Israel's "Sin Against God" in Palestine

‘The Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights,’ say the united prelates of all Middle Eastern Christians. ‘Resistance is a right and a duty for the Christian.'

Palestinians in the occupied territories are governed according to the dictates of military law from a hostile foreign occupation which has been systematically dispossessing these native inhabitants of their land and denying them their most basic human rights for the last 56 years.

Throughout these decades the Catholic and Orthodox bishops in the region, along with other Christian leaders have worked to raise awareness regarding the serious oppression and suffering being inflicted upon the 5 million Palestinians living under this military occupation, with interviews, interventions, op-eds, statements during times of crisis, and lectures from personal experience. But, perhaps the most comprehensive statement came in 2009 with a document titled A Moment of Truth: A word of faith, hope, and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.

Organised and composed by a group of clergy, scholars and activists, the 14-page “Kairos document states it is “the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine.” The drafting committee included Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah, Fr. Jamal Khader Daibes, who is now a Catholic bishop in Jordan, and Archbishop Atallah Hanna of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

At its time of publication, it was also endorsed by the heads of Christian churches in the Holy Land including Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, and Pizzaballa, who was head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land at the time. Also endorsing the statement were heads of the following local churches: Armenian Orthodox, Coptic, Syrian Orthodox, Maronite, Ethiopian, Lutheran, Anglican, and more.

At times reading like a papal encyclical, these Christian communities characterise this document as a cry “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.”

Explaining the “reality on the ground” the Palestinian Christians state, it is “one of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, deprivation of our freedom and all that results from this situation,” including the confiscation of enormous tracks of internationally recognized Palestinian territory for the expansionist aims of Zionism.

“Israeli settlements ravage our land,” the Christian leaders describe, “controlling our natural resources, including water and agricultural land, thus depriving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians” of these necessities for work, life, and survival.

Since 1967 Israel has built 163 such settlements on Palestinian land with 98 additional “outposts,” which are now home to over 500,000 Jewish settlers. Just last month 145 national government delegations at the UN reaffirmed the illegality of these settlements with only 7 nations, including Israel, the U.S. and Canada, opposing the resolution.

Further contributing to the land confiscation project, is Israel’s enormous separation barrier which often meanders well beyond the 1967 armistice line.

“The separation wall erected on Palestinian territory… has turned our towns and villages into prisons, separating them from one another,” the Kairos document reads. This and other policies cause “separation between members of the same family, making family life impossible for thousands of Palestinians.”

Over the years, the Latin Patriarchate has “strongly condemn[ed]” construction of the separation wall on behalf of “oppressed families” asserting this “injustice done to them” disregards their natural rights.

Following an extended Christian profession of faith, the churches go on to address the errors of Christian Zionism that attempts “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,” they wrote.

Recalling that their presence, “as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, is not accidental but rather deeply rooted in the history and geography of this land, they confirmed their natural right to be there and live as free people.

Therefore, they declared, “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,” the prelates proclaimed.

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