Abouna Labib (‘Abouna’ being the Arabic word for ‘Father’) is my favourite parish priest. Not only is he is a man of wonderful personal qualities – combining energy, compassion, and humility to an amazing degree – but he is a model pastor. I have never seen any Christian community that better models the Kingdom of God than does his church of St Thomas More in San Francisco.
Abouna Labib has more nationalities represented in his thriving congregation than were there at Pentecost! He has Anglos and Arabs, Filipinos and Brazilians, people of every colour and culture! Somehow between this humble Lebanese-American priest and the ever-present Spirit of God they manage to keep this mutli-coloured conglomeration a unified whole! St Thomas More church in San Francisco are a wonderful example to the rest of the world of what unity in community is all about!
Labib’s other great passion is for the plight of the Palestinian people. He did his seminary studies in Palestine and this opened his eyes to the suffering and injustice of the Occupation. Labib was the very first, I believe, to go online to promote the Palestinian human rights. His site, al-bushra.org…, is a vast repository of information on the Israel/Palestine conflict.
I can only hope that many people read Abouna Labib’s open letter. It is evidently written with prayer and passion. I pray that God will use it to forward the cause of justice and peace in Israel/Palestine and around the world.
An open Letter to the Israelis and to the Friends of Israel
by Fr. Labib Kobti, San Francisco
Please, see on the following words of respect, a call for Justice, Peace and Truth.
1- Arabs and Jews are blood brothers: they are both Semitic, they are both sons and daughter of the Same Father Abraham.
The Arab people are not the enemies of the Jews (www.al-bushra.org…).
If we look at both ancient and recent history we will find that the Arab People are not the ones who persecuted the Jews. Millions were killed in Europe, but millions have been living in the Arab Lands. With their Arab blood brothers and sisters Jews will live in the Middle East.
History tells that the Jews found in the Arab World and with them Friends, Brothers and sisters.
In fact, before the promises to create the State of Israel the Arabs did not do anything against the Jews. Please, ask the good Jews who used to live in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, many of them still live in these Arabic countries. ( Please, read also” Blood Brothers”, by Elias Chacour)
When the Jews were suffering, unfortunately because of the Inhumane Holocaust,Palestine and not USA, Europe or any country have received thousands and thousands of Jewish immigrants from Germany, Poland, USA, Russia, Ethiopia … The USA, Europe, Russia, South America, Australia …refused to receive them. This is a fact.
Remember that before the existence of the State of Israel, Jews were living with the Palestinians: Muslims and Christians and Jews in peace. Jews were living in Haifa, Jafa, Lod, Ramleh, Jerusalem, Nazareth….This is also a fact that the Jewish historians mention with great honor.
Arab Christians have nothing to do with the Western Christianity who persecuted the Jews. Western Christianity does not represent the Arab Christians.
Arab Muslims and Arab Christians welcomed the Jews always; they did not fight with them for at least the last 1000 years. They have never fought against the Israelis until the promise of a creation of an Israeli State. The Palestinian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Iraqi, Syrian or Jordanian peoples decided fight with you because you created Israel, refusing to live with the Arabs as brothers and sister.
Arab Christians and Arab Muslims are Arabs and it is their right to fight occupation so as to defend their Arab Countries and entities. They fought against the French, the British, the Italians… in the past for the same reason.
In Europe, your Jewish people were those who pioneered in different fields, scientific, inventions, music, art, economic, etc., BUT you were persecuted in different periods there and not in the Arab World. Those who are defending you today in Europe or in USA, they do it because they are feeling the guilt and not because they do love you.
2- Are Arabs enemies of Jews?
Enemies they became when Jews took the Palestinian land, and when they made from Palestinians dispersed refugees all over. When Jews claimed that Palestinian lands, culture, history, food belong to them. They used even the Bible to justify their claims.
Jews said that they have the right to build settlements everywhere anywhere in Palestine. Although Palestinians belong to that land for thousands and thousands of years as descendants of the Cananites, Jebusites and Philistins, Jews claimed the right to take of others’ land and rights isin contravention of international law.
Jews placed the majority of Palestine under Israeli control by annexation, often coercive or of questionable legality.
Palestinians have the right to resist occupation. Israel is an occupation; it is said by the UN resolutions and International Law. And International Law gives any nation under Occupation to resist Occupation by all means.
I call for a nonviolent resistance. All people under occupation resisted occupation and their resistance was lauded by the whole world. Resistance is a right. It is not terrorism.
3- Facts of history on resistance:
a) Do you remember the Story of Samson in the Bible?His enemies tried by all means to kill in him everything. But they could not kill hisSoul, his Spirit, his Will to resist his enemies. He return back to win, he even killed himself, but it was disastrous for others.
b) Do you remember the history of the brave place called Masada in Israel? The Jews chose to resist and preferred the death to surrender to the Romans. By their brave death they inspired you, their people, for the future. They won the war against the Roman occupation. And by that brave death, you multiplied as people. You use this same place. Masada, today, as a symbol of your wonderful heroes and ask the tourists to visit it. In what way Masada was a victory? How Masada won? Because Jews resisted and the Roman Empire with all its big army could not kill the Soul of the Jews, their Spirit and their Will to resist.
c) Do you remember the Concentration Camps the Nazis? By the UNJUST and unjustified suffering and death of innocent people, the Jews eventually resisted and became stronger and unified. No Nazi could kill the Spirit, the SOUL and the WILL of the Jews. The Jews won the battle and history. Today history speaks about the Holocaust and will speak and sympathize with them. The world will say with you:never again. Do you know in what way the People in Auschwitz and other camps won at the end? Because the suffering and the death did not and could not and will never be able to kill the Soul, the Spirit of people who is determined to live and survive.
Do you understand the great lesson of all these facts of your history for the present time?
Your history is an example for all nations WORLDWIDE now.
Isn’t it also the history of the wonderful American Black people in USA, with Martin Luther King? Isn’t it the history of the Apartheid in South Africa with Mandella and many other people who fought for their rights, dignity and identity and build their national countries or entities? Nobody could destroy the Will, the Soul and the Spirit of people to survive and win one day.
4- History repeats itself:
This history will be repeated for the Arabs: Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians and especially for Palestinians, they shall overcome one day in spite of what those who do not read the history are doing to kill their soul, spirit and will.
Since the beginning of the Jewish immigration, the Jewish authorities were saying that Palestinians do not exist, Palestine has never existed, and there were no Palestinian identity.Then in Oslo, Madrid and Washington, after more than fifty years, Palestinians were recognizedpartners of peace, people with full rights, a proud nation. They do exist then. They do have a Soul, a Spirit and a Will to exist, and you will be unable to kill it.
Do you think that having the USA at your side now that you will have it forever with you and it is sufficient for you to prevail?
Do you think really that by weapon and armies you can always control the weak people?
Do you think that in killing and jailing for years without a proper trial, and exiling Palestinians you can kill their soul and their will and destroy for ever their spirit and future as a people?
With great respect and love, listen to me, Friends:
This people will multiply, as happened to you throughout the history; the history will speak about Palestinians and Arabs and will sympathize with (Palocaust) the Palestinian Holocaust; the war criminals will pay by the will of the International law one day or another.
Samson will return, and please, be friend to him before it is too late, he may do the same as he did thousands of years ago in our history…Already some people say that they are Samsons in offering themselves as suicide bombers. I do not agree with them, as I have never agreed with Samson. Samson killed innocent children, women and families and you regard him as a great Biblical hero.
So, please, remember your history, it could repeat itself, but this time with another people…in another time…and we do not want any more killing…
The Palestinian people will live, will survive and will come back as you did.
The history is with those who have a will, a determinate spirit.
Time is not working for you and with you.
You cannot kill the will and spirit of a people, the will of a nation!
Nobody could kill yours, Dear Jewish People and you came back, and you multiplied.
Just remember, please this, my friends.
Be friends to the Palestinians.Give them their Lands and work for justice.
Treat them as human beings; and will then have peace and prosperity.
Samson will not stop growing his hair and come back to destroy himself and others with him. It will be sad for everybody.
We do not need any Samson any more. We need Abraham who was the Father of the Jews, Christians and Muslims to unite his children for a better life.
5- An open letter:
There is a saying in Arabic: “When the soul of a whole nation yearns for survival, nature cannot but respond” (and it Will respond)
Dear Israelis and friends of Israel:
Help Israel to live and survive? Only peace and justice can help Israel to live and survive. Only if Israel and USA work for real justice and real peace in the Middle East region could help Israel to live and survive. In giving a blind eye on the injustices you are not helping Israel, the history tells you that, already I am sure your conscience is telling you this truth.
No chance with violence. The USA and Israel are nourishing violence and war, they are not helping Israel. USA cannot be then a good friend to Israel.The veto will not help. On the contrary it is feeding with more violence the soul, the spirit and the will of those people who want to survive. In working against justice in the Middle East you are nourishing the souls and spirits of people with anger and violence. You are creating thousands and thousands of Samson, you are creating a new Masada.
The best way is to help Israel to make Justice. The US money for weapons will not help the future of a people who have already suffer of violence paid with money.
Do you believe really that the Jews have the right over Palestine by the promise of God?
How could God, HaShem, Allah, the Creator of all prefer one people on another?
How God would give right to one people over one other people?
In God’s eyes we are all his creatures, we are all equal, there is no difference in His Holy Eyes of love between Jew, Arab, American, European or any foreigner, we are all brothers and sister of the one God “who art in Heaven”.
Please, read Genesis:1:27“So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God created them; male and female created he them”. It did not say God created those people and the others not. We are all his image of love
We should live all then in front of God under the same law.
There are no differences, no preferences. God is not a real Estate agent.
You the friends of Israel (Americans, Europeans …) will find yourselves strangers in front of the choices of the God of the Jews.Are we creatures of second hand, or second class? Do not please use God for human interests and injustice!
Remember, please you cannot kill the soul and spirit of a people. Try to make from them your friends not your enemies.
The Arabs will be the neighbors of the Israelis forever,Americans are not the neighbors of Israel, and Europe is not their neighbor. Americans and Europeans will not stay forever friends of one only people. Time will tell you that this is what will happen one day or another. Work for justice do not make war, please, listen to the voice of your conscience and to the appeals of the history of nations.
Any kind of violence is a kind of war. And violence is not only killing one person but also depriving him of his fundamental rights. Stop all kinds of violence. Cultivate a culture of love, cooperation and sharing. Confiscating Palestinian lands, building settlements, demolishing their houses, jailing their youth…closing the roads to Jerusalem is violence. Please, just stop this and go back, if you use a Biblical claim to the real word of God and read in the Bible, Leviticus chapter 25 and ss.
Our Arab children and the Jews children are cousins, sons of the same Father, Abraham; they deserve to live together in Peace.
6– Some Evangelicals and some Christian-Zionists pretend in the name of the Bible that Jews have right on the Palestinian lands. Do not listen to them, they want you to go to Israel only for one reason to become one day Christians, they pretend that if you go to Israel the prophesy will be accomplished, and the Messiah will come and you will become all Christians.What kind of hypocrisy is the “Rapture” claim. It is not even a respect to your religion, it is not even a respect to your future, it is not even a respect to your past as Jews.
Listen to the real Christians and real Muslims who try to respect you and tell you:
That Jews, Christians and Muslims should have the same and equal rights and responsibilities. Build a society of love and not of hatred and violence. You can never empty Palestine-Israel from Arab Muslims and Arab Christians, make from them your friends, as you will be living for ever with them.
They do not deserve that you build hatred and violence. They did not persecute you in the past or made war with you before the existence of the State of Israel, and your claims that you do not want them to have their own State and Capital is very wrong.
Arab Muslims and Arab Christians are not your real enemies…do not listen to the lies of some people who are profiting economically and politically by creating a cold war against Islam and Arab Christians.
Just use your judgments. You cannot empty Palestine from Arab Muslims and Arab Christians who want to live a decent life and real future of peace and justice.You cannot kill the soul, the spirit and the will of Samson. He will return one day…make from him your friend before him returns, if not it will be too late for him and for you then…
I will pray for you.
May God, Allah, HaShem, the one Most Holy give you the wisdom to see clear the needed comprehensive justice so as to find the way for peace and cooperation, and love.
With love and respect,
Fr. Labib Kobti,
An Arab-American Roman Catholic Priest in San Francisco
The Original Article was written on 1996. Re-edited by the author on May 2, 2014: www.al-bushra.org…
For more articles, please go to: Al-Bushra.org…