THE organisers and supporters of a Christian peace project near
Bethlehem are calling for international action to condemn Israel
after the military authorities bulldozed more than 1500 fruit trees
and grape vines on a farm at the centre of the venture. And a
retired Church of England bishop has criticised Western governments
and Churches for their inaction.
The Tent of Nations peace project was founded by Daoud Nassar
and his brother Daher, and their family has been involved in a
court case lasting more than a decade to prove its legal ownership
of the farm, which it bought in 1916. The property lies close to
three Israeli settlement towns in the West Bank: Gush Etzion, Maale
Adumim, and Ariel.
The family's lawyer said that the legal process was continuing.
Nevertheless, the Israeli military authorities recently declared
that the Nassars' orchards had been planted illegally on state
land, and would have to be removed. An appeal against this order
was filed in the Military Court on 12 May.
But, a week later, the authorities moved in and uprooted all the
trees. The lawyer described the action as "illegal, even according
to the draconian military laws in place" on the West Bank. The
Church Times submitted two requests to the Israel Defence
Forces spokesman's office in Jerusalem for a comment, but received
In an appeal to friends of the Tent of Nations project, Daoud
Nassar this week urged them "to contact your friends, churches, and
Members of Parliament, and write to your governments. We need your
political support now." The family believes that the Israelis are
seeking to acquire farmland close to the three settlements in the
In a book, Daher's Vineyard: The story of the Tent of
Nations, Mr Nassar said that the peace project was the
fulfilment of his father's wishes, and that he believed that the
Palestinians should erase their victim mentality.
"We say that it is up to the powerful nations of the world to
put pressure on Israel," he said, "and that meanwhile we can do
nothing. My own thinking is that each one of us must take
responsibility for the situation in which we find ourselves, and
act according to our ability."
After returning from a spell abroad, Daoud Nassar said that, "in
order to respond to the injustice that we and all Palestinians were
suffering, we needed to create something positive on the farm."
A former chief of staff to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop
Richard Llewellin, who helped Mr Nassar with his book, criticised
the apparent indifference in the West to incidents such as the one
on the Tent of Nations farm.
"Western governments seem relatively unconcerned about the fate
of the Palestinian community, provided that it doesn't make the
headlines, for reasons of political expediency.
"The Christian Church has not shown itself to be a great deal
better in this regard. The Church of England certainly should be
doing more than it is."