Meditation Focus # 62

Reclaiming Our Humanity


What follows is the 62nd Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, April 14, 2002.


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


Following the last two weeks of utter destruction inflicted upon the Palestinian territories and the grave allegations of widespread slaughter of innocent and unarmed Palestinian civilians caused during a large-scale military operation by the Israeli army in its effort to root out those would-be suicide bombers who may be preparing other attacks upon innocent and unarmed Israeli civilians, the cycle of violence in the Middle East has reached new heights of horror that have left the rest of the world sickened by all this reckless killing, triggered worldwide street protests mostly against the heavy-handed Israeli military operations, and provoked international condemnations against all these gross violations of all human rights conventions in times of war. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell who finally arrived Friday in Israel to try to get both parties to agree to and uphold a ceasefire, has so far been unsuccessful in obtaining from Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw his troops from the Palestinian Territories despite repeated requests from the U.S. government and several U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding an immediate halt to the bloodshed and mayhem by the Israeli Defense Forces in what would now be the State of Palestine if the now frozen peace process had succeeded in bringing peace to the region.

What has been called by many a "Mission Impossible" is perhaps the last best chance that remains to prevent the situation from spiralling into even worst-case scenarios of war and it would seem that a quasi-miracle is now the only thing that could bring these two people to their sense, so they may finally reclaim their humanity and stop all this senseless violence that has absolutely no chance of ever solving the divisive issues that have opposed them since Israel invaded what is now called the Palestinian Territories 35 years ago.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks to contribute in fostering in everyone's mind and heart the true, sincere desire to put an end to all forms of violence, to acknowledge that fear and hatred will only bring everyone further away from their innate, compassionate loving self, and to endeavour to gradually build up mutual trust, mutual security and mutual appreciation in a spirit of forgiveness and unconditional love. Since this conflict is in a sense a litmus test for all humanity as to our growing resolve to peacefully settle all conflicts from the past and create a new world of justice, sharing and harmony for all human beings, along with heightened respect for the sacredness of all other life forms, we all have a direct stake in the successful completion of Mr. Powell's mission and all the successive further steps that must be taken afterwards to mend the relationship between the Israelis and Palestinians and eventually bring peace to the Middle East, for the Highest Good of All.

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This section is for those who wish to understand in more detail the situation of this week's Meditation Focus. For those who wish to read on, we would encourage you to view the following information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision you wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mindset, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of healing. We provide the details below because we recognise that the knowledge of what needs healing can assist us to structure our awareness to maximise our healing effect.


If you are interested in reading recent compilations of information relevant to the situation in the Middle East, please go at:

Media compilation #65: Sabra, Chatila and Now Jenin! (Posted 04/13/2002)

Rising Phoenix Series #12: Peace is the Only Viable Option (Posted 04/11/2002)

Ethnic Martyrising: The Barbaric Persecution of an Entire People (Posted 04/10/2002)


Powell to Meet With Arafat Sunday (Apr 13)

JERUSALEM (AP) - Struggling to salvage his peace mission, Secretary of State Colin Powell will press Yasser Arafat when they meet Sunday to take "effective action" to end Palestinian attacks against Israel. Powell also is calling for restraint by Israeli forces on the West Bank.

Acting on the Palestinian leader's denunciation of terror in a statement the White House demanded, Powell rescheduled Saturday's postponed meeting with Arafat and other senior Palestinians in Ramallah. The statement contained "a number of interesting and positive elements," including condemnation of terror, a Jerusalem bombing on Friday and a reaffirmation of a Palestinian commitment to a negotiate peace with Israel, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. Also, the statement called for immediate implementation of a shelved cease-fire plan prepared by CIA Director George tenet, Boucher said.


In what appeared to be synchronized diplomacy, Powell said Israeli troops must refrain from "excessive use of force," and singled out Jenin, the embattled Palestinian town, for special concern. "We are particularly concerned at the humanitarian situation," Powell said of Israeli operations in Jenin that Palestinian and outside observers have condemned as heavy-handed.

Arafat responded with his statement denouncing terrorism. It was the kind of statement President Bush was looking for so Powell could go ahead with the meeting in Ramallah, where the Palestinian leader has been confined in his office by Israeli troops.

Powell and Arafat were to have met at Arafat's headquarters Saturday, but a suicide bombing in Jerusalem prompted Powell to hold off, and to call for Arafat to condemn terror. Arafat's statement, in Arabic, was distributed by the Palestinian news service WAFA, giving it the circulation the Bush administration wanted. The statement specifically condemned the Jerusalem bombing, which killed six people and injured scores. "We are condemning strongly all the attacks which are targeting civilians from both sides and especially the attack that took place against Israeli citizens yesterday in Jerusalem," the statement said.

Earlier Saturday, Powell issued a statement calling on Israeli forces in the West Bank to "exercise the utmost restraint and discipline and refrain from the excessive use of force." Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not complied with Bush's call for a swift withdrawal. Powell, too, has been unable to persuade Sharon to provide a timetable for removing troops from Palestinian cities and towns.

A top Arafat aide, Hassan Abdel Rahman, said in Washington that Arafat wanted to cooperate with Powell, but also needed to hear from the administration a condemnation of Israeli military's actions against Palestinian civilians. Palestinians allege many civilians have been killed in the Israeli operation to wipe out militant networks in the West Bank.

Israeli forces moved into more West Bank villages Saturday, and sporadic fighting continued, especially in Nablus where seven Israeli tanks began shelling the main local government complex.

Powell met with Christian religious leaders and aid workers while awaiting Arafat's response. Rene Kosirnik, head of the Red Cross delegation to Israel, said Israeli forces on the West Bank were subjecting the Palestinian people to "collective punishment."

"The whole population should not suffer so much," he said after meeting with Powell. Kosirnik singled out the refugee camps near Jenin, saying conditions were especially bad and that Israel was denying access to the Red Cross.

Richard Cook, West Bank field director for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, said dead bodies were piling up. Powell had come to Israel in hopes of ending the bloodshed with a cease-fire and he repeated declarations of his support for a Palestinian state. He said the Palestinians had to be given hope. He has advised Israel that hunting down terrorists on the West Bank would not provide security, that only a settlement with Arafat would accomplish that.




Controversy Swirls Over Jenin Battle

By Molly Moore and Lee Hockstader
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, April 13, 2002; Page A01

JENIN REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank, April 12 -- As Israeli helicopters fired missiles on the jumble of cinder-block houses around her, Tamam Raja cowered in terror under a blanket, she said, listening to the anguished screams for help from neighbors as their homes collapsed on top of them.

When a sniper round tore through the window and hit her son-in-law in a room above her, she and other family members sobbed helplessly as he bled and pleaded, "Rescue me, rescue me." Fifteen minutes later, she recounted, new barrages from the U.S.-supplied gunships entombed him alive in the rubble. Soon she could no longer hear his cries.

The Israeli assault on Jenin refugee camp has been the most intense and sustained of the 15-day-old offensive against what Prime Minister Ariel Sharon calls a Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. Palestinian fighters here put up the fiercest resistance of the campaign; Palestinian officials have said hundreds of people were killed, some massacred. Their rage was further inflamed when the army announced today it would take away corpses of Palestinian gunmen slain here and bury them at a special cemetery -- an "enemy's cemetery," the army called it -- more than 25 miles to the southeast in the Jordan Valley.

The army denied Palestinian reports that prisoners were killed and buried in common graves inside the camp. Military spokesmen estimated that between 150 and 200 people were killed -- nowhere near the tolls described by Palestinians -- and insisted that the bodies have not yet been buried.

Despite the Israeli denials, the rumors circulated fast among Palestinians talking of atrocities in the camp, including the killing of Palestinian prisoners. But there was no firsthand substantiation of the reports and few credible witnesses who said they had seen prisoners shot. The controversy nevertheless remained heated, in part because the military refused to allow journalists, representatives of aid organizations or residents to enter the devasted core of the camp where most of the casualties occurred. In the swirl of accusations and denials, Palestinians charged that the plan to prevent fighters' families from claiming their corpses was designed to cover up the extent of the killing.

Against that poisonous background, Arab members of the Israeli parliament and other opponents of the army's plan went to an Israeli appeals court tonight to prevent the burials. A military spokesman said the court would rule by Saturday.

Whatever the final casualty count, Palestinians who have fled the camp or were evicted in the last two days described scenes of horrific devastation, terrifying attacks and brutal treatment by soldiers. The Israeli soldiers, they said, randomly shot at people through the windows of their homes, used residents as human shields during house-to-house searches and, in one case, decapitated the canaries of a local bird breeder.

"They haven't spared anything," said Raja, a 44-year-old mother of 10 who frequently clutched her forehead with shaking hands as she recounted her experiences. "Not children, nor a tree, nor a cat. . . . Even if the curtain was moved by a slight wind they would shoot us."

The attacks on Jenin refugee camp, a slum of 13,000 residents that Israeli officials have called a headquarters for suicide bombers who have terrorized Israel in recent weeks, began at 3:30 a.m. April 3 and continued nine days with heavy shelling ending Thursday afternoon, according to residents.

"When they started shelling, all the glass in our house shattered," said Mohammad Ali, a slight 17-year-old with patch of fuzz for a mustache. "After that, we thought we were in hell." Day after day, he and his family hid in their kitchen, the sturdiest room in the house, as neighboring houses were pulverized by attacks from the air and voracious bulldozers on the ground. After one rocket attack, Ali said, he heard the rumble of a bulldozer outside his window.

"I risked my life and stuck my head through the window to see what was going on," said Ali, the son of an unemployed construction worker. "I saw parts of five bodies under a building that collapsed. A little child was among them. I think they were dead from the bulldozer knocking the building down."

Mahmoud Abu Samen, 40, said that after helicopter gunships launched 14 rockets into his house, soldiers moved through the streets, ordering all men 15 years of age or older to strip off their vests and shirts. "They handcuffed me and blindfolded me," Samen said, adding that later, "They took me and put me in front of them and ordered me to open doors and ask people to leave their houses."

Samen said that when he was released and allowed to return to his house he discovered soldiers had plucked off the heads and feathers of many of his prized canaries and finches. "Even the birds did not survive," he said sadly.

As the fighting wore on, some residents -- like Raja -- attempted to escape. Raja said that on Wednesday night she and her husband and some of her children left with a group that included someone holding a white flag on a stick. "Everyone knew we were civilians," she said. "Then they started bombing us and everybody took their own path to escape for their lives." She became separated from her husband and still has not found him, she said.

Rabia Nijem was one of three women in their twenties walking south along a dusty road with four small children and a 3-month-old boy. She said she was evicted from her house in the camp on Monday and, with the other women and the children, has been sleeping in an olive grove since then.

"Our husbands were arrested by the army," she said. "They took us all out of our houses and took guns and dogs and expelled us. They were beating our husbands in front of us. They told us to leave and said that if we stayed there our houses would be shelled with us inside of them." Nijem said she saw Israeli soldiers arrest nine men from the camp, force them to strip to their shorts and lie on the street in front of a tank. "The soldiers told them, 'We're going to kill you.' We started crying and screaming. Then they took 150 of us women and children and put us in two small rooms. We don't know what happened to the arrested men."

Israeli army officials have acknowledged that troops destroyed houses to clear a path for tanks to attack buildings in the center of the camp, where Palestinian fighters were holed up. But the army denied reports of atrocities and random killings in the camp.

"We wanted to get the terrorists. That's all that happened," said an Israeli tank commander who evicted a group of Western journalists from Jenin today. "We went one house at a time. Another army, like the American army, you saw what they did in Afghanistan. They just bombed and that's it.

"Never, never do we shoot for no reason," he continued. "If we shoot in the house it's because someone's shooting from the house. We don't just shoot for no reason. You think we are animals who just do whatever we want?"

The Israeli military lost 23 soldiers during the offensive, 13 of whom were killed in an elaborate ambush this week in Jenin -- the largest number of casualties suffered in a single incident during hostilities in the past two decades.

But many Palestinians in and around the camp said they saw noncombatants killed during the fighting. "Yesterday I saw with my own eyes a 70-year-old man who was killed by a sniper," said Asaad Hashash, 37, a nurse who lives on the edge of the refugee camp. "The man was sitting in front of his own house. He went outside for the first time in days to see the sun."

Hashash, who has been unable to reach his job at a Jenin hospital for 10 days, said he also saw a shepherd shot by an Israeli sniper. In both cases, he said, no ambulance could reach the victims.

"There's no evacuation of the wounded or the bodies to the hospital," he said, confirming accounts by other hospital workers and doctors. "If a person is bleeding they let him bleed to death." Israeli military officials spent much of today trying to exercise damage control over the growing perception among Palestinians that Israeli officers were attempting to hide the grimmer details of what occurred during the siege of Jenin.

The army's chief spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ron Kitrey, told Army Radio this morning that "there were apparently hundreds of people killed in the Jenin refugee camp." A few hours later the military issued a statement said, "The Israel Defense Forces spokesman wishes to clarify that comments made this morning regarding Jenin refer to casualties -- those killed and wounded. There is no clear number of those killed."

Nevertheless, even before the operation ended, Jenin entered Palestinian lore. In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in support of the gunmen who died during combat in the camp. Palestinian news media reported that doctors in Gaza City said three babies they have delivered over the past three days have been named "Jenin."



UNITED NATIONS - Annan Urges Foreign Force to Help Halt Mideast Battle

UNITED NATIONS, April 12 — Secretary General Kofi Annan, in his strongest expression of alarm about the Palestinians under Israeli assault, called today for an international force to be sent to the Middle East.

Israel has always opposed the introduction of outsiders, with the possible exception of having an American force to guarantee peace at some future date. Mr. Annan has in the past often referred to stiff Israeli opposition as a reason not to press the issue. But in recent days, the Palestinians and Arab nations here have renewed their demand for peacekeepers, a move the United States opposes and would be expected to try to block in the Security Council.

Although Mr. Annan has no power to order United Nations troops to go anywhere, his unexpectedly strong remarks today, made to reporters in Geneva after a speech to the annual meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, lend great weight to the Palestinian request. They will certainly provoke a debate here.


In Geneva today, Mr. Annan called the situation in the Palestinian refugee camps so dangerous — and the human rights situation "so appalling" — that "the proposition that a force should be sent in there to create a secure environment, as well as provide space for diplomatic and political negotiation, can no longer be deferred."

Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian observer at the United Nations, said in an interview that Mr. Annan's remarks were "a very important development."

He said an international presence was needed not only to protect Palestinians, but also as a crucial step toward rebuilding the Palestinian Authority's administration. Many of its buildings and services have been destroyed by the Israeli assault.

"Our capabilities have been reduced dramatically," Mr. al-Kidwa said. "We will need some time to reorganize ourselves."

The secretary general said the United Nations, with about 12,000 relief workers in the Palestinian camps and settlements, had been getting reports that Israelis had violated the codes of conduct in war. "The Red Cross is there, and other agencies," he said. "So we get a lot of reports. That is why I am very worried."




Beseiged Palestinians Make Appeals (Apr 13)

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) - Armed Palestinians besieged in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity appealed Saturday to Secretary of State Colin Powell, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Pope John Paul II to help them.

About 200 armed Palestinians sought refuge in the ancient church when Israeli forces invaded Bethlehem 12 days ago. Israel launched its West Bank offensive after Palestinian suicide bombings killed dozens of Israelis.

Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers surround the church compound. A white surveillance balloon trailing cameras hovers overhead, providing a view of the grounds below. Snipers have taken up positions. Negotiations to peacefully resolve the standoff have so far failed.




Our friends in Jenin (April 11, 2000)

The US will only exert real pressure on Israel to reach a settlement if it feels its own interests are threatened

The stories of brutality and destruction filtering out of the Jenin refugee camp have become increasingly ominous. While independent observers have been kept out - along with ambulances and UN blood supplies - the Israeli army has rampaged its way through the hillside shanty town, overwhelming desperate Palestinian resistance. Hundreds are reported killed, including many civilians. As in other West Bank towns and camps, reports of beatings and executions of prisoners abound, and Israel appears to be preparing the ground for evidence of atrocities. Meanwhile, across the Arab world - where TV news footage of Ariel Sharon's unleashing of state terror has been a good deal more graphic than what we have seen on our own screens - millions have demonstrated their fury at what is taking place, while their western-backed rulers have turned their guns on the streets, killing and injuring protesters from Bahrain to Alexandria.

This is where wars against terror end, with screaming children forced to drink sewage and piles of corpses being cleared by bulldozers. Yesterday's horrific suicide bomb attack on a bus in Haifa (from where many of the Jenin refugees fled or were expelled in 1948) has cruelly demonstrated the futility of the strategy pursued by Sharon and his government of national unity. The largest-scale Israeli offensive for two decades was supposed to root out the very terror networks that struck with deadly force yesterday. But such acts of desolate revenge are born of half a century of dispossession and powerlessness, and a civilian death count far higher than Israel has endured over the past 18 months. What alternative does the government have to defend its citizens in these circumstances, Israeli politicians demand. The answer is painfully obvious: withdraw from the territories it has lorded over since 1967 and redress the ethnic cleansing which underpinned the foundation of the state 19 years earlier.

Sharon has no intention of doing any such thing. Instead, he has plunged into a latterday version of France's war against the FLN insurrection in Algeria in the 1950s. Like Sharon's Israel, France unleashed its full might against bombers and gunmen, killing, torturing and imprisoning many thousands, crushing resistance in the casbahs with state terror. Yet after a lull, the rebellion reignited even more powerfully than before, and the French were forced to quit. Israelis usually have far fewer illusions about what is going on in their country than their western supporters. Michael Ben-Yair, Israel's attorney general in the mid-1990s, recently described the Palestinian intifada as a "war of national liberation", adding: "We enthusiastically chose to become a colonialist society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities ... we established an apartheid regime".

But despite President Bush's much-vaunted public appeals to Sharon to begin a military pullback from the main Palestinian towns, the US - the one power in the world with the leverage over Israel to make it withdraw for good - shows no sign whatever of seriously reining in its long-term client state. On the contrary, the US administration, with the British government in ever-loyal echo, repeatedly expressed its "understanding" of Israel's attacks on Palestinian territory in the first phase of this invasion. Sharon's determination to destroy not just "terror networks" and the military infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority, but its civilian infrastructure as well - including educational and health institutions - has effectively had the green light from the US government. Both Sharon and Bush want to see the removal of the elected Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, even though his stature throughout the Arab world has grown dramatically as Israel has sought to humiliate him. Both appear to want the wider problem taken out of Palestinian hands and dealt with at a wider regional level. Nothing could have made the real US attitude clearer than the secretary of state Colin Powell's leisurely peregrinations across north Africa while Israeli forces have wreaked devastation in Jenin, Nablus and Bethlehem. To all intents and purposes, the destruction of the Palestinian Authority has been a policy signed off in Washington.

It can hardly be a surprise. US military and economic support for Israel - worth $70bn since 1979 - has after all been the linchpin of its imperial power in the Middle East since at least the 1960s.




Jenin Refugee Camp's Dead Can't Be Counted or Claimed

Global urgency by Bernard Kouchner
What is Europe doing? Does anyone believe that scattered exhortations will be of any use? Where is the United States? Does anyone believe that a hasty visit will suffice to bring an end to the fighting, now when a permanent presence and stubborn, small steps are required?

All smiles for Sharon as US turns the heat on Arafat - Blame switched away from Israel,2763,683702,00.html
(...) Even before the latest suicide attack, an opinion poll published in the Maariv newspaper showed 75% of Israelis supported the offensive and that Mr Sharon's approval rating had rocketed to 59% from 35% since the operation began. (...) Estimates of the Palestinian dead since the operation began on March 29 range from 200 to 500, with more than 500 wounded. At least 28 Israeli soldiers and 32 civilians have been killed. The Israeli army said it had detained 4,185 Palestinians, of which 60 were known fugitives and 30 wanted for killings. CLIP

Some crude comparisons,10551,683378,00.html
The barbarity of the language used to describe the crisis in the Middle East is a reflection of the crudeness of the conflict itself.

Protests continue around the world (April 11, 2002),2763,682210,00.html

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