Saturday, July 2nd, 2016: It was again my privilege to be invited to speak at an Al Quds Day event, this time in the grounds of the Kingsgrove Mosque.
I was surprised to receive applause about half-way through my brief address and I wasn’t sure at first what prompted it. It was afterwards that a Palestinian man came up to me and said “you said what we needed to hear. You told us not to forget Palestine. We are afraid that the world is forgetting us”.
Indeed the man’s plea makes sense. When there is so much trouble at home and abroad to absorb our energies, it is easy to forget the ongoing trauma of the Palestinian Occupation. The longer it goes on the more we are tempted to normalise it! In truth, we must never forget Palestine!
The video below covers the first half of my address. Please see the transcript below for the complete version.
Al Quds Day 2016
As most of you would know, I returned not long ago from Syria – my fifth visit there in the last four years. One of the great tragedies of Syria (and there are many tragedies associated with that great land at the moment) is that the violence and injustice being visited upon the Syrian people is so extreme that it can easily absorb all of our time and emotional energy and so distract us from other tragedies in our world that also deserve our prayers and our attention.
It’s not only Syria, of course. When we think of the suffering of the people of Yemen, and also of Iraq and Libya and the suffering of so many of our sisters and brothers around the world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and have no space in our hearts left for the people of Palestine. After all, there’s only so many people you can pray for at any one time!
I recognise in myself that I have fallen victim to this. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I am president of Friends of Sabeel, Australia – the Australian church’s attempt at Palestinian Liberation Theology. I am supposed to be a recognisable face in the Palestinian struggle for justice and freedom, and yet I find the concerns of the Palestinian people have taken a back seat for me as my energies have been absorbed by other concerns that seem even more pressing!
The truth is that there is no more pressing need in our world than that of justice for the Palestinian people, for in truth, all these global tragedies we grieve are connected. As my friend, Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal (former Bishop of Jerusalem, himself a Palestinian) said “the road to world peace goes through Jerusalem”.
I believe this is true. I don’t mean that if we solve the Palestinian issue that all the other pieces of the puzzle will suddenly, magically fall into place, but I do believe that unless we put an end to the abuse and discrimination and disenfranchisement experienced by the Palestinian people, these other issues we struggle with will never be solved!
This year has been another hard year for the Palestinian people and, as I say, it has been a difficult year for all of us whose hearts yearn for Palestine. The problem has been further exacerbated too lately by initiatives taken within the Islamic world to divide the ummah over their attitude to Israel.
The Saudis have made a number of statements in recent months that seem to endorse the Israeli government and would thus encourage Muslims everywhere to accept the Palestinian Occupation as normal!
I don’t know whether the long term effect of this will be more love for the Israeli government or more hatred for the house of Saud. I suspect the latter. Either way though, I am tempted to say “welcome to the club”. The Christian community has been similarly afflicted for many years by prominent voices urging the faithful around the world to turn a blind eye to the abuse of the Palestinian people!
The other things I say is “thank God or Al Quds Day!”, and I mean that. In spite of the clamour of voices urging us to forget Palestine – voices coming through the media, through our political leaders, and (as I say) even from within the ranks of the faithful, on Al Quds Day we cannot forget Palestine!
The suffering of the Palestinian people is real and it is ongoing, and it cries out to Heaven for redress! God knows that the barriers to justice and freedom seem as intractable now as they ever have been, if not more intractable! Even so, we must do what we can and we must not give up! We must pray, and we must speak out, and we must take action wherever we can to uphold the dignity and humanity of the Palestinian people.
We may fear that our efforts will never amount to much. Even so, I am always encouraged in this regard by the comparison Jesus made between the Kingdom of Heaven and the yeast that’s sprinkled into dough to make bread.
Jesus told them still another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with a bushel of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.” (Matthew 13:33)
The yeast seems insignificant when mixed in with the dough, and it is virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the lump. Even so, we know full well that when the time comes, these small flakes of yeast become the agents of extraordinary transformation! This is our hope too – that even though our collective effort seems small, that God will work through us and through all who remember Palestine today to bring about extraordinary and genuine transformation.
Thank God for Al Quds Day. Thank God for the ongoing strength and resilience of the people of Palestine. Thank God for the privilege of being able to participate in the process of transformation towards justice and peace.
The latest round of violence in Israel/Palestine is sickening. The Australian media coverage of that violence is also sickening.
The news reader reports “seven Israeli’s have now been stabbed by Palestinians”! She then adds (almost as a parenthesis) that “forty Palestinians have also been killed, including several of the attackers”.
Why are the facts always presented this way, as if Israeli lives matter more than Palestinian lives? Given that there were more than five times as many Palestinians than Israelis killed, why aren’t we told first that 40 Palestinians have been killed – the vast majority of whom were apparently not involved in attacking anyone when they were killed.
I appreciate that this is a very small point made with reference to a very small news segment, and yet this was the ABC – Australia’s government-owned national broadcaster!
I have a friend who works for the same broadcaster and she told me last year that ABC presenters were no longer allowed to use the word “Occupied Territories” when referring to the Palestinian West Bank. They now have to say “disputed territories”.
This may again seem like a very small point, and yet this is our government trying to control what we say in order to control what we think, and we simply should not have to tolerate this form of politically-inspired thought control!
The death of Israa Abed
For me nothing sums up the current spate of violence more succinctly than this leaked video of the death of Israa Abed. Be warned that even though you don’t see any of the gory details of her death it is nonetheless gut-wrenchingly difficult to watch.
According to the Times of Israel, Israa Abed was a would-be assassin. According to the Jerusalem Post, she was a ‘female terrorist’. According to both reports she was brandishing a knife and told to put it on the ground before being shot by IDF soldiers.
No knife can be seen in this video. What we see is a girl with her hands in the air. Certainly, even if she’d been carrying a large machete, she would have posed no threat at all to the ten heavily armed soldiers who surrounded her.
Other reports say she was refusing to take off her hijab when she was shot. Her father and her brother (both of whom were arrested after the shooting of Israa) said that she suffered from mental illness. Perhaps that explains why she didn’t remove her clothing when ordered to do so, or perhaps she was just scared?
Israa was 28 and the mother of two children. I’m guessing that she was one of the ‘several attackers’ mentioned in the news report who were amongst the 40 killed. I wonder what the others did that warranted their execution.
Shalom, Salaam, Peace.
In the name of God –merciful and compassionate (bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm), and with respect to the traditional custodians of this land (the Gadigal people):
Jesus weeps for the people of Gaza and yet the so-called Christian leaders of our world say nothing! Mr Obama, Mr Abbott – you claim allegiance to Christ above all others. Christ is standing on the beaches of Gaza, grieving with the mothers of dead Palestinian children and yet you say nothing!
Martin Luther King said that the greatest tragedy that history would record would not be “the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” I do not know if our great ‘Christian’ leaders are good people but I do recognise that their silence is appalling!
Since 2005 the population of Gaza have been subjected to what Israeli historian Ilan Pappé refers to as ‘incremental genocide’. They have been sealed off from the outside world since then and every item of food, medicine and clothing going into Gaza is subject to the discretion of the Israeli military, while farmers and fishermen are prevented from accessing land and sea.
For nine years the people of Gaza have endured deprivation and a virtual imprisonment, and now (once again) they are being killed in their homes! The wailing of the mothers of Gaza echoes across the oceans and cries out to Heaven for redress, but in Washington and in Canberra there is silence!
I look to the Muslim political leaders of our world – Prime Minister Erdogan (the Ottoman protector), the proud princes of the house of Saud, General Sisi of Egypt. I hear words of concern but I do not understand why there is so little in the way of tangible action! Why aren’t any of these great powers stepping in to defend the people of Gaza?
Sisters and brothers, it is up to us! Even if the great powers of our world chose silence over integrity we will not remain silent. We will not stay quiet in the face this violence – the injustice and oppression of our Palestinian sisters and brothers. We will NOT sit down and shut up – not so long as this reign of death and terror continues!
Even if our political leaders are too corrupt and comprised to take any real initiative, we – ordinary people from Sydney, Australia, and from around the world – can be the leading edge of real change!
We ordinary people – Christians, Muslims and Jews, Sunni and Shia, people of all faiths and people of no faith – can bring about real change BUT we must act together!
These architects of the destruction of Palestine are powerful and they are united. Their narrative is well rehearsed, their propaganda is sophisticated, they are well financed and powerful and they speak with one voice! If we are going to stand against them we too must be united.
Muslims and Christians and Jews – all of us who stand with the suffering people of Gaza – we must stand together, and we must stand together not because there are no differences between us. There are profound differences between us but we must stand together because our Palestinian sisters and brothers are worth it!
The great Latin American Bishop, Dom Helder Camara, said “when one man dreams it is just a dream but when we all dream together it is the beginning of a new reality”. Let us together dream a dream of Palestine. Let us together dream of a world where mothers will never again have to wail as they watch their children slaughtered as they play.
Let us dream together in faith, and commit ourselves to the building of that new reality, believing that under God all things are possible – knowing that justice can come and that justice will come enshallah, enshallah!
speech delivered by Father Dave at the Sydney Gaza Rally, Sydney Town Hall, July 20th 2014
It’s disappointing that Pope Francis has had to put on record that his visit to Palestine and Israel next week (in that order) is for religious purposes only – disappointing but totally understandable.
In point of fact religion and politics can never be easily separated. Politics is about people, and so you can no more separate religion and politics than you can religion and people, and there is no doubt that Francis’ visit has the potential to have an enormous impact on the political situation across the Levant.
Even so, Francis is not being dishonest. As he spells out, his primary goal is meet with his ‘brother’, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. What could be more religious than healing a one thousand year old schism in the church. Of course, renewed fellowship between the Catholic and Orthodox wings of the church will have ramifications that touch every level of society but that doesn’t make the meeting any less religious!
The same can be said of the priority Francis has given to Palestine over Israel in his itinerary (see here). Is the fact that he is going straight to Bethlehem from Jordan and not going via Jerusalem (let alone Tel Aviv) a de facto recognition of the State of Palestine on the part of the Vatican?
Certainly many will see it that way, and many Palestinians will gain new strength and hope from such recognition, but it is hard to accept that Francis is doing anything more than his religious duty in dispensing comfort and hope. 🙂
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