Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love you. Psalm 122:6

Those of us who spend time thinking about the connection between justice and peace, thinking about ways to make peace– personal and political, local and global – can learn very much from the speeches of world leaders at the opening of the UN General Assembly. Since the question of whether or not Iran will develop a nuclear weapon is an issue in the presidential campaign, the remarks of President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Iranian President Ahmadinejad received the lion’s share of media attention around this year’s opening.

However, one speech that we ought to consider carefully is that of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He painted a disturbing portrait of the state of the relationship between the Government of Israel (GOI) and the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Abbas spoke of attacks upon Palestinians by Israeli settlers, the continuation of discriminatory laws, the continued building of settlements on occupied land, the continued blockade of Gaza and the incarceration of “nearly five thousand Palestinians.” Abbas said:

“It is a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people via the demolition of their homes and the prevention of their construction; the evocation of residency rights; the denial of basic services, especially in regard to construction of schools; the closure of institutions; and the impoverishment of Jerusalem’s community via a siege of walls and checkpoints that are choking the city and preventing millions of Palestinians from freely accessing its mosques, churches, schools, hospitals, and markets.”

He went on to say that Israeli policies have hindered economic development on the West Bank and in Gaza, and the result is “the weakening of the Palestinian National Authority.” If the PA is weak, then Israel will not have a credible negotiating partner with whom to forge a two-state solution. In his remarks, Abbas said that international institutions confirm his claim that GOI policies are hurting Palestinian economic development.

According to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee– an international committee sponsored by the European Union and the United States to coordinate development assistance to Palestinians and “to promote dialogue between donors, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Government of Israel”, ( )– one reason for the economic difficulties of Palestinians is restrictions by GOI. The Chair’s Summary of a September 23, 2012 meeting says in part:

“Ultimately, sustainable economic growth and an end to the fiscal crisis will require greater realization of the Palestinian private sector’s potential. This can be achieved by relaxing Israeli restrictions on access to land, water, a range of raw materials, and export markets, and by further improvements by the Palestinian Authority in its business environment and ability to attract needed investment. Donors expressed their concern about access to economic activity in Area C, which constitutes the major land area for the Palestinians, and emphasized that greater economic potential will be achieved when access is assured.” (

Area C is the 60 per cent of the West Bank where Israel maintains control and where Israeli settlements continue to be built. Without this area, any talk of a Palestinian state is unrealistic. (

Netanyahu’s remarks were primarily about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but he referred briefly to Abbas’ remarks saying in part: “We won’t solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the UN. That’s not the way to solve it.” (

I say that Netanyahu ought to be more specific about what is “libelous” about Abbas’ remarks. Just peace theory holds that without truth, respect and security there can be no real peace. No justice, no peace. And there are those of us who still regularly pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We need to know the truth.

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