One of the most disheartening aspects about Christian commentary regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict is that Christian leaders typically find Palestinian violence against Israel unremarkable. In other words, they usually wait until Israel responds to attacks against it before condemning Palestinian provocations. Israeli use of force by itself is enough to trigger Christian condemnation; Palestinian violence, however, is not. Condemnations of Palestinian violence, when they are made, are almost invariably preceded by condemnations of
And when Christians criticize both
The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, a grouping of Christian leaders that includes Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch who openly denies the Jewish people the right to a sovereign state of their own, have issued a statement that has done all these things – in less than 500 words.
Not only does the statement underscore the Christian tendency to refrain from commenting on episodes of the Arab-Israeli conflict until Israel responds to Palestinian provocation, the document also condemns Israel in very specific and theologically based terms, while portraying Palestinian violence as merely a tactical mistake. And lastly, the document offers a detailed depiction of Palestinian suffering, but makes no mention at all of the Israelis living under the threat of rocket and mortar attacks since
“In the Name of God”
The statement, issued on
In the Name of God, end the siege over
. GazaOne and a half million people imprisoned and without proper food or medicine. 800,000 without electricity supply; this is illegal collective punishment, an immoral act in violation of the basic human and natural laws as well as International Law. It cannot be tolerated anymore. The siege over should end now. GazaVoices from our people there say “We feel the threat of being exterminated by this siege”
One obvious question is why the Heads of Churches did not invoke God in calling for an end to Hamas’s rocket attacks against Israeli civilians but only invoked the name of God in its call for
Israeli Suffering Ignored
True to form, the Heads of Churches offer no detail whatsoever of Israeli suffering caused by Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks. Information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides some context:
More than 4,000 rockets and mortar shells have been fired into
by Hamas and other terrorist organizations since Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005. The daily rocket fire has deliberately targeted civilian communities in Israel , making life in its towns and villages in the vicinity of Israel unbearable. In recent weeks, Hamas has escalated rocket fire against Gaza . Since Israel January 1 2008, Palestinian terrorists have fired more than 420 rockets and mortar shells into , over 200 of which were fired in a span of four days last week. Israel
Tellingly, the leaders make no mention of the suffering of the residents of Sderot, where school children must stay alert for sirens warning of an impending attack and where children have been wetting their beds out of fear. Apparently, Arab residents of the Gaza Strip are worthy of the Bishops’ sympathy; Jewish residents of Sderot are not.
Hamas not mentioned
The Bishops’ suggestion that the residents of Gaza Strip face the threat of extermination as a result of the restrictions imposed by
A top PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that Hamas was “holding more than 1.5 million Palestinians hostage” in an attempt to rally the Arab and Muslim masses against the PA and
. Israel“Of course, we strongly condemn the Israeli measures against the residents of the Gaza Strip, but Hamas is also responsible for what’s happening there,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are paying a heavy price for Hamas’s irresponsible actions.”The official also accused Hamas of ordering owners of bakeries to keep their businesses closed for the second day running to create a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. “Hamas is preventing people from buying bread,” he said. “They want to deepen the crisis so as to serve their own interests.”The official said that contrary to Hamas’s claims, there is enough fuel and flour to keep the bakeries in the Gaza Strip operating for another two months. “Hamas members have stolen most of the fuel in the Gaza Strip to fill their vehicles,” he said.
In reference to Hamas’s role in creating the crisis, the Heads of Christian Churches in
We would say to all concerned parties; while ever you persist in firing rockets into
you encourage public opinion outside this Land to feel there is a justification for this siege. Israel
A more realistic and honest response from the Heads of Churches would be to affirm that Hamas is morally responsible for the suffering of both the residents of the Gaza Strip and Sderot because it allows the territory it controls to be used as a launching pad for rocket attacks against Israel. Instead, the Heads of Churches merely condemn the rocket attacks as a strategic error. Most responsible commentators would regard indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilian populations as an immoral act; the Heads of Churches in
The Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem also offer (bad) strategic advice to the Israelis stating “This siege will not guarantee the end to rocket firing, but will only increase the bitterness and suffering and invite more revenge, while the innocents keep dying.”
In fact, it appears that the restrictions may achieve their desired goal. According to the Boston Globe,
If the Heads of Churches can target
And if the Heads of churches can describe in detail the suffering of the residents of
The ultimate question facing the Christian Heads of Churches in
Apparently not very much.