There have been some very encouraging signs in the church of late regarding the Palestinian search for justice. If we can put to one side the epic failure of the US Episcopal church to get behind the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS), it seems that there is nonetheless a shift worldwide in Christian consciousness towards Israel and Palestine!

For one thing, the United Church of Christ displayed great moral courage at the very point where the Episcopalians failed. They voted to get behind the BDS!

Even more encouraging is the initiative being taken by the Pope, taking the lead for millions of Catholics around the world in recognising the state of Palestine and insisting that no one race or religion has exclusive rights to the Holy Land.

Evidently this stance has come at no small cost. Apparently the Sanhedrin is going to put him on trial unless he renounces his apostasy! Yes, you heard right – the Sanhedrin (or at least some self-appointed group calling themselves the Sanhedrin). Surely it would only be self-defeating for any such body to try to do to such a church leader what was done to her founder!

Regardless of what happens to Pope Francis, this new shift of Christian consciousness is greater even than he, and perhaps the most encouraging signs are those coming from within the Holy Land itself! 

Archbishop Attallah Hanna is Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in Israel/Palestine. As a Palestinian he has had to endure the Israeli Occupation for all his adult life, but now he has to face an additional new threat – that of ISIS, who are threatening all kinds of violence towards Christians as a part of their promised ‘liberation’ of Palestine.

The Archbishop’s response is a courageous one. He refuses to abandon either the land or the Palestinian cause, and he refuses to distance the Christian community from their Muslim sisters and brothers with whom they share their land. Moreover, he refuses to give in to hate, saying “our Christian dictionary does not include the language of vengeance, hatred and rancor”.

Father Dave

Archbishop Attallah Hanna

Archbishop Attallah Hanna


New pamphlet by “Jerusalem ISIS” issued; Archbishop Attallah Hanna reacts

A few days following the issuance of its first pamphlet, the so called “Emirate of Beit Al Maqdis” (Emirate of Jerusalem) issued its second pamphlet on Monday, June 29 in the Beit Hanina area, north of Jerusalem, pledging to expel Christians from the areas mentioned in the first pamphlet, “except those who espouse Islam.”

For its part, a local Palestinian agency noted that “the citizens believe that such statements are produced by the Israeli occupation intelligence. They assert that they do not believe their vallidity, where neither the Palestinian National Authority nor the Palestine Liberation Organization nor even the Palestinian factions did react to these statements on the view that they do not deserve any reaction or be given any attention since they are tendentious and suspicious being designed to bring discord and division.”

The extremist group threatened on Thursday, June 25, to slaughter the Christians living in Jerusalem, if they do not leave the city before Eid Al Fitr (the feast marking the end of the month of Ramadan). The areas that would be “cleared” of Christians were identified as “Beit Hanina and Shu’fat, up to the remaining quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.”

Commenting on the pamphlet, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that “the pamphlet was distributed in areas controlled by Israel.” He alluded, in an exclusive interview with “Al Arabia” channel, to the possibility of having a suspicious relationship between Al-Nusra Front, that is fighting in Syria, and Israel. He said: “When we learn that members of this group are being treated in Israel, how can this situation be comprehended?”

Greek Orthodox Bishop of Sebastia Attallah Hanna said:”To all those who classify themselves as ISIS, we would like to tell them that we will stay in Jerusalem and in Palestine. We will continue to be the genuine children of this Holy Land, Muslims and Christians, and we will not leave our Holy Land under any pressure or blackmail, at any price.” He expected that ”these malignant and suspicious statements, aimed at our Palestinian people and rejected categorically, would not stop.”

He continued, “I ask those who issue such statements to stop the sedition and abandon their evil deeds. Do believe in God and in every human being created by God, whether Muslim or Christian.” He added: “Do repent and restore reason, for what you are undertaking is a heinous crime against your religion in the first place and secondly against your Jerusalem and homeland.” He called on them to realize the fact that “your words will only consolidate our steadfastness and increase our mutual cordiality and brotherhood.”

Bishop Atallah pointed out that “Christians are advocates of peace, love and brotherhood in this land. They, as well as their Muslim brethren, will not give up their values, morals and principles. If this statement, as is the case with other suspicious statements, is designed to erect a separation wall between Muslims and Christians in this land, we tell them that our religions are not walls that separate human beings from their brethren, but they rather set up bridges of love and brotherhood.”

The Orthodox bishop continued, “these racist ideas are doomed to dissipate because they are based on falsehood. We do not wish evil on you, but we plead the Lord to brighten your hearts and minds, so that you may repent and come back to reason.”

He concluded by saying that “our Christian dictionary does not include the language of vengeance, hatred and rancor. Our Teacher (Lord Jesus Christ) urges us to wish sinners repentance and forgiveness.”


What follows is another excellent essay from my friend Franklin Lamb, detailing why ISIS is proving so seductive for Palestinians. Fundamentally, it seems to be the only show in town!

The allure of ISIS is the flip-side of the failure of the current Palestinian leadership to deliver. Both Fatah and Hamas seem to be equally riddled with corruption and compromise. To whom else are the Palestinians to turn?

Of course ISIS don’t really give a damn about the Palestinians. That was amply illustrated by their response to Israel’s last brutal assault on Gaza. What did ISIS do in response? Nothing! They didn’t even offer a word of criticism! Why? Because they hate the Muslim Brotherhood (ie. Hamas) more than they care about the Palestinian people. It is equally well-illustrated by ISIS more recent butchering of the Palestinians of Yarmouk in Syria.

I don’t expect to see ISIS boots on the ground in Palestine any time soon. Their goal is purely to win the PR campaign over their competitors, which only serves to highlight the need for a credible alternative – one that is genuinely committed to the needs of the Palestinian people.

Father Dave

Father Dave and Franklin Lamb in Beirut

Father Dave and Franklin Lamb in Beirut

If ISIS Doesn’t Liberate Palestine… Who Will?

Ein el Helwe Palestinian camp, Lebanon.

This is one of the questions ricocheting between Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon, posed also by ISIS (Da’ish) operatives, as the hot summer months and plummeting quality of existence raise tensions in the refugee camps and social gatherings.

With its resilience, on-the-ground “achievements”, adaptability, global franchising, copy-cat knock-offs, chameleon-like adaptations, combinations and permutations, and slick honing of medium and message, ISIS is offering oppressed and desperate populations in this region both hope and fantasy for escaping their deepening misery  The dream is to escape abject poverty and indignity by any means necessary, and joining ISIS or other like-minded cash-flush groups, which seem to appear out of thin air these days, is the most promising way to do it.

Some people in Lebanon and Syria are wondering why it took ISIS so long to present a detailed plan to Palestinian refugees to liberate their country, now in its 67th year of brutal Zionist occupation. This subjugation has has created an Apartheid state that, according to South African leader Bishop Desmond Tutu and others, exceeds even the crimes of the Afrikaner National Party. And like the Israelis, the ANP also began their racist occupation of a majority-indigenous “less civilized” population in 1948.  South African apartheid ended in 1994, but in Palestine it continues to metastasize. ISIS representatives in the camps are pledging to destroy the Zionist occupation and boast about opening up Palestine to Full Return within two years.

Who is listening to Da’ish (ISIS)?

In the early days of the crisis in Syria, many Palestinians fleeing to Lebanon quickly returned to whatever fate held back in Syria after they saw the conditions in Lebanon’s camps. But as the fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces intensified in Damascus, they became trapped in the camps. Alongside their fellow Palestinians in Lebanon, these new refugees sank ever more deeply into dire poverty.

During recent discussions with a sampling of refugees from several camps in Lebanon and Syria, it’s not surprising that the main part of the conversation quickly moves to subjects long familiar to those of us who have lived among Palestinians in this region. The list of grievances is ever-expanding and ISIS supporters and recruiters take advantage of this in order to round up recruits and sympathizers to join their growing ranks.

These grievances include frustration and anger over the perceived pervasive corruption among political and religious “leaders” who basically speak gibberish while urging patience for the next life, or promise the fruits of countless ‘dialogue’ sessions among sworn political enemies that to date have achieved absolutely nothing to help those most in need.  Lebanon’s Parliament has recently ruled against the right to work and home ownership, and this now ranks near the top of any list of refugee grievances. One could also add: severe camp overcrowding, lack of hygienic infrastructures, declining health care, rising illnesses among children due to respiratory diseases and more than a dozen easily preventable communicable  illnesses,  shortages of medicines, drugs and drug gang violence, increasing tension and gun battles among militia (this is almost weekly – most recently in the Ein el Helwe camp in Saida and this week, in the infamous Shatila camp), domestic violence, petty crime, increase in school dropout rates, and the almost total inability of UNWRA to fulfill its mandate. Typical of the latter, is the closure of some 700 schools in Gaza, which will impact UNRWA’s work in Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank, and Syria. There are also worries here that some UNWRA schools, even those now operating on two shifts, may soon close in Lebanon and Syria.

One of the most urgent crises in Lebanon’s camps is the fact that the few remaining Palestinian hospitals are also nearing collapse, particularly Haifa Hospital in South Beirut’s Burj al Barajneh camp.. The two main Palestine Red Crescent Hospitals, Gaza and Akka, closed decades ago. These problems are just a sampling of what life has become for Palestinians currently living in Lebanon, and for almost 50,000 more that have come from Syria and are still stuck here.

Da’ish – ISIS – has started to capitalize on these problems, as pressures mount under the long hot summer days and adequate water and electricity becomes ever more scarce. Some camp residents speculate about what kind of ‘explosion’ will happen during or after Ramadan begins…

What is Da’ish (ISIS) offering Palestinians? 

First and foremost, Da’ish pledges Full Return for the nearly 12 million Palestinian refugees scattered around the world. Approximately 6.4 million Palestinians had their homes and lands occupied in 1948 (55% of the total population), 4.5 million now live outside historic Palestine, and some 18 million live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Da’ish is also offering an alternative to the half-century of fake “peace processes” and an alternative what increasing numbers of refugees claim is the quisling position of the current PLO leadership.

Understandably, jihadist appeals are finding an audience. The reason for this was best expressed recently by Dr. Mohsen Saleh, of the Zaytona Center in Beirut: “The refugee issue is the core of the Palestinian issue… the issue of a people who were uprooted from the land in which they lived for thousands of years. These people existed before the Israelites came to Palestine, and were present during their existence in Palestine and after they were gone. The Zionist project could only materialize after destroying the social fabric of these people, destroying more than 400 (531 villages: Ed.) of their villages and cities, confiscating most of their land, and usurping their properties, buildings, factories, and endowments.”

On 29/10/2013, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper published a report, based on Zionist sources, documenting that the Palestinian ‘negotiating team’ had given its Israeli counterpart a “position paper” on the core issues of the conflict. Eyewitness accounts claim that the Palestinian team actually offered to waive the right of return for Palestine refugees to their land, stolen in 1948.  The Palestinian ‘negotiating team’ would give the refugees several choices: return to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, accept cash reparations, move to a third country, or stay put in one of the 59 camps and three dozen settlements.

On 8/23/2013, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking to an Israeli delegation from the Meretz Party that visited him in Ramallah, reassured and guaranteed the Israelis that the PLO will not ask to return to Jaffa, Acre (on a clear day visible from villages, including Maron al Ras, in South Lebanon) and Safad (home for one third of the 1948 Nakba refugees who were forced to leave to Syria and Lebanon).

ISIS is making plain to all who will listen that they reject this ‘sellout position’ and that every Palestinian on this planet has the inalienable right of Full Return. This right can never be ceded by any leader and the Zionist regime which has put colonials from the West on their land has no right to even one grain of Palestinian soil.

There is fierce competition between Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS to woo Palestinians. Both groups vow that soon “the Zionist invaders will experience Allah’s wrath until they have been destroyed and Palestine is liberated.”

Meanwhile, Anthony Glees, Director of the Center for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, is warning that Zionists will be among the jihadis’ main targets in the coming days.. Daesh spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani predicts that Ramadan will be a “calamity for kuffars.”

Peter Neumann, director of International Center for the Study of the Radicalization and Political Violence at King’s College London claimed this week that Jewish institutions in Europe and in Occupied Palestine will also pay the price for the growing battle for influence between Al Qaeda (al Nusra) and ISIS.

Jobs for all who need them?

Young, fit Palestinians are at last being offered a job in a country where they are forbidden by law to work or own a home. Da’ish is reportedly paying an average of $300 a month, promising two and sometimes three days off each week to visit one’s family, cash bonuses for marriage and one-time child subsidies of $400 per child.  Subsidies for food of $70 a month are also being offered, in the face of the fact that UNWRA has just reduced monthly cash for food stipends to a mere $30 per month. One can imagine what some of the camp residents are thinking: which horse is the best bet for an improved life and for full return to our own country?

Based on conversations with recently-arrived Palestinian refugees from Syria, as well as old friends in Lebanon’s camps, this observer is confident that today only a small percentage of Palestinians are responding to the siren-call of ISIS.

But tomorrow?

Franklin Lamb’s most recent book, Syria’s Endangered Heritage, An international Responsibility to Protect and Preserve is in production by Orontes River Publishing, Hama, Syrian Arab Republic. Inquires c/o…. The author is reachable c/o…