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Avnery's open letter to Arafat & updates

Avnery's open letter to Arafat & updates ongoing struggle

1] A Letter to President Arafat about the film "The Passion of the Christ" 2] Report on ad in the Palestinian press, Zawiya protest and more 3] Updates ongoing struggle - NB: news re Vanunu + don't forget to use the links to constant updates

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1] A Letter to President Arafat about the film "The Passion of the Christ"

Uri Avnery 3.4.04

Hebrew at request & soon at the site òáøéú òì ôé á÷ùä àå á÷øåá áàúø

A Letter to President Arafat

President Yasser Arafat,


I write these lines in order to protest against a statement that I cannot ignore.

In the weekly Palestinian paper, The Jerusalem Times, there appeared on March 26 a short item reporting that you have viewed the controversial film of Mel Gibson, "The Passion of the Christ". Afterwards your advisor and close assistant, Nabil Abu-Rudeina, stated that you found the film "moving and historical". Abu-Rudeina added that "the Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion."

If the statement had not appeared in a Palestinian paper, I would have believed that it was invented by Ariel Sharon's propaganda machine. It is hard to imagine a sentence more capable of hurting the Palestinian cause.

I hold Abu-Rudeina in very high esteem. I appreciate his loyalty to the Palestinian cause and to you personally. He has remained at your side throughout the siege of your compound, and - like you - he is now risking his life there daily. But this statement should not have been made.

I have not seen the film, nor do I intend to. I abhor cruelty, also in films, and this film is full of cruel scenes, claiming to depict the New Testament on screen. Obviously, there is a great difference between reading a written text and seeing it all on the screen, with life-like displays of atrocious acts and blood flowing like water.

But this is not the main thing.

As an Arab and a Muslim, you are not obliged to be aware of the terrible impact that the description of the crucifixion has had on the life of Jews over almost two thousand years of persecutions, pogroms and torture by the Spanish inquisition, large-scale expulsions, mass and individual murders, up to the Holocaust in which six million Jews perished. All these were, directly or indirectly, caused, or at least made possible, by this narrative.

The New Testament is sacred to its believers. But like our Bible (the so-called Old Testament), it is not a history text. Religious truth and historical truth are not one and the same. The descriptions of the crucifixion in the four gospels were written down many decades after the event, and the writers wrote what they wrote under the influence of the circumstances of their time.

Let's take, for instance, the image of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. The Romans described him as an unscrupulous, corrupt and cruel procurator. In the New Testament, he is pictured as a humane person, almost a philosopher, who did not want to execute Jesus but gave in to the Jews. In Gibson's film, he is an attractive figure, who is compelled by the disgusting Jews - disgusting even physically - to act against his conscience.

Why this description? Simple: when the text was written, the Christians were already trying to convert the Roman world to their creed. It was convenient for them, therefore, to blame the Jews and exonerate the Romans, reversing the realities of the times.. The Jews then, like the Palestinians now, were an occupied people, and the Romans were the occupiers. Crucifixion was a usual Roman punishment, a kind of "targeted elimination" of that time (but after a trial).

The writers of the gospels were bursting with hatred of the Jews. That is not surprising, either. They were Jews themselves, as were Jesus and all the people around him. But they belonged to a dissident sect, which was considered by the Jewish establishment in Jerusalem as heretical. The Christian Jews were cruelly persecuted. As usual in such fratricidal struggles, this one, too, aroused burning hatred. This hatred found its expression in the description of the crucifixion.

The Gospel According to Matthew (Chapter 27) puts it this way: "Pilate said to them (the Jewish crowd assembled in front of his office): 'What then shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?' They all said to him: 'Let him be crucified!' Then the governor said: 'Why, what has he done?' But they cried all the more, saying: 'Let him be crucified!' When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying: 'I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it!' And all the people answered and said: 'His blood be on us and on our children'."

Obviously, this is not a historical description. An entire people, or a great multitude, does not talk like one single person. The words "His blood be…on our children" are unreasonable and were put there in order to justify taking revenge on generations to come. And indeed, many generations of rabble-rousers used these words in order to incite against the god-killers.

Adolf Hitler, of course, was no Christian fanatic. Quite the contrary, some of his followers tried to bring back pagan Germanic rites. But Hitler and the perpetrators of the Holocaust learned the New Testament in school, and no one can say how much of the text they unconsciously absorbed. And many simple fundamentalists accepted the Holocaust or took part in it because of this.

I do not intend to lay the collective blame on the entire Christian world throughout the centuries. Far from it. Many of the greatest humanists throughout history were Christians, some of them very devout. Not only the perpetrators of the Holocaust were Christians, so were the Righteous Ones, those who saved Jews. Christian monasteries in many places took in Jews and saved their lives.

Jesus preached love, and the new Testament pictures him as an immensely attractive person, righteous, merciful and tolerant. How terrible that so many atrocities in history were perpetrated by persons and institutions claiming to act in his name.

You, Mr. President, as an Arab and a Muslim, are proud of the fact that for more than a thousand years the Muslim world was a model of tolerance, toward both Jews and Christians. The Muslim world has never known mass expulsions and pogroms, that were a regular feature in Christendom, not to mention the terrible Holocaust.

The blood-bond between Muslims and Jews runs through history. One of the darkest chapters in the history of this country, which we both love, is the story of the crusades. Even before the reached the Holy Land, the crusaders committed genocide against the Jews of Germany. When they breached the walls of Jerusalem, they killed the entire population of the city, men and women, old people and babes in arms. One of them proudly described how they waded in blood up to their knees. It was the blood of Muslims and Jews, butchered together, their last prayers intertwined on their way to heaven.

After the fall of Jerusalem, Haifa still held out against the crusaders. Most of its inhabitants were Jews, who fought side by side with the Egyptian garrison. The Muslims provided them with arms, and according to a Christian chronicler, the Jews fought valiantly. When the town fell, the crusaders butchered the remaining Jews and Muslims together.

Four hundred years later, when the Christians finished the re- conquest of Spain from the Muslims, they expelled the Jews and the Muslims together. After the Golden Age, the wonderful cultural symbiosis of Muslims and Jews in medieval Muslim Spain, Muslims and Jews suffered a common fate. Almost all the expelled Jews settled in Muslim or Muslim- ruled countries.

Let us not allow the present bitter conflict between our two peoples, with all its cruelty, to overshadow the past, because that is the basis for our common future.

The present sufferings of the Palestinian people - which we, as Israelis and Jews, oppose and fight against - have no connection with what happened - or not - some 1973 years ago.

If there is any connection at all, it is the other way round. Without modern Christian anti-Semitism, the Zionist movement would not have been born at all. As I have mentioned before, the founder of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, explicitly stated his belief that the founding of a Jewish State was the only way of saving the European Jews. Anti-Semitism was and is the force that drives the Jews to Palestine.

Without anti-Semitism, the Zionist vision would have remained an abstract idea. From the pogrom of Kishinev, through the Holocaust to the anti-Semitism in Russia that has recently driven more than a million Jews to Israel - anti-Semitism was and remains the most dangerous enemy of the Palestinian people. There is much truth in the saying that the Palestinians are "the victims of the victims".

On top of all the moral reasons, this is an additional argument against a statement about the crucifixion that can be construed by anti- Semites as an encouragement for their cause.

When peace comes, we shall all meet in Jerusalem, Jews, Christians and Muslims. I know that you dream of it, as do I. Let us hope that we shall both see it with our own eyes.

2] Report on ad in the Palestinian press, Zawiya protest and more

------- Forwarded message follows ------- From: "Ta'ayush" Date sent: Sat, 3 Apr 2004 23:45:42 +0200 Hebrew at request & soon at :òáøéú òì ôé á÷ùä àå á÷øåá á

First, we would like to thank everyone who came yesterday to the activity planned in Zawiya. We apologize to all those who found themselves spending Friday in Kufr Qassem and not in a joint Palestinian-Israeli demonstration in a Palestinian village. And now, for the day's report in view of the events in the past two weeks:

As you know, the demonstration at Zawiya was planned for last week, March 26. On Monday that week, Israel assassinated Ahmad Yassin. An event of such magnitude naturally rocked the table. Our hosts of Zawiya and Deir Ballut asked to postpone the action for the time being. Since work on the fence there had not yet begun, it seemed wrong to demonstrate as though nothing had happened.

We then held an emergency meeting and considered what could be done at present both "inwards", towards the Israeli public, and "outwards", to bear our message to the Palestinian people, especially in view of the assassination. We decided to carry out two immediate actions: one was to hand out flyers in the "Israeli" street, calling for a halt of the vicious-circle of bloodshed, and warning against the plans of Sharon and his cohorts to set an even greater blaze in the region. The translated fliyer is on Ta'ayush website. As our second action, we resolved to publish an advertisement in the Palestinian press, along with the people's committees acting against the fence in various locations throughout the West Bank. The core of the advertisement stated that we consider the Israeli assassination of Sheikh Yassin a provocation meant to crush the popular, civil unarmed struggle against the fence that has gained momentum in the past few months. The aim of this assassination was to drown the Intifada in streams of blood and rekindle the Palestinian struggle in one mode only: that of the armed organizations. This is why the Palestinian people's committees, and we along with them, call to the Palestinian people not to give up its civil struggle. The advertisement appeared last Wednesday in two Palestinian newspapers: "Al-Quds" and "Al-Ayyam", signed by the people's committees from the Salfeet area (Zawiya, Mas'ha etc.), the area west of Ramallah (Budrus, Qibiya etc.), the seven national villages, and three committees in Jerusalem. Notice has been given of this to Israeli media as well, but they have'nt shown any intrest. You can find the ad on our website:

In the meantime, after canceling last week's demo, the people of Zawiya called again and asked us to carry it out yesterday (April 2). In light of the above, we felt compelled to do so, although probably many of us would rather dedicate the day to spring cleaning... Last Monday, a small delegation met with the villagers and decided to hold the demonstration. Notice was short, and the holiday soon upon us.

Still we met Friday morning at Kufr Qassem, about one hundred activists, and headed out in two buses. Once on highway no. 5, at the "Green Line" checkpoint, we saw a heavy police force awaiting us. Two policemen boarded each bus, preventing the drivers from opening the exit doors, so that no one could get off the bus and start walking. This was an outright bus hijacking: they forced the drivers to detour under the bridge, where we were surprised to discover a huge contingent of police and army, including a colonel (area commander in chief) and a General Security Service (Shabak) official - totaling about 50 or 60 people in uniform. Nearly approaching our number. We had no chance against them.

We were shown a "Closed Military Area" order, and permitted to get off the buses while trying to negotiate. But we soon realized that a different approach would be preferable. We drove back to Kufr Qassem, and some people began to shuttle small groups to Zawiya in their private cars. We approached the village via a side road through the olive groves. The second shuttle of the same cars met the same security forces who had already understood our plan and resumed their checkpoint and inspection. This was the reason that only 20 activists reached the village. At any rate, we were warmly welcomed with loud whistling and cheers. The demonstration had already ended, held by about one thousand people and apparently peaceful. However we were requested to address the few hundreds who were still there. We considered this significant, and were glad that at least some of us had made it. This is of course arbitrary and not fair towards all the others, but we hope you'll understand. The next struggle will be over these three villages - Zawiya, Deir Ballut and Rafat, and we find it of utmost importance to support their struggle, even prior to the work on the fence itself.

In conclusion - (how we love those nags who always look at the positive side of everything...) - let us still emphasize the favorable aspects of this day: The army, police, GSS and co. managed to keep our buses from crossing the Green Line. However, we did smuggle 20 activists in to the demonstration. Our activists' presence there was important for it showed the Palestinians that, in spite of our small number, we are with them in their struggle. Anyone who has ever attended some demonstration against the fence, or received calls from the ground asking to come join them, "even if it's only five people", knows how welcome and encouraging our presence can be. We also made our point to the various Occupation forces: we shall not give up our right and our duty to struggle against the injustice, the evil and stupidity of the fence and all other Occupation actions.

Last but not least, everyone who was there saw the magnitude of the force anticipating our arrival. Obviously the highest echelons of the Occupation forces are concerned in view of the popular Palestinian demonstrations against the fence, and even stressed at the sight of our presence in those demonstrations. These actions apparently keep them awake at night... One of the senior officers on the spot told us explicitly that the order to stop us came from a very high political source. The Occupation forces are quite ready to face armed struggle, but recent months have shown that a civil, popular uprising is a bit much for them. Bombed-out buses look good on camera, but soldiers who beat civilians and shoot into a crowd - are not really such a hit.

Festive greetings of liberty for all peoples of this country, For those enslaved and exploited, For those suffering under the yoke of Occupation, For all the oppressed, men and women alike, And for the oppressors too - let them be free of the need or the will to oppress anyone, And for all the fortunate others - may we expand the spaces of choice and freedom in our lives.

Ronen, Yasmine Zawiya tea

3] Updates ongoing struggle - NB: news re Vanunu + don't forget to use the links to constant updates

Against the Wall (contact addresses) Refusniks (prisoner addresses & links to latest updates) Vanunu to be released April 21 [ links to the latest re the Donate Now "Instead of Flowers" campaign / worldwide vigils etc. especially important for those who don't have the Paypal option ]

-- Against the Wall ðåëçåú éåîéåîéú áëôøéí îàéîéí ò"é äçåîä ìúàí òí àééáé 064-604172 àøé÷ 050-607034

Day to day presence at villages threatened by route of wall. Contact: Ivy Sichel 064-604172 who set's up a list for people who can come at short notice, or: Arik Asherman 050- 607034


Constantly-updated list of all presently jailed refusniks:

English - Hebrew / òáøéú -

For the latest news about the five:

NB: Letters of support to Noam Bahat / Haggai Mattar / Matan Kaminer AGAF BET Ma’asiyaho Prison P.O.B 13 Ramla Israel

Adam Maor / Shimri Tzameret: Hermon Prison P.O.B 4011 KFAR M’RAR Israel

-- Vanunu to be released April 21

Instead of sending flowers Wordlwide campaign WELCOME VANUNU by donating a few dollars (N.B.: online but ALSO otherwise) as a welcome gesture:

List of international vigils on day of Vanunu release (April 21):

Online petition for the unconditional release of Vanunu

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