|FR. LOUIS BOHTE SPEAKS IN GENEVA AT UN CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Fonte: Custodia di Terra Santa
Bethlehem Easter 2005
Peace and all Good.
I am back home after almost one week in Geneva. It was not as I hoped it, but I think that the experience of last week is helpful for next year. The main cause was a lack of communication between me and the office of Franciscans International, on which behalf I would have spoken. I prepared a speech for five minutes but shortly before I went to Geneva I got an email, that I should have only three minutes. When I arrived I got another proposal than that I had prepared. You can imagine that this caused some troubles. I had prepared my text with father Amjad, a Palestinian priest for the parish of Bethlehem, with a friend from Israel, who is a psychologist and my friend Purwanto. I give here my prepared speech and the final draft. Then you can compare what I made and what is more usual in a conference like in Geneva.
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Shalom Salaam. Peace and all Good. Living in Bethlehem I will tell you about facts on the ground. I read the latest report of Ecosoc and the answer of Israel. Indeed 1000 killed Israelis are 1000 too much. According to the Israeli Human Rights organization Btselem, during the same time there have been more than 3200 Palestinians killed. This is more than 3200 too much. Among them 113 Israeli children and 633 Palestinian children: 746 children too much. I will commemorate the six children from the Raban family and a boy from next door killed in Gaza at the fourth of January this year: This tragedy started with a mortar attack by armed Palestinians, who didn't take into account the presence of the children harvesting strawberries. I know the spot. The armed Palestinians disappeared directly. The Israeli army retaliated afterwards without specific target. The Washington Post described the horror of bodies in pieces. The Palestine Monitor reported how this was possible: Israeli anti-personnel shells, which throw out thousands of metal darts in a deadly cloud. In fact the Israeli army used a kind of fragmentation bomb. The world kept silence. I realise that there only will be peace if the life of a Palestinian is as precious as the life of an Israeli. It is easy to blame Israel, but there is more: On the fourth of October last year, the day of our founder St. Francis, I couldn't reach a celebration of the succot feast in Ma'ale Adummim I was invited to because of the parade of Christians for Israel. These people support the policy of Israel blindly. In their view there is no place for Palestinians, Muslims and Christians. They don't recognize the human rights of the Palestinians. This makes them co-responsible for the present terrible situation of the Palestinians. With their support for Israel they try to force God to send back Jesus as soon as possible. A real blasphemy. Last summer my friend Tamer went to London. At the Heathrow airport the woman who welcomed him warmly became angry when she heard that he was from Palestine. Later another employee of the airport apologised for the woman's behaviour. My aged friend Hamza, who lives in my country The Netherlands since 1967, told me that he is not allowed to receive his older sister from Nablus because the Dutch authorities fear that she would stay there. I am ashamed of this violation of a basic human right by my country. I realise that without centuries long anti-Semitism in Europe there would be nowadays no state of Israel for which the Palestinians have to pay a high price. Europe is a part of the problem and must be a part of the solution. Are the human rights of Palestinians outside Israel and Palestine respected? Ten years ago I finished my study of the sociology of religion with a paper about attempts by youngsters to commit suicide. I wonder: does the PA have better facilities to stop this awful violence than the British government against the IRA attacks or the Spanish government against the ETA? Illusions are not helpful in stopping violence. The question is: How to prevent the next attack? We need to take away the causes in order to stop the sacrifice of the children of Abraham/Ibrahim. I have learned something from Norbert Elias in his research The Established and the Outsiders: When I treat you as an enemy, it will not be a surprise if your behaviour toward me is more hostile. I have to change, which could be a painful process. Next July the Palestinians with a Jerusalem ID have to make the choice between this ID and the contact with their relatives in the West Bank. It creates violence. Administrative detention creates violence. A checkpoint in the middle of nowhere between Palestinian C area and Palestinian C area like Wadi Nar creates violence. To refuse to protect Palestinians and foreigners against attacks by settlers creates violence. Stealing land from the people of Wadi Faqeen creates violence. Blocking perspective on a dignified future creates violence. Since the second Intifada there is much more domestic violence in the Israeli and Palestinian society. This must stop. We need a world where Palestinians can live in dignity and free everywhere alike the Israeli people too. The Sasson report is a sign of hope, if it is implemented without delay. The 250 students who want to refuse to serve the army on one or another way are a sign of hope. Only with open hands we can make peace.
UN Commission on Human Rights
61st session, 14 March - 22 April 2005
Agenda item 8: Question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Peace and all Good. Franciscans International in conjunction with the JPIC Commission of the Custody of the Holy Land, regrets Israel's announcement to build some 3500 new homes in the West Bank as it can blow the hope that rose after the last February Sharm el-Sheik high-level meeting. Also after the summit Israel began the completion of the Security Wall in Bethlehem, near Rachel's tomb. This is another breach to the International Court of Justice advisory opinion of last year, which was also endorsed by the General Assembly.
Experiencing daily the humiliation that the construction of the wall is causing on the life and development of Palestinians, I share the view of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. John Duggard, when he states in his report (E/CN.4/2005/29) to the Commission that the main aims for the construction of the wall are:
- To incorporate settlers within Israel,
- To seize Palestinian land,
- To encourage an exodus of Palestinians by denying them the access to their land and water resources and by restricting their freedom of movement._ This is a creeping transfer of Palestinians.
Mr. Chairman, Israel needs to protect its citizens from indiscriminate attacks by Palestinian groups, likewise the Palestinians need also their security. However, since the second Intifada 1000 have been killed, 1000 Israelis too much. More than 3200 Palestinians have killed - again too much. Among them 113 Israeli children and 633 Palestinian children. I realise that there will only be peace if the right to life of both Israeli's and Palestinians is considered equally precious and duly protected.
Let me offer you some other examples from the field. Next July, the Palestinians in the West Bank with a Jerusalem ID loose this ID and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will need a permit to visit their relatives in the West Bank. This creates violence. Administrative detention creates violence. To refuse to protect Palestinians and foreigners against attacks by settlers creates violence. Blocking perspective on a dignified future creates violence.
Franciscans International would like to urge the Israeli government:
1) To honour the ICJ opinion by dismantling the wall and compensating Palestinians for the lost caused by the wall as a result of its construction;
2) To fully respect and implement article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights affirming everyone's right to liberty of movement including to visit their own relatives, and freedom to choose his residence;
3) To evacuate all settlements in Palestinian territory;
4) To cooperate fully with the CHR Special Rapporteur and other thematic procedures as a concrete way to show the government's commitment to internationally recognised human rights standard.
Only with open hands we can make peace. Shalom Salaam.