Fifty years is a long time to endure forced suffering.
Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War when Israel captured and occupied the Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the remaining part of the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian people have lived under the heavy yoke of Israeli military occupation.
According to Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson, “Whether it’s a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably, or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit, or checkpoints where only settlers are allowed to pass, few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during this 50-year occupation”.
In an audio response to questions I emailed to the former Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine Bishop William Shomali (presently Patriarchal Vicar for Jordon), he said one of the most pressing problems facing Palestinians is the Israeli imposed restrictions on movement. For example, he noted that Palestinians living in Bethlehem or Ramallah need to obtain a permit to go just six miles to Jerusalem. And permits are only given during principle feasts.
He said the ongoing illegal building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is an extremely serious roadblock to a peaceful solution.
According to Amnesty International “Swimming pools, well-watered lawns and large irrigated farms in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories stand in stark contrast next to Palestinian villages whose inhabitants struggle to meet their essential domestic water needs. … In many places Palestinians receive water only one day per week or every few weeks, in some areas not for months at a time”.
Bishop Shomali told me that “Gaza is the worst case. It’s an open-air prison.” With the blockade, Israel completely controls who and what comes and goes in Gaza.
Bishop Shomali said that Hamas’ tunnel building in preparation for war against Israel and their numerous attacks against Israelis is also morally wrong. The many violent Israeli injustices against Palestinians, and Hamas’ violent attacks upon Israelis, is a vicious cycle that can only be broken with peace, he said.
To correct these injustices, Bishop Shomali said Israel needs to participate in good-faith negotiations toward the two-state solution: the establishment of an independent viable Palestinian nation coexisting peacefully with a fully recognized state of Israel.
He emphasized the two-state solution continues to be firmly supported by the Holy See.
Please email and call (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) your congressional delegation asking them to urge President Trump to put full diplomatic pressure on Israel to enter into serious negotiations with the Palestinians with the stated goal of bringing to fruition the two-state solution within a committed timetable.
And to immediately help ease the suffering of the Palestinians please give a generous donation to Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
Director for Communications Jessica Pollock-Kim said to me “Beyond all the tangible impacts of ongoing occupation that I’ve witnessed in person and from a distance over almost 20 years is something equally, if not more damaging, the eroding of hope.”
To help restore the priceless gift of hope for our Palestinian brothers and sisters let’s take to heart the words of Pope Francis: “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, "Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century," has been well received by diocesan and parish gatherings from Santa Clara, Calif. to Baltimore, Md. Tony can be reached at [email protected].