A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering
We, a group of Christian Palestinians, after prayer, reflection and an exchange of opinion, cry out from within the suffering in our country, under the Israeli occupation, with a cry of hope in the absence of all hope, a cry full of prayer and faith in a God ever vigilant, in God’s divine providence for all the inhabitants of this land. ..
Why now? Because today we have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people. 1. The reality on the ground
1.1 “They say: ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). 1.1.1 The separation wall erected on Palestinian territory , [YA: which has saved the lives of thousands of Arabs as well as Jews. Fences are uncomfortable, death is final.] a large part of which has been confiscated for this purpose, has turned our towns and villages into prisons, separating them from one another, making them dispersed and divided cantons. Gaza, especially after the cruel war Israel launched against it [YA: No reference to the 8,000 rockets they launched against Israel’s civilians.] during December 2008 and January 2009, continues to live in inhuman conditions, under permanent blockade and cut off from the other Palestinian territories.
1.1.2 Israeli settlements ravage our land in the name of God and in the name of force, controlling our natural resources, including water and agricultural land, thus depriving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and constituting an obstacle to any political solution.
1.1.3 Reality is the daily humiliation to which we are subjected at the military checkpoints, as we make our way to jobs, schools or hospitals.
1.1.5 Religious liberty is severely restricted; the freedom of access to the holy places is denied under the pretext of security . [YA: You call the thousands of casualties during the Second Intifadah a pretext?] Jerusalem and its holy places are out of bounds for many Christians and Muslims from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
1.1.6 Refugees are also part of our reality. Most of them are still living in camps under difficult circumstances. They have been waiting for their right of return , [YA: Who kept them there, if not their Arab brothers. A “right of return” means the end of the State of Israel, period.] generation after generation. What will be their fate?
1.1.7 And the prisoners? The thousands of prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons [YA: Are they there for parking violations, or for murdering Israeli civilians.] are part of our reality. The Israelis move heaven and earth to gain the release of one prisoner, and those thousands of Palestinian prisoners, when will they have their freedom?
1.2 Also part of this reality is the Israeli disregard of international law … Human rights are violated and despite the various reports of local and international human rights’ organizations, the injustice continues.
1.3 Emigration is another element in our reality. The absence of any vision or spark of hope for peace and freedom pushes young people, both Muslim and Christian, to emigrate. … The shrinking number of Christians, particularly in Palestine , [YA: Shrinking in areas of Arab control. Growing on the Israeli side of the Green Line.] for is one of the dangerous consequences
1.4 In the face of this reality, Israel justifies its actions as self-defence, including occupation, collective punishment and all other forms of reprisals against the Palestinians. In our opinion, this vision is a reversal of reality. Yes, there is Palestinian resistance to the occupation. However, if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance . [YA: Really? Tell that to the victims of the Hebron pogrom in 1929, and scores of lesser ones between then and 1967 when the “occupation” began.]
1.5 The Palestinian response to this reality was diverse. Some responded through negotiations: that was the official position of the Palestinian Authority, but it did not advance the peace process. Some political parties followed the way of armed resistance . [YA: So suicide bombing is given the moral approval of these clergy. Just a form of “resistance.” Perfectly understandable.] Israel used this as a pretext to accuse the Palestinians of being terrorists and was able to distort the real nature of the conflict, presenting it as an Israeli war against terror, rather than an Israeli occupation faced by Palestinian legal resistance aiming at ending it.
2.2.2 We believe that the Word of God is a living Word, casting a particular light on each period of history, manifesting to Christian believers what God is saying to us here and now. For this reason, it is unacceptable to transform the Word of God into letters of stone that pervert the love of God and His providence in the life of both peoples and individuals. This is precisely the error in fundamentalist Biblical interpretation that brings us death and destruction when the word of God is petrified and transmitted from generation to generation as a dead letter. This dead letter is used as a weapon in our present history in order to deprive us of our rights in our own land.
2.3 We believe that our land has a universal mission . [YA: i.e. but not a promise to the Jewish people.] In this universality, the meaning of the promises, of the land, of the election, of the people of God open up to include all of humanity, starting from all the peoples of this land. In light of the teachings of the Holy Bible, the promise of the land has never been a political programme, but rather the prelude to complete universal salvation. It was the initiation of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God on earth.
2.3.2 Our presence in this land, as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, is not accidental but rather deeply rooted in the history and geography of this land, resonant with the connectedness of any other people to the land it lives in. It was an injustice when we were driven out. The West sought to make amends for what Jews had endured in the countries of Europe, but it made amends on our account and in our land . [YA: Disregarding thousands of years of continual Jewish presence in the Land, and a century of building it prior to the proclamation of the State, these folks want to start Israel’s history with a Western guilt trip after the Holocaust!] They tried to correct an injustice and the result was a new injustice.
2.3.3 Furthermore, we know that certain theologians in the West try to attach a biblical and theological legitimacy to the infringement of our rights. Thus, the promises, according to their interpretation, have become a menace to our very existence. The “good news” in the Gospel itself has become “a harbinger of death” for us. We call on these theologians to deepen their reflection on the Word of God and to rectify their interpretations so that they might see in the Word of God a source of life for all peoples.
2.3.4 Our connectedness to this land is a natural right. It is not an ideological or a theological question only . [YA: Is there a parallel Jewish connection? Why not?]
2.4 Therefore, we declare that any use of the Bible to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice, imposed by one person on another, or by one people on another, transform religion into human ideology and strip the Word of God of its holiness, its universality and truth.
2.5 We also declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God. It distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier just as it distorts this image in the Palestinian living under occupation. We declare that any theology, seemingly based on the Bible or on faith or on history, that legitimizes the occupation, is far from Christian teachings, because it calls for violence and holy war in the name of God Almighty, subordinating God to temporary human interests, and distorting the divine image in the human beings living under both political and theological injustice.
3.3.4 In addition to that, we see a determination among many to overcome the resentments of the past and to be ready for reconciliation once justice has been restored. Public awareness of the need to restore political rights to the Palestinians is increasing, and Jewish and Israeli voices, advocating peace and justice, are raised in support
3.4.1 The mission of the Church is prophetic, to speak the Word of God courageously, honestly and lovingly in the local context and in the midst of daily events. If she does take sides, it is with the oppressed
4.2.1 The aggression against the Palestinian people which is the Israeli occupation, is an evil that must be resisted. It is an evil and a sin that must be resisted and removed.
4.2.6 Palestinian civil organizations, as well as international organizations, NGOs and certain religious institutions call on individuals, companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation. …. In this spirit and with this dedication we will eventually reach the longed-for resolution to our problems, as indeed happened in South Africa and with many other liberation movements in the world.
4.3 We call on Israel to give up its injustice