The Plight of Palestinian Christians

The following link is lengthy (pardon the pun) but well worth watching. It is an excellent update on the above topic.

https://www.vomcanada.com/index.php?option=com_youtubegallery&view=youtubegallery&listid=26&themeid=4&videoid=145294782&tmpl=component&TB_iframe=true&height=550&width=630

Below, I have used the text from the conclusion of a slightly dated but nevertheless still very relevant book by Justus Reid Weiner, ‘Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society’ (full reference listed at the end of this article).  Throughout this article, I have  included latest updates of some of the events and issues raised in Weiner’s summary.

“The plight of the Palestinian Christian Community cannot remain the sacrificial pawn in the larger game of the Middle East peace process.”

A Backward Glance

In April 2002, the Church of the Nativity was invaded by more than 100 Palestinian Muslim gunmen who shot their way inside, while attempting to evade capture by Israeli soldiers who had entered Bethlehem (West Bank – my comment) to quell on-going terrorism and, in particular, suicide bombings. As confirmed by Abdullah Abu-Hadid, a senior commander in the Tanzim militia, “the idea was to enter the Church in order to create international pressure on Israel” (Raab 2003). Reporting on the event, a Jerusalem-based cleric told the Jerusalem Post that, “propaganda is all that is being heard, in part because of the many cover-ups by the Christians who don’t dare speak up. They are cowards” (Gelfond 2002:260). The cleric explained that fear of Muslim terrorists silences both the churches and the communities. A Bethlehem priest quoted in the same article confirmed the assessment of the Jerusalem cleric, noting with anger, “I would have preferred silence rather than saying that everything is okay. We are worse than cowards, we are lying.” (Gefond 2002:260)

Even if peace negotiations are resumed and successfully navigate the numerous obstacles ahead, the fate of the average Palestinian will depend on the strength and orientation of his state’s institutions. The PA (Palestinian Authority) interim governing authority has proven itself incapable of guaranteeing the protection of the basic rights of Palestinian Christians, the most significant minority under its jurisdiction. One independent report stated that “the risk is that if present structures and practices go unreformed, they will shape and even predetermine future ones in negative ways.” The importance of monitoring the PA’s record, even during the ongoing violent intifada, cannot be overstated.

Some More Recent Developments

The recalcitrance of the PA to enforce international human rights standards, along with its refusal to respect the requirements of the Oslo interim agreements has made it an accomplice and even perpetrator of gross human rights abuses. Though the international community is tempted to donate further sums to the PA following the death of Yasser Arafat (in 2005 – my comment), they appear to be under the as yet unproven assumption that the ascendency of Mahmoud Abbas will rejuvenate the peace process and reinstate respect for human rights and religious freedom under the Palestinian Authority (my insert: elected interim prime minister in 2012 by Hamas and Fatah). This attempt at showing a united front has just been strengthened, as reported in an article by Aljazeera, dated 18.1.2017: “The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has agreed to form a unity government with rival organisation Hamas, Al Jazeera has learned. The agreement was reached late on Tuesday after a three-day negotiation in the Russian capital, Moscow [‘due to America’s seeming pro-Israel new Trump administration’ – as mentioned in same article, my comment]. The two organisations will form a new National Council, which will include Palestinians in exile and hold elections. “Today the conditions for [such an initiative] are better than ever,” Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Fatah official, said. The deal also includes the Islamic Jihad group, which had not been involved in negotiations for a long time.”).

In the opinion of this author, the U.S., Israel, and other members of the international community should make human rights a major issue in any future peace negotiations. By using financial incentives during this pre-state stage, the U.S., Israel and international donor communities can prevent the egregious violations of human rights partially described in this monography from accompanying the PA into the emerging Palestinian state. The leverage of the donors is significant, with over 70 percent of the PA’s budget derived from foreign sources. (Sabella 2004).

(My insert: “…in budget years 2015 and 2016, …the US Agency for International Development …sent the Palestinians $355 million…” source: http://www.businessinsider.com, dated January 2017.

Quoting from Wikipedia: “The entities that provide aid to the Palestinians are categorized into seven groups: the Arab nations, the European Union, the United States, Japan, international institutions (including agencies of the UN system), European countries, and other nations (possibly Russia? – my comment).”

[My conclusion from research into this topic: NGO’s, involved in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, who have greatly increased in numbers, are said to act to protect human rights in this region of conflict, as well as exerting considerable influence over such huge organisations as the UN and the EU, have been shown to have overt or more often covert political bias against one or the other party involved; more often against Israel. Nevertheless, finding unbiased facts is extremely difficult, as even a widely respected “NGO monitor” is funded and staffed largely by the Jewish community! Bias seems to be ingrained in the human psyche! End of my comment]

Financial incentives can be earmarked to train PA security personnel in human rights practices, to construct modern penal institutions, and to reform the legal system.

Clearly, the U.S. has considerable economic leverage in the region, and could use that influence to demand human rights improvements. However, the [past – my comment] President may be reluctant to impose serious sanctions against the Palestinian entity or even push human rights as an issue in the peace talks. The primary objective of the U.S. in the region is peace and the secondary objective is the fight against terrorism. To rebuke the PA or to make human rights an issue in the negotiations would cause the U.S. to lose influence with the PA [my comment: which seems to have happened under Trump, as identified previously by Aljazeera] when dealing with other, ‘more important’ issues.

However, in the opinion of this author, the PA’s adoption of sound human rights policies and practices would contribute immeasurably to the success of the peace process. Although Arafat’s commitment to these values in the agreements was vague at best, the Palestinians’ expectations regarding an improvement in their lives deserves to be met, and should not be limited to issues of pride or economics. As the international community furnishes financial resources to the emerging Palestinian state, it should reflect on its complicity in the human rights abuses that have emerged.

If the internal reforms fail and pressure from the U.S., Israel, and the donor communities does not materialize, there is one last resort for the Palestinian Christians. Since the PA is not a sovereign state even it has administrative responsibilities in designated areas of the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli military rule is still in effect in the territories. This means that, legally speaking, human rights are the responsibility of the PA on a day-to-day basis, but the ultimate legal responsibility rests with Israel (Weiner 1995). Of course, the current Israeli government …frustrated by endemic Palestinian terrorism, would appear ill disposed to shouldering this responsibility, given its policy of unilateral disengagement.

(Insert: …in the enclave [Gaza strip], where some two million Palestinians live… Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.
The UN development agency has said the enclave, run by Islamist movement Hamas, could become uninhabitable by 2020, while others have warned of frustration spilling over and leading to fresh violence.

Israel strictly controls traffic into and out of Gaza, while the enclave’s border with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.
UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, but Israel says it is necessary to keep Hamas from obtaining weapons or materials to make them.

Mike Smith (Tel Aviv), Middelburg Observer, 30 March 2017)

Therefore, the Israeli Supreme Court is the last resort for Palestinians living under the jurisdiction of the PA. The Supreme Court, long a liberal voice, has in recent years become increasingly committed to improving human rights and the rule of law, frequently demonstrating its commitment to ensuring human rights in the West Bank and Gaza. Of course, the Palestinian Christians living in the PA would be reluctant to utilize Israeli legal institutions, but, as victims, they clearly have a need for an institution of last resort, as demonstrated by the tens of thousands of Christians who have left the territories.

It seems logical that, instead of turning to Israeli courts, the Palestinian Christians should be able to turn to the PA’s justice system. This however, would be largely unproductive at the present time. The PA’s justice system has no practical autonomy from the executive branch, even though it is independent in theory. The PA President and Justice Minister can hire, fire, retire, and otherwise control all judicial employees, including judges at all levels. Two previous chief justices were ‘retired’ by the executive branch, one possibly for un unsympathetic comment made against the PA in an interview, and the second for a decision that called for the release of ten Birzeit University students who were being detained unlawfully. (Amnesty 1999:7)

The future of the Palestinian Christian community and any other religious minority living under the PA will rest on the potential for religious tolerance and the rejection of fundamentalist and archaic attitudes towards non-Muslims. As long as the Constitution of the PA reflects the principles of Sharia law, it seems as though the emergence of religious tolerance will remain highly unlikely. Additionally, the PA must crack down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad and eliminate their influence and role as the enforcers of the more brutal aspects of Sharia law [my comment: which appears even more unlikely than when this report was written, as they have now formed a threesome alliance; Fatah/Hamas/Islamic Jihad, see previous insert published by Aljazeera].

The testimonies (more found in the actual book – my comment) provided in this monograph make it pointedly clear that lawlessness and anarchy have swept the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent years. Gangs of thugs and thieves have created what a former Palestinian cabinet minister described as “total chaos”. It is essential that the PA arrest these militants who, in their range of mafia-like conduct, frequently abuse and intimidate Christians. (Toameh 2002c)

The political conflict, or halting efforts to resolve it, can no longer be used by the international community as an excuse for evading responsibility for the gross human rights abuses the Palestinian Christian community has come to accept. Human rights standards cannot any longer be subordinated to political motives. Only when the international community is prepared to stand behind the lofty ideals enumerated in its formative instruments, with its full economic and political resources, will the perpetrators of such abuses be forced to relinquish habits of abuse and ascribe to the norms expected of all sovereign entities.”

Main body of this extract taken from ‘Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society’, written by Justus, Reid Weiner, 2005: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Prayer Call for Palestinians

bombed streetsDear praying friends,

Would you like to join me in praying for Christians who find themselves continuously surrounded by hateful, inflammatory speech, which in some cases has been part of generations of their families?

I particularly am thinking of Christians living in the Palestinian Territories, surrounded by but also filled with hatred for the Jewish State of Israel. Many of these Christians have put politics above the word of God. It is understandable in a way, for they are afflicted by severe poverty, often surrounded by bombed-out ruins from the last conflict with Israel and still vividly remember the bombings and the lost relatives and friends. The older ones among them may remember the houses and lands they once owned, which were taken by Israel; either assigned to them by international treaties or simply claimed. It is a potent recipe for hatred but anathema to a viable spiritual life in Christ! A tall order to ask them to forgive and even love their enemies! Matthew 5:44 (KJV) “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Nevertheless, no more difficult than to ask a victim of rape to forgive his/her abuser! It still stands and God asks us, by calling on His help, to obey His command, just like all His other commands.

I suggest therefore we pray as follows:

1) For God to reveal to Palestinian Christians the truth of His word about the need to forgive, no exceptions given.
2) That they would understand that they can only do so effectively by trusting in His Spirit’s help to do so.
3) For them to be given a sound mind, as in 2 Timothy 1:7(KJV) For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
4) For Scripture-based, Spirit-led teachers to teach rightly how to walk as a disciple of Christ.
5) For Palestinian Christians to make God their provider Matthew 6:25-34 (NET) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”
6) For protection from other Palestinians who see forgiving their enemies as treason and may well want to kill those who profess and practice forgiveness towards their enemies.
7) For peace to come to this people group and for a desisting in making alliances with terrorist groups, which has been reaping destruction and devastation for its people.

Bless you for praying in faith!

Israeli-Palestinian Reconciliation?

Written by Aaron Trank, Jews for Jesus, San Francisco (Extract from an article of the same title, see further info at the end of this article)

reconciliation between jews and palestinians

The command for unity in the church is not bound by racial, socio-economic, or political borders. But how do we have unity with those whose ideologies are seemingly irreconcilable with our own? How can we be obedient to scripture’s instruction to “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3)?

This is a hard question to answer in light of the two competing political nationalisms that hit close to home for many Jewish believers around the world, as well as for many Arab Christians throughout the Middle East: Zionism and Palestinian Nationalism.

I’ve wrestled long and hard with this topic. While I don’t claim to have the answers, I do trust that the path I’ve walked has brought me to solid footing. Let me begin by telling my story.

 

Affirm the Right to Self-Identify

Self-identification has always been important to me, as it has for every Jew for Jesus who has struggled for the right to identify as a Jewish person. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Messianic Jew who hasn’t had to fight for his or her identity! The labels we claim are important to our identity. Even though Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28 (“there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Jesus”) is often quoted to undermine personal identity, Paul’s intent was to root our identity first and foremost in Messiah, not to erase racial, gender, national, or socio-economic distinctions. Hence, we are free to maintain our Jewish identity and culture as long as our identification doesn’t interfere with our unity with the body of Messiah.

Because of my background, it hurts my heart when people undermine the personal identity of others—even if I don’t like the way people choose to self-identify. History only moves forward: as culture develops and changes we must face these changes with honest reflection. The past cannot be undone! There are Arabs (both Christian and non-Christian) who choose to self-identify as Palestinians, just as there are Christians of Jewish origin who choose to self-identify as Messianic Jews. As a member of one minority group whose self-label is challenged by the majority, I choose to affirm the self-identification of individuals in other minority groups even when (or perhaps especially when) I don’t understand the emotional weight that their identity holds in their hearts.

You might ask, “Doesn’t affirmation of Palestinian identity promote the cause of Palestinian nationalism?” I’m not sure if it does or not! My rationale is based on principle, not on pragmatics. How can I affirm Palestinian identity while also believing in the future restoration of national Israel under the Messiah? By refusing to allow personal cognitive dissonance on this issue of the land of Israel, the Jewish people, and the Palestinian people to fuel any reductionist thinking. I hold firm to Jesus himself, knowing that he will make all things new and will reconcile all things to himself when he comes again. Until then I know that I don’t know, and that’s okay.

 

Affirm Israel’s Existence and God’s Heart for Justice Simultaneously

The nation of Israel never existed in a vacuum of ethnic uniformity: even when Moses led the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt they were accompanied by God-fearing gentiles. We see God’s heart for all mankind in his command to the leaders of Israel regarding how foreigners and sojourners were to be treated: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). We also see God’s heart for all mankind in the construction of the temple. Solomon grasped the greater vision and even exclaimed when the temple was dedicated: “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel … when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place …” (2 Chronicles 6:32-33).

We should care about the Palestinians living as neighbors to Israeli Jews because God cares about them. We should be concerned for their well-being because God cares. Let our love for Israel never cause us to slip into reductionist thinking! Israel has a right to exist: as a people and as a sovereign nation, but Israel will be held accountable before God for her treatment of Palestinians. We must develop thinking that affirms Israel’s existence while affirming the need for justice and equality for Palestinians.

 

Pray for the Church in the Middle East

Never has the Biblical command of Psalm 122:6 been more relevant: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” We’ve probably heard this passage quoted so many times that it might seem trite for me to bring it up here. But I think it is very appropriate since we must pray not only that Jerusalem would have peace from her enemies, but that Jerusalem would have peace from within. Jerusalem is a city of diversity but the diversity is so fragmented that even the Old City is broken into quarters!

It is a dishonor to the name of Messiah that this secular division across racial and geopolitical boundaries also occurs within the body of Messiah in that region. If our hearts harbor hate, then I pray for conviction. If our hearts have already been seeded with love, then I pray that those seeds will sprout.

Let me leave you with this thought. If the apostle Paul were alive today and he were writing to the churches in the Middle East, I think he would reiterate his words given to us in Ephesians 4:3-6:

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Amen.

Category: Havurah Volume 17 Number 01.

Palestinian Refugees – Prayer Points

Abba Father, as your children called to be peace makers (Matt. 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”), we speak peace into these divisive issues of identity and nationhood; between Palestinians and Israelis.

Help us not partake in inflammatory and divisive arguments surrounding the above issues.

We pray for mercy, compassion and generosity being extended to Palestinian refugees by those who have the ability to provide aid and real opportunities in all areas of living.

We pray for Palestinian refugees to resist the extremism of hatred.

We pray that you protect Christian Palestinians from political factions but rather remind them to keep their eyes on Christ alone, who is “our wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).

Please heal all those who have suffered and still suffer from injustice, prejudice, violence and exploitation.
Thank you for those who desire to help Palestinian refugees. Give them discernment so that they do not unwittingly fund terror factions within this people group.

Palestinian Refugees

As can be expected, this people group and its rights and claims are one of the most politically charged issues in today’s refugee situation. Finding unbiased and reliable information (especially for Christians), as I expected, has been a challenging issue indeed! So here is some background information on the issue. Again, the goal is to steer clear of propaganda, which abounds world-wide! (Comment mine)

“Palestinians are scattered around the world. This dispersion has made it difficult to determine exactly how many Palestinians there are worldwide, but the bulk live in the West Bank & Gaza and the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. The legal status, social class, and standard of living of Palestinians vary enormously depending on local conditions.”

“The experience of refugee life in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East  (UNRWA) camps has proven pivotal in the emergence of a distinct camp culture and a Palestinian identity. In “the permanence of transience” that defines refugee life, a new value is placed on older ties of family, clan, and village. Although some refugees possess the economic means to establish themselves in their host countries, many remain in the camps. The situation of refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, where refugees are denied basic civil rights, is particularly harsh. Population density and unemployment rates within Palestinian refugee camps are among the highest in the world, resulting in chronic poverty, overcrowding, a low standard of living, and a general sense of powerlessness and despair.” UNRWA website

“The UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) on December 8, 1949 to provide relief aid and works programs for Palestinian refugees. The Agency began operations on May 1, 1950. In the absence of a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem by the international community, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate. Today it provides education, health care, social services and emergency aid to 5 million Palestinian refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars and their descendants. The agency provides aid to the refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as those in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is the only agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict. It is separate from UNHCR (1950), the UN Refugee Agency, which is the only other UN agency aiding refugees (worldwide – my addition).” Wikipedia

As listed on UNRWA website (figures are somehow outdated – brackets mine):

Gaza Strip

Twenty two percent of all registered Palestinian refugees live in the Gaza Strip. In an area of only 360 square kilometres, three quarters of the current estimated population of 1.2 million people are refugees. Over half of the refugees live in eight camps. Most of the people who fled to the Gaza Strip as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war were from Jaffa, towns and villages south of Jaffa, and from the Beersheva area in the Negev Desert. Under occupation and after the Oslo process alike, camp refugees have suffered tremendously from poverty, a shortage of services, and unemployment. UNRWA has been the prime provider of services, but Israeli authorities have undermined economic and civic development through closures, checkpoints, curfews, and harassment.

West Bank

The West Bank covers 5,500 square kilometres with an estimated population of 1.8 million people. According to UNRWA’s 2002 figures, there are 626,532 registered refugees. While one quarter of West Bank refugees live in nineteen recognized refugee camps, the majority live in towns and villages. Like their Gaza counterparts, camp residents have been hit hard by closures imposed on the West Bank by the Israeli authorities. Subsequently, unemployment has risen and socio-economic conditions in the camps have deteriorated.

Jordan

Jordan has received the largest number of Palestinian refugees. An estimated 100,000 of all refugees fled across the Jordan River in 1948. A large majority of Palestinians are Jordanian citizens. Since the return of over 300,000 Palestinians from Kuwait in 1991, between 45% and 70% of all Jordanians are Palestinians from the West Bank. Although Palestinians suffer from discrimination and a large number still live in camps, Jordan has granted full citizenship to the Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Lebanon

According to UNRWA 2002 figures, there are 387,043 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA in Lebanon, which constitutes 11% of the total number of Palestinian refugees. Lebanon is the host country that is least hospitable to Palestinian refugees. Unlike the Jordanian government, the Lebanese government prevents Palestinians from being absorbed into the community. Palestinians in Lebanon, who constitute about ten percent of the total population there, have faced unique problems since their arrival in 1948. They do not have social and civil rights, and they have a very limited access to the government’s public health and educational facilities. The majority of Palestinians rely entirely on UNRWA as the sole provider of education, health, relief, and social services. Considered foreigners, Palestinian refugees are prohibited by law from working in more than 70 trades and professions. This has led to a very high rate of unemployment amongst the refugee population. The vast majority of Palestinians in Lebanon are stateless, which means that they have been granted travel documents but not Lebanese citizenship.

Syria

There are 626,532 registered refugees with UNRWA in Syria. Most fled to Syria during the 1948 war and were originally from northern Palestine, mainly from Safad and the cities of Haifa and Jaffa. In 1967, over 100,000 people (including Palestinian refugees) fled from the Golan Heights to other parts of Syria when the area was occupied by Israel. Because Palestinians account for less than three percent of Syria’s total population, their visibility is less than in Jordan or Lebanon. Palestinians in Syria are well integrated into the country’s economy, social, and political life. Palestinians have opened shops, established business, and formed companies on their own.

Palestinians Worldwide:

In 1948, thousands of refugees also went to other Arab states such as Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, and other Gulf countries. Refugees who fled to other Arab countries, particularly to the Gulf States, played a crucial role in building modern Kuwait. They were widely represented in banking, as technical workers in the oil industry, and as educators. The number of Palestinian refugees in the Gulf region declined drastically after their expulsion from Kuwait in 1991 following the U.S. led Persian Gulf War.

There is surprisingly little solid information available about the Palestinian communities in the West and other countries. Reports on census data are not based on nationality or religion in some countries. For example, Arabs are reported as white or Caucasian in the United States Census.

About 450,000 Palestinians are scattered as far as Australia, Brazil, Denmark, and Canada. However, the largest community outside the Middle East is in the U.S.”

Christian Palestinians

“Today, Christians comprise less than 4% of Palestinians living within the borders of former Mandatory Palestine. They are approximately 8% of the West Bank population, less than 1% in Gaza, and nearly 10% of Israel’s Arab population. According to official British Mandatory estimates, Palestine’s Christian population in 1922 comprised 9.5% of the total population and 7.9% in 1946.[3] The Palestinian Christian Population greatly decreased from 1948 to 1967. Most fled or were expelled during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. A small number left during Jordanian control of the West Bank due to economic reasons. Since 1967, the Palestinian Christian population has increased despite continued emigration.

There are nearly one million Palestinian Christians in the world, inclusive of the Palestinian diaspora, making up over 10% of the world’s total Palestinian population. Palestinian Christians live primarily in Arab states surrounding historic Palestine and in the diaspora, particularly in South America, Europe and North America.” Wikipedia

 

“Daniel Juster, the director of Tikkun International, an umbrella organization for Messianic Jews, a term taken by Jews who accept Jesus as messiah while continuing to uphold their Jewish identity. Juster spoke about the pain of Palestinians suffering under Israeli rule, and the pain of Jews who experienced pogroms and the Holocaust.

“How this can be solved with two people experiencing such levels of pain together in this land?” he asked. “Only Jesus and the power of His cross can overcome this. There is no other way.”

Messianic Jews, he said, need both “to acknowledge the injustices suffered by the innocent under Israeli rule and the injustices suffered under the rule of the P. A. and Hamas, the corruption, the stealing of foreign aid, and so much more.”

“If we do not acknowledge the Israeli injustices, however,” Juster said, “we will not get a hearing for the bigger issues of Israel’s election and the orientation of the Muslims to destroy Israel.”

Evangelical support for Palestinians was new but noticeable – whether as teachers in local Christian schools or volunteers in the annual Palestinian olive harvest.”

By Daniella Cheslow, The Jewish Daily Forward, Published March 16, 2014.

Some scholarly views on Israel/Palestinian Conflict:

“…scholars have failed to reach a consensus on the essence of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.”

“…those who view the conflict in a nationalistic framework typically view the end as a partition into two nation-states.” And “It was essentially in the context of this national conflict that both the Jewish and Arab sides assumed their modern identities. It transformed the Jewish immigrants into Israelis, and the inchoate Zionism of Eastern Europe into the concrete practices of Israeli state and nation formation. The Arab residents of Palestine developed their own distinct nationalism and became Palestinians in the same context.”

“…a one-state solution would put up much more resistance than a two-state solution, requiring these two highly developed oppositional nationalisms to transform into a joint national identity. Given the history of the conflict, such a transformation is highly unlikely.”

“…the increasingly religious dimension of the conflict, reflected in the growing strength of Islamism among the Palestinians and the rising influence of Jewish fundamentalism in Israeli politics…”

Journal of International Relations, What is the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict? Establishing a Determinative Link Between the Nature of the Conflict and its Resolution, Leanne Gale, April 19, 2013

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, in essence, a conflict over identity because its origin and the cause of its continuation are rooted in denial of the nationality of the other side and that side’s right to establish a state in the territories of Israel/Palestine. Throughout more than 100 years of conflict, the Palestinian side, backed by Arab countries, refused to recognize the right of the Jewish people to establish a state in part of the land of Israel. The Palestinians, for their part, regard denial of their national identity and their right to establish a state in the territory of Israel/Palestine as justification for continuing acts of violence against the Jewish community and the State of Israel.

At least until 1988, the Palestinians saw their struggle with Israel as geared towards eliminating Israel as a Jewish state, as expressed in the Palestinian Covenant.

On the other side, Israel took steps the essence of which, in practice, was denial of Palestinian rights to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel had captured in 1967. The Israeli- Palestinian conflict was somewhat moderated with the Oslo process, but this process never sufficiently progressed to resolve the conflict. In recent years, Israeli-Jewish willingness to acknowledge the national identity of the Palestinians has increased, while among Palestinians – especially Israeli citizens – the voices denying the national identity of the Jewish people and their right to a nation-state have become clearer and harsher.

The Jewish state is “the outcome of a settlement process initiated by the Zionist-Elite in Europe and the west and realized by Colonial countries contributing to it and by promoting Jewish immigration to Palestine, in light of the results of the Second World War and the Holocaust” (Future Vision, 2006, p. 9) “… Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who composed the documents known as “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel”…The documents are a challenge of sorts by the Palestinians within Israel to the Palestinian Authority for having, since the signing of the Oslo Accords, ignored them and neglected its duty to advance the national rights of Palestinians, whoever and wherever they are.

The Palestinians see themselves as part of the Arab nation, which some characterize as a shame-based culture shaped by a heightened sensitivity to humiliation and to offense to honor at both the personal and the collective level. The humiliation of the Arab nation by the West – from the Crusader conquests, through Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, and up to the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 – forms part of a live memory, painful and embarrassing, sparking hopes for revenge against Israel, which is regarded as the ultimate agent of the West in the region (Fattah & Fierke, 2009).

The acute sense of humiliation that the Palestinians experienced twice in 20 years (1948 and 1967) creates a powerful barrier to resolution of the conflict with Israel, which, in their view, bestowed upon them their greatest – and, in particular, their most humiliating – catastrophes.

Palestinian leaders in all their negotiations with Israel, regard all the lands of the British Mandate, including the territory of the State of Israel preceding 1967, as occupied Palestinian territories.”

National Narratives in a Conflict of Identity by Yehudith Auerbach

 

PROSPECTS FOR RESOLUTION

The two long-term solutions to the refugee problem that have been debated for the last half-century are Repatriation and Compensation. 

Right to Return

The right of return derives from UN General Assembly Resolution 194 passed in December of 1948. The part of the resolution concerning Palestinian refugees was one of fifteen paragraphs dealing with various aspects of the conflict. The contents of Resolution 194 were adopted from the recommendations of the UN Conciliation Committee (CCP) progress report created in September 1948 by Count Folke Beradotte, the UN mediator in Palestine. According to Paragraph 11 of the resolution, recognition of the Palestinians’ right to return to their homes is stated as follows: “refugees who wish to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practical date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to, property which under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible.” The UN has reaffirmed this resolution nearly every year since its adoption. (xv)

Compensation

The idea of compensating Palestinians for their property left in Israel is also derived from the recommendations of UN mediator Count Beradotte and UN Resolution 194 (III). The resolution called for two types of compensation to refugees “choosing not to return to their homes, and for loss of or damage of property, which under principles of international law or equity should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible.” The issue of compensation has been debated since the beginning of the conflict and little progress has been made to resolve it.

Wikipedia

 

“Since the start of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the early 1990s, the Palestinian leadership has demanded that Israel both accept responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem and accept the refugees’ “right of return”, as embodied in UN general assembly resolution 194 of December 1948. From June to August 1948, the Israeli cabinet endorsed a policy of barring a return, arguing that a mass return of those who had fought and tried to destroy the Jewish state would mortally threaten the state’s existence.

This argument is as valid today as it was in 1948. Israel today has five million Jews and more than a million Arabs. Were 3.5 to 4 million Palestinian refugees – the number listed in UN rolls – empowered to return immediately to Israeli territory, the upshot would be widespread anarchy and violence. Even if the return were spread over a number of years or even decades, the ultimate result, given the Arabs’ far higher birth rates, would be the same: gradually, it would lead to the conversion of the country into an Arab-majority state, from which the (remaining) Jews would steadily emigrate. Would Jews really wish to live as second-class citizens in an authoritarian Muslim-dominated, Arab-ruled state? This also applies to the idea of replacing Israel and the occupied territories with one, unitary binational state, a solution that some blind or hypocritical western intellectuals have been trumpeting.”

Benny Morris, The Guardian, 14 January 2004

Some reading material regarding reconciliation between Arab and Jewish Christians, listed on the Musalaha website:

Musalaha: A Curriculum of Reconciliation
Musalaha has just published a Revised First Edition of our Curriculum of Reconciliation. We have added entirely new material to one of the chapters, Dealing with Trauma. We have also included two new appendices, one with suggested activities for each chapter, and the second with questionnaires for each chapter. The questionnaires help determine how well the material was taught, how much the students learned, and whether or not there was any change in attitude as a result of the teaching. We are excited to use this updated material in our own work as it gives our leaders more effective tools to use when working with their groups.

Through My Enemy’s Eyes by Salim J. Munayer and Lisa Loden (2013)
This book addresses the universal theological dimension of reconciliation in the context of the Israeli Messianic Jewish and Palestinian Christian divide. The struggle for reconciliation is painful and often extremely difficult for all of us. This unique work seeks to show a way forward.

The Land Cries Out by Salim J. Munayer and Lisa Loden (2011)
The chapters presented in this book form a unique collection of voices speaking from different perspectives on the issue of theology of the land. These voices include Messianic Jewish and Palestinian Christian theologians and scholars who live in the Holy Land, as well as others from around the world. The various chapters reflect a wide spectrum of opinion and reveal how much disagreement still exists among followers of Christ. However, the dialogue generated by having these opposing voices side by side, speaking to each other rather past each other, is encouraging. This book is both challenging and inspirational, and contributes to this important discussion.

Journey Through the Storm by Salim J. Munayer (2011)
This collection of articles offers a unique perspective on Musalaha. This volume is presented with devotionals, interviews, reports and articles that Israelis and Palestinians have written about the journey of reconciliation. This book is available in our offices and we hope to make it available via Amazon.com in the near future.

You Have Heard it Said: Events of Reconciliation by Jonathan McRay (2011)
This collection of stories is an excellent introduction to some of the issues faced by Israeli and Palestinian followers of the Messiah, and chronicles the journey toward reconciliation they have chosen to take. The road to reconciliation is long and difficult, and the struggle is vividly portrayed in these narratives. Reading these stories and the reflections that follow them leave the reader with a picture of real human interaction which goes beyond the stereotypes and caricatures. These stories offer an authentic glimpse into the lives of Israeli and Palestinian believers, the challenges they face, their fears and their hopes. The stories in this book can be difficult to read as they show how much distance still needs to be covered. At the same time, they also inspire hope and show the brave examples of those few who are working toward reconciliation. They prove that coexistence is possible, and can serve as a model for the future.

Musalaha Songbook
Compiled by Israeli and Palestinian Worship Leaders (2004)
This is a collection of 96 Hebrew, Arabic and mixed worship songs, including musical notation, guitar chords, translations, and transliteration. To order, please email us.

In the Footsteps of our Father AbrahamEdited by Salim J. Munayer (2002)
A revised version of Musalaha’s first volume, this book includes articles written in the early years of Musalaha’s ministry and contains an additional section of articles written in the past year. Contributors to the text include Palestinian Christians, Israeli Messianic Jews, and international Christians. It is a unique mix of perspectives and experiences from our twelve years of activity in reconciliation.

The Bible and the Land: An EncounterEdited by Lisa Loden, Peter Walker, and Michael Wood (2000)
A collection of articles on Theology of the Land from Messianic Jewish, Palestinian Christian, and international Christian perspectives. (Sold out. We are currently in the process of reprinting.)

Seeking and Pursuing Peace,(1988)
A compilation of articles on the Biblical foundations of peace, and practical experiences on reconciliation between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews. Contributors are local and international believers. (Sold out. We are currently in the process of reprinting.

Some support services for Palestinians:

alkanisa.org (for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank)

 

Compiled by Pia Horan, 26 June 2014