Message from Missionary in Palestine
by Rev. Sandra Olewine
As you will certainly know by now, over 15 people were killed this morning in a car bomb attack on an Israeli Egged bus near the northern Meggido junction. Members of Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the person carrying out the attack was from Jenin. The power of the blast and explosion of the bus' fuel tank left little more than a melted twisted frame, hampering attempts to identify the people killed and their number.
Reports are still conflicting about who was on the bus. Early stories indicated it was full of morning commuters. The Ha'aretz web edition story at 12:33 reported police saying that most of the casualties were Israeli soldiers on their way to their bases. If they were soldiers, some may certainly get into the debate over whether they were 'legitimate targets' in the on-going conflict. The Fourth Geneva Convention acknowledges the right of people to fight against an occupying force, making soldiers 'legitimate targets' in the rules of war. But, do soldiers on the Israeli-side of the green line fit such a description?
Such questions and distinctions, though, are irrelevant to the families who are trying to find out if their loved ones were killed or injured. They're irrelevant to those who will be burying their loved ones, whose lives have been torn apart by yet again another bomb blast. They are sons and daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends.
Palestinian and Israeli families continue to pay the price for a political unwillingness to create a just end to this conflict. They continue to pay the price for a conflict which can never be settled by violence - whether carried out by small militant groups or a huge military machine. Thousands of Palestinian families and hundreds of Israeli families are grieving over the killing of loved ones in the last 20 months. Literally, millions of Palestinian families are suffering from the economic crisis which has been caused by the closures and sieges on their towns and villages, with the vast majority not knowing how they will feed their children tomorrow or the day after.
Friends from a nearby village stopped in the office a few minutes ago. They were rushing to get back home, fearful that their way would soon be blocked by Israeli forces. They echoed the sentiments of Palestinians I talked to all morning, saying, "Sorry. What happened today was horrible. Such acts don't help Palestinians. They create an excuse for more military action. It's enough death for everyone. We just want to work and provide for our children. Our village has never done anything violent against Israelis. We are peaceful people. But, no one - no one - has work. We are on the village emergency committee and we have over 2400 shekels worth of utility bills in our pockets that families can not pay. The desperation is growing day by day. It makes you crazy. How do we know that this won't change people, make them fanatics? There seems no way out. Is there no end to this?"
One can almost guarantee that the Israeli government will place the blame for this attack on President Arafat. Will they now try to expel him from the territories? If they do, what then? How much tighter can they strangle the Palestinian people? Is the only choice to 'flatten' Palestine? Force all Palestinians out of the territories? Would any of those choices really make Israelis more secure in their lives?
Hasn't the land called holy absorbed enough blood of its children?
May God comfort all those who are grieving, strengthen those struggling for a just and secure future for both peoples, transform anger and bitterness into constructive change, and equip Israeli, Palestinian and International political leadership with wisdom, courage and compassion that the pain and destruction might cease.
Rev. Sandra Olewine
Date posted: Jun 06, 2002