Monday, 20 December 2004

Palestine - time to act on the real message of Christmas

'Greetings from the Holy City of Jerusalem', read the Christmas card to us from Mohammad Aruri of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).

A message of peace from a far from peaceful part of the world. A message of hope at a time of despair for Palestinians. And a message of respect for other's traditions, religions and cultures that is tragically missing at home and abroad.

Mike Kirby, UNISON Scotland Convenor called on branches at Scottish Council to remember and respect other religions and cultures as we celebrate our festive season, whatever that may mean to us individually.

A timely call when there is so much intolerance. When the effect of press irresponsibility is thumped home in a poll showing tabloid readers are far more likely than others to link rising crime with immigration.

At a time when professed Christian leaders here and in the USA have led us into a war where they don't even count the numbers of innocents killed.

At a time when families grieve the young men who won't come back after doing their country's work in Iraq.

And at a time when the toll mounts in Palestine.

A toll underlined in a selection of 40 examples reported through the PGFTU from just a few days in November.

RAFAH 16 Nov: Israeli troops opened fired at residential areas. 'Alaa' Suleiman al-Sheikh 'Eid 19 and Salam Joma'a al-Rush 50 wounded by the gunfire.

KHAN YOUNIS 15 Nov: Soldiers fired at homes and wounded Mustafa Omar Al-Astal 21

CENTRAL GAZA 21 Nov: Khaleel Shihada, 20 shot dead by Israeli soldiers in refugee camp.

GAZA CITY 17 Nov: Intisar Jaber Darweesh 14, died of wounds sustained last week when she was shot during a military raid. Ambulances had been unable to reach her quickly as a result of heavy military fire.

HEBRON 15 Nov: 12-year-old 'Alaa' Isma'il Abu 'Oalayan was hit by a rubber-coated metal bullet in the head.

NABLUS 20 Nov: Montaser Harara 14 and Amer Banat 15 shot dead by Israeli soldiers.

It would of course be wrong to ignore the fact that innocent Israelis are also being killed. How do you excuse leaders who send their desperate young men and women out as suicide bombers to kill other innocents? But we rarely hear about the day to day human suffering in Palestine.

It is a suffering on both sides that can only end when our country and the USA back words about peace with action.

Peace is the message of Christmas. With professed Christian leaders is it too much to ask that they take that message seriously and bring peace and justice to Palestinians in 2005? international/palestine.html

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