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.
This is an excellent article by, highlighting the sickening hypocrisy of ‘Western’ politicians and media.
I do not for a moment condone the killing of Israeli teenagers. It is tragic and unacceptable. But surely this tragedy should only serve to highlight the tragedy of the deaths of so many Palestinian children at the hands of militant Israelis. Instead this tragedy is be being used to justify greater oppression and murder in the West Bank and Gaza!
And so the Australian Prime Minister, along with so many world leaders, forwards his commiserations to the parents of the dead Israeli children. This is admirable but wouldn’t it be a little more even-handed if he followed this with an expression of grief for their dead Palestinian sisters and brother? Such one-sided support only serves to reinforce the dark truth that the ‘Western’ world considers an Israeli life far more valuable than a Palestinian life. It does nothing to further the prospects for justice and peace in Israel/Palestine.
The searing hypocrisy of the West
Since the teens went missing from Gush Etzion, a Jewish-only colony in the West Bank, Israel has besieged the 4 million Palestinians who already live under its thumb, storming through towns, ransacking homes and civil institutions, conducting night raids on families, stealing property, kidnapping, injuring, and killing. Warplanes were dispatched to bomb Gaza, again and repeatedly, destroying more homes and institutions and carrying out extrajudicial executions. Thus far, over 570 Palestinians have been kidnapped and imprisoned, most notably a Samer Issawi, the Palestinian who went on a 266-day hunger strike in protest of a previous arbitrary detention. At least 10 Palestinians have been killed, including at least three children, a pregnant woman, and a mentally ill man. Hundreds have been injured, thousands terrorized. Universities and social welfare organizations were ransacked, shut down, their computers and equipment destroyed or stolen, and both private and public documents confiscated from civil institutions. This wonton thuggery is official state policy conducted by its military and does not include the violence to persons and properties perpetuated by paramilitary Israeli settlers, whose persistent attacks against Palestinian civilians have also escalated in the past weeks. And now that the settlers are confirmed dead, Israel has vowed to exact revenge. Naftali Bennet, Economy Minister said, “There is no mercy for the murderers of children. This is the time for action, not words.”
Although no Palestinian faction has claimed responsibility for the abduction, and most, including Hamas, deny any involvement, Benjamin Netanyahu is adamant that Hamas is responsible. The United Nations requested that Israel provide evidence to support their contention, but no evidence has been forthcoming, casting doubt on Israel’s claims, particularly in light of its public ire over the recent unification of Palestinian factions and President Obama’s acceptance of the new Palestinian unity.
In the West, headlines over pictures of the three Israeli settler teens referred to Israel’s reign of terror over Palestine as a “manhunt” and “military sweep.” Portraits of innocent young Israeli lives emerged from news outlets and the voices of their parents are featured in the fullness of their anguish. The US, EU, UK, UN, Canada and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) condemned the kidnapping and called for their immediate and unconditional release. Upon discovery of the bodies, there has been an outpouring of condemnation and condolences.
President Obama said, “As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth.”
Although hundreds of Palestinian children are kidnapped, brutalized or killed by Israel, including several in the past two weeks, there is rarely, if ever, such a reaction from the world.
Just prior to the disappearance of the Israeli settler teens, the murder of two Palestinian teens was caught on a local surveillance camera. Ample evidence, including the recovered bullets and a CNN camera filming an Israeli sharpshooter pulling the trigger at the precise moment one of the boys was shot indicated that they were killed in cold blood by Israeli soldiers. There were no condemnations or calls for justice for these teens by world leaders or international institutions, no solidarity with their grieving parents, nor mention of the more than 250 Palestinian children, kidnapped from their beds or on their way to school, who continue to languish in Israeli jails without charge or trial, physically and psychologically tortured. This is to say nothing of the barbaric siege of Gaza, or the decades of ongoing theft, evictions, assaults on education, confiscation of land, demolition of homes, color coded permit system, arbitrary imprisonment, restriction of movement, checkpoints, extrajudicial executions, torture, and denials at every turn squeezing Palestinians into isolated ghettos.
None of that seemingly matters.
It does not matter that no one knows who murdered the Israeli teens. It seems the entire country is calling for Palestinian blood, reminiscent of American southern lynching rallies that went after black men whenever a white person turned up dead. Nor does it matter that these Israeli teens were settlers living in illegal Jewish-only colonies that were built on land stolen by the state mostly from Palestinian owners from the village of el-Khader. A huge portion of the settlers there are Americans, mostly from New York, like one of the murdered teens, who exercise Jewish privilege to hold dual citizenship; to have an extra country no matter where they’re from, one in their own homeland and one in ours, at the same time that the indigenous Palestinians fester in refugee camps, occupied ghettos, or boundless exile.
Palestinian children are assaulted or murdered every day and barely do their lives register in western press. While Palestinian mothers are frequently blamed when Israel kills their children, accused of sending them to die or neglecting to keep them at home away from Israeli snipers, no one questions Rachel Frankel, the mother of one of the murdered settlers. She is not asked to comment on the fact that one of the missing settlers is a soldier who likely participated in the oppression of his Palestinian neighbors. No one asks why she would move her family from the United States to live in a segregated, supremacist colony established on land confiscated from the native non-Jewish owners. Certainly no one dares accuse her of therefore putting her children in harms way.
No mother should have endure the murder of her child. No mother or father. That does not only apply to Jewish parents. The lives of our children are no less precious and their loss are no less shattering and spiritually unhinging. But there is a terrible disparity in the value of life here in the eyes of the state and the world, where Palestinian life is cheap and disposable, but Jewish life is sacrosanct.
This exceptionalism and supremacy of Jewish life is a fundamental underpinning of the state of Israel. It pervades their every law and protocol, and is matched only by their apparent contempt and disregard for Palestinian life. Whether through laws that favor Jews for employment and educational opportunities, or laws that allow the exclusion of non-Jews from buying or renting among Jews, or endless military orders that limit the movement, water consumption, food access, education, marriage possibilities, and economic independence, or these periodic upending of Palestinian civil society, life for non-Jews ultimately conforms to the religious edict issued by Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, saying “a thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew’s fingernail.”
Israeli violence of the past few weeks is generally accepted and expected. And the terror we know they will unleash on our people will be, as it always is, cloaked in the legitimacy of uniforms and technological death machines. Israeli violence, no matter how vulgar, is inevitably couched as a heroic, ironic violence that western media frames as “response,” as if Palestinian resistance itself were not a response to Israeli oppression. When the ICRC was asked to issue a similar call for the immediate and unconditional release of the hundreds of Palestinian children held in Israeli jails (which is also in contravention of international humanitarian law), the ICRC refused, indicating there’s a difference between the isolated abduction of Israeli teens and the routine abduction, torture, isolation, and imprisonment of Palestinian children.
When our children throw rocks at heavily armed Israeli tanks and jeeps rolling through our streets, we are contemptible parents who should be bear responsibility for the murder of our children if they are shot by Israeli soldiers or settlers. When we refuse to capitulate completely, we are “not partners for peace,” and deserve to have more land confiscated from us for the exclusive use of Jews. When we take up arms and fight back, kidnap a soldier, we are terrorists of the extreme kind who have no one to blame but ourselves as Israel subjects the entire Palestinian population to punitive collective punishment. When we engage in peaceful protests, we are rioters who deserve the live fire they send our way. When we debate, write, and boycott, we are anti-Semites who should be silenced, deported, marginalized, or prosecuted.
What should we do, then? Palestine is quite literally being wiped off the map by a state that openly upholds Jewish supremacy and Jewish privilege. Our people continue to be robbed of home and heritage, pushed to the margins of humanity, blamed for our own miserable fate. We are a traumatized, principally unarmed, native society being destroyed and erased by one of the most powerful militaries in the world.
Rachel Frankel went to the UN to plead for their support, saying “it is wrong to take children, innocent boys or girls, and use them as instruments of any struggle. It is cruel…I wish to ask: Doesn’t every child have the right to come home safely from school?” Do those sentiments apply to Palestinian children, too? Here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here are video examples of the abduction of Palestinian children from their homes at night and on their way to and from school.
But none of that matters either. Does it? It matters that three Israeli Jews were killed. It doesn’t matter who did it or what the circumstances were, the entire Palestinian population will be made to suffer, more than they already are.
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…
This latest move by the Knesset, initiated by coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin, appears to be an attempt to divide the Palestinian population!
The actual changes enacted by the new law are only minor but their ramifications could be huge. The law increases Christian representation on the advisory committee appointed under the ‘Equal Employment Opportunities Law’ from five to ten persons. The new law thus seems inoffensive in itself, but critics see it as part of a larger strategy to integrate Christians more into Israeli society and so divide them from their Arab sisters and brothers.
Levin more or less confirmed that this was his aim in an interview with Israeli newspaper Maariv. “This is an important historic move that can balance Israel and bring us closer to the Christians”, he said, “and I am careful not to call them Arabs, because they’re not Arabs.” He added that Christians “are our natural allies, a counter-balance against the Muslims who want to destroy the state from within.”
The truth is, of course, that Christian Arabs are Arabs, and Christian Palestinians have suffered alongside their Islamic Palestinian sisters and brothers since ‘Al Nakba’ of 1948.
From my perspective, Levin’s new law might be trying to accomplish more than simply ‘divide and conquer’. It may also be an attempt to win back diminishing support from Christians in the West, particularly from the USA where right-wing Evangelicals have always been amongst the Jewish state’s most unquestioning supporters.
Whatever the grand plan, it is quite possible that it could all backfire. What if Palestinian Christians unite in their opposition to the new law – refusing to accept any special privileges above Muslim Palestinians? This could be a powerful witness for the church in Israel/Palestine as well as a serious setback for the Zionist agenda!
Divide and Conquer: New Israel Legislation
by Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek
On Monday, February 23, 2014, the Israeli Knesset enacted a new law that recognizes Muslim and Christian Arab communities as separate identities, giving them their own representation in an employment commission. The law passed by a margin of 31 to 6.
The new law passed by the Knesset favoring Christians is, to say the least, a deceitful political stunt by Likud-Beiteinu members aimed at sowing seeds of division among Christians and between Christians and Muslims.
For the last sixty-five years, the government of Israel has not shown favoritism or bias towards the Christian community of the land, so why now?
During the Nakba of 1948, the Christians, like the Muslims, were dispossessed by the Zionists and were forced out of their homeland. Furthermore, during the military rule imposed by Israel on all Palestinians who stayed inside the Israeli state (1948-1966), Israel did not show favoritism to Christians over Muslims. Both were discriminated against and both were treated as unwanted aliens in their own land. There is a plethora of documentation to substantiate the history of that period. The problem for Israel in those days was not the Palestinians’ religious affiliation but their Palestinian national identity.
I believe that the new law reflects the moral bankruptcy of the government of Israel. Indeed, it must be in trouble to allow itself to stoop so low as to blatantly use this tactic to attempt to win the support of some Christians abroad, and, at the same time, sow dissent among Christians and Muslims. It is the old adage of “divide and rule.” This law is sinister in that it exploits the sensitive tensions among the religious communities of the Middle East, especially in light of what has been happening in Egypt and now is happening in Syria.
I am certain that the Palestinian community is mature enough not to fall into such a despicable religious trap.
There is another dishonest and hidden angle to this law. Jewish religious tradition has always considered Christianity, not Islam, as the mortal enemy of Jews and Judaism. This is due to the fact that the Christian faith came out of the same foundation as the Jewish faith, namely, the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e. the Christian Old Testament. I still remember the Israeli religious establishment discouraging Jewish students from visiting Christian churches while encouraging them to visit Muslim mosques. The advisory pointed out that there was greater affinity between Judaism and Islam, while the gap was quite wide between Judaism and Christianity.
What has caused this sudden infatuation with Palestinian Christians to merit new legislation? Or is it just an ugly political stunt? What favors can the right-wing Israeli government give the Palestinian Arab Christians who are Israeli citizens? Will it restore their confiscated land to them? Will it grant them equality with their fellow Jewish citizens? Or are we witnessing another divisive Israeli ploy similar to when Israel set the Druze community apart from its Arab base?
It is worth mentioning that over sixty years ago, Israel managed to make the Druze religion a separate ethnic entity, thus separating them from their Arab roots. Through this new legislation, Israel wants to make the Christian religion a separate ethnic identity in order to separate them from their Arab Palestinian roots. But in spite of what Israel has done to the Druze community, an increasing number of young Druze men have been resisting imposed Israeli military service.
Israel has been very shrewd in concocting devious ways and means to impose its will on the Palestinians and keep them weak and divided. It continues to connive ways to limit and even deprive them of their rights to the land so they will give up and leave.
I am certain that the Christian community in Israel will see through this new Israeli legislation, will expose its sinister nature, and reject it. It is my hope also that our people’s resilience and maturity will foil the Israeli government’s insidious objectives. This we can do through our unity and solidarity, as well as through our determination to continue to work for a just peace, inclusive democracy, and human dignity for all the people of our land.
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
The Rev. Dr. Naim Stifan Ateek (Arabic: نعيم عتيق, Na’īm ’Ateeq) (born in the Palestinian village of Beisan in 1937) is a Palestinian priest in the Anglican Church and founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. He has been an active leader in the shaping of the Palestinian liberation theology. He was the first to articulate a Palestinian theology of liberation in his book, Justice, and only Justice, a Palestinian Theology of Liberation, published by Orbis in 1989, and based on his dissertation for his degree in theology. The book laid the foundation of a theology that addresses the conflict over Palestine and explores the political as well as the religious, biblical, and theological dimensions. A former Canon of St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, he lectures widely both at home and abroad. His latest book, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, was published by Orbis in 2008.
Here’s an interesting offering from American cartoonist, Nina Paley.
I’m not sure what the author’s intentions were in putting this 3-minute musical/cartoon/video together but it is certainly helpful in terms of the big picture – in terms of giving us an historical perspective as to who owns the land of Israel/Palestine.
It is curious, I think, that most Jews who claim ownership of the land do so on religious grounds (‘God gave us this land’, etc.) whereas the Torah itself makes clear that no one but God Himself owns it.
‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.” (Leviticus 25:23)
If you want to check the identity of all the characters in the story, you’ll find them on Nina Paley’s blog.