Meditation Focus #60

Pacification of the Middle East


What follows is the 60th Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, March 17, 2001.


1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Focus


We are approaching what may well be a crucial turning point in the long Middle East conflict opposing Israelis and Palestinians over the formal creation of a viable Palestinian state. After 18 months of escalating violence from both sides and a brutal and destructive re-occupation of several Palestinian towns this past week by 20,000 Israeli troops, there is finally a glimmer of hope that both sides may be willing to agree to a complete cease-fire and resume peace negociations that could ultimately lead to security and safety for everyone, an end to the cycle of mutual, bloody reprisals and a better and long hoped-for peaceful future for all children of the region. Talks for this cease-fire shephered by American special envoy Anthony Zinni appear to be leading to a possible breakthrough summit meeting between Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon in the next few days to negociate this ceasefire, the first stepping stone towards implementing the Tenet Agreement and Mitchell Report that would gradually open the way towards a negociated settlement to this very long conflict.

There appears to be an opportune convergence of interests on the part of the United States and Israel as well as of various Arab regimes in the region to finally settle this conflict to the somewhat reasonable satisfaction of most parties involved. Yet the resistance from fanatic groups on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian divide is a major stumbling block that could once again derail those efforts and precipitate the whole Middle East in an even riskier turmoil.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks to contribute in fostering peace, forgiveness and tolerance in the minds and hearts of all people concerned. Especially envision a successful meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian heads of state leading not only to an appeasement of the situation in their respective countries but also to a true and sustained pacification of the whole Middle East. May the Power of Love, channeled through Light Servers around the world and from the invisible realms, heal the many spiritual wounds left by this conflict and thus create the best possible conditions for Peace to flourish in the Middle East, for the Highest Good of All.

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You may also review our numerous previous Meditation Focus on the Middle East at


Sharon Announces Cease-Fire Talks (Sat Mar 16, 7:58 PM)

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plans to meet top Palestinian leaders soon with the intention of declaring a cease-fire that would halt nearly 18 months of Mideast fighting, Sharon's office said Saturday night. The surprise announcement pointed to the possibility of a major breakthrough — yet both the Palestinians and the United States said that while talks were ongoing, the Israeli statement was premature. The Palestinians are insisting that Israel first withdraw its troops from all Palestinian areas before they will agree to a cease-fire. The Israeli troops remain in parts of Bethlehem and adjacent Beit Jalla, just south of Jerusalem. (...) Sharon "is committed to a cease-fire and will do everything possible to make a cease-fire come about," Gissin said. If a cease-fire is reached, they would immediately move to implement a U.S. truce plan worked out last year by CIA Director George Tenet, Sharon's office said. Israel has given assurances it will meet a key Palestinian demand and withdraw its army from the remaining Palestinian areas where troops are operating, Israeli officials said.

See also:

Palestinians Set Conditions Amid Talks Confusion
(...) European Union leaders urged Israel at the end of a two-day summit in Barcelona on Saturday to pull all its forces out of the Palestinian territories immediately and to respect international law, including Palestinians' human rights. The leaders also called on the Palestinians to crack down on terrorism and reaffirmed their support for an independent Palestinian state alongside an Israel secure within internationally recognized borders. CLIP



Mideast Envoy Sounds Upbeat on Truce (Sat Mar 16)

JERUSALEM (AP) - A U.S. mediator shuttled between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders Saturday, trying to bring the two sides together for face-to-face talks on a cease-fire that would halt nearly 18 months of Mideast violence.

The mediator, Anthony Zinni, has sounded upbeat since his arrival Thursday. Israel has pulled its army out of three Palestinian towns. But the Palestinians want Israeli troops out of two other Palestinian towns before direct cease-fire talks begin, while Israelis are looking for assurances that Palestinian militants will be reined in.

Zinni met with Yasser Arafat at his West Bank headquarters in the town of Ramallah, and then held five hours of talks with the Palestinian leader's top aides, Palestinian sources said. Afterward, Zinni headed to a meeting Saturday night with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at his desert ranch in southern Israel.


Zinni, whose previous two truce missions failed amid the violence, told reporters Friday that the meetings so far had been "extremely positive." A top Israeli Foreign Ministry official echoed Zinni's optimism. "I would say that this is a weekend of hope," Gideon Meir said Saturday.

Zinni has arrived during the bloodiest stretch of fighting since the violence erupted in September 2000. In March alone, 192 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 62 people on the Israeli side. March also saw the largest Israeli military operation since the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, with Israel deploying 20,000 troops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in response to a string of Palestinian bombings and shootings.

The Palestinian side said U.S. pressure on Israel to withdraw from Palestinian-controlled areas gave Zinni's mission a greater chance of success. Israel pulled out of Ramallah and two other Palestinian towns in the West Bank on Friday, but remained encamped in Bethlehem and adjacent Beit Jalla, which are just south of Jerusalem.


Meanwhile, for a second straight day, thousands of Arabs took to the streets across the Middle East on Saturday to burn Israeli and American flags and express anger over the rising Palestinian death toll. (...) On Friday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned in an interview with Israeli television that Israeli military actions against the Palestinians were feeding hate among Arabs. "The time will come when 400 million people will hate you," he said. "And what will you do then?"



Cheney and Zinni Mideast trips show convergence of interests

by David Makovsky

Courtesy of The JTA -

The twin trips of Vice President Dick Cheney and peace envoy Anthony Zinni to the Middle East this week are seemingly unrelated, but in fact, they fit together. President Bush dispatched his vice president to demonstrate resolve in combating Iraq´s weapons of mass destruction, a resolve that could include military action against Baghdad.

He wanted Cheney to consult with a variety of Arab countries, most prominently Saudi Arabia, amid hope that he can elicit their cooperation in this effort. The Bush administration views Iraq as a linchpin for its regional strategy, given Iraq´s proven record for troublemaking.

If the United States were successful in installing a friendlier regime in a country that has huge amounts of oil reserves, some figures in the Bush administration believe, other Arab oil states would lose their ability to blackmail the United States. The ability to achieve these objectives remains very uncertain, but they could have a significant impact on the future prospects for Israeli-Arab peace.

As the 1991 Gulf War demonstrated, only when radicalism in Iraq was dealt a sharp blow was there any genuine hope for Israeli-Arab peacemaking, and not the reverse as some Arabists claim. When Saddam Hussein was dealt a serious setback, Arabs agreed to attend the landmark Madrid peace conference later that year.

A U.S. war against Iraq is not inevitable, but it seems increasingly likely, even though it is much more difficult to launch a change in regime than to expel Iraq from Kuwait, as President Bush´s father did.

Even if Saddam agrees to acquiesce on arms inspections, in keeping with U.N. resolutions, Bush administration officials believe such acquiescence would mean little more than foot-dragging and a cat-and-mouse exercise, as has happened so often in the past.

If the United States does take action, it would be launching a preventive rather than a traditional retaliatory war.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger argued in a recent column that such a war is morally justified since Saddam not only has such weapons, but he has used them twice, including against Kurds who lived in his own country. Sept. 11 demonstrates, according to Kissinger, that the danger is real and it is suicidal to wait for the United States to be attacked first. In his mission, Cheney is seeking not only Arab political cover for a move against Iraq, but also options for any military action.


Enter the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Bush administration fears that Cheney´s mission could be marred if, instead of the focus being Iraq, Saudi Arabia´s Crown Prince Abdullah and other Arab leaders start launching tirades about how it is hard to support the United States in confronting Iraq while pan-Arab satellite Al-Jazeera television broadcasts images of Israelis killing Palestinians during the current violence.

Bush, fearing that Arab complaints on this issue would undercut the focus on Iraq, decided to dispatch Zinni to the region amid hopes that he could help tamp down the violence.


Israel understands the importance of maintaining strategic convergence with the United States, and thus the idea of sending Zinni to ease the Cheney mission was welcomed in Jerusalem. To facilitate his trip, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ultimately accepted a request put forward in a phone call last week by Secretary of State Colin Powell to drop the precondition for seven days of quiet as a prerequisite for a cease-fire. And when the Palestinian Authority arrested the last of the suspected killers of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze´evi, Sharon announced that Arafat would have more freedom of movement.

The U.S. focus on the Saudis may also lead Zinni to focus on a second package deal, enabling Arafat to attend the Arab summit in Beirut at the end of the month in return for a meaningful cease-fire with Israel. It is at that summit where Arab countries are expected to focus on a Saudi proposal for Arab diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from lands it conquered in the 1967 Six-Day War.




Envoy's role linked to Arab backing on Iraq (March 9, 2002)

The decision to dispatch the US special envoy General Anthony Zinni to the Middle East was the price Washington was forced to pay for the tacit compliance of its Arab allies with an eventual offensive on Iraq, diplomats and analysts said yesterday. President George Bush and vice-president Dick Cheney resisted calls from the Arab world and from US secretary of state, Colin Powell, for direct intervention in the Middle East conflict until an unheralded about-turn on Thursday.

The White House believed that sending the retired marine general to the Middle East for the third time when there was little hope of brokering a ceasefire would undermine US credibility in the region.

But the messages delivered by President Mubarak of Egypt, who met Mr Bush on Tuesday, and by the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, who is sponsoring a personal land-for-peace initiative, was that Mr Cheney's Middle East tour next week to pave the way for action against Saddam Hussein, would be met by a wall of resistance if there was no progress in curbing Israeli-Palestinian violence.


Any large-scale US military operation against Iraq would depend on access to bases in the region, such as the Prince Sultan air base in Saudi Arabia, Incirlik in Turkey, and Camp Doha in Kuwait, and all three countries remain anxious over the impact of an Iraqi campaign on their security and internal stability.

Judith Kipper, a Middle East analyst on the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Bush administration "was finally convinced that to send the vice-president to talk about Iraq, the war, etc, while the fires were burning in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wasn't going to work".




Israelis launch massive attack (March 13, 2002)

Israeli armour and 20,000 combat troops stormed refugee camps in Gaza and occupied the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday in the largest military offensive since the invasion of Lebanon two decades ago.

At least 31 Palestinians were killed in the operation. Seven Israelis were killed and a further six wounded when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on vehicles near a kibbutz close to the previously dormant northern border with Lebanon. The military offensive came after about 50,000 Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Monday night demanding the overthrow of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.


Special reports Israel and the Middle East,2759,377264,00.html



Conspiracy of silence

Why do Britain and the EU do nothing about Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians? (March 15, 2002)

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are currently experiencing a huge military offensive by Israel. We are a largely unarmed and defenceless civilian population facing the force of a major military power. The human rights abuses committed by Israel in the towns, villages and refugee camps of the occupied Palestinian territories are breathtaking both in their scale and brutality, yet the states which call themselves the international community are leaving us to the mercy of the Israeli army.


Israel justifies these attacks on civilian areas as necessary to root out "terrorists" and destroy "terrorist bases". But their actions go far beyond any possible claims of self-defence. Rather, Israeli actions appear designed to punish the entire Palestinian civilian population, in violation of human rights and humanitarian law. These include the use of heavy weaponry in intensive strikes on densely populated civilian areas, utterly disproportionate to any perceived or real threats. The failure of the Israeli forces to distinguish between civilian and military targets has resulted in high numbers of civilian deaths and injuries: from February 28to March 10 alone, more than 113 Palestinians were killed and 368 injured.

The vast majority were civilians who do not serve in the Palestinian Authority police or security forces. Children, women and refugees have been indiscriminately attacked, in contravention of international law which provides them with special protection. Particularly striking for human rights observers have been the mass roundups of Palestinian males between the ages of 14 to 50 in the past week. Since February 28, about 2,200 people - including children - have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in camps outside their own areas. Inhuman and degrading methods routinely used during these arrests and detentions include blindfolding, strip-searching, and writing numbers on detainees' arms.

On a scale only seen recently in the Balkans, we have suffered extensive destruction of civilian property, including houses, workplaces, hospitals, clinics, ambulances, schools and universities, churches and mosques - as well as water and electricity supply lines. Despite the glare of publicity, Israel even feels free to attack humanitarian agencies, and deny civilian access to medical supplies and treatment. Since last Friday, there has been an effective ban on any movement of Palestinian vehicles in the West Bank, including ambulances, unless they have express permission. Otherwise, they are shot at on sight. This tightens still further restrictions in force since September 2000 - including hundreds of checkpoints, unmanned dirt-blockades and trenches - making access to work, education, food, water and health services extremely difficult, if not impossible. Since February 28 there has also been an alarming increase in the number of attacks on medical staff, ambulances and hospitals and field clinics, with at least six medical staff killed, 12 injured and five ambulances destroyed.

These acts are in direct violation of the fourth Geneva Convention 1949, which is legally binding on Israel. Several are classed as "grave breaches" - in other words, war crimes - including documented cases of murder and manslaughter, instances of intentionally causing "great suffering or serious injury to body or health" and "extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly".

Suicide bombings inside Israel which target innocent civilians are outrages. However, these acts cannot be used as justification for the collective punishment of the entire civilian population of the occupied territories, nor can they excuse or justify Israeli breaches of international law, including its continued illegal occupation of the territories.

We now face the real threat of what is euphemistically called "transfer" - in other words, the forcible expulsion of the Palestinian population - something that is openly discussed in Israeli military and political circles. The current escalation of the conflict seems designed to provide the pretext for mass transfers of civilians. Israel's acts of ethnic cleansing in the past are well-documented. In 1948, more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled or fled from massacres. During and immediately after the Six Day war of June 1967, 388,000 were expelled.

There can be no doubt that the world is fully aware of Israel's war crimes, that Israeli war criminals are acting with impunity and that we face a real risk of mass transfer. A quarter of those killed by Israel during the intifada have been under 18. Why is no effective action being taken to protect Palestinian civilians? All states have an express legal obligation to ensure Israel's respect for the fourth Geneva Convention. Crucially, all states are specifically obliged to search for, investigate and bring perpetrators of war crimes to justice.



Some Israelis Questioning Effectiveness Of Offensive (March 16, 2002)

JERUSALEM, March 15 -- As Israeli tanks pulled back early today to the edges of most of the Palestinian towns they had reoccupied over the past two weeks, they left a trail of smashed cars, damaged houses, broken water mains, downed power lines and deep animosity. Israel's campaign against refugee camps and adjacent cities, the widest-ranging offensive in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the territories were captured in 1967, was launched with the declared objective of "destroying the terrorist infrastructure" that Israeli officials say takes refuge there. But some influential Israelis have questioned whether the goal was reached.

Top Israeli officials said "Operation Vital Security" did succeed in arresting several thousand Palestinian boys and men, seizing scores of weapons and destroying suspected weapons workshops. At the same time, some of the same officials acknowledged, the operation did little to impair the Palestinians' ability -- to say nothing of their will -- to carry out further attacks. The defense minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, was reported to have agreed that Israel's three-day occupation of the main West Bank city, Ramallah, was essentially "for show," according to Nahum Barnea, a columnist in the country's best-selling newspaper, Yedioth Aharonoth. And in the midst of the offensive, in which 20,000 troops and scores of tanks and armored vehicles were deployed in and around Palestinian towns and refugee camps, a senior security official gave essentially the same assessment.

"Nobody in the Shin Bet [Israel's domestic security service] thinks these operations will stop terrorism," the official said. "It's impossible to end this wave of terrorism without a political process."


Against that background, the Israeli public appears disenchanted with its leaders. Approval ratings for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whose public support ran high during his first 10 to 11 months in office, have plummeted. In the latest survey, published today in the Maariv newspaper, 35 percent of respondents said they are "pleased" with Sharon's performance, down from 60 percent last fall.



Israeli morale at all-time low as search for answers goes on

JERUSALEM, March 12 (JTA) — As a wave of terror attacks and shootings shake the usual shrug-it-off Israeli mentality, there is an increasing sense that the government is not doing enough to improve the situation. On the left, a growing number of voices is calling for the government to unilaterally leave the territories. On the right, people are demanding that the government crush the Palestinian Authority, and bring security back to Israel. (...) But for the Peace Coalition, which includes Peace Now, Meretz, the Labor doves, and the secular kibbutzim, among others, military action isn´t the right response. Their message is simple: The cycle of killing and revenge can only be broken by a bold political initiative. "For the first time since the intifada began, we´ve been able to create a voice that can´t be ignored in Israeli public debate," said Didi Remez, a spokesman for Peace Now. "It´s obvious that a majority of Israelis are looking for answers, and they aren´t willing to hear the same mantras."

Now, for the first time in months, they´re coming out again. As the Sabbath ended on March 2, a Palestinian suicide bomber exploded in a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem, killing 10 people. Minutes later, a previously planned Peace Now and Peace Coalition march and rally began nearby, with more than 3,000 people in attendance. Two weeks earlier, more than 15,000 people attended a march and rally in Tel Aviv´s Rabin Square, according to Peace Now figures. It has been months since Israel´s peacenik groups have been able to gather their forces.




Wake up. Things Can Get Even Worse

(...) We're all locked into a big hole here. And it's the people on both sides who will pay the price, especially the weaker side, the Palestinians. As a Palestinian, I hope that my community sees how wrong the suicide bombings are and how damaging they are to the national vision to achieve independence and live in a free, democratic Palestine. I hope that the Israeli community starts to realize what kind of suffering its government and army is inflicting upon the Palestinians and that their security cannot come without ending the occupation of Palestinian land.


Signs of awakening on both sides are starting to emerge, like the refusal of a number of Israeli army reservists to serve in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and the Palestinian voices calling for non-violent protest instead of bombs. I hope that the US and the rest of the world wakes up from its two-week focus and starts seeing what implications this conflict could have for an already troubled region and the world.




1,197 Palestinians have been killed and 18,444 Palestinians have been injured in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between 29 September 2000 and 13 March 2002.
Original source: Palestinian Red Crescent Society -

Intifada factsheets - (updated daily, 29 Sept. 2000 - present) - 'Palestinians killed' factsheet offers telling statistics about the killings, including type of ammunition and percentage of Palestinians killed outside of clash situations. 'Intifada' factsheet logs Israeli attacks on medical personnel and journalists, a list of towns currently under seige, and information about property, agricultural and economic damage.


Human rights trends from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza (updated weekly)

This report covers Israeli violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in the period 7-13 March 2002. Israeli occupying forces launched an unprecedented full-scale assault against Palestinian civilians and property throughout the OPT using ground, air, and sea forces. According to PCHR's documentation, this week, 87 Palestinians, including 70 civilians, and an Italian journalist were killed and hundreds were wounded by Israeli occupying forces.

The OPT witnessed the largest Israeli military campaign against the OPT since the beginning of Al-Aqsa Intifada this week. On 11 March, Israeli occupying forces have invaded Ramallah and Al-Bireh in the West Bank and imposed a total curfew. They opened fire indiscriminately at people, including medical personnel and journalists. Seven Palestinians and an Italian journalist were killed and dozens were injured.


In violation of international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, in the last two weeks, Israeli occupying forces targeted Palestinian ambulances. They also denied the access of the wounded to emergency treatment leading to more deaths among Palestinians. Three Palestinian paramedics and a physician were killed in three separated incidents in Tulkarm, Beit Lahia, and Bethlehem. In an apparent willful killing, on 8 March, Israeli occupying forces shot dead a 22-year-old Palestinian civilian in Beit Hanina in occupied Jerusalem.


Read the complete report at

Read past reports at



Mass arrests create new foes for Israel (March 16, 2002)

Human rights groups condemn army as hundreds of Palestinian men are detained and humiliated
Hundreds of Palestinian boys and men, rounded up at gunpoint in Israel's sweep through the refugee camps of the West Bank, were left hungry and unwashed and were taunted by their captors during a confinement that lasted as long as six days, the Guardian has learned. The only apparent criteria for the mass arrests was that they were Palestinian and male, aged between 15 and 45.

The round-up has been condemned by Israeli and international organisations - including the United Nations - who say such sweeping arrests are a gross violation of Israel's duties as an occupying power in the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said that the army had "lost any moral compass", and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel said the detainees had been subjected to "degrading and humiliating treatment".


In Tulkaram, the round-up came in two waves, after Israeli tanks thundered into the refugee camp in the early hours of March 7. "We were in the middle of the camp under the siege of Israelis. It was terrifying - there were Apache helicopters over our heads and many, many snipers. Anybody moving in the street was shot," said Faisal Salamah, 36, the local director of refugee affairs for the Palestinian Authority. "They called on all men from the age of 12 and up to go to the school, or they would destroy our homes. One of the men with me was 80 years old."

At the school - which is run by the UN - the men were handcuffed and in many cases blindfolded and left to wait for nearly 12 hours, until they were bussed to two holding pens at Ofer, an Israeli army base, and Kedumim, an illegal Jewish settlement. Some of the men were held for as long as six days. At least 50 were unceremoniously dumped on a perilous stretch of road outside Jerusalem at around midnight on Tuesday, forced to pass Jewish settlements and Israeli army tanks to find their way to their homes, many miles away.


Peres to Zinni: Both sides must implement steps for cease-fire

Where do we go from here? (March 15)



Tank pullout gives envoy slim hope,2763,668548,00.html

Key events in the intifada since September 2000,6189,382165,00.html

An interactive history of Israel,6189,380127,00.html
Understand the roots of the present unrest with this guide

Israel and the Middle East: Key events,10551,626719,00.html
Key events of the last 110 years in the history of Israel and the Middle East

Middle East News Information


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