Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Christians of Gaza and Israel/Palestine are Crying Out for Justice

It is infuriating to read the lies that Tim Rutten publishes in mainstream newspapers about the situation in Israel/Palestine. For example, Rutten alleges that Muslims in Gaza have engaged in “ethnic cleansing” of Christians and that the decline in the Christian population in Israel/Palestine is the fault of Muslims: “The Palestinians, in whose cause so much of Europe now speaks with such vitriol toward Israel, are as guilty of ethnic cleansing as the rest of their Islamic brethren.” (http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/opinion/20140807/why-do-we-remain-silent-about-anti-semitism-attacks-on-christians-tim-rutten ) The truth is that most of the 1,500 Christians currently living in Gaza have a close relationship with their Muslim neighbors and Palestinian Christians see Israeli occupation and blockade, not alleged Muslim ethnic cleansing, as the biggest threat to their lives and livelihood.

According to reliable sources, the Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza has become a haven not just for Christian but also hundreds of Muslim families seeking shelter there as the offensive drags on.“The church has been our hosts for the past two weeks, offering food, clothes and whatever we needed, their loss is our loss, their pain is our pain,” says 45-year-old Abu Khaled. At the memorial service for a Christian mother named Jalila killed by Israeli attack, Archbishop Alexios said: “Another human being, an innocent one, has lost her life." In something that surprised local journalists, Jalila’s body was carried by both Muslims and Christians to the grave. It seems the shared wounds, mourning and rage are bridging past divides in war-ravaged Gaza. Last week, Gaza’s Greek Orthodox Church also sustained damage by Israeli artillery shelling. Fifteen graves were damaged and damage was also caused to the Church’s sole hearse, says Kamel Ayyad, a parish member.“The world must realise that Israel’s missiles don’t differentiate between Christians and Muslims,”said Abu. See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/gazas-christians-and-muslims-grow-closer-defiance-israeli-attacks-372261379#sthash.Kzah2Ytl.dpuf

George Ayyad, a relative of Jalila, rejects the idea that Christians will leave Gaza after this incident. “This is exactly what the Israelis want, but where should we go?” he questions, before he continues “This is my homeland and we are Christians here in Gaza for more than 1,000 years and we will remain.”

The same is true throughout the West Bank and Occupied territories. Palestinian Christians feel they are being driven out of land by the inhumane treatment they receive from Israel. They cry out to the United States and the international community, asking for justice and an end to the occupation.

Sabeel, an organization of Christians in Israel/Palestine, is committed to nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation. In his statement on behalf of Sabeel, the Rev. Dr. Naim, expresses the views of many Palestinian Christians:

1. The international community needs to empower the UN to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine. We have been caught in a destructive cycle. Every few years the situation reaches its boiling point, warfare begins, and thousands of Palestinians are killed and injured, mainly civilians – women, children, elderly, and disabled. The international community has been lethargic, impotent, and unwilling to implement its own resolutions on Palestine.The international community has the responsibility to resolve this seemingly intractable conflict. The UN needs to be empowered to do its work.

2. International law unequivocally gives occupied people the right to shake off the yoke of the occupier through various means including the armed struggle. While this is true and needs to be remembered in considering this situation, Sabeel has always stood for the moral right of liberation through nonviolent means.

3. The Palestinian rockets from Gaza have an important message that Israel refuses to understandand the western powers, especially the United States,are unwilling to comprehend. The message of the rockets addresses the core issues and the root causes of the problem – STOP THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION AND FREE PALESTINE. If this does not happen, the war will occur again and again and again, and the casualties will be mainly women and children. This conflict will continue to flare up, despite anyone’s best efforts to contain it, unless the systemic injustice of occupation is dismantled. A recent statement from Israeli academics cuts straight to the point: “Israel must agree to an immediate cease-fire and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement”(http://haimbresheeth.com/gaza/an-open-letter-to-israel-academics-july-13th-2014/statement-by-israeli-academics-july-2014/).

4. Our plea is to all people of conscience in Israel. You need to become engaged. The present political course is driving Israelis and Palestinians further apart and is leading us to an impending disaster worse than we are witnessing today.We all must stop nurturing extremism. Israelis and Palestinians have to live together in this land. God has put us here, we need to share it. The alternative is untenable.

5. A stable peace can only be realized when justice, in accordance with international law, is achieved for both Israel and Palestine. (See http://www.sabeel.org/events.php?eventid=374)

If we want to help the Christians of Israel/Palestine, we need to listen to what Palestinian Christians are asking for: an end to the siege of Gaza, an end to Israeli occupation, and equal rights for Palestinians and Israeli Jews.


 PS My friend David Albert wrote the response below, with which I agree. The problem for Christians (and others) in the Middle East has been caused by US invasions that have fueled sectarian violence. The more violence we use, the more anti-American and anti-Christian feeling grows. If we want peace in this region, we need to  drop food, not bombs--humanitarian aid, not weapons. And we need to show concern for Muslims as much as for Christians victimized by war.

Nice, but why should we particularly care for Christians there? In Iraq, there had been 1.3 million Christians living peacefully (and the Deputy Prime Minister was a Christian) until the America (Christian) invaders go there. Now there are fewer than 200,000. Where did they go? They went to Muslim Syria, where Assad provided them with homes, food, schools, and opportunities for employment (with no help from so-called "Christians".) They went to Muslim Jordan, which had already taken in 2.5 million Palestinian refugees, including hundreds of thousands of Christians. They wen to Muslim Kurdistan. They even went to Muslim Iran (which has three permanent Christian members of their Parliament.) They were rescued by the Syrian Muslim Peshmerga. No Christian country took them in in any signficant numbers.

We need to be providing support for Palestinian MUSLIMS. They are the only real hope that Christians really have.


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