Today my thoughts return me to Jerusalem and Ramallah, Hebron/al-Ḫalīl, At-Tuwani, and Tuba and to the many people who live under the yoke and tyranny of occupation yet who resist violence and embody strength, patience, and fortitude. And for all who yearn for security and peace in Israel and the Palestinian territories. For today is the anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly vote on Resolution 181 which on November 29, 1947 enacted the process to end the British Mandate in Palestine and set the stage for partition and the creation of an independent Jewish state and an independent Arab state in Palestine. Accepted by the Jewish community but widely rejected in the Arab world, the portion of the resolution dealing with partition was never fulfilled. Weeks after this vote, the United Kingdom announced May 14, 1948 as the ending of the British Mandate, and on that same date the Jewish Agency meeting in Tel Aviv declared the establishment of the State of Israel. The following day Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Transjordan entered Palestine and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War began. Today, the current reality is the State of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The United Nations General Assembly will meet today in New York to respond to a bid brought to it by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its President, Mahmoud Abbas, to be recognized as an independent state, specifically a “non-member observer state” from its current status as a non-member observer entity. Both Israel and the United States rejects this bid. Similar to the 1947 vote, various entities are jockeying for power and applying pressure. What is hoped for in the bid by the Palestinian Authority as reported on NPR this morning is that it “’makes it easier for the Palestinians to join other U.N. bodies. Controversially, that includes the International Criminal Court,’ where Palestinians might ‘launch proceedings against Israeli officials alleging war crimes or other abuses.’”
As I have shared on this blog before, two years ago I had the opportunity to go to the West Bank with a group of Reformed Church and Christian Reformed Church members participating in a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation. There, we got to meet individuals who are affected daily by the current situation of occupation and the political impasse that accompanies it. We heard much opinion shared about possible remedies: the two state solution, but also a possible one state solution. We learned much history and about the role of Zionism and colonialism and expressions of racism. We heard from many: Jewish, Christian, and Moslem; Arab and Israeli and Palestinian; men and women; settler and refugee. And again and again we heard stories of anger and fear and heartache. But more so, we heard stories of strength and endurance, grace and hope, yearnings for peace and security and justice. We often heard the repeated theme of David and Goliath, although depending upon who was sharing, who was David and who was Goliath often changed.
The present situation is untenable. What happened last week in Gaza is unacceptable.
The most lasting impression I left the West Bank with, however is related to its children, their hope and endurance and joy even in the midst of significant challenge and tragedy. In the West Bank 35.1% of the 2.6 million person population is under 15 years of age. In Gaza it is even higher at 43.8% of 1.7 million persons.
I don’t have a solution. Personally, I have a hope for the possible outcome of today’s vote at the UN, but it will not be the end all be all. But mostly, I’m thinking about the kids. Especially in a season as we await the coming Christ child…I have these words in my head:
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.