Humanity Does Not Live By Bread Alone

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by Jonathan Kuttab

Previously, I wrote of the importance of bread for Palestinians, of the horrors of starvation, and the need to grant immediate and unencumbered access to the truckloads of food and supplies waiting at the border to meet that need. As Israel has systematically destroyed all means of Palestinian livelihood, Gazans are in dire need of their daily bread for mere physical survival.

Yet, as Jesus teaches us, “humanity does not live by bread alone.” Merely surviving starvation or meeting the basic material needs of Palestinian refugees is not enough. Human beings are not animals, but we are made in the image of God, and our needs are not limited to food and shelter.

I remember growing up hearing many Palestinians, made refugees in 1948 when Israel was established and stole their homes and homeland, lamenting that the world sees them only as pitiable refugees whose needs consist only of flour and tents.

Yes, we need bread and water and milk (for the many babies and nursing mothers) and shelter, but Palestinians also need the dignity of making a livelihood and of not being made into eternal beggars subsisting on the charity of the international community. It is not by accident that the first organization created by the UN to deal with the needs of the Palestinian refugees was called the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and that its major accomplishment since then has been the provision of not only food and shelter but of clinics, schools, vocational training centers, and employment.

Returning to Gaza, meeting  people’s immediate physical needs must be followed promptly by  supporting  their other needs. And, Palestinians desperately need the following:

  • Shelter: This also includes the ability to return to whatever has not yet been fully destroyed of their homes, particularly in Northern Gaza.
  • Medical needs: It is outrageous that Israel continues to attack and destroy hospitals and prevent medical supplies, including anesthesia. Hygiene products for women and girls are also lacking and desperately needed. Over 70,000 wounded Palestinians require treatment. Over 1000 children have lost one or more limbs, sometimes having been removed without anesthesia. They need treatment and rehabilitation.
  • Education: Palestinians highly value education. They have one of the highest literacy rates in the world, as well as a high percentage of college and university graduates. Since the Gaza invasion, children have been denied their education; their schools, not to mention universities, have been attacked, destroyed, or used as temporary shelters for displaced people being ordered around from one location to another. When will schools start functioning again?
  • Civil Society Institutions: Gazan society has been systematically destroyed, as part of Israel’s utter dehumanization of Palestinians and attempts to wipe out the memory and culture of Palestine. Existing organizations that provide counseling, mental health services, and other basic social functions have been devastated, their physical centers destroyed, and their entire institutional networks decimated. Mosques and churches have also been attacked, damaged, or destroyed.
  • Self-Governance: Palestinians require the ability to participate in the running of their own affairs and in electing their own leaders. It is unconscionable that in discussing “the day after” both Israel and the US are talking about and seeking leaders who are acceptable to Israel but not acceptable to the Palestinians themselves. The principle of self-determination is basic for Palestinians, as it is for all people.
  • Dignity: Israelis have been systematically dehumanizing, humiliating, and treating Palestinians as animals. The language used, as well as the treatment served upon them, is utterly inhuman. Apart from violating international law, both of occupation and of armed conflict, such inhumanity also bodes ill for future coexistence.
  • Freedom: Palestinians desire freedom no less than any other people. The fact that they have chosen to resist their enslavement and oppression does not justify denying them that basic human desire.
  • Justice: Palestinians have suffered a lot and have been made to pay the price for the suffering of Jews throughout the world and throughout history. That is unfair. Whatever the world chooses to do in order to compensate for its own sins and to correct the injustices done to Jews in Europe and elsewhere, it cannot be done at the expense of the Palestinians. As long term solutions are sought for “the day after”, justice must be the basic ingredient .  Without justice, no security can be ever achieved.  Natanyahu’s vision of “total victory” must be relinquished in favor of a just solution that alone can secure a future for both groups. 

Ultimately Palestinians, like people all over the world, want the same things: human rights, dignity, freedom and democracy, but above all justice. That is why FOSNA proudly stands with Palestinians as they seek Justice. This is our Christian calling, and as such constitutes our plan and program for “the day after.”

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Father Dave

Anglican Priest, Professional Boxer,Social activist and Father of four


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