From outside one will always triumphantly impress theories upon the world and then fall straight into the ditch one has dug, but only from inside will one keep oneself and the world quiet and true. /FK (Contact: TBONotebooks at fastmail.fm. The Blue Octavo Notebooks welcomes mail, although we cannot guarantee a response. Your email may be posted in part on The Blue Octavo Notebooks unless otherwise requested.) Please enjoy the notebook entries, and thanks for reading.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
[T]he world court affirmed that Israel "has the right, and indeed the duty to respond to the numerous and deadly acts of violence directed against its civilian population." It affirmed Israel's right "to protect the life of its citizens." Like the Israeli court, the world court held that in charting the course of the fence, Israel must balance its own right of self-defense against the rights of the Palestinians. Both courts ruled that the current course of the fence violates those rights, and both ordered the fence moved.
Ironically, the court's own ruling prejudges those future negotiations. It assumes that all territory beyond the pre-1967 border is presumptively sovereign Palestinian land and subject to their self-determination. That is what the negotiations are supposed to decide.
The world court, by contrast, only created new problems. In agreeing to take up the case of the fence, the court injected itself into a diplomatic dispute that it had no business entering. Israel and the Palestinians have been engaged in a negotiating process — slow, painful but nonetheless real — for more than a decade. The decision by the Palestinians to bring the fence before an international tribunal was nothing more than a stunt, aimed at gaining diplomatic advantage. In accepting the suit, the court made itself their stooge.
The damage to the court's reputation will be considerable. For starters, consider the scene last week, when the decision was read aloud by the president of the court. The chief judge, Shi Jiuyong, is a representative of the People's Republic of China, which has illegally occupied neighboring Tibet since 1951, been credibly charged with acts of genocide there and moved millions of its citizens there in violation of international law. Before joining the world court Shi was the ranking legal adviser to the Chinese Foreign Ministry and a participant in its policy-making. What was he thinking last week?
Another justice, Vladlen Vereshchetin, has been one of Russia's top experts in international law for decades, helping to advise the Kremlin during the Soviet and post-Soviet eras while it struggled to maintain its murderous grip on Chechnya. What could he have been thinking?
What was any of them thinking? Did they not imagine the precedent they were creating, putting the International Court of Justice into the business of sticking its nose into contentious ethnic and border disputes? What will they say when the court is approached by Tibetans or Chechnyans, Kurds, Basques, Corsicans or Quebecois seeking justice? "Sorry, we only serve Palestinians"? Who will believe them again? And what will be left of the court when China, Russia or France becomes its enemy?
In other news, courtesy of The Forward, leaders of Presbyterian Church (USA), a mainline Protestant church that boasts nearly 3 million members, have “officially equated the Jewish state with apartheid South Africa and have voted to stop investing in Israel.” In addition, they “approved several other anti-Israel resolutions at their gathering in Richmond, Va., and also refused to halt funding for ‘messianic congregations’ that target Jews for conversion.” I suppose P.C. (USA) will undoubtedly be divesting from countries like Russia and China, seeing as their human rights records are far worse than Israel’s (see above). Or perhaps they’ll divest from Saudi Arabia, a country with entire cities that are off-limits to anyone who does not belong to the country’s official religion (speaking of Apartheid) and where it’s illegal to buy a bible. Oddly enough, the P.C. General Assembly did not address a single resolution regarding those human rights violators, although the Assembly did find time to discuss several resolutions that pertained to Israel. Go figure.
At the Middle East Briefing, which was sponsored by the Worldwide Ministries Division, the Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor from Bethlehem, spoke.
Said Raheb: “I wish I could say… That American troops came to liberate us from Saddam and the Iraqi occupation. Unfortunately, I cannot say that about American troops. And you know why? Kuwait is oily. Palestine is only holy.” Raheb went on: “We continue to live under the longest ongoing occupation in history,” referring to the 57-year-long Israeli occupation — and now, the 27-foot security wall the Israeli army is building across the West Bank, which is swallowing up Palestinian orchards, farms and homes as it goes. Both subsidized by U.S. dollars.
In the same breath, Raheb told his audience not to stop speaking up, but rather to raise its voice. “I wish you would challenge both Bush and Kerry to be as courageous as Ronald Reagan,” he said, recalling the former president's speech at the Brandenburg Gate during the Cold War.
“Tell them to tell Sharon to tear down this wall that is surrounding the little town of Bethlehem,” he said (sic)
57 years of Israeli occupation, eh? And the longest ongoing occupation in history, too, although various Kurds, Tibetans, Native Americans, and Pakistanis (among other folks) might beg to differ.
Update: Another article on the PC USA’s website mentions Bishop Riah Abu-Assal, the Episcopalian Bishop of Jerusalem.
Abu-Assal is proposing that U.S. churches help émigré Palestinians return home — just as the Israelis help Jews establish themselves in Israel. “We need to do exactly what the Jews do … Pay for their travel. Give them (money) to begin over. Provide them housing. Try to find them a job. I think we can do the same. But we cannot do it alone.”
Abu-Assal says the Episcopal Diocese owns vacant property, but doesn't have money to build on it. He envisions shelter not only for émigrés, but for Palestinians who would otherwise be cut off from Jerusalem by the wall.
“What do we need here?” he says. “We need to bring back those who've emigrated. Otherwise, I fear for the Christian presence in the area.”
The Lutheran Bishop of Jerusalem, Munib Younan, told the Presbyterian News Service that he'd also like to see housing for Palestinians built on Lutheran-owned property on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
You mean, like… gasp, settlements?! And no article about Israeli Apartheid would be complete without a requisite reference to how Israel’s Apartheid is even worse than South Africa’s, grrrr.
Palestinian leaders often liken the situation in Palestine to that in South Africa under apartheid. “The situation here is worse than in South Africa,” Abu-Assal says, yet the international church equivocates instead of acting.
Worse than in South Africa? As Ian Buruma once noted in The Guardian, “the comparison with South Africa is intellectually lazy, morally questionable, and possibly even mendacious.” Indeed, Israel has one of the most multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and politically engaged societies in the world. To compare Israel to a system of Apartheid is a disservice not only to that country’s democracy but also to the tens of millions of people who suffered under real Apartheid. Further, this so-called “Apartheid state” is one of the few countries in the region where women can vote and gay citizens openly serve in the legislature and other political assemblies. If Bishop Abu-Assal thinks Israel’s so-called “Apartheid” is not only bad but even worse than South Africa’s, perhaps he should take a short flight to, say, Saudi Arabia and see how the Christian citizens (especially the evangelists) of that country are faring. Maybe he could even meet with the head of that country’s Episcopalian community. Oh, wait…