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Is peace possible? The Latin Patriarchate tackles justice in the Holy Land

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IS PEACE POSSIBLE?
Christian Palestinians Speak
by the Justice and Peace Commission
155 pp. Latin Patriarchate Press $5.00

The Peace and Justice Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land has written a brief but incredibly important book for all who are concerned about Christian Palestinians and justice in Palestine and Israel, especially in the light of President Trump’s peace initiative. “Is Peace Possible: Christian Palestinians Speak” is for beginners and a resource for specialists alike. Although the Commission is part of the Latin Patriarchate and no authors are identified, the document is broadly representative of Christian Palestinians, few in number but with disproportionately powerful influence. This growing ecumenism of Christian Palestinians reflects a unified self-understanding that they are the descendants of the first Christians and that the Jerusalem Church is their church altogether, the Mother Church of all Christians. Christian Palestinians feel a real responsibility to be “the custodians of the Holy Places” for all Christians. 

The first half of the book identifies and distinguishes the experiences of Christian Palestinians in Palestine and Israel as these two states are delineated by the United Nations along the 1967 borders. From various demographic studies, the Commission concludes that approximately 310,000 Christians live in Israel (120,000 Palestinian Christian; 40,000 Russian Christians; and 150,000 Christian asylees, migrant workers, and long-term international church workers) and 50,000 Christians live in Palestine (10,000 in East Jerusalem; 39,000 in the West Bank; and 1000 in Gaza) for a total of 360,000 Christians in Israel and Palestine. 

Due to racially discriminatory laws within Israel, as well as different martial laws and permit regimes imposed on the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and the diaspora, the Commission devotes discrete sections of the book to the Christian Palestinians in each geo-political region. For example, Christian Jerusalemites—especially in the Old City—must endure unique pressure to maintain their residency status and are hard pressed to find affordable housing. West Bank Christian Palestinians, however, have greater problems than Jerusalemites with healthcare, education, under-employment, low income, access to water, and freedom of movement. And while the Christian Palestinian citizens of Israel are, on average, more affluent than their Gazan and West Bank relatives, they are among the poorest Israeli citizens and they suffer daily indignities of racially discriminatory laws, under-resourced schools, neglected municipalities, and inadequate public services such as fire and police protection. 

Part I of the book also addresses Christian-Jewish relations, Christian-Muslim relations, the pressures on Christian Palestinians to emigrate (it is not Islamic terrorism but discrimination in Israel and Israeli military law in the occupied Palestinian territory), and the churches’ efforts to stem the tide. This section concludes with seven “primary needs of the present” the last of which is both a frank confession and an implicit call to the world to awaken to its responsibility: 

“The future of Christians in Israel-Palestine depends on many external factors that are far beyond their own capacities and control, but to a great extent, they also hold their future in their own hands. It is a question of commitment, faith, and hope. As disciples of Christ they are called to be living witnesses to the message of equality, liberty, universal fraternity, reconciliation, and love for all, and this witness demands to be translated into concrete actions of service, solidarity and constructive collaboration, beyond all barriers of religion, language, nationality, and culture.” 

Part II of “Is Peace Possible “contains seventeen statements of the Justice and Peace Commission from 2014-2019 which are essential resources for everyone who is working for justice in Israel and Palestine. Reading these statements one after another, and in light of the 2009 Kairos Palestine statement, one cannot help but be profoundly affected by Christian Palestinians—their faith, hope, and solidarity in the presence of relentless sufferings, and their commitment to the inclusive, peaceable message of Jesus. 

The Commission’s initial statement on “The Present Conflict” serves as an introduction to the Church’s position and Christian Palestinians’ conviction that “a solution is possible” which ensures “justice for all the people in the Holy Land, equality for all citizens, freedom for all individuals including complete religious freedom, mutual respect, and respect for international law.” The following sixteen statements address, for example, the oneness of Muslim and Christian Palestinians, Israel’s attempts to lure Christian Palestinian citizens of Israel into its military, Israel’s national elections, prisoners’ hunger strikes, and Israel’s new Nation-State Law. 

One of the two most important statements is “The Question of Normalization.” Since Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel continue to endure legal discrimination, and since the state of Israel militarily occupies the state of Palestine, the situation is anything but normal. “Normalization” is defined as “the establishment of relations with the state of Israel, its organizations, or citizens ‘as if’ the current situation is a normal state of affairs,” and is to be avoided by all justice-minded locals and internationals alike. Of the 360,000 Christians in Israel and Palestine, the Commission writes:

“They have the right and the moral obligation to use all available legal and non-violent means to promote full rights and complete equality for all citizens. Ignoring or marginalizing this duty is ‘normalization,’ collaboration with structures of discrimination.… Within this context, the Church is obligated to ensure the smooth running of parishes, schools, other institutions…. This, however, must never obscure the Church’s commitment to justice.” 

The Commission’s statement on May 20, 2019, “Righteousness and Peace Will Kiss,” was signed by all members of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land in Jordan, Israel, and Palestine which signifies unique importance. It is not entirely new, but it is the clearest and most powerful call for a particular political solution, yet without the concrete political details that must be left to the state. (77) In this brief, two-page statement, the commissioners repeatedly call for inclusive equality using the word or a cognate term or phrase fifteen times. The Commission concludes: “This is our vision for Jerusalem and the whole land, called Israel and Palestine, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.” For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the Catholic Church in the Holy Land is calling for one, secular, democratic state that encompasses both Israel and Palestine. 

Paul Parker

Paul Parker is a member of the Mennonite Central Committee Palestine.

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25 Responses

  1. Don on February 4, 2020, 1:32 pm

    Very informative post, Paul. Appreciate the information very much.

  2. wdr on February 4, 2020, 7:57 pm

    In other words, they want the State of Israel to commit suicide. So sorry- it won’t happen.

    • echinococcus on February 4, 2020, 11:55 pm

      But it will.
      When the world turns around and the knife is at the throat, the Zionist crazies won’t be all for the South African compromise, or the pied-noir fatalism. The real Zios, raised in the Ziobubble, will all play Samson. Or Massadah. Or Delilah. Or whatever… suicide it will be, of the suicide bomber kind.

      Count on it.

      • wdr on February 6, 2020, 5:53 pm

        I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting, if I were you. Israel is a major regional power, and is in a de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Egypt in propping up the ME against Iran. The Palestinians were offered 55% of the Mandate by the UN in 1947, with Jerusalem internationalized, but, led by Hitler’s buddy the Mufti, turned the offer down. When Israel won its
        War of Independence, the West Bank was grabbed by Jordan and the Gaza by Egypt. There was no independent Palestinian state then, or ever, even when the area was in Arab hands. The West Bank would still be part of Jordan except that the Arabs lost the 1967 War. By the way, if pro-Palestinian readers on this site (99% of the total) oppose illegal colonial occupations, they should put their money where their mouth is and give their house in the US or Canada back to the American Indian tribe they stole it from, before picking on Israel.

      • echinococcus on February 6, 2020, 7:22 pm

        WDR

        Before repeating the sadistic taunts of Dr. Goebbels in the early 40s, you should have a short look at his end in the middle 40s.

        It might take a little longer but they all went that way, you know.

      • Talkback on February 7, 2020, 5:15 am

        wdr: “The Palestinians were offered 55% of the Mandate by the UN in 1947, with Jerusalem internationalized …”

        First of all, a mandate is a treaty and not a territory. Secondly, the UN cannot offer territory, especially not the territory the “receiving” people are allready entitled to based on the sheer fact that they are the citizens of the territory in question. Thirdly it was not the Palesinans, but the Jews who were “offered” 55%, including most of the industry and cultivated land.

        wdr: “When Israel won its War of Independence, …”

        What war of “indepedence”? Indepence from whom? Humanity? Civilization? International law and human rights? How can a settler colonialist movement can be the one that is fighting for independence, allthough it was this very same movement which prevented the people of Palestine and their country to become independent?

        wdr: “… the West Bank was grabbed by Jordan and the Gaza by Egypt.”

        This is an outright lie. The Westbank and Gaza came under Jordan’s and Egypt’s occupation on behalf of the Palestinians which were facing more conquest, massacres and expulsion by Jewish land grabbers. Egypt never annexed Gaza and Jordan gave the territory back to the Palestinians. Compare this to every dunum that Israel has illegaly annexed de facto or de jure beyond the borders in which it declared statehood which were along the lines of the partition plan and which it self regarded as occupied by Israel. And when it comes to land grabbing we shouldn’t forget the Jewish dispossession of Nonjews and illegal confiscation of their private property which happens until today.

        wdr: “There was no independent Palestinian state then, or ever, even when the area was in Arab hands.”

        And whose fault was that? Who tried to prevent the indepedence of the Palestinian state under mandate on its entitled territory since 1919? Hint: The same people who are trying to prevent it today for the very same reason.

        wdr: “By the way, if pro-Palestinian readers on this site (99% of the total) oppose illegal colonial occupations, they should put their money where their mouth is and give their house in the US or Canada back to the American Indian tribe they stole it from, before picking on Israel.”

        When it comes to abiding to international law and human rights its suddenly not “Israel first”, but “Israel last”, right? Could the Nazis have made the same claim and defended their atrocities against Jews by pointing out how other countries treat natives/citizens? It seems so according to your reasoning.

        But aren’t these American Indian tribes still American Indian tribes of US or Canada? Aren’t they citizens? Don’t they live their in their house? Didn’t the US and Canada try to compensate them? To co-exist with them? Does the US and Canada consider them to be a demographic threat to a racist Apartheid state?

        Do you want to claim that Israel can continue the way it acts towards Palestinans? That this is morally and legally legitimate, as long as they are states behaving criminally, too? Have you allready internalized a criminal’s passive aggressive mindset or that of a three year old that pulls the “but what about the others” card to escape responsibility? Is your opinion of Israel that low?

    • eljay on February 5, 2020, 10:56 am

      || wdr: In other words, they want the State of Israel to commit suicide. So sorry- it won’t happen. ||

      Thanks to the insatiable greed and irrepressible (war) criminality of Zionists, Israel is slowly committing suicide.

      Contrary to the belief of Zionists, it won’t take a Thousand Years! to happen.

      So sorry- it will happen.

    • Talkback on February 5, 2020, 2:16 pm

      wdr: “In other words, they want the State of Israel to commit suicide. So sorry- it won’t happen.”

      Yes, wdr. Chime in and clap your hands.

      ♫ Israel will be an Apartheid state for thousand years and the world is going to tolerate that. Haleluyah! ♬

      ♬ Otherwise they are antisemites. But they are antisemites anyway. Haters – haters – haters, oh why do you hate the Jewish people? You just do, you are sick! Haters – haters – haters! Boo-hoo lah – lah – lah ♬

    • Blake on February 5, 2020, 3:58 pm

      Ultimately justice must prevail.

    • Mooser on February 5, 2020, 5:43 pm

      “In other words, they want the State of Israel to commit suicide. So sorry- it won’t happen.”

      You tell ’em “wdr”. It was the great Jabotinsky (from a family of master neck-wear designers) who said that intermarriage and assimilation are the only things which could destroy Zionism and/or Judaism. But that’ll never happen.

    • Marnie on February 6, 2020, 12:54 am

      @wdr – coming to an apartheid state near you – Masada 2.0 – self-inflicted, just like the first one, except this time there was no outside threat – it was all an inside job. The ‘chosen people’ finally got to the point where they choked on the taste of their own cholent – as in Mississippi Burning, Gene Hackman’s character said ‘the grits’ started leaving a bad taste in his mouth. Kharma, wdr, is one righteous bitch.

    • RoHa on February 6, 2020, 1:27 am

      Using the metaphor “commit suicide” for disbanding the current state of Israel is deliberately misleading.

      In real suicide, a human being dies, and so we feel a natural horror when we hear the word suicide.

      But what the Patriarchate envisions does not require anyone to die. Quite the contrary, it implies better life for all.

  3. Candlemas on February 5, 2020, 10:24 am

    I visited the Latin Patriarchate while on mission in 2014 with PCUSA. His sermon to us was as clear then as it is in this seminal book: one state, full equality and rights for all, respect for the international status of Jerusalem…lived as they do everyday within their school system, in which the student body is up to 75% Muslim. They live and work together as in the days before racism entered with colonial occupation. I look forward to reading in this book what I hope will be fearless witness. The Partriarch did not ‘mince words’ when he spoke to us. He spoke out in no uncertain certains. As does Mondoweiss, and as we must all do.

  4. Elizabeth Block on February 5, 2020, 10:30 am

    I do not regard the transformation of Israel from a Jewish state to a democracy as suicide. Quite the opposite. Though, as Arlo Guthrie said in another context, it isn’t very likely and I don’t expect it.

    • eljay on February 5, 2020, 11:31 am

      || Elizabeth Block: I do not regard the transformation of Israel from a Jewish state to a democracy as suicide. … ||

      Zionists wouldn’t view as suicide the transformation of either Saudi Arabia or North Korea into a democracy, but you can bet that supremacists in and of those states would be screaming bloody murder the same way Zionists do.

      Supremacists are birds of a hateful and immoral feather and they hypocritically loathe the morality of justice, accountability and equality when it infringes upon their particular brand of evil.

  5. Misterioso on February 5, 2020, 10:49 am

    @wdr

    “In other words, they want the State of Israel to commit suicide. So sorry- it won’t happen.”

    Briefly:
    Good grief!! Surely, it is obvious to any reasonably informed person that the entity known as “Israel” IS committing suicide. Since its inception it has been utterly dependent for survival on the U.S. financially (now about $15 million per day) and geopolitically. Also, desperate for international acceptance, “Israel” is now joined at the hip with fascist regimes around the world, e.g., Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

    Furthermore, more and Jewish youth everywhere are abandoning Zionism (a 19th century European racist colonialist ideology) and supporting the indigenous Palestinians. Also, immigration to “Israel” is in free fall and emigration is soaring.

    Meanwhile, poll after poll in the U.S. confirm that “Israel” is increasingly viewed by main street America as a liability.

    What is most revealing and well illustrated in a recent video** filmed at Harvard is that more and more of America’s elite youth, its future leaders, are viewing “Israel” with disdain and disgust.

    Inevitably, as happened with Britain and Rhodesia, France and Algeria, Italy and Libya, Belgium and the Congo, etc., America will have to act in its own best interests and set Israel adrift.

    **
    https://www.redressonline.com/2020/02/watch-us-harvard-law-students-walk-out-en-mass-as-israeli-ambassador-begins-to-justify-jewish-settlements/

    “Watch: US Harvard law students walk out en mass as Israeli ambassador begins to justify Jewish settlements” – February 1, 2020

    By Nureddin Sabir, Editor, Redress Information & Analysis, writes:
    “Israel may have occupied the United States White House and other seats of power in the world but it is hardly winning hearts and minds among ordinary people in the West.

    “Watch the video below. It shows Harvard University law students walk out en mass as the Israeli ambassador begins to give a talk about the ‘legitimacy’ of the Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

    • jon s on February 5, 2020, 12:14 pm

      Misterioso
      In fact , immigration to Israel is increasing and emigration decreasing.

      • Talkback on February 5, 2020, 2:12 pm

        jon s: “In fact , immigration to Israel is increasing …”

        If only they were Jews by halakha …

      • Misterioso on February 5, 2020, 3:20 pm

        @jon s

        Au contraire!!

        Aug. 15, 2017, Haaretz.
        EXCERPT: “More Israelis Left Israel Than Moved Back in Six Year Record. 16,700 left and 8,500 came back in 2015, the first year since 2009 that more Israelis exited than returned.” By Lior Dattel.

        Newsweek, May 10/18:
        “More Israelis are moving to the U.S.—and Newsweek staying for good”

        “Spurred by the high cost of living, low salaries, and political and demographic trends, Israelis are leaving the country in droves.” By Yardena Schwartz.

        EXCERPTS: “Israel celebrates its 70th birthday in May with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Yet the country is grappling with an existential crisis—one that doesn’t involve Iranian nukes or Palestinian protests. Spurred by the high cost of living, low salaries, and political and demographic trends, Israelis are leaving the country in droves, trying to build their lives elsewhere, mostly in the United States. Many of these young Israelis are moving to big cities, and yet, even in these often expensive places, they see more opportunities to advance.”

        “The available data is telling, analysts say. Between 2006 and 2016, more than 87,000 Israelis became U.S. citizens or legalized permanent residents, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That’s up from 66,000 between 1995 and 2005. These figures take into account only those who took the legal route (many Israelis, analysts say, arrive on temporary tourist, student or work visas, then stay). And in addition to the Israelis now living stateside, according to the country’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, hundreds of thousands have moved to Europe, Canada and elsewhere.”

        “Israel has one of the highest poverty rates and levels of income inequality in the Western world. Meanwhile, it also has one of the highest costs of living. Tel Aviv ranks ninth among the world’s most expensive cities, higher than New York and Los Angeles; five years ago, it ranked 34th. The situation is so dire that a 2013 survey by the financial newspaper Calcalist (the most recent Israeli study conducted on this topic) found that 87 percent of adults—many with children of their own—depend on substantial financial support from their parents.”

        https://www.haaretz.com/israel -news/.premium-jewish-agency- chief-warns-young-u-s-jews- more-turned-off-to-israel-1. 5751616
        Haaretz – Jan 22, 2018, by Judy Maltz

        “Young American Jews Increasingly Turning Away From Israel, Jewish Agency Leader Warns”

        “The Jewish Agency’s CEO and director-general called the trend ‘extremely worrisome,’ and said that a new strategy must be undertaken to engage young American Jews with Israel.”
        EXCERPT:
        “Israel is rapidly losing its hold on young American Jews, who increasingly view the Jewish state as antithetical to their liberal values, a leader of the Jewish Agency warned on Monday.

        Regarding survivors of the Holocaust living in Israel:
        http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3388445,00.html
        “Shoah survivors forced back to Germany due to Israel’s lack of restitution laws”
        Ines Ehrlich Published: 04.16.07,
        EXCERPT:
        “Documentary shows Israel the worst place for Holocaust survivors to live throughout Western world. Hundreds protest outside Knesset, demand government help survivors with financial difficulties

        “Holocaust survivors have left Israel to live out the rest of their days in Germany due to the better conditions they receive there, according to a documentary program broadcast Tuesday night by Israel’s Channel 2 television.”

      • jon s on February 6, 2020, 3:47 am

        Misterioso
        You refer to a report from 2017, citing stats from 2015 (and a report from 2007). What I wrote is up to date.

      • Talkback on February 6, 2020, 8:37 am

        Misterioso: “Au contraire!!”

        jon s is right, because he is refering to the latest numbers

        Immigration to Israel Is on the Rise Thanks to These ‘non-Jews’
        https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/judaism-israel-and-diaspora-conference/.premium.MAGAZINE-immigration-to-israel-is-on-the-rise-thanks-to-these-non-jews-1.8026824

      • Mooser on February 6, 2020, 7:21 pm

        “Immigration to Israel Is on the Rise Thanks to These ‘non-Jews…’”

        That’s not fair. Israel is a Jewish state country where anybody who embraces the basic precept of its Jewish faith, the dispossession of the Palestinians, can ghet what they need, and is welcomed to swim in our gene-pool.

      • Talkback on February 7, 2020, 5:28 am

        Mooser, according to Israel’s Law of “Return” (ROFL) citizenship can be simply acquired after marring a Jew out of Israel. And then you are legally allowed by Israel to dispossess, disenfranchise, denationalize and discrimenate against Nonjews in “the land of Israel”. What a hell of a “come back”!

  6. James Canning on February 5, 2020, 11:13 am

    A key fact to bear in mind is that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has destroyed most of the Christian communities of the territory. And that Christian Zionists in the US often celebrate that fact.

  7. Blake on February 5, 2020, 3:57 pm

    Ultimately it must be but unfortunately the obstacles are many

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