Bishop: How we’ll get peace in Holy Land
Recently I emailed questions to the auxiliary bishop of the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem, Bishop William Shomali, asking him to share his first-hand insights regarding the many injustices and violent environment in the land of the Prince of Peace. He graciously sent back a recorded audio response upon which this column is based.
Bishop Shomali said one of the most pressing problems facing Palestinians is the restrictions on movement imposed by Israel. For example, he said Palestinians living in Bethlehem or Ramallah, both in the West Bank, need to obtain a permit to go just 10km to Jerusalem. And permits are given only during principle feasts.
He said the ongoing illegal building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories is an extremely serious roadblock to a peaceful solution. To correct these and other injustices, Israel needs to participate in good-faith negotiations towards the two-state solution: the establishment of an independent viable Palestinian nation coexisting peacefully with a fully recognised state of Israel. He emphasised that the two-state solution continues to be firmly supported by the Holy See.
“Negotiations could be successful if there is good will. Some settlements can be given to Palestinians, and Israelis can keep some of the settlements close to Israel. Other land-exchange agreements can be reached as well,” said Bishop Shomali.
“But unconditional US support for Israel negatively affects the situation,” he said.
A two-state solution could be agreed upon by the UN Security Council, but the US continues to block a binding UN resolution that would set a timetable for the establishment of the nation of Palestine, said Bishop Shomali (more on that here).
“The US continues to keep telling Palestinians that statehood should come through negotiations. But negotiations with Israel continually fail. We then seek statehood through the UN Security Council, and America blocks our way. We go back to negotiations with Israel and they fail again,” the bishop said.
Bishop Shomali lamented: “We live in a vicious circle.” And to get out of this circle, the US government should not veto or otherwise block a UN-approved resolution establishing a viably independent Palestine. In terms of justice and peace the US should be impartial.
Bishop Shomali stressed the paramount importance of prayer. But he added that prayers alone are not enough — there must also be a serious effort to reach a peace accord.
He praised the generosity of Catholics throughout the world in assisting parishes, schools and many humanitarian projects in the Holy Land. But, he added, so much more help is desperately needed.
Please kindly consider making as generous a donation as possible to Catholic Near East Welfare Association for aid to Palestine.
The US gives Israel approximately $3 billion each year. Far more than it gives any other nation. Thus the US government has the ability to exert tremendous pressure upon the Israeli government to negotiate in good faith a fair and just two-state solution. But sadly, it does not have the political courage nor the moral integrity to do so.
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan and parish gatherings from Santa Clara, Calif. to Baltimore, Md. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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