Jerusalem is far away and will plan months ahead for a trip to the other side of the Wall.

I will be allowed to smile! No rules about no smiling in prison. And I will not cry as often, from frustration and helplessness, when I see sick children and old women denied entry and turned back.

I have to say that I will for sure miss my fellow commuters and checkpoint crossers every morning. I have managed to get to know new people here and there and even make friends! It’s amazing how close you feel to a fellow human being when you are both being oppressed and humiliated together. We often joked that one good thing is that everyone is equal at the checkpoint. As long as you are a Palestinian, you are treated the same way. Whether you are a big shot manager or a small daily worker, whether you own a fancy Mercedes or a bike, everyone has to park at the checkpoint and walk.

Though I will miss the people, I won’t miss the exhausted looking faces, drained of life and energy. But I will miss the hopeful smiles, and the occasional joke that someone will crack to cheer everyone up.

I will miss the “screamer”; the female soldier who screams so loud even at the earliest hours of the morning. I think she is funny in her own way – imagine screaming for a living! I admire her energy. I personally can’t scream at six in the morning.

I will no longer come across the rare nice soldier, who will try and interact on a human level, demanding to make eye contact and saying “Good Morning”, asking how I am doing before even looking at my papers, and wishing me a “nice day” when I go.

I am not sure I will be happier. I will miss Jerusalem. It has been part of my life for such a long time and the beautiful sight of the old city early in the morning always lights up my heart and gives me a sense of achievement. But I know I will be able to keep my sanity, and stick around in this sad old country for a little longer.

For all of you, who have been reading my checkpoint stories, please remember that there is a story every day at the checkpoint, waiting for someone to tell it.

Pray for Peace! And Hope for the Glory!

So long Checkpoint!!

I will stop Feeling the Glory!

 The following is excerpted from

Memoirs of a Nice Irish American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory

Chapter 3: This, That and The Wall


In May of 2005, just prior to my first journey to Israel Palestine I phoned Mother Agapia Stephanopolous, a Russian Orthodox nun and the administrator of the Orthodox School of Bethany in Jerusalem, to schedule an appointment for Spiritual Direction and to discuss our mutual feelings about The Wall. Mother Agapia is the sister of ABC News commentator, George Stephanopolous, and she had recently and passionately informed Congress about the fact that, “Israel is destroying the local Christian community.”

On April 18, 2005, Robert Novak’s article “Walling off Christianity” reported on the nun’s letter to Congress and how East Jerusalem had been cut off from the rest of the West Bank. Mother Agapia predicted, “It is only a matter of time before Christians and Muslims will be unable to survive culturally and economically.”

Mother Agapia spoke bluntly about the nine yards high wall of Israeli concrete that have “shattered” the Christian communities. She told Novak, “I witness the strangulation of East Jerusalem, and the deprivation of her non-Jewish residents’ religious rights every day. Even the United States seems to have been taken in by Israeli spin.”

On my very first afternoon in Jerusalem, on June 12, 2006, the nun met me at the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem and I told her that I hadn’t been taken in by the spin, but what could I possibly do? She had no answer.

I also told her of the surreal experience I had that very morning while wandering around in the Old City. I had landed in Tel Aviv with ten other members of the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace just a few hours before dawn on that Sunday morn. We all checked into our rooms at the Ambassador Hotel, East Jerusalem; they all crashed, but I was wide awake. As soon as the sun rose I began to explore, and after attending mass at St. George Cathedral I wandered around the Old City, which was eerily empty. I stumbled upon the site of the Pool of Bethsaida and experienced déjà vu, which was more real than imaginary.

Between 2000 and 2001, I was a first year student in the Episcopal Diocese of Orlando’s Formation Program for Spiritual Directors. I knew going into the program I would never be hanging out a shingle as a Spiritual Director that I was there for other reasons. I was drawn to the program because of the curriculum; to deepen my prayer life and study the lives of the saints. During the first year all the students attended three weekend retreats. On the second night of the second retreat, we had a guided meditation on the story of Jesus at the Pool of Bethsaida. I remember it as clearly now as I experienced it then.

There were seven of us in the class and we were instructed to close our eyes, listen to the story and allow our imagination to lead us to respond to the character that called to us. Our leader prefaced the story from John 5: 1-6, by telling the legend of the angel from heaven who would descend and agitate the waters of the Pool of Bethsaida. Only the first leper, blind, or invalid who made it into the water first, would receive a healing. One day while Jesus was there, he walked by a man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” The man answered he had no friends to help him get into the water first. Jesus asked him again, “Do you want to be healed?”

Our leader then went silent, and in my imagination I was immediately upon the back of that agitating angel. I hadn’t thought of that experience until four years later when I found myself at the site of the Pool of Bethsaida. What triggered the memory of that guided meditation was the recollection of a dream I had had a few weeks after that day we call 9/11. In my dream I had stood at the edge of a dried up pool where crumbling stone columns were overgrown with vines and weeds and scores of doves and pigeons nested and flew. To my right was a large shade tree, but to my left I saw a few square squat dwellings with large satellite dishes attached to them. I remembered thinking the moment I woke up from that dream what a strange place it was, but then I quickly forgot all about it. That is, until the afternoon of June 12, 2005, four years later, when I found myself standing at the edge of a dried up pool where crumbling stone columns were overgrown with vines and weeds and scores of doves and pigeons nested and flew. To my right was a large shade tree, but to my left I saw a few square squat dwellings with large satellite dishes attached to them. What a strange place I thought, how could it be that I had seen this scene in a dream a few weeks after that day we call 9/11?

On the afternoon of my very first day in Jerusalem, I told Mother Agapia about my dream and what I had seen at the Pool of Bethsaida. She shrugged and smiled, then told me about the Jerusalem Interfaith Peace Conference with satellite link to the world that was happening the Sunday after the Thursday I was scheduled to return to the USA. I knew immediately that I needed to attend and after saying goodbye to Mother Agapia, I phoned my husband to get his OK.

On June 26, 2006, I attended the world wide satellite linked Interfaith Peace Conference at Jerusalem’s Notre Dame Cathedral. Dan Rather moderated from Washington DC and the Holy Land interfaith panel were all moderates attempting to reclaim the battlefield of ideas from extremists on both sides.

Reverend Theodore Hessburgh, President Emeritus University of Notre Dame began the evening with a pledge and a summons: “The Peace of the world begins in Jerusalem.”

Dr. Tsvia Walden, Board of Director of the Peres Center and Geneva Initiative stated, “There is a need for a third party in the negotiations that could enable both sides to trust each other. There are more people in this region interested in making concessions, they all want peace so desperately.”

The Coordinator of World Bank emergency services to the PA, Rania Kharma informed the world, “We all need to be the bridges to our leaders that justice, equality, and human rights will bring peace. Give people justice and they will reward you with peace.”

Sheik Imad Falouiji warned, “Religions must go back to their origins. God commands us to love each other and live together. This Holy Land was given to all people. This land is on fire. There is an occupation that must be removed. The language of peace cannot succeed without justice for all.”

The Rt. Rev. Bishop Riah Abu Assal affirmed, “Peace is an act. Blessed are the peacemakers not the peace talkers. Peace is possible in the Holy Land. The root cause for the lack of peace since 1967 is the occupation. For peace to make progress in the Middle East we need to deal with the root cause...Religion was not meant to bring death. All those involved in searching for peace should commit themselves to work for justice and truth.”

Throughout the entire evening, I kept remembering what President Bush promised in his Second Inaugural Address: “In the long run, there is no justice without FREEDOM. There can be no human rights without LIBERTY. All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty, we stand with you.”

TBC tomorrow...

June 17, 2009
Hamas Sends Peace Letter to President Obama via CODE PINK

by Medea Benjamin

The Hamas government in Gaza reached out to President Obama on the occasion of his visit to the Middle East, announcing that Hamas was willing to talk to all parties “on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.” CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin, who carried the letter out from Gaza, said that the letter represented a significant development and an effort by Hamas to present a new face to the Western world. “While Osama bin Laden used the occasion of President Obama’s visit to deliver a scathing attack, Hamas reached out to a feminist U.S. peace group to deliver a letter to Obama urging dialogue, mutual respect and adherence to international law,” said Medea Benjamin.
In the letter, Hamas urged Obama to visit “our ground Zero” in Gaza and bring about a “paradigm shift” in the Israel-Palestine conflict based on enlightened world opinion and international law.
 “This is a people who have just been subjected to a vicious attack that left over 1,300 dead and thousands wounded, and there is not a word here about armed resistance or Zionism. They are reaching out and actively seeking a resolution to the conflict based on the findings of the world’s leading international legal bodies and human rights organizations from the United Nations and the International Court of Justice to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. This is a major breakthrough and the U.S. government should take advantage to begin a dialogue with Hamas.”
The letter was signed by Ahmed Yusef, Deputy Foreign Minister and hand-delivered to Benjamin, who was in Gaza headed a 66-person delegation representing 10 nations. Benjamin and representatives of CODEPINK are delivering the letter to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo today, June 4, during Obama’s visit to Egypt.
The text of the letter is below.
His Excellency President Barack Obama, President of the United States of America.

June 3rd 2009

Dear Mr. President,

We welcome your visit to the Arab world and your administration’s initiative to bridge differences with the Arab-Muslim world.
One long-standing source of tension between the United States and this part of the world has been the failure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.
It is therefore unfortunate that you will not visit Gaza during your trip to the Middle East and that neither your Secretary of State nor George Mitchell have come to hear our point of view.
We have received numerous visits recently from people of widely varied backgrounds: U.S. Congressional representatives, European parliamentarians, the U.N.-appointed Goldstone commission, and grassroots delegations such as those organized by the U.S. peace group CODEPINK.
It is essential for you to visit Gaza. We have recently passed through a brutal 22-day Israeli attack.  Amnesty International observed that the death and destruction Gaza suffered during the invasion could not have happened without U.S.-supplied weapons and U.S.-taxpayers’ money.
Human Rights Watch has documented that the white phosphorus Israel dropped on a school, hospital, United Nations warehouse and civilian neighborhoods in Gaza was manufactured in the United States.   Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel’s use of this white phosphorus was a war crime.
Shouldn’t you see first-hand how Israel used your arms and spent your money?
Before becoming president you were a distinguished professor of law.  The U.S. government has also said that it wants to foster the rule of law in the Arab-Muslim world.
The International Court of Justice stated in July 2004 that the whole of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are occupied Palestinian territories designated for Palestinian self-determination, and that the Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal. 
Not one of the 15 judges sitting on the highest judicial body in the world dissented from these principles. 
The main human rights organizations in the world, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have issued position papers supporting the right of the Palestinian refugees to return and compensation.
Each year in the United Nations General Assembly nearly every country in the world has supported these principles for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.  Every year the Arab League puts forth a peace proposal based on these principles for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Leading human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch have also stated that Israel’s siege of Gaza is a form of collective punishment and therefore illegal under international law.
We in the Hamas Government are committed to pursuing a just resolution to the conflict not in contradiction with the international community and enlightened opinion as expressed in the International Court of Justice, the United Nations General Assembly, and leading human rights organizations.  We are prepared to engage all parties on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.
However, our constituency needs to see a comprehensive paradigm shift that not only commences with lifting the siege on Gaza and halts all settlement building and expansion but develops into a policy of evenhandedness based on the very international law and norms we are prodded into adhering to.  
Again, we welcome you to Gaza which would allow you to see firsthand our ground zero.  Furthermore, it would enhance the US position; enabling you to speak with new credibility and authority in dealing with all the parties.

Very Truly Yours,
Dr. Ahmed Yousef
Deputy of the Foreign Affairs Ministry
Former Senior Political Advisor
to Prime Minister Ismael Hanniya

Medea Benjamin ( ) is cofounder of Global Exchange ( and CODEPINK: Women for Peace (

Communications and Public Relations Office: The Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem

President Carter Meets with Jerusalem Church Leaders and is deeply touched by their Commitment to Peace, Reconciliation and Interfaith Harmony

The meeting with Christian leaders “was the suggestion” said Mr. Daher “of the Right Rev’d Suheil S. Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem,  and coincided with the WCC Core Group’s visit to the region”.  Bishop Dawani, had recently participated in a Carter Center conference in Atlanta, Georgia,  of Christian Leaders in America  hosted by President Carter on May 14th – 15th the signature theme of  “Towards a New Christian Consensus: Peace with Justice in the Holy Land”.

In Jerusalem, President Carter was hosted for the meeting at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the Old City  by His Beatitude Theophilos III who welcomed  the former U. S. President and Noble Peace Laureate to the “Mother Church”  that “embraces all initiatives that call for peace and justice in the world generally, and in our beloved Middle East Specifically”  and went on to say in speaking for his colleagues and in recognition of the Carter initiatives,“ we firmly believe, now exists the possibility for the conflict and hatred to be turned into durable and justice peace”.


Bishop Dawani in his comments stressed the need to stem the outflow of Christians leaving their historic homeland through emigration and the consequent loss of the moderating balance that Christian community has traditionally provided over the centuries.  Today, the Bishop stressed, “the Christian community seeks to focus its renewed energies and resources on housing, Healthcare, Education and Social Service Institutions, all of which need governmental, NGO  and interagency developmental support as that of U.S. AID” and towards this, the Bishops added   “these institutions are a natural grass roots presence,  and in their non-sectarian services,  promote respect for other people’s convictions, uphold interfaith dialogue and seek communal harmony -  and we all warmly welcome your (Carter) initiatives for peace in the region.”

President Carter responded in reaffirming his commitment to that important task, of Peace, reconciliation and expressed his rising hopes for this in what he saw in President Obama’s statement in Cairo. He spoke well of his meetings in Lebanon with several Leaders of different faiths during the recent national legislative elections there, and of his prayerful hope for the coming week’s meetings in Gaza.  The President also expressed his understanding of and encouragement for the role that the historic Christian Community can and does play in Peace initiatives and interfaith harmony.

Canon Naim Ateek commended the President for his affirmation of democracy by his presence at national country elections in regions of conflict.  In this process of democratization in governance, there needs to be a built-in Dr. Ateek stressed, of a shared respect for both the political aspirations as well as the religious convictions of minorities in the electorate, and especially where Christians find themselves in sensitive minority placement among the three Faiths.   

As President Carter was leaving, the Patriarch asked the group to join him for “a pleasingly special and memorable sight” on the Veranda with its magnificent vista of the Old City. In the twilight of that day, he pointed to the picturesque historic interfaith presence in three Holy Shrines symbolized by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Minaret of the Mosque of Omar, and the rebuilt Dome of the Old City’s Synagogue in the ancient Jewish Quarter  -  almost touching each other -  three Abrahamic communities living faithfully - “what had been, what should be now,  and our hope for the bright future”.

With the President, himself a devout evangelical Churchman who teaches Sunday School in his small Baptist Church congregation in Plains, Georgia “40 Sundays of the Year”, and deeply touched by the physical sight in this admixture of the three collegial Faiths, Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan then pointed to a fourth building on the horizon, the late 19th Century majestic white Bell Tower of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

Carter, in Gaza, Urges Hamas to Meet Demands


GAZA — Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that he urged Hamas’s leaders during a high-profile meeting here to take steps necessary to become accepted by the leading Western nations.

Mr. Carter is the most prominent American figure to have met with the Hamas government that took over Gaza two years ago, after the Palestinian Authority’s forces were routed in a brief but bloody factional war. Hamas welcomed Mr. Carter’s visit as a significant step in its quest for international legitimacy.

Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Hamas government in Gaza, and Mr. Carter held a joint news conference at which an American flag was displayed alongside a Palestinian national flag behind the speakers. There were no green Hamas flags in sight.

It was Mr. Haniya’s most public appearance since Israel ended its devastating three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza in January, an offensive that Israel said was intended to halt rocket fire by Gaza militants against southern Israel.

Striking a conciliatory tone, Mr. Haniya said Hamas would favor the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and with full sovereignty, adding, “We are pushing for the realization of this Palestinian national dream.”

Mr. Haniya also said that Mr. Carter’s visit to Gaza was particularly important after two years of economic “siege” and after the “Israeli aggression.” He noted that it followed the change in the American administration and President Obama’s address in Cairo, in which Mr. Haniya said he had heard a “different language.”

Israel and Hamas declared separate, informal cease-fires that halted last winter’s war, but Israel continues to impose a punishing economic blockade that allows in only basic provisions for the 1.5 million residents of the isolated coastal strip.

Israel, the United States and the European Union classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. They have set three conditions for dealing with Hamas, saying it must renounce all violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist and accept all previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Hamas has so far refused to comply.

Hamas leaders have said they will never recognize Israel, and will offer only a long-term truce, not a full-fledged peace treaty, in return for a Palestinian state.

Mr. Carter, 84, emphasized that he was in Gaza as a private citizen, not as a representative of his government. But he said he would write a report on his visit to the region for the Obama administration on his return.

In a three-hour meeting with Hamas government officials and senior representatives of the group, Mr. Carter told them to find a mechanism that would allow Hamas to meet the conditions set by international players, according to Ahmed Yousef, the Hamas deputy foreign minister, who attended the meeting.

In a brief interview before the meeting, Mr. Carter said that in order to break the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, “first of all Hamas has to be accepted by the international community as a legitimate player in the future, and that is what I am trying to do today.”

Mr. Carter also called for Palestinian unity and elections, and for an end to the economic blockade of Gaza.

Earlier, touring the site of the American International School, a private institution in Gaza that was bombed by the Israelis during the war, Mr. Carter said, “I have to hold back tears when I see the deliberate destruction that has been wreaked against your people.” He added that he felt partly responsible because the school had been “deliberately destroyed by bombs from F-16s made in my country.”

Israel said that rockets had been launched from the vicinity of the school.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for Gazan children who had completed a human rights curriculum at the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which aids Palestinian refugees, Mr. Carter denounced the economic embargo.

“Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings,” he said.

Under international pressure, the new Israeli government says it is reviewing its policy and considering allowing more goods into Gaza, but has not yet made any decisions.

Mr. Carter, who also met leaders in Syria; the West Bank, controlled by the Palestinian Authority; and Israel during his regional tour over several days, handed the Hamas leaders in Gaza a letter from the family of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was seized and taken into Gaza in June 2006. Mr. Carter asked his hosts to pass the letter on to the soldier, presumed to be alive.

Mr. Haniya said Hamas was hoping to negotiate an “honorable deal” in the form of a prisoner exchange.

An Israeli government official declined to comment on whether Mr. Carter could play a mediating role in such negotiations, saying the government did not speak publicly about the Shalit affair.

Mr. Carter, who brokered the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, has fallen out of favor with many Israelis, who see him as hostile to their interests — especially since the publication of his book “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” in 2006.

But during this visit he met with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and with the speaker and members of Parliament. He also visited a Jewish settlement in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in the West Bank.

In a related development on Tuesday, two Israeli groups that advocate for Palestinians, HaMoked and Gisha, revealed a new Israeli procedure that makes it impossible for Gaza residents to move to the West Bank in all but the most exceptional of cases. For example, the groups said, under the policy, chronically ill patients, orphans and elderly invalids will not be able to receive care from their closest relatives living in the West Bank if they have any relatives in Gaza capable of caring for them.

In a paper presented to Israel’s Supreme Court in reply to several petitions against the policy, the Israeli Ministry of Defense contended that it was necessary given the current security and political situation in Gaza.

The advocacy groups said the policy served to further isolate Gaza while increasing the geographic and political separation between Gaza and the West Bank.

Taghreed El-Khodary reported from Gaza, and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.

Former Pres. Jimmy Carter: Gaza situation is unique in history, and a terrible human rights crime
June 16th, 2009 by Marian Houk

Speaking in Gaza today at an graduation ceremony for some 200,000 students (is that possible?) who took a special UNRWA Human Rights curricula, Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said the following:

“I first visited Gaza 36 years ago and returned during the 1980s and later for the very successful Palestinian elections. Although under occupation, this community was relatively peaceful and prosperous. Now, the aftermath of bombs, missiles, tanks, bulldozers and the continuing economic siege have brought death, destruction, pain, and suffering to the people here. Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings.

“Last week, a group of Israelis and Americans tried to cross into Gaza through Erez, bringing toys and children’s playground equipment - slides, swings, kites, and magic castles for your children. They were stopped at the gate and prevented from coming.  I understand even paper and crayons are treated as ’security hazards’ and not permitted to enter Gaza. I sought an explanation for this policy in Israel, but did not receive a satisfactory answer – because there is none.

“The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, Cairo, Washington, and throughout the international community. This abuse must cease; the crimes must be investigated; the walls must be brought down [[ n.b. - clearly Jimmy Carter means The Wall, and not the walls of homes and schools that are shown in these pictures, which were brought down during Operation Cast Lead from 27 December - 18 January ]], and the basic right of freedom must come to you.

“Almost one half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people are children, whose lives are being shaped by poverty, hunger, violence, and despair. More than 50,000 families had their homes destroyed or damaged in January, and parents are in mourning for the 313 innocent children who were killed.

In addition to the tragedy of occupation, the lack of unity among Palestinians is causing a deteriorating atmosphere here in Gaza, in Ramallah, and throughout the West Bank.

President Obama’s resolve to resume the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process based on the principle of two states for two peoples must be welcomed. This vision of two sovereign nations living as neighbors is not a mere convenient phrase. It is the basis for a lasting peace for this entire region, including Syria and Lebanon.

“We all know that a necessary step is the ending of the siege of Gaza – the starving of 1-1/2 million people of the necessities of life. Never before in history has a large community been savaged by bombs and missiles and then deprived of the means to repair itself. The issue of who controls Gaza is not an obstacle. As the World Bank has pointed out, funds can be channeled through a number of independent mechanisms and effective implementing agencies. Although funds are available, not a sack of cement nor a piece of lumber has been permitted to enter the closed gates from Israel and Egypt. I have seen with my own eyes that progress is negligible.

“My country and our friends in Europe must do all that is necessary to persuade Israel and Egypt to allow basic materials into Gaza. At the same time, there must be no more rockets and mortar shells falling on Israeli citizens.

I met this week with the parents of corporal Gilad Shalit, and have with me a letter that I hope can be delivered to their son. I have also met with many Palestinians who plead for the freedom of their 11,700 loved ones imprisoned by the Israelis, including 400 women and children. Many of them have been imprisoned for many years, held without trial, with no access to their families or to legal counsel. Rational negotiations and a comprehensive peace can end this suffering on both sides.

“I know it is difficult now, surrounded by terrible destruction, to see a future of independence and dignity in a Palestinian state, but this goal can and must be achieved. I know too that it is hard for you to accept Israel and live in peace with those who have caused your suffering. However, Palestinian statehood cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security, just as Israel’s security can not come at the expense of Palestinian statehood.

“In his speech in Cairo, President Obama said that Hamas has support among Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a full role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, accept existing peace agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.  I have urged Hamas leaders to accept these conditions, and they have made statements and taken actions that suggest they are ready to join the peace process and move toward the creation of an independent and just Palestinian state.

“Khaled Mashaal has assured me that Hamas will accept a final status agreement negotiated by the Palestinian authority and Israel if the Palestinian people approve it in a referendum. Hamas has offered a reciprocal ceasefire with Israel throughout the west bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, neither the Israeli leaders nor Hamas accept the terms of the Oslo agreement of 1993, but the Arab peace initiative is being considered now by all sides.

“I have personally witnessed free and fair elections in Palestine when Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas were elected president and when legislative members were chosen for your parliament. I hope to return next January for a similar event that will unite all Palestinians as you seek a proud and peaceful future”.

After leaving Gaza,  Jimmy Carter gave a press conference at The Sheraton City Hotel in Tel Aviv, at which he  said “I got the impression that Gilad Shalit is alive and well”.  The former U.S. President then met Noam Shalit, Corporal Shalit’s father, for the third time in a week.

Carter also said that the U.S. should remove Hamas from the “terrorist” list. 

Hamas Accepts Israel with 1967 Borders
By Hisham Abu Taha
Arab News
June 17, 2009
http://www.arabnews .com/?page= 4&section=0&article=123751&d=17&m=6&y=2009
GAZA CITY: Ismail Haniyeh, the deposed prime minister of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, yesterday said his movement accepts a Palestinian state alongside Israel with its 1967 borders with full sovereignty and Jerusalem as its capital.
“We welcome any push for achieving this dream if there is a real plan for resolving the Palestinian issue,” Haniyeh said in a news conference with visiting former US President Jimmy Carter here.
Haniyeh also praised US President Barack Obama’s June 4 address in Cairo to the Muslim world. “We saw a new tone, a new language and a new spirit in the official US rhetoric,” he said.
Earlier, Carter denounced the Israeli blockade and the destruction wrought by its 22-day war on Gaza in December and January. “My primary feeling today is one of grief and despair and an element of anger when I see the destruction perpetrated against innocent people,” Carter said as he toured the impoverished territory.
“Tragically, the international community too often ignores the cries for help and the citizens of Palestine are treated more like animals than like human beings,” he said. “The starving of 1.5 million human beings of the necessities of life — never before in history has a large community like this been savaged by bombs and missiles and then denied the means to repair itself,” Carter said at a UN school graduation ceremony in Gaza City.
“I have to hold back tears when I see the deliberate destruction that has been wreaked against your people,” he said at a destroyed American school, saying it was “deliberately destroyed by bombs from F16s made in my country.”
Meanwhile, two Israeli human rights groups said yesterday that Israel is making it near-impossible for Gaza residents to move to the West Bank, even in humanitarian cases. “The procedure constitutes an escalation in Israel’s policy of separation between Gaza and the West Bank, undermining the prospect of a viable Palestinian state,” said Joel Greenberg of the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual.
“Israel is preventing civilians from changing their place of residence using the vague pretext that it is responding to the security-political situation in the Gaza Strip,” he said at a joint news conference with the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.
— With input from agencies Forwarded by:
Ravi Khanna, Director
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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

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Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

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Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

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Build anyway.

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Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

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