There will be no Christmas celebration in Bethlehem’s Manger Square this year. The annual festivities have been canceled because the organizers have deemed it inappropriate to celebrate in the midst of the conflicts and violence.
When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasir Arafat new borders for a future Palestinian state, he couldn’t show them on a map. There is no such map. But the Palestinians know what Barak offered at Camp David and they didn’t like it then and they don’t like it now.
According to the consensus among American commentators, reflecting the views of the administration and Congress, a peace process that was on the verge of a breakthrough a few months ago has broken down because of the Palestinians’ intransigence.
Middle East summits come and go with one repeated mantra: bring an end to the violence. That plea is always interpreted as a demand for both sides to stop shooting at each other and settle down long enough for their leaders to hammer out an agreement that will end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It won’t happen, of course.
The violence between Israelis and Palestinians is once again in the forefront of the news. Those who support Israel see themselves defending it against the prophesied destruction of the nation and the Jewish people. Palestinian supporters witness for a people who have been denied the basic human need for dignity and statehood. The dualism is stark.
This summer thousands of high school and college-age Jewish youth have been descending on Israel. These students are participating in the Birthright Israel program, established by philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt.
Family members gather in a Liverpool hotel ballroom to learn the fate of loved ones who were traveling on the Titanic. Everyone is frantically seeking information on survivors. Suddenly an old polar bear walks into the room. He looks sad, and there is a tear in his eye as he asks, “Have you got any news of the iceberg? My family were on it. Have you got any news of the iceberg?
Pope John Paul II has issued a mea culpa for 2,000 years of his church’s history, a millennium wrap-up that apologizes for sins of omission like the Holocaust, before which the Catholic Church remained silent, and sins of commission like the Inquisition, the persecution of learning (Galileo) and the Crusades.
If you want to correctly interpret the news, stop assuming that the mainstream media know it all; pay attention instead to voices speaking quietly over in the corner. Read, for example, people like Amira Hass, a Jewish reporter who covers the West Bank and Gaza for Ha’aretz, a Jerusalem newspaper.