Valley People for Peace
We are two of the Andover residents who have vigiled regularly in front of Old Town Hall, since the invasion of Iraq, to demonstrate our commitment to global peace. We were instrumental in helping to bring to Andover a representation of the wall being constructed by the Sharonist government in the occupied Palestinian territories. This representation is an effort by the Israeli-Palestinian Task Force of the coalition of peace and justice organizations, United for Justice with Peace, to educate Americans about the reality of the Separation Wall, the so-called security fence.
The issues faced by Israel and Palestine are complex, steeped in history which can be variously interpreted and will not be resolved without fierce determination by both sides. But it is the contention of thoughtful and dedicated people worldwide that walls of this sort never lead to lasting peace. Indeed, history teaches us that the opposite is true. One need only remember the Berlin Wall and the misery it wrought.
The Israeli peace organization, Gush Shalom, has compiled extensive research on this issue. Its Web site, www.gush-shalom.org offers a comprehensive discussion of the realities of the Separation Wall. Billed by Sharon as a temporary measure, the cost to construct the wall is estimated at $2 million per kilometer, meaning a staggering $1.5 billion to complete. In places it is 26 feet high, topped by barbed wire, with 13-foot-deep trenches on either side. And the security fence is not being constructed along the agreed upon 1967 border. Instead, the wall intrudes deep into the West Bank, usurping as much as 40 to 50 per cent of what was agreed in 1967 to be Palestinian land. Countless Palestinian homes have been razed. Families are now in makeshift refugee camps. Villages are separated from their water supplies and farmers are separated from their livelihoods, their fields. 83,000 Palestinian olive trees have been destroyed. The town of Qalqiliya and the village of Jayouus are completely surrounded by the wall, with residents being required to pass through a control gate to enter and exit. Recent reports of the US military surrounding an Iraqi village, Abu Hishma, with a barbed wire fence reflect a strategy learned from the Israelis. This tactic has not led to peace in Israel; it is not promoting understanding and trust in Iraq. It is unlikely to lead to anything but more terrorist attacks in both Israel and Iraq; occupation breeds terrorism.
In all of recorded history, there is no instance where fighting injustice with injustice leads to a reasoned result. Have we learned nothing from experience? No one suggests that the Palestinians are blameless, but this wall is not a defensive measure against terrorism. It is instead a direct assault on the two-state solution that has almost universal support as the most likely resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The route of the wall renders a Palestinian state impossible. Even the Bush administration has balked at the route, for this very reason. Pope John Paul II has pleaded with the Israeli government: In reality, the Holy Land doesnt need walls, but bridges. We agree.
An organization of which we are members, Merrimack Valley People for Peace, seeks to promote programs with local groups, including synagogues and churches. As US taxpayers, we deplore the use of our dollars to construct this wall. We call on all Americans, of every ethnic and religious persuasion to learn the facts. We stand for freedom, security and dignity for all. To that end, we will continue to read, to listen and to talk in forums and with passersby in front of Old Town Hall.
I have been following with interest the debate surrounding the weekly peace vigil outside Old Town Hall. The situation in the Middle East is complex with legitimate claims on both sides. It is true, as Don Abbott and Rebecca Backmans letter states, the Holy Land needs bridges, not walls, but simple slogans seem hollow to parents who send their children off to school on a city bus, wondering if there will be a terrorist attack that day.
Fortunately, our honorable women and men - Israeli and Palestinian - have not despaired. They continue to work tirelessly, within their governments and often outside their respective governments, quietly, below the radar screen, to seek a solution to this intractable and deadly stalemate.
As the authors letter implies, there is a wide range of opinion in Israel, as there is in the United States. The right to publicly and freely express ones view, as those in the peace vigil are doing, is a value both Americans and Israelis cherish.
Ultimately, I believe that a solution will be found, for I have faith that Palestinian and Israeli fathers and mothers share the same dream: a desire to see their children grow up in a world of freedom, opportunity and peace.
Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein
People for Peace meets monthly, on the fourth Tuesday,
Merrimack Valley People for Peace (978) 685-1389
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