Palestinian Orthodox Church Seceded
- "Athens opposes 'Arabisation' of Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem"
(AFP, March 24, 2005)
Athens, Greece -- The Greek government said it will defend the
historical character of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem,
following Palestinian calls for its "Arabisation."
In Ramallah, on the West Bank, Palestinian MPs -- furious at the
alleged sale of Jerusalem land to Jewish investors by the Greek
patriarchy -- voted Tuesday for Arab Orthodox Christians to secede
from the Greek patriarchy.
They passed a resolution urging the Palestinian Authority to no
longer recognise the authority of the Greek Orthodox patriarchy over
the Orthodox Arab community.
Denials of the alleged land sale, issued by Greek Patriarch Irineos
I in Jerusalem, fell on deaf ears.
A Greek government spokesman, Evangelos Antonaros, said here that
the Greek Orthodox patriarchy in Jerusalem had a history spanning
centuries, and he believed most of the flock would not want to
An investigation into the matter is under way, assisted by Greek
foreign ministry experts who arrived in the Old City on Monday.
"Taking the results of the investigation into consideration, we will
decide on steps that will defend the patriarchy's historical
characteristics," Antonaros said.
The Greek team includes lawyers, financial experts and the Greek
foreign ministry's head of religious affairs, the Greek embassy in
"The foreign ministry sent its group of experts to Jerusalem on
Monday who are charged with investigating the reported sale of real
estate of the Patriarch of Jerusalem," it said in a statement.
Allegations about the land sale were first published in Israel's
Purchasing property in the Old City -- in occupied and annexed east
Jerusalem -- is fraught with political tensions as Jewish groups
often try to obtain properties in Palestinian areas in a major
Church rift over land sale scandal?
RAMALLAH (AFP) - The Greek Orthodox Church was flung into a fresh
crisis yesterday as Palestinian MPs voted for Arab Orthodox
Christians to secede from the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem
following its alleged sale of land in the ancient city to Jewish
The latest twist in the ongoing scandal, which has resurrected a
bitter split within the Greek Orthodox community in the Holy Land,
came as Patriarch Irenaios denied any involvement in the alleged
land sale in Jerusalem's Old City.
"I formally and categorically deny any personal implication, or
implication of the Patriarchate in this alleged transaction, the
details of which we know nothing," he said in a statement four days
after the scandal broke.
But in a special session to discuss the crisis, the Palestinian
Parliament passed a resolution urging the Palestinian Authority to
no longer recognize the authority of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
over the Orthodox Arab community.
The resolution calls on the Palestinian leadership "not to recognize
the patriarch," and "to work through legal means for the Arabization
of the Orthodox Church" in the occupied Palestinian territories.
"We must separate the Palestinian Orthodox Church from the Greek
Orthodox Church," said MP Hanan Ashrawi during the debate. "We must
solve this crisis by making the church an Arab church."
B'Tselem: Wall Affect Half a Million Palestinians
In its latest report, the centre said that 14 Palestinian towns and
villages, with more than 24,000 residents, will be cut off by the
illegal Apartheid Wall being built in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
According to the report, Israel's wall will also surround 53 towns
and villages, inhabited by at least 230,000 Palestinians, and
isolate 18 Palestinian towns and villages in East Jerusalem
The isolation of Jerusalem, another catastrophe
The bad news kept on coming. Haaretz quoted a military source as
saying that Palestinians living in Jerusalem will soon have to have
a permit to get into Ramallah or Bethlehem. Few people believed the
report. Some said it was a rumour, but the Israeli army has not
denied the report. As the wall came up closing the only opening
left, the junction ceased to be a junction.
Army to confiscate lands west of Bethlehem
Sunday, Israeli soldiers handed on dozens of residents of Nahhalin,
west of Bethlehem, military orders to evacuate from their lands
within 45 days. Nahhalin is surrounded by Israeli settlements
erected on lands confiscated from the residents of the area;
settlements are also constructed over Palestinian lands annexed from
the residents of Wadi Fokkin, Husan and Batteer.
Israel: A Call for Divestment
by SHAMAI LEIBOWITZ
posted online on March 15, 2005
The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has
led to an explosion of "people power" in the streets of Beirut, in
which hundreds of thousands of Lebanese citizens have called for an
end to Syria's occupation of their land. These calls have been
celebrated and echoed in other capitals, and nowhere more so than in
Washington. However, there is another area in the Middle East where
a struggle to end foreign occupation has brought the natives only
death and destruction. For decades, Israel has crushed the 3.5
million Palestinians living under military domination, beating them
into submission while taking away their civil rights and their land.
As an Israeli Jew committed to peace for Israel and our neighbors, I
was shocked and disgusted by the recent terror attack in Tel Aviv,
which took the lives of innocent Jews. Such acts of terror have made
headlines and been rightfully condemned by the international
community. However, deadly Israeli attacks against Palestinian
civilians have not received significant press attention in the West
or led to appropriate, decisive international action. For decades
the Israeli army, equipped with US arms and technology, has killed,
maimed, beaten and tortured tens of thousands of Palestinian
civilians. Evidently, in the eyes of the West the people power of
Palestinians does not count.
From 1986 to 1991 I served in the Israeli army in the occupied
territories. During this period I was shocked and disgusted at what
my comrades and I were repeatedly ordered to do to Palestinian
civilians. To crush the uprising for independence and statehood, we
were ordered to brutalize them. In one of our army bases in the West
Bank, there was a mysterious room. Every day we watched Palestinians
being led into it. After a couple of days our commanders would lead
the Palestinians out, black and blue from bruises and their faces
swollen. They resembled sacks of potatoes more than human beings.
We later realized this room was a torture chamber. On some days, we
could hear screams coming from the room. It was a sickening
experience. However, we continued participating in the occupation
because Israeli politicians persuaded us that we were in the midst
of a "peace process." So effusive were they in their lectures on how
Israel "only wants peace" that we were blinded from seeing the
reality of how the state is brutally oppressing, subjugating and
dehumanizing the Palestinian people.
As many Israelis realize today, when Israeli governments talked
about the peace process during the Oslo period, they were pulling
the wool over the world's eyes. Israel continued colonizing the West
Bank and Gaza with its Jewish-only settlements and, at the same
time, entrenching a cruel military regime over Palestinians. The
same is true today with Ariel Sharon's "disengagement" plan, which
is being marketed by Israeli propaganda as a "painful concession"
toward peace. Many of us who live in Israel and visit or serve in
the occupied territories recognize the truth: Israel is continuously
intensifying its military rule in the West Bank while stealing more
Palestinian land and building more illegal Jewish-only settlements.
For years, American taxpayer money has funded the occupation--the
torture chambers, the military apparatus, the bulldozers used in
house demolitions, the building of settlements and now the
construction of the West Bank wall, declared illegal by the
International Court of Justice (ICJ). Americans should be held
accountable for where their money is going.
After years of failed political efforts by the Israeli and
international human rights community aimed at ending the occupation,
it is clear that new approaches must be implemented. It is time for
American civic institutions to support a multi-tiered campaign of
strategic, selective sanctions against Israel until the occupation
ends. Since the Israeli government is flagrantly disobeying the ICJ
decision, international law mandates the use of sanctions to force
Israel to comply with UN resolutions and human rights treaties.
The first step for American institutions is to engage in selective
divestment--withdrawal of their investments from companies that are,
directly or indirectly, funding the occupation. First and foremost,
states, cities, universities, churches, unions, banks and pension
funds should divest from Israel Bonds, which finance the occupation,
and from any company that sells arms, ammunition or other military
equipment to Israel. This should include companies like Caterpillar,
which manufactures and sells the bulldozers that have flattened
thousands of Palestinian homes, and General Dynamics, General
Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, Raytheon and other
corporations, because these companies play an active role in
enabling Israeli forces to engage in practices that violate
international humanitarian law.
Second, the West should hold Israeli military personnel and
political leaders personally accountable for human rights
violations, including trial before international courts and bans on
travel to other countries. This strategy has been implemented in
other conflicts (Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and South Africa, for
example), proving its deterrent value and effectiveness.
Prohibiting the sale of arms and military equipment to Israel is, in
fact, called for by existing US law. According to the Foreign
Assistance Act of 1961 (22 USC §2304), "No security assistance may
be provided to any country the government of which engages in a
consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized
The current hypocritical American Administration is not enforcing
this law with regard to Israel. It is, therefore, up to American
civil society to uphold the law and prevent the sale of any military
equipment to Israel by pressuring the government, filing complaints
against companies that violate this law and withdrawing all
investments from such companies.
The Presbyterian Church took a positive step in this direction when
in July 2004 its General Assembly passed a resolution calling for
selective divestment from companies that profit from the occupation.
This past February the World Council of Churches, which brings
together more than 340 churches worldwide, issued a similar
resolution. While criticizing the severe human rights abuses
inherent in the occupation and the construction of the illegal West
Bank wall, these resolutions also affirm the right of the State of
Israel to exist securely and peacefully, and they categorically
reject the tragic cycle of indiscriminate violence perpetrated by
both sides against innocent civilian populations.
Sanctions are a powerful and nonviolent means to insure that the
Israeli government abides by international law and ends its
appalling human rights violations in the occupied territories.
Divestment resolutions are long overdue. We have witnessed the power
of worldwide economic pressure in the collapse of the South African
apartheid regime. If American civic institutions follow the same
strategy, we could see the end of the Israeli occupation in our
lifetime. Americans should stand up for human rights and justice,
follow their own law and take the most productive step toward peace
and security in the Middle East.
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