A Catholic Narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Over a decade ago, I read the story of a Palestinian priest living in a small village in Galilee. His name was Father Elias Chacour, and the book’s name was – Blood Brothers-. I made pilgrimage to the Holy Land and volunteered at Fr. Chacour’s school for some months, and traveled into the West Bank as well. What I saw and heard during my experiences there changed my life forever. I realized then that the Palestinians truly are the “victim’s of the Victims”, as Edward Said so eloquently phrased it, referring to the fact that the Jews, who were the biggest victims of World War II, were now in the position of the oppressor with respect to the Palestinian people.
From a Catholic vantage point, the American policy of pretty much one-sided support for the Israeli State is both detrimental to the cause of Holy Land Christians, and is a primary root cause of Middle Eastern anger and terrorism directed at otherwise innocent Israelis and Americans.
Pope John Paul II stated that the question of Jerusalem is fundamental for a just peace in the Middle East that the City should stand out as a symbol of universal peace for the human family. Pope Benedict XVI seems similarly inclined on this issue.
The Vatican-PLO Accord of 2000 directly implied that Israel’s unilateral actions concerning Jerusalem were “morally and legally unacceptable”. Peace and security for all peoples of the region should be settled on the basis of international law, relevant UN and its Security Council resolutions; Justice and equity- realizing the inalienable national legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people. I recommend that all Catholics read the Accord and draw your own conclusions.
The highest ranking Catholic in the Holy Land (just recently retired), has been the Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah (lpj.org). The Patriarch has been pleading for years that American Catholics need to work to change the American policy of financing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. He has stated that: “ The State of Israel encompasses 78% of historical Palestine…the remaining 22% was occupied by Israel in 1967, and this is all Palestinians want- a small part of what they had before 1947. They want that 22% to be free of occupation, all of it. Israel cannot have both things- security and occupation. They must give up occupation for security.” (As quoted in the St. Anthony Messenger). The Church has stood behind the Geneva Conventions regarding the right of people displaced by war to return to their homes, and the UN Resolutions 194, 224, and 478, as well as Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of human rights.
Father Labib Kobti runs an excellent Arab-American Roman Catholic website (al-bushra.org), which is packed full of research separating fact from myth in the history of Holy Land conflicts. One learns that “The claims of Israel that Jerusalem is the eternal, unique and unified capital of Israel is contrary to the long history of the city, and its spiritual mission.” The Holy Land started off being Canaanite-Phoenician (among others) homeland; It was occupied by pagans for 800 years, Jews for 543 years, Christians for 427 and Muslims 1193 years, respectively. Jerusalem should be an international city for all, not the exclusive political domain of any one religion or people.
There are so many sources of solid information on the truth about how self-destructive the policies of the U.S.-Israel have been, and how things ought to be. For a taste of what I witnessed check out the Christian Peacemaker Teams (Hebron) (cpt.org), and read some heart wrenching personal accounts. For Jewish viewpoints that don’t reflect the AIPAC party line, I recommend the following: jewishvoiceforpeace.org, tikkun.org, gush-shalom.org, icahd.org, phr.org.il, seruv.org, and btselem.org. Other excellent American sources of information would include Paul Findley at cnionline.org, and Pat Buchanan at amconmag.com, as well the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (wrmea.com). Cactus48.com, electronicintifada.net and al-awda.org are also quite interesting.
The politicians may refuse to debate our incredible support for an expansionist and nuclear armed Israel, but responsible Catholic citizens should find their voice and dare to speak out.
Tim Shipe (www.timshipe.com) on the Board of Advisors for: Florida Democrats for Life Organization, and Pax Romana Center for International Study of Catholic Social Teaching-