THE HEAD of the US Bishops foreign policy committe has expressed dismay over what he called Israel's unjustifiable blockade of a predominantly Christian village in the occupied West Bank. He also expressed the bishops' support for the Catholic leadership in the area.
Archbishop Roger Mahony of los Angeles, chairman of the Committee on International Policy, said he was particularly concerned that Christian leaders were barred by Israeli troops from bringing food and other supplies to the village of Belt Sahour (Catholic Herald, November 10).
"I have noted with dismay the reports of the continuing blockade of the village," he said "I am particularly concerned that the Christian church leaders, including the Latin Patriarch, were prevented by the Israeli military from exercising their pastoral and charitable obligations."
The archbishop made his protest to Israel's ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arad, and to US Assistant Secretary of State for near Eastern Affairs John Kelly.
The residents of 'Belt Sahottr, a village of approximately 10,000 people near Bethlehem, peacefully withheld tax payments to Israeli occupation authorities through a six-week blockade of the village by Israeli troops.
The villagers claimed a victory over Israeli authorities, but the Israelis say they got the revenues they wanted through the sale of villagers' property they had confiscated.
"We will not finance the bullets that kill our children." Belt Sahour residents said in a statement issued during the protest.
The army seized property such as cars and household goods from tax resisters to auction off in an effort to make up for the lost tax revenues. News reports estimated more than $1.5 million in property had been seized.
Leading Christian clergy, including heads of Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox churches, attempted to visit Beit Sahour during the siege, but were turned hack. At one point, the church leaders, along with several priests, sought to bring three truckloads of food into the village.
"They did not let us do our humanitarian duties," Latin-rite Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah was quoted as saying. The archbishop urged a strong US protest of "this unwarranted Israeli behaviour."