On 14 and 15 November, three Christian Peacemaker Teams members attended a peace conference in Jericho in which Israeli and Palestinian nongovernmental organizations and activists discussed the future of a Palestinian state and the pursuit of peace in Israel and Palestine. The conference’s opening day was marred by the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, a Palestinian political activist and Hamas military commander reportedly poised to sign a ceasefire agreement.
Israeli activist Gershom Baskin (who was involved in the dialogue with Hamas to secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit) said he had been working closely with the Egyptian military on a proposed long-term cease-fire agreement with Israel, one that Jabari, although not a man of peace, had been ready to sign to bring stability to the region.
Last month’s announcement that 2013 elections would be moved up from October to January, and the subsequent cementing of a right-wing political alliance, raise questions about the motivation for Jabari’s assassination. Israel’s Operation Cast Lead invasion of Gaza in 2008 also took place just before an election. The air strike that killed Jabari and his bodyguard in his car took place during ongoing diplomatic negotiations and just hours after Jabari had received a draft of the proposed agreement, according to Baskin. This, combined with the military’s admission that they had been watching him for over three months waiting for the opportunity, begs the question of Israel’s longstanding claim that they have no partner for peace.
A ground invasion into Gaza would be horrific. Operations in 2008 killed 1300 Palestinians, many of them women and children. The current bombing’s repercussions can already be felt throughout the West Bank. Youth in Hebron -- in anger aroused by the occupation, feelings of powerlessness and not being able to do anything to alter the situation or to help their kin in Gaza -- threw stones and set tires on fire on Saturday, 17 November. In turn, soldiers used tear gas, percussion grenades and skunk water. Tension pervaded the old city as youth and soldiers played cat and mouse.
That night, a Palestinian man told two CPTers in Bab il Baledeyya that soldiers were holding four men in the neighboring settlement of Beit Romano. Looking in through the gap in the metal gate, the CPTers saw two blindfolded young men sitting cross-legged on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs. They had been held for at least an hour. After another twenty minutes, soldiers removed their blindfolds and plastic hand ties and pushed them out of the gates laughing and saying “good bye”. CPT spoke to the two young men who said that they had no idea why they had been held and that the soldiers had taken them from their homes. The young men also said that soldiers had arrested and taken away two of their friends.
For more information see: www.cpt.org/