Al-Aqsa Mosque (‘the Farthest Mosque’) is the third holiest site in Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Having Jewish settlers, backed by the Israeli Defense Forces, violating this holy sanctuary is an act of brazen aggression that was surely calculated to raise the ire of Palestinian Muslims and the entire Muslim world!
What is Israel playing at? Are they trying to start another open conflagration? How would the State of Israel react if Palestinian Muslims stormed the ‘Wailing Wall’ and tried to defile it?
I expect that we will hear cries of outrage reverberating around the Muslim world. I fear that all we will hear from ‘the West’ is a deafening silence. This is surely the perfect opportunity for the US President to make a strong statement that shows he is genuinely concerned for the people of Palestine and for Muslim religious sensitivities, but what would it take to make this happen?
Illegal Settlers Storm Al-Aqsa Sanctuary, Attacks Escalate
A group of illegal Israeli settlers trespassed into Al-Aqsa Sanctuary again on Sunday, flanked by Israeli soldiers. The extremist settlers stormed the sanctified area in small groups, some practicing Talmudic rituals in the courtyard of the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary.
This latest incident reflects the escalation of attacks which violate Palestinian legal rights over the holy Sanctuary. Since the beginning of the year, there has been an alarming rise in the number of occasions Israeli forces, settlers and politicians have stormed the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary.
Following the public call by main stream Israeli Politician like Moshe Feiglin and Jeremy Gimpel, for the destruction of al-Aqsa Sanctuary, Israeli trespassers have become bolder and more audacious. A recent parade by over a hundred female Israeli soldiers at the Sanctuary was an unspoken threat to Palestinians. In continuing acts of aggression, scores of settlers accompanied by over a hundred soldiers have entered the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary. The Israeli state appears to be aiding and abetting extreme elements from Israeli society in violating the Palestinian rights over the land.
Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic movement from the pre-1948 Palestine, warned that Israel is trying to isolate Al-Aqsa Sanctuary from the Palestinians. Other steps have included demolishing the facades of a number of historical buildings in the Buraq Square adjoining the Aqsa Sanctuary. The Palestinians are calling for solidarity from the international community in defending the holy sanctuary.
Friends of Al-Aqsa is deeply concerned about these reports and this latest incident is a reminder of the clear and present danger the Al-Aqsa sanctuary faces. Being mindful of this aggression is the first step to preventing further trespasses and graver dangers posed to Al-Aqsa sanctuary by Israelis intent on its destruction. Now is the time for action – by lobbying your local MP and encouraging him/her to raise the issue of attacks on the Al-Aqsa sanctuary in Parliament.
read the rest of this article here: www.foa.org…
Highlights are courtesy of Father Roy:
Palestinian Christians swept aside as Israel rewrites history
He vanquished a dragon, saved a princess and passed into myth. What popular culture knows about St George (or Georgius, in Latin) pretty much begins and ends with the children’s fairy tale, but there is a historical figure underneath that legend. Born about 1,800 years ago, St George’s father was a soldier in the Roman army, and his mother was a Palestinian Christian. After his death, he was hallowed by the Catholic Church, but what is less known is that Muslims also venerated his name.
It remains one of history’s curiosities that when European Crusaders invaded Palestine in 1096, they did so under a banner dedicated to a soldier who was born and buried in the Holy Land eight centuries earlier.
Few places on Earth, if any, have inspired so much jealous devotion, not to mention bloodshed, as historical Palestine has over the centuries. More often than not, that blood has been shed by foreign invaders, from both East and West.
After more than 60 years since the Naqba and the start of Israeli occupation, it is natural to be weary of the conflict. It could also be argued that conflict is natural to this land.
But Israeli policy is wreaking a decidedly unnatural consequence. A land that has been home to Christians, Muslims and Jews for millennia is being reshaped.
Evictions of Palestinians from homes and villages increases year by year as Israeli settlements steal more land. It is nothing short of ethnic cleansing. There is serious talk of outright annexation of Area C – 61 per cent of the West Bank – without which Palestine will never be a viable state. Centuries of coexistence may soon be consigned to the history books.
Under the rule of Islamic caliphates since the 7th century, Christians and Jews coexisted with Muslims peacefully for the most part. They were not always afforded the same rights, but they were protected and integrated into society, a marked contrast to the anti-Semitism that persisted in Europe.
The conflict that defined the Holy Land, until the 20th century at least, was the invasion of the Crusaders and so-called clash of civilisations between Muslims and European Christians. Another historical irony is that Jews fought side by side with Muslims in the defence of Jerusalem against the first Crusaders.
The razing of Jerusalem’s Church of Holy Sepulchre in 1009 is seen as the pretext for the European monarchs’ obsession with the Holy Land (although the church was soon rebuilt). What followed less than one century of Crusader rule in Jerusalem, Salaluddin’s retaking of the city in the 12th century and several centuries of intermittent war.
There are still poignant lessons from that history. After the Siege of Jerusalem, Crusaders slaughtered most of the city’s Muslim and Jewish population; after Salaluddin’s victory, Jews and Christians were allowed to settle. And, of course, after centuries of bloodshed, the European incursions were ultimately, completely futile.
After 1948, that land of Palestine became only a historical note, and a dream of Palestinians who were forced from their homes. After the Naksa, the 1967 War, that historical Palestine was further whittled away until, today, less than 22 per cent of the first proposed independent state of Palestine remains. Even that is now under threat.
Palestinian Christians have shared their Muslim compatriots’ pain in the past 64 years, increasingly marginalised in a land they have inhabited for over 2,000 years. Across the region, dwindling Christian communities are often blamed on the rise of Islamists but this is an oversimplification and, in Occupied Palestine, almost wholly a mistake.
Certainly some Islamist groups, heavy on ideology and light on political nous, have been their own worst enemies. Hamas is not blameless in its treatment of Gaza’s Christian minority. Last week, Christians demonstrated after stories emerged that five people, three of them children, had been forced to convert to Islam. The story may just be rumour, but such an act would be indefensible. And Gaza’s Christians are alienated enough to believe it is possible.
In truth, however, Hamas has neither the desire inside Gaza, nor the influence outside of it, to truly marginalise Palestinian Christians. The Christian Palestinian population has suffered, less visibly, just as Muslims have. Christians now account for only 4 per cent of the West Bank population and less than 10 per cent of Palestinians in Israel.
Over the last year in particular, attacks by Israeli extremists on Christians have increased. A Christian cemetery on Mount Zion has been desecrated and two churches vandalised (one of them, Jerusalem Baptist Church, had already suffered arson twice since 1982). “Death to Christianity”, “We will crucify you” and “Jesus son of Mary the whore” graffiti stain the walls. That defilement would cause outrage in almost any country, but not in Israel.
It is in Bethlehem, birthplace of Christ, where the exodus has been most pronounced, with more than 10 per cent of Christians leaving just in the past decade.
Israel’s ill-conceived plan to expand a majority Jewish state in historical Palestine does not distinguish between Palestinian Muslims and Christians. That hollow distinction has allowed Israel to peddle the old line about a “clash of civilisations”, when Palestinians have been living side by side for millennia.
The Palestinian struggle has always been about more than religion. Historical Palestine is not just about 64 years of struggle against an illegal occupation, or Israeli efforts to erase the history books, but about how Muslims, Christians and Jews have lived together for centuries. Palestine, in a modern sense, is not about religion, it’s about justice.
The US 60-Minutes documentary on Christians leaving Palestine continues to make waves. When you see how people respond to this information though (see, for example, the comments left in response to this article) it seems that the coin just still hasn’t dropped for most Americans. How much more evidence do people need before they open their eyes to what is really going on?
Palestinian Christians and 60 Minutes (Cont’d)
In the wake of the controversy over last week’s 60 Minutes episode on Palestinian Christians, the Israeli website 972 today runs an illuminating post by a Palestinian Christian, Philip Farah. On the question of whether Christians are being driven out of the occupied territory by Islamic radicals or by Israeli policies, Farah writes:
Palestinian Christians are, indeed, worried about the militancy of extremists who cloak themselves in distorted Islamic rhetoric. Yet, the majority of Palestinian Muslims and Christians have chosen peaceful resistance. To say that Hamas is the cause of the declining Christian population in the occupied Palestinian territories is standing the truth on its head.
Our people are fleeing their homeland because the Israelis are confiscating the land of Palestinians — Muslims and Christians alike — to build Jewish-only settlements and the Apartheid Wall which is ghettoizing many Palestinian communities. Palestinian Christians are leaving because of Israeli checkpoints and barriers that severely restrict the freedom of movement of Palestinians, destroying their economy and preventing their access to their holy places in Jerusalem. They are leaving because Israel diverts Palestinian water resources in a way that gives illegal Jewish settlements the right to enjoy swimming pools while the fields of Palestinian farmers next door go fallow for lack of water.
This testimony meshes with the one piece of evidence on this issue that I got first-hand. During a trip to Israel and the West Bank last summer, the group I was with visited a Palestinian brewery in the village of Taybeh. After touring the brewery, before getting back on the bus, a few of us were chatting with a Palestinian woman who was one of the brewery’s proprietors. Small talk about how her business was doing led her into a pretty intense discussion of the occupation. She didn’t deliver a political rant–she didn’t talk about Palestinians lacking the right to vote or due process of law. She just talked about how her brewery couldn’t count on the things an American-based company would take for granted–consistent access to water, electrical power, etc.–because these were under the control of Israelis who didn’t seem very attentive to the needs of Palestinians.
But however mundane her critique, it was no less animated for that. And after watching this articulate, forceful testimony from a Palestinian woman with a cross around her neck, I said to a traveling companion something to the effect that, if you could get this woman on American TV, that could change some American opinions about the Palestinian predicament. I think that’s one reason the Israeli government was so concerned about the 60 Minutes broadcast: It provided first-hand testimony about the grim reality of the Israeli occupation from people large numbers of Americans might actually believe.
This article available online at:
Sam Bahour writes: Last week, Mr. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, had this op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians. A few moments ago, the Letters to the Editor responding to this were posted online and may be found here: Israel Really Isn’t All That Friendly to Its Christians. One of those Letters to the Editor is by my good friend and writer Fida Jiryis. Her letter is actually an excerpt of a full op-ed in reply to Mr. Oren’s piece. Here is Fida’s reply in full:
The Myth of Israel’s Favorable Treatment of Palestinian Christians
By Fida Jiryis
Amb. Michael Oren’s article, ‘Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians,’ presents Israel as a tolerant, dove-like, and peaceful democracy. This is belied by the facts.
I am one of those Palestinian Christians living inside Israel to whom Oren refers. At no time in my life have I ever felt the ‘respect and appreciation’ by the Jewish state, which Oren so glowingly references. Israel’s Christian minority is marginalized in much the same manner as its Muslim one or, at best, quietly tolerated. We suffer the same discrimination when we try to find a job, when we go to hospitals, when we apply for bank loans, and when we get on the bus — in the same way as Palestinian Muslims.
Israel’s fundamental basis is as a racist state built for Jews only, and the majority of the Jewish population doesn’t really care what religion we are if we’re not Jewish. In my daily dealings with the State, all I have felt is rudeness and overt contempt.
Oren’s statement that ‘The extinction of the Middle East’s Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude’ is outright shocking to anyone familiar with even the basic history of how Israel was founded. I would like to remind him and others that this founding expelled thousands of Palestinian Christians from their homes in 1948 and displaced them, either forcing them to flee across the border or making them internal refugees. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that comprised the founding of Israel is, too, an injustice of historic magnitude. A man living in a glass home — or a home stolen from Palestinians — should think very carefully before tossing stones.
My cousin’s husband, Maher, is from Iqrith, a village a few miles from mine in the Galilee. His family, and all of Iqrith’s inhabitants, were expelled from their village in 1948 and Iqrith was razed to the ground by Israeli forces on Christmas eve, 1950, in a special ‘Christmas gift’ to its people. The timing of this destruction leaves one to wonder at the intended message. Maher was born years after his family took shelter in Rama, a village nearby in the Galilee. Today, he struggles with finding a place to build a house to live in with his wife and children. Israeli policies that severely restrict the building zones in Arab towns and villages result in land shortages impeding the population’s natural expansion. Limiting land to residents of the same town or village means that internal Palestinian refugees face severe housing discrimination.
The return of people like Maher has been made impossible by Israel, which refuses to negotiate on the right of refugees to return to their homeland. If Oren is so concerned for Palestinian Christians, would he kindly give the green light for the return of Christian refugees from Iqrith, Bir’im, Tarshiha, Suhmata, Haifa, Jaffa, and tens of other Palestinian towns and villages that they were expelled from in 1948? The answer, I assure you, is no. Many of these refugees are living in refugee camps in nearby countries, where Israel and Oren are happy to leave them.
The terrorists referred to in Oren’s statement that ‘Israel, in spite of its need to safeguard its borders from terrorists, allows holiday access to Jerusalem’s churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza,’ are in fact Palestinian Christians living on the land that Israel has occupied — in flagrant opposition to all human rights charters — and from which it is refusing to withdraw its soldiers and illegal settlers. To applaud Israel for giving people permits to travel across what by law is their own country is the height of hubris.
His claim that ‘In Jerusalem, the number of Arabs–among them Christians–has tripled since the city’s reunification by Israel in 1967’ fails to mention Israel’s relentless policies of cracking down on Jerusalem: building unending settlements; building a Separation Wall that slices right through the city, severing its families, neighborhoods and businesses and hitting hard at its Arab economy; seizing Arab lands and expelling families that have lived on them for generations; and revoking the citizenship of any Palestinian resident who travels abroad for too long. Imagine the outcry if an American citizen traveled abroad for two years and upon return discovered that his citizenship was revoked and that he had lost his American ID and passport.
Israeli officials don’t care whether the Palestinians they discriminate against are Christian or Muslim. It is true that inter-religious strife is on the rise in a region long tormented by poor living conditions, for which the West bears significant responsibility having aided the region’s many dictators.
Oren’s faux tolerance and crocodile tears over the plight of Christians fool no one. Were he serious, I would urge him to have a close look at Israel’s policies of occupation and racial discrimination.
As Jesus said, ‘Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?’ (Matthew 7:3)
Fida Jiryis is a Palestinian writer from the Arab village of Fassuta in the Galilee. She is the author of the forthcoming book, ‘˜My Return to Galilee,’ which chronicles her return from the Diaspora to Israel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org….