It is for the first time that Msgr. Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch
of Jerusalem and President of Pax Christi International, has written an article
in order to explain his points of view about the conflict between Palestinians
and Israelis. Fr Raed, Chancellor of the Patriarchate, sent us the article
in English and French and he gave us the permission to use it as we want
and even to publish it entirely in your newspapers or newsletters.
Fr. Paul Lansu
1. We believe in God, Almighty and merciful, who can do what men have not been able to do up until now. True peace is a gift which God alone can give. Therefore, we invite all believers to persevere in prayer and to remain strong in their faith and in their hope: one day, we will see better days in this land blessed by God, made holy by God, and regarded as holy by the three religions that live together in it, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We mourn all the victims, Palestinians and Israelis. We share deeply the sorrow of their parents, their relatives and their friends. We are concerned for every human being. We are for the defence of every human life, of the dignity and the security of each and every human being, whether Palestinian or Israeli. We believe that only the ways of peace can lead to peace.
2. The State of Israel exists and has the right to exist and to live in security. The State of Palestine does not exist still, yet it has the same right to exist and to live in security.
3. The State of Israel occupies territories of another. Palestinians are
under Israeli military occupation, with all that that implies regarding the
deprivation or limitation of freedom and suffering and humiliation.
Palestinians have the right to see the end of Israeli military occupation of their territories, occupied in 1967, and to create on them their independent state. As long as the occupation lasts, they have the right and the duty to claim their land and their freedom and to organize resistance in order to reach this goal. But we affirm again, that in this resistance, only the ways of peace can lead to peace.
4. The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is not basically a question of Palestinian terrorism that threatens security or the existence of Israel. It is a question of Israeli military occupation that started in 1967, which provokes Palestinian resistance, which then threatens the security of Israel. To go on speaking about Palestinian terrorism, without seeing the right of the Palestinians to their freedom and to end the occupation, is condemning oneself not to see reality, and to remain impotent in reaching a solution.
5. Therefore, one must very simply take away the cause so that the effect, i.e. violence, exists no more. In vain one will struggle against the various expressions of violence through condemnations, reprisals or a declared war, but as long as the cause is there the effect will be there, as long as there is occupation, the cycle of violence will continue. On both sides, fighters and innocents will continue to be killed.
6. As the cause of all violence is the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian lands, once the occupation is ended, violence will cease. If Israel has a sincere will to put an end to all violence, the way to take is not war or reprisals, but a rapid and serious action which puts an end to the occupation. Therefore, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community must return to negotiations, but in a new and sincere way, in order to put an end to occupation.
7. Some people insist on the necessity of issuing declarations that condemn violence. Condemning violence is necessary. But to take away its cause, i.e. the occupation, which produces it is more efficient. In the same way, to call Palestinian violence terrorism and Israeli violence legitimate defense, renders futile any declaration or condemnation and makes impossible all cessation of violence. Therefore, better than condemnations of violence, what we need is an action which puts an end to all form of violence, by putting an end to its primary cause, the occupation.
8. What do the Palestinians want? They want their freedom, their land and their independent state. What do the Israelis want? They want their security inside secure borders, protected from all attacks or threats. The two requirements are interdependent. Palestinian independence, after the end of the occupation, will bring the cessation of all violence, and hence the security of Israel. But, instead of putting an end to the occupation, the Israeli government maintains it and follows ways - reprisals, and, recently, the declared war - which just lead to the opposite of security, i.e. to more Palestinian reaction and violence, and hence to more Israeli insecurity. Oppression and humiliations imposed upon the Palestinian people can only produce violent Palestinian reactions that threaten the security of the Israeli people and fill its soul with fear and hatred.
9. If the Israeli government wants truly security, the violent repression that it has used until now is not the good way. In fact, its violence has only given birth to new forms of Palestinian violence. Therefore, the security of the Israeli people remains threatened. Therefore, it should embark on the other way, which surely will produce security: to declare its sincere will to end the occupation and to start, as soon as possible, serious and rapid talks in order to put an end to it.
10. Why have the Israelis still not decided to make peace? Indeed, making peace is in their hands. They alone can put an end to the occupation, and hence open the way towards peace. Why have the Israelis refused until now to give back to the Palestinians the Territories occupied in 1967, and which are only 5000 kmý or 22% of the entirety of historic Palestine, of which the State of Israel today has 78%?
a. Is Israel still preserving the dream of having all Palestinian territories, but having them empty, without Palestinians? After one hundred years of conflict, it is time to realize that this dream is impossibility. Today, three million Palestinians live in the Occupied Territories. Israel must accept to deal with this living Palestinian reality and should not think any more of suppressing it or confining it in any disguised form of occupation or apartheid system.
b. Israel does not trust the Palestinians? It fears that they will not be able, once they have their independent state, to be peaceful neighbours? This supposition is unfounded. Manifestations of Palestinian hostility today are not due to inborn hostility against the Israeli people, but rather an expression of the resistance of the Palestinian people to what it considers as tentative to dispossess it or to send him from his land. Once the war is over, the hostility will be over.
10. If Israel truly does not believe that the end of hostilities is a possibility within the soul of Israelis and Palestinians, then the region is condemned to permanent war and violence. It will be an absolute deadlock for the region and for the survival of Israel in the region. The only way out of this deadlock is to believe in peace and to build it by means of the ways of peace and not through means of violence.
11. Israel will always be surrounded by Arab countries, including Palestine. Until now, Israel did not succeed to have normal relations with them. The reason is that the policy followed so far by Israel and the international community, with the pretext of protecting the new State of Israel, while maintaining injustices against the Palestinians, have caused and nourished hostile feelings in all Arab countries. If one truly wants to protect someone, one does not surround him with enemies, but rather with friends. Present policy should then be changed, in order to transform neighbouring countries into friends. This transformation is not impossibility. It is enough to implement justice for the Palestinians, to put an end to the occupation and to create the State of Palestine. Once the Palestinians are satisfied, once they are free and independent in their state, they will become friendly to Israel. Once the Palestinians are friendly with Israel, the other Arab peoples will be just as friendly. Only in this way, Israel, surrounded by friends, will live within its desired security. The proposition of Saudi Arabia to have a general peace with Israel, adopted by the Arab summit of Beirut, in March 2002, is a sign and an invitation to Israel: the Arab countries are ready to initiate peace with Israel as both state and people.
12. The United Nations has already taken all the decisions required to
resolve the problem. Nevertheless, the international community lacks the
courage and dares not take the necessary measures in order to implement its
own decisions, as had been done in various other places. Again, in order to
guarantee peace in the region, world policy must change in order to deal with
peoples on the basis of justice and equal respect for all.
Jerusalem, May 8, 2002
+ Michel Sabbah
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem