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Home arrow Blog arrow September 2009 arrow September 28, 2009

September 28, 2009
September 28, 2009: Yom Kippur in USA, Israel Palestine, related link UPDATED Sept. 29, 2009: LEADS

Aqsa Attack Begs Questions of Atonement

By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH
September 28, 2009

Today marks the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the holiest of days in the Jewish tradition. This day, dedicated to fasting and worship is meant to allow all Jews to atone for their sins - against Judaism, Jews and other human beings. This day of reflection for Jews is meant to purge them of their sins through confession, fasting and prayer before the eyes of God. Israel literally shuts down for 24 hours, including streets, radio and television stations, shops and borders. For the Palestinians, Yom Kippur means those in Jerusalem can’t get to the West Bank, those in the West Bank can’t get to Jerusalem and those outside the country have to wait a day to return home until the borders reopen.

Yesterday, September 27, clashes erupted in and around the Aqsa Mosque Compound. Several Palestinians were injured and arrested along with a few Israeli police. Palestinians say a group of religious Jews wanted to enter the mosque’s compound and perform prayers on what Jews call the Temple Mount.

It cannot be a coincidence that this occurrence happened just hours before Yom Kippur was to begin. While Israeli police sources maintain that extremist Jews were not trying to enter and that the reason for the clashes is disputed, Palestinians and Islamic Waqf officials along with eyewitnesses at the scene all insist that this is one more attempt by extremist Jews to desecrate Al Aqsa by performing prayers on its grounds, grounds which they believe are the spot where the Third Temple should be built. On Yom Kippur, a special prayer is performed in order to attain atonement following the destruction of the temple.

Most of all, as non-Jews, Palestinians wonder what kind of atonement Jews here in Israel actually seek. For Israel’s leaders, many of whom surely observe the rituals of Yom Kippur, it cannot be for sins against the Palestinians.

Take Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for example. Just last week, he stood before world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and ranted and raged about Israel’s victimization at the hands of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad, at the hands of the Nazis and at the hands of Hamas. He chided the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report for its attack on Israel, saying such reports gave a message that terror pays.

“Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here have condemned their victims. That is exactly what a recent UN report on Gaza did, falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted,” he said. The UN, he said, was silent on Hamas’ firing of rockets but slammed Israel on its “act of self defense” in Gaza. Never mind that over 1,400 Palestinians were killed, thousands of homes demolished or damaged and Gazan infrastructure severely undermined. Not once did Netanyahu or any of his close cronies, give one smidgen of apology for the devastating harm done to innocent civilians in its Cast Lead Operation last winter. Not once was there a sign of repentance for the 42 years of occupation Israel has imposed on Palestinian land and which it continues to impose with impunity. From Israel’s leaders there has been no sign of remorse for the homes demolished in east Jerusalem and in the West Bank or the families evicted from their houses and left without shelter on the streets of Sheikh Jarrah, stolen from them by self-righteous settlers.

No, from Israel’s leaders, there is no sign of atonement where the Palestinians are concerned. Instead, there is the perpetual portrayal of Israel as the eternal victim, defending itself from hostile neighbors both within and without its borders. The only positive thing that may have come from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s UN address is the fact that he sounded so outrageous. Instead of dealing with real issues such as why Israel continuously disregards international law and calls from the international community to halt settlements, he ridiculously pulled out a document proving that the Holocaust existed. In true Netanyahu form, he went on a wild defensive that in the end, looked simply ludicrous rather than convincing.

But perhaps the world is changing. While many still buy into Israel’s sob story, others have begun to see through the smokescreen. Richard Goldstone is one. We as Palestinians should grab opportunities such as the one presented to us by the Goldstone report regardless of what we may perceive as holes or misconceptions in it. However, the task is not all on the international community but on ourselves as well. The Palestinians are not Jewish but as we continue to allow our people to split and our leaderships to claw at each others’ throats perhaps we too could use a little reflection and repentance for our sins.

But that is our business. The little stunt that group of extremist Israelis pulled yesterday in Al Aqsa cannot possibly be in the spirit of Yom Kippur. The fact that these Israelis, the leaders who guide them and the army that protects them all operate from the common premise that this land is for the Jews, there is little hope that their atonement will have anything to do with us. Mr. Netanyahu said it loud and clear. “The Jewish people are not foreign conquerors in the Land of Israel. This is the land of our forefathers,” he said, thus effectively negating any claim of occupation or illegal settlement on Palestinian land.

It is now up to those Israelis of conscience to change the tide in their own society and seek out a truth that may not be very agreeable to their fellow countrymen. Perhaps this Yom Kippur, there will be more Jews praying for and seeking absolution for the sins of their leaders and those who believe they are made of more valuable material than other human beings.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Program at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

Jerusalem archbishop: Israel targets mosque today, church tomorrow
Ma'an News
September 27, 2009

Jerusalem – Ma'an – Archbishop Atallah Hanna, one of the highest-ranking Christian clergymen in Jerusalem, declared Sunday's violence near the Al-Aqsa Mosque a dark premonition of Israel's plans for the city.

"What is being planned for Jerusalem is very dangerous," the archbishop said in a statement. "What happened today at the Al-Aqsa yard is a dangerous indicator of what Israeli authorities intend to work toward on Al-Aqsa, in particular, and in Jerusalem, in general."

Dozens were injured in clashes that took place after right-wing religious Jews reportedly entered the Al-Aqsa compound ahead of the holy day of Yom Kippur. Israeli police used stun grenades and batons to disperse stone-throwing protesters inside and near the mosque.

"We, as Christian Palestinians and Jerusalemites, cannot keep watching with our hands folded in the face of what happened today," Hanna continued. "Today it is Al-Aqsa; tomorrow it will be the Church of the Holy Sepulcher." "The [Israeli] occupation and its racism does not exclude anyone."

Hanna was ordained Archbishop of Sebastia in 2005 for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which Orthodox Christians consider the mother church of all of Christendom.

The archbishop reaffirmed "the solidarity of Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem and all of the Holy Land with their comrades, the Muslims… Targeting them is the same as us; attacking them is attacking us."

"We are not strangers in our city. We are not guests. The stranger is the one who came and colonized this country," Hanna added. "We are the owners of this land and we will stay on it because this is our homeland, this is our Jerusalem, and these are our holy sites."

:: Article nr. 58350 sent on 27-sep-2009 23:57 ECT

A call to moral accounting: Yom Kippur is far more than a day of physical discipline for Jews
By Brant Rosen

September 27, 2009

On Sunday night, the Jewish community will begin our annual Yom Kippur fast.

The physical deprivation is a crucial element of the day, but as with many faith traditions, the fasting itself isn't really the point. Going without food and water is, rather, a device, intended to sharpen our senses and lead to reflection.

This reflection is notably, pointedly, not a personal pursuit. All through the Yom Kippur prayers, we're called to do "cheshbon nefesh," a moral accounting, as a community: "We have sinned," we pray. "Forgive us."

But though the rituals are ancient, they're never far removed from modern life. Between our prayers, American Jews are sure also to discuss the current events that touch our community most deeply: the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace, President Barack Obama's recent meetings with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the United Nations' recent Goldstone Report, in which both Israel and the Hamas government are accused of war crimes. To my great sorrow, however, many in the Jewish community have already rejected the latter out of hand.

Rather than jointly consider Israel's acts in Gaza, carry out real cheshbon nefesh, and accept our communal responsibility, it has proven easier for many of us to employ communal defense mechanisms, and insist that in this particular case, there's no need for reflection.

Since the report's publication, the UN and commission chair Judge Richard Goldstone have been vilified and disparaged, by both the Israeli government and American Jewish leaders. There has been little consideration of the actual findings, or the fact that Israel refused to cooperate with the commission, or conduct its own investigation.

As a rabbi, this grieves me deeply. For, painful as it is for us to admit, Israel's behavior in Gaza has consistently betrayed our shared Jewish ethical legacy.

This was true before the war, when the Israeli blockade denied Palestinians basic necessities; it was true during the war, when Israel responded with disproportionate force to Hamas rockets; and it has been true since the war, as Israel has deepened the blockade, preventing Gazans from rebuilding their homes. As a result of Israeli actions, some 60 percent of Gazans don't have continual access to water and face near-daily power outages of up to 10 hours at a time, while hundreds of thousands are dependent on foreign aid agencies for food.

A humanitarian crisis of this magnitude demands a response from within the Jewish faith community -- and knee-jerk rejection of any and all criticism of Israel won't change the facts. It will only distance us from a just and peaceful solution to this conflict.

I don't mean to suggest that the report is perfect. No human endeavor is. Evidence of bias in the commission's make-up is important, and should be honestly addressed, as the White House has suggested.

But to categorically reject the Goldstone findings -- which echo the work of highly respected Israeli and international human rights groups such as B'tselem and Human Rights Watch -- is to thrust our heads into the sand.

In the end, the report's most critical recommendation is that Israel and Hamas thoroughly and credibly investigate themselves, and hold accountable any combatants or commanders who violated the law.

The actions of the Jewish State ultimately reflect upon the Jewish people throughout the world.

We in the Diaspora Jewish community have long taken pride in the accomplishments of the Jewish State. As with any family, the success of some reflects a warm light on us all. But pride cannot blind us to the capacity for error on the part of the country we hold so dear. We cannot identify with the successes, but refuse to see the failures.

As we approach Yom Kippur, I call on America's Jews to examine the Goldstone findings, and consider their implications.

In the spirit of the season, we must consider the painful truth of Israel's behavior in Gaza, and understand that we must work, together, to discover the truth -- and then urge on all relevant parties in the search for peace.

Every Yom Kippur, we read the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Is such the fast I desire, a day for people to starve their bodies? ... No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness and untie the cords of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free."

Let this be the Yom Kippur on which American Jews choose not just to starve their bodies, but also to unlock the fetters and untie the cords -- let this be the Yom Kippur on which we act on the Scriptural imperative to "seek peace and pursue it," by calling ourselves and Israel to account.

Brant Rosen is the rabbi of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston and co-founder of Ta'anit Tzedek: Jewish Fast for Gaza.

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune

From Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

Today, Bethlehem University was forced to close because the Israeli authorities imposed a "closure" of the West Bank because of Yom Kippur holiday.  As our students and faculty from Jerusalem cannot get to Bethlehem (a mere 5 miles away) because of this closure, the educational activities cannot be carried out.  Also all Palestinians who are lucky enough to have permits to cross into Palestinian Jerusalem (for work, educatin etc) are also thus forced to take a day off. 

In the meantime, the repression does not take days off. 

Israeli authorities are very busy in continued colonial activities from ethnic cleansing to stealing water (80% of the West Bank water is taken by Israel), to kidnapping and holding political prisoners, to starving Gaza, and to violence against people and against nature. 

Israeli sewage still flows down the valleys of Salfit while Israel forbids Palestinians from building sewage treatment plants.  

News today is that Israel has told hundreds of citizens in East Jerusalem that they will cutoff the water to their homes (which used to be a mere one cubic meter per person per month, barely enough to drink and cook let alone take showers). 

The forms of ethnic cleansing continue to morph.
But we cannot blame everything on the occupiers. 

There are some Palestinians who have been playing by Israeli rules for many years and who purport to represent all Palestinians. 

Mistakenly, they think they can both try to get our rights from the occupying army and at the same time abide by the rules laid out by the occupying/colonizing forces and their lobbies abroad. 

This week one example illustrates the issues: Israel is holding the approval of wave lengths agreed to for a cellular company (Wataniya) that invested millions here until the Palestinian "authority" drops its support for involvement of the Internatioanl Criminal Court investigation of war crimes committed buy Israel in Gaza (  ). 

This shows the impossibility of trying to pressure Israel while abiding by the corrupt and idiotic system created by the Oslo process.
Mahmoud Abbas went to the UN and repeated the same sentences repeated thousands of times before about sticking to the choice of peace and (endless) negotiations and hoping (without any real pressure or evidence of any International pressure) that the International community help advance their own (unfair but still rejected by Israel) UN resolutions and road maps to peace.

As Oslo negotiater Dore Gold stated in the Jerusalem Post 6 October 1995" "Oslo 2 is ultimately the creation of a new psychological reality in the West Bank. After initial celebrations, Palestinians will find themselves confined to a certain degree of cantonization."

President Obama's administration has clearly shown itself spineless to stand-up to the Israeli-lobby that is dragging the US into another war with another Middle Eastern country without even agreeing to halt colonial settlement activity for year (like asking a rapist to suspend the rape for a period to allow negotiations!). 

I can never understand why politicians keep doing the same thing that proved itself a failure and hope for a different outcome! As one author put it in a different context:

“Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts. It is epitomized in a historian's statement about Phillip II of Spain, the surpassing wooden-head of all sovereigns: No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence “  (Barbara Tuchman The March of Folly. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984).

...And the olive trees in my yard and everywhere promise a great harvest this year so stay tuned and stay active and you certainly are welcome to come join us in the olive harvest.
 Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home

The universally accepted understanding of insanity is to persist in the same behavior while expecting a different outcome. 

If Israel Palestine can teach US anything-it should be that violence never brings security or peace.

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

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If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
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People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
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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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