February 2020 Monthly Update

In This Issue
Deal of the Century
Part 1 – Jonathan Kuttab – An Analysis
Part 2 – What Others Are Saying
Part 3 – What You Can Do
Christian Zionism and the Assassination of Soleimani
Eye-Opening Tours to Palestine – Several Excellent Opportunities
Become a Gaza Twinning Congregation
Read More

Deal of the Century

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump agree to crush the people of Palestine (Credit: Public Domain)

Part 1 – Jonathan Kuttab – An Analysis

Even a casual reading of the 181-page Plan shows clearly that it is neither a Peace Plan, nor the outline of an “agreement” which can be used as a basis for further negotiations. Rather it is a series of disjointed declarations asserting right wing Israeli positions and interests, and granting US support for their immediate implementation, while dangling the prospect for some conditional “concessions” to Palestinians to be given, maybe, at some future point in time, if they are willing to accept the agreement and meet the conditions imposed on them in it to Israel’s satisfaction.

Immediately, there is recognition of Israel’s current annexation of Jerusalem, legitimization of all its settlements, recognition of its “moral and historic” right to annex further territory, particularly in the Jordan Valley, total rejection of the Palestinian Right of Return, and extermination of any claims or demands on Israel with respect to refugees. The plan calls  for immediate normalization with the Arab countries, assertion of Israel’s right to have “overriding security control” in the areas under Palestinian control, a specific rejection of UN resolutions and international law as a basis for any future agreement, and recognition of a Unified Jerusalem under full Israeli control.

As an inducement to Palestinians, the Plan suggests, without promising anything concrete, that if the Palestinians sign this “agreement” there will be a “path” in the future to an entity, which they can call a state, and a capital, which they can call Al Quds or East Jerusalem, if they wish, in a few disjointed neighborhoods outside the Wall currently surrounding Jerusalem. The Deal of the Century also outlines  a detailed Plan to provide economic assistance of 50 billion dollars, to be raised from Arab countries, that will alleviate the suffering of Palestinians, and provide assistance to neighboring Arab countries who will host many of them ( $9.1 billion to Egypt, $7.6 billion to Jordan and $6.1 billion to Lebanon). There is also an impossible list of demands before the people of Gaza can participate in this largess: control of Gaza by the Palestinian Authority, disarming Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad, and the total demilitarization of Gaza to Israel’s satisfaction.

If that were not enough, two new elements were added, that had not been previously mentioned in the long history of  negotiations, but which were unrealistic fantasies  for the Israeli Right: First, the demand for compensation to Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries into Israel. The Plan states these Jewish refugees who were settled in Israel were of equal number to Palestinian refugees, who now need to be settled anywhere but in Israel; and secondly, the idea that a number of densely populated Arab villages adjacent to the West Bank in the area known as the Triangle, should be transferred to the new Palestinian “state” and given Palestinian citizenship instead of their current Israeli citizenship, thereby ridding Israel of some of its Arab citizens, while pretending to compensate Palestinians for being forced to cede the lands which are populated by Jewish settlers in the West Bank who will now be formally incorporated into Israel.

In effect, this Plan is not an outline for a peace agreement, but a demand for Palestinian surrender of their positions, a confirmation of Israeli “realities on the ground,” an abandonment of international law, and the end of any attempt to reach a negotiated two-state solution. Instead it requires, whether with or without Palestinian approval, the acceptance of permanent Israeli control over all of historic Palestine, on the basis of inequality and apartheid.

While the timing of the announcement was clearly a political attempt to assist Trump and Netanyahu in their upcoming elections, the effect of the agreement is to make a strategic shift towards permanent acceptance of a new paradigm where Israel controls the entire area and provides a truncated, unequal disjointed existence for Palestinians within that entity, that would spare Israel the call for genuine equality that would be inevitable in the case of formal annexation of all this territory.

This utter rejection of a realistic possibility of a two-state position explains why many liberal Israelis and Zionists and their supporters are totally outraged by this Plan.

For us, however, it is a sobering reminder of the true realities on the ground, and that those seeking genuine peace and justice, need to come up with new ideas and not continue to pursue a moribund process and a solution that no longer applies. Painful as it is, we must start to think in terms of equality within a single political entity, rather than hold on to the dream of a state, which today is only an alibi for inequality and denial of genuine freedom.

Part 2 – What Others Are Saying

Kairos Palestine – “The position announced by the U.S. Administration regarding what they call the ‘deal of the century’ was in fact an insult to history humanity, the Palestinian people…President Trump did not offer anything towards…equality but rather consolidated further Israeli hegemony and Palestinians subjugation to it. This means that the conflict will continue, bloodshed will continue, hatred and inhumane treatment will persist.”

Jonathan Cook – “A U.S. map handed out on Tuesday showed Palestinian enclaves connected by a warren of bridges and tunnels, including one between the West Bank and Gaza…All of this has been dressed up as a ‘realistic two-state solution’…the Palestinians are being required to accept a state on 15 per cent of historic Palestine after Israel has seized all the best agricultural land and water resources…where Israel controls its security, borders, coastal waters and airspace.”

The Electronic Intifada – “The plan amounts to a permanent state of military occupation, apartheid and Palestinian suffering.”

Palestinian Authority – “A thousands nos…We’ve informed the Israeli side…that there will be no relations at all with them and the United States including security ties…Trump asked that I speak with him by phone, but I said ‘no,’ and that he wants to send me a letter, so I refused to receive it.”

The Arab League (including Egypt Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon) – The plan “ignored legitimate Palestinian rights in the territories.”

12 U.S. Senators (including three candidates for president: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Chris Van Hollen, Sherrod Brown, Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, Patrick Leah, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tammy Baldwin, Jack Reed and Tom Carper) – “Unilateral implementation of this one-sided proposal will risk eliminating any remaining prospects for achievement of a peaceful and viable two-state solution.”

Part 3 – What You Can Do

  1. Flood the White House and Congress with emails and phone calls to show your strong opposition to the “Deal of the Century.”
  2. Write Op-Eds for your local newspaper.
  3. Join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and start boycotting.
  4. Start a No Deal of the Century group in your church.
  5. Link up with Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) to counter Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest Christian Zionist group in the U.S. who played a strong supporting role in the Deal of the Century.
Christian Zionism and the Assassination of Soleimani

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo (Credit: U.S. Embassy)

Did Christian Zionism play a role in the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the head of Quds, the external operations branch of Iran’s armed forces? Many think so. According to the Washington Post, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has been pushing President Trump for months on the idea. Vice President Mike Pence also voiced his support. And both are Christian Zionists. Pompeo claimed the assassination was a preemptive strike.

John Hagee, who is close to both Pompeo and Pence, heads up the Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Christian Zionism interprets some passages in the Bible to mean that before Jesus can return, Israel must reestablish itself as a nation and a massive war must take place. As far back as 2007, Hagee has held the view that part of that war will be against Iran: “It is time for America to consider a preemptive strike against Iran.”

When Pompeo spoke at last summer to a CUFI convention in Washington, DC, he compared President Trump to the Jewish queen Esther of the Persian Empire (now Iran) who saved her Jewish people from death by the powerful assistant to the king, who was assassinated. Now, it is Trump who supposedly saved Israel and others from Iran’s powerful assistant to the Ayatollah, Soleimani, risking a major war in the Middle East.

Did Christian Zionism play a role in the assassination of Soleimani? Who knows, but it may very well have factored into Pompeo and Pence’s thinking.

An interesting sidelight. ISIS’ weekly newspaper, al-Naba, expressed joy at the assassination, calling it “divine intervention” and an “act of God.” Strange bedfellows indeed.

Eye-Opening Tours to Palestine – Several Excellent Opportunities

Go beyond your head knowledge about Palestine and get some heart knowledge by going to Palestine on a tour that will take you to Holy Land sites but also give you the chance to meet Palestinians, hear their stories, visit organization working for an end to the occupation and listen to Palestinian and Israeli activists for freedom, equality and the end of the violence. Here are several coming up this year and then visit the MennoPIN website for more details.

  1. E3Collective: Nazareth and Bethlehem. May 8-May 25, 2020, led by Dorothy Jean Weaver, Professor Emerita, Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Craig Maven, Lead Pastor, Harrisonburg Mennonite Church
  2. Come and See Israel/Palestine Witness Trip. June 1-June 14, 2020, led by Kathy Bergen and Joy Lapp
  3. Palestine and Israel Learning Tour. June 1-June 14, 2020, led by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)
  4. Christian Peacemaker Teams Delegations to Palestine/Israel. In 2020 CPT will sponsor four delegations to Palestine: February 12-March 2; Aug 3-17; October 17-31 and December 1-15
  5. Eyewitness Palestine. In 2020 Eyewitness Palestine will lead three delegations to Israel/Palestine
  6. Sabeel Solidarity Visit. October 13-October 21, 2020 led by Naim Ateek, co-founder of Sabeel, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Become a Gaza Twinning Congregation

A father bathing his daughters in Gaza City (Credit: Wissam Nassar)

The current siege of Gaza has created severe restrictions on the availability of food, water, medical care, commerce and industry. A year after the March of Return, which resulted in hundreds of Palestinian deaths and tens of thousands of injuries, many peacemakers are feeling frustration and failure at our inability to focus attention on the condition of the people of Gaza. In response, MennoPIN is launching a new campaign among Mennonites to “End the Gaza Siege.”

The first step in the campaign is called the “Mennonite Twinning Initiative with Gaza.” This initiative will match Mennonite congregations with churches, mosques, hospitals, clinics and schools. Already, eight congregations have signed up and are on their way to being paired-up with Gaza!

Please give prayerful consideration to your congregation becoming a “twinning” congregation with Gaza! To find out more about the initiative, the Gaza scandal, and guidelines for ethical relationships, visit the MennoPIN website mennopin.org and click on End the Gaza Siege tab at the top of the front page. Interested congregations can send an email to mennopin@gmail.com with the Subject line “Twinning Initiative.”

Read More
On Thursday, the 12th of December the Israeli authorities declared that Christians in the Gaza Strip would not be granted permits to travel to holy sites in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, or into Israel over Christmas. Only men over 45 wishing to travel abroad traveling through Jordan may be granted permits. We pray with our Christian brothers and sisters as they seek to challenge the decision of the Israeli government to ban permits for the people of Gaza to visit family and celebrate Christmas in Israel or the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer. Sabeel Wave or Prayer

Mennonite Palestine-Israel Network
mennopin@gmail.com | mennopin.org | facebook.com/mennopin | twitter.com/mennopin

Steering Committee:
Anita Rediger (Emmaus Road Mennonite Fellowship, Berne, IN)
Bob Atchison (Manhattan Mennonite Church, Manhattan, KS)
Joe Roos (Peace Mennonite Fellowship, Claremont, CA)
Jonathan Kuttab (Palestinian lawyer and human rights activist, Washington, DC)
Jonathan Brenemann (Syracuse, NY)
Lydia Brenneman (Lima Mennonite Church, Lima, OH)
Rod Stafford (Portland Mennonite Church, Portland, OR)

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