When denominational leaders and peace activists from mainline churches return from “fact-finding” missions to the
Sadly, in some instances, church leaders and peace activists broadcast misinformation (which almost invariably cuts against
One particularly egregious example of this phenomenon is Rev. Margaret Payne’s
First, she asserted that
Second, she asserted that
Thirdly, Bishop Payne reported that as a result of the security barrier, “tourists do not have a chance to shop and support the economy.” In fact, 2008 was a record year for tourism in
Given her inability to master these basic facts on the ground, it should come as no surprise that Bishop Payne asserts “the end of the occupation is the answer to everything” even though
Bishop Payne appeared on Interfaith Voices to describe what she saw as part of a delegation of ELCA Bishops which visited
We have a long-standing relationship with the
. That’s has been going on for many years and this trip, which was in the planning for two years was really a strong commitment to walk with the Christians in Palestine, to accompany them and learn about their lives there and also to become more aware of what we call “the facts on the ground” – the reality of life for the Palestinians and for everyone in the Middle East that is not very often well communicated here and then when we return to advocate for peace and justice in ways that we feel are important. Palestinian Lutheran Church
When Fiedler asked what Bishop Payne learned about day to day life in the region, Bishop Payne said daily life is getting worse for the Palestinians as a result of the security barrier
The building of the wall, the separation barrier limits their movement and just provides daily harassment and humiliation and in fact cuts them off from their work, and their family, and even medical care. Things are getting more and more restricted for them and each time we go and especially on this trip we were able to witness a lot of examples of that kind of restriction and all of the pain it is causing.
I think maybe the most outstanding example for us has to do with … we visited the
which is a hospital of the Lutheran World Federation. It’s on the August Victoria Hospital Mount of Olives. In fact it’s the only hospital in the country that provides cancer care and dialysis for Palestinians, but there are check points between the hospital and the patients and the doctors.
Bishop Payne’s assertion that
Numerous reports demonstrate that is not the case.
A recent decision by Palestinian leaders to stop paying for medical treatment in Israeli hospitals has caused an interruption in this treatment for many Palestinians, but the fact remains, Israeli hospitals have been a regular and significant source of medical care, including cancer treatment, for Palestinians whose leaders have declared either their intent to destroy Israel (Hamas), or who have refused to acknowledge Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state (Fatah).
The Palestinian Authority has minimized the number of sick Palestinians from the
West Bankand that it sends for treatment in Israeli medical centers at its expense, according to the Gaza in Hadassah University Medical Center and the Civil Administration, which facilitates such transfers. Jerusalem
According to the report, the article, the PA’s leadership in Ramallah made the decision to stop giving money for the treatment of Palestinians in Israeli hospitals. The report continues by quoting Dr. Michael Weintraub, head of pediatric hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplants at
“We have 57 such children with cancer, blood diseases and those needing bone marrow transplants. The PA knows who they are. Hadassah management never received any warning in advance. The families come to us desperately and beg us to treat them free or ask to pay small amounts out of their own pockets.“We have given such life-and-death treatments free or solicited contributions in
during the last few days, as they would die within days without receiving care. But these are very expensive therapies, and we can’t continue to offer them free.” IsraelWeintraub stated that if the PA had contacted Hadassah three months ago and asked for medical documents regarding what treatment was given and what needed to be done in West Bankfacilities, he would have provided them.“But the PA knows that it can’t stop cancer treatment suddenly, as there is the risk of immediate relapse and death.”…Dr. Ron Pundak, director-general of the for Peace, told the Post that the PA has sent ill Palestinians mostly to Peres Center and the Schneider Children’s Hadassah, Sheba in Petah Tikva. Medical CenterThe Peres center has an independent project that refers sick 1,000 Palestinian children to Israeli hospitals for surgery and consultations each year. If the diagnosis is cancer, it pays half the cost, while the PA has covered the rest.The Peres center also annually subsidizes the training of some 40 Palestinian physicians in Israeli hospitals so they can learn ‘s superior techniques and take them back to Palestinian hospitals, Pundak said. Israel“It would be a tragedy if the PA does not continue to send to those ill patients who cannot get treatment there,” Pundak said. Israel
In the same article, (“Fewer Patients being transferred to Israeli Hospitals”), the Jerusalem Post stated that PA’s Health Minister Dr. Fathi Abu Moghli indicated that the reduction in referrals to Israel hospitals was part of “an attempt to build up medical skills inside the West Bank and Gaza.”
The PA also decided not to send Palestin
ians who were wounded during the fighting in the Gaza Strip “partly in anger over the war in
The article also reports that:
Peter Lerner, the Civil Administration’s coordinator of government activities in the territories, said that last year, a total of 28,000 Palestinians from the West Bank were treated in Israeli medical facilities and 90,000 went to east Jerusalem hospitals, but that he could not say how many were paid for by the PNA and how many paid privately.
For years, Palestinians and patients from the wider Arab world have regularly been referred to hospitals across
for diseases their own hospitals could not treat. Israel boats an advanced medical system, and promotes is treatment of Palestinians and employment of Arab doctors as a small beacon of co-existence amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel
The AP also reported that Hadassah official had treated some “special cases” at “no cost, but cannot afford to give sweeping free medical services.”
This is not the first time
In addition to providing medical care, including cancer treatment, to Palestinians, Israeli health officials have played a substantial role in the effort to improve the quality of medical care in Palestinian hospitals.
Security Barrier and
After Bishop Payne detailed the impact of the security barrier on Palestinians host Maureen Fiedler challenged her by asking how she would respond to Israelis who argue that it has prevented suicide bombers and other terrorists from entering
Bishop Payne: It’s true that the wall has provided some protection against suicide bombers and the position of our church and all the people I know who travel there … we are all adamantly opposed to the violence against the Israeli people but the reality of where the wall is located does more than just provide security. It also ruins, disrupts, cuts apart Palestinian territory where there is not a border between Israel and Palestinian territory so there really is not a reason for the wall to be there.The wall right now is a 30-foot concrete wall surrounding for example the city of
, and … BethlehemHost Maureen Fiedler: [Interrupting] Completely surrounding ? BethlehemBishop Payne: It completely surrounds . The only way you can get into Bethlehem is through a checkpoint ands some tour buses still come in and they stop for half an hour at the Church of the Nativity, the site of Jesus’ birth and then go right back out again and so the people who come as tourists don’t have a chance to shop and support the economy and they don’t have a chance to experience the vibrant life and the real people who live there and the people can’t leave and go to Jerusalem and some Israelis can’t come to Bethlehem and that is not so well known but it violently interrupts the lives of both Israelis and Palestinian people and their economy. Bethlehem
Bishop Payne’s assertion that the security barrier “completely surrounds
Bisohop Payne’s assertion that the security barrier and checkpoints are making it impossible for tourists to “shop and support the economy” is also patently false. On
The revival of tourism in the West Bank is one of the few bright spots in the Palestinian economy, which was supposed to get a big boost from the Bush administration at its
Middle Eastpeace conference in the fall of 2007 in Annapolis, Md. “After the conference … there was a relative relief in the political situation,” says Palestinian tourism minister Khouloud Daibes-Abu Dayyeh. “The pictures coming through the media showed at least part of Annapolis as more safe and … ready to receive tourists,” he says. PalestineWhile tourists must pass through the Israeli security barrier at the main entrance to Bethlehem, West Bank visitors have doubled over the past year. The 1.3 million tourists expected for 2008 surpasses the pre-uprising peak nine years ago. The surge is filling hotels to capacity – an encouraging sign as chains MÃ¶venpick and Days Inn pursue plans to open in Ramallah.Tourism contributed to a modest 2 percent growth rate in the overall Palestinian economy this year – a figure that would have been twice as high if it weren’t for the flagging economy in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a yearlong Israeli blockade.In the Beit Sahour suburb of , hammers can be heard from hotel construction just up the road from Shepherds’ Field, the hillside believed to be the site from where the biblical Star of Bethlehem was sighted. Builders are adding to the Sahara Hotel to nearly triple its capacity to 52 rooms. Bethlehem
Despite Bishop Payne’s report to the contrary, the security barrier and the checkpoints have not prevented tourists from shopping and supporting the economy in
Bishop Payne also downplays the effectiveness of the security barrier when she asserts the barrier has provided “some” protection against suicide bombers, when in fact, it has caused a dramatic reduction in this form of attack. According to a news brief issued by the Israeli government in 2004, the security barrier caused a 90 percent reduction in the number of attacks.
Palestinian leaders themselves have testified to the barrier’s effectiveness.
On Nov. 11, 2006, Ramadan Shalah, a leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group that carried out numerous suicide attacks during the Second Intifada blamed the security barrier for a significant drop in these attacks, stating “if it [the security barrier] weren’t there, the situation would be entirely different.” And in 2007 Moussa Abu Marzouq, deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, explained that suicide attacks against
Another problem with Bishop Payne’s testimony is that for all her talk of describing the daily life of all the people in the reason, she offers no detail whatsoever to the horrifying attacks that prompted Israel’s decision to construct the barrier, nor does she provide any concrete description of what life is like for Israelis living in range of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
“The End of the Occupation is the Answer to Everything”
In the second segment of her appearance on Interfaith Voices, Bishop Payne laments the presence and behavior of Israeli settlers in the
The only way to move forward is to end the occupation of the Palestinian territory but along with that does not come a greater danger for
, but instead will come the peace and security that they want and that they need. And so the end of the occupation is the answer to everything. Humanitarian aid is helpful but it’s not the answer. Understanding the facts won’t change them. Ending the occupation is the one way that I believe both countries really can get what all the people in the country want which is lives that have peace and meaning and that children can grow up. Israel
At this point, Fielder asked what the
The United States government has more clout with Israel than any other entity in the world and by bringing the facts to the table and by encouraging all the options to be pursued and there to be honest strategizing and a willingness to talk about peace, I think is the answer and it’s the answer to the whole Middle East and to many other situations and the United States really does have the ear of Israel in a way that no other country does.
If Bishop Payne were truly interested in “bringing the facts to the table” she would have to acknowledge a few facts of history which she ignored throughout her appearance on Interfaith Voices. First off,
ELCA church members who rely on Bishop Payne as a source of information about the Arab-Israeli conflict are making a mistake. Her propensity to misstate or ignore important facts on the ground renders her testimony virtually useless to anyone truly interested in understanding the causes of the violence in the