Monday, July 31, 2017

Fr Georges Massouh: Let Us Make Palestine in Our Image and Likeness

Arabic original here.

Let Us Make Palestine in our Image and Likeness

Since the first Jewish settlers and colonialists set foot in the land of Palestine, the Christians have been aware that those coming from every corner of the earth are not heralds of peace and brotherhood among the people of that land, but armies willing to commit the most heinous crimes in order to gain control over the land by force. They want the land and nothing but the land and so they permitted attacks on people and property, they committed massacres, they emptied towns and villages of their people... and they continue the same policy.

Christians and Muslims have stood together to defend their right to exist and their right to return to their homes. They stood side by side when the struggle was dominated by a nationalist orientation and total cooperation on the basis of equality. The Christians' resolve did not waver when the struggle for Palestine started to take on an Islamic orientation. However, they took a principled stand in 2010 and openly stated their opinion that they were with the right to resist but, at the same time, they declared that they were against the establishment of a religious state, whether Islamic or Jewish, in Palestine.

Kairos Palestine is a document issued in 2010 by a select group of Palestinian Christians, clergy and lay, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, in which they agreed unanimously on the right of the Palestinian people to peace, justice, and freedom and their right to an independent civil state for all its citizens. We return to this document today, given what is happening in Jerusalem, in order to recall that the Christian struggle is not incidental. It is not merely an emotional response to current circumstances. Rather, it is rooted in Christian thought, life and present reality. Permit us here to cite an article of ours entitled "Thank You, Palestine" (an-Nahar, March 14, 2010) in which we summarized what pertains to the right to resist and the right to full, undiminished citizenship.

As we re-read the document more than seven years after it was issued, we find that certain practices of the Israeli state have not changed. As we read the introduction, we think that it presents the Palestinians' current reality of deprivation of freedom, dividing walls "turning our cities and towns into prisons", settlements "seizing our land in the name of God and the name of force", daily humiliation "at military checkpoints", the impossibility of reaching holy sites, camps filled with refugees, prisons full of prisoners, stripping residents of Jerusalem of their identity cards, the seizure of homes, Arab impotence, human rights violations, and emigration... The document rejects the Israelis' claim "justifying their actions as self-defense" and regards this claim as inverting the actual situation. The document affirms Palestinians' right to resist since "if it were not for the occupation, there would be no resistance."

The document then calls on Christians to stand firm in resisting the occupation, "since resistance is a right and duty for Christians." However, this resistance is subject to a logic of love and not responding to evil with evil. Therefore it relies on non-violence as its means for regaining land, freedom, dignity and independence. The document recognizes the usefulness of civil disobedience, the economic and commercial boycott of the occupation, and withdrawing investments from it... but it reserves all respect and esteem "for those who have given their life for the sake of the nation." The document adopts a program of non-violence, but at the same time it does not condemn the armed resistance. It is a call for pluralism in the resistance that permits each individual to resist in the manner appropriate to his convictions.

The Christian choice for the promised Palestinian state or for the State of Israel is clear, since the document rejects "the religious state, whether Jewish or Islamic." The religious state is "a state that favors one citizen over another, makes exceptions, and divides its citizens." The document calls for a state that will be for all its citizens, a state "based on equality, justice, freedom, and respect for diversity, not or numeric or religious dominance." There is no doubt that the document here expresses Christian general opinion, which rejects the religious state no matter what its name is. It is committed to the struggle against Israel as a racist religious state, not so that its place will be taken by an Islamic state that will diminish their citizenship, but rather so that they may live in a civil, secular state that respects their rights as full citizens who have what other citizens have and must do what other citizens must do.

The image that brought Christians and Muslims together in Jerusalem is not an image for memory or a passing image. It is a deeply-rooted image that expresses the unity of the Palestinian people in defense of their right to life. Their image reminds us of God's words "Let us make man in our image and our likeness" (Genesis 1:26). God's image in man, according to the tradition of the Church, is nothing other than freedom. Your image, people of Palestine, is the image of God regained. It is freedom. Be this image, so that you may have freedom.

No comments: