RE: KAIROS DOCUMENT – JANUARY 2013
Palestinian Christians – ongoing forcible displacement and dispossession…until when?
Response by The Emmaus Group including the views of Palestinian Christians.
Front Cover: Our first observation is simply about the title. Where is the evidence to support this statement? To the best of our knowledge, Christians don’t build illegally and therefore do not get dispossessed. There is no circumstantial evidence contained within the document to substantiate this claim.
Page 4: It is noted the cover photo is described as: Graffiti on Israel’s Annexation Wall in Bethlehem. This is misleading. The wall was built as a direct response to terrorist activity by the Tanzeem (freedom fighters/mafia and radical Islamists) during the 2000-4 uprising, since when all terror attacks have ceased. All agree the wall is unsightly and no-one likes it, but it stopped Palestinians blowing themselves up and hurting others in the process. Many Palestinian Christians are frustrated by it because it stopped them enjoying their good relationships with Israeli friends. Both Jew and Palestinian endure restriction of movement. Prior to the 2000-4 intifada the relationship between many Palestinian Christians and Israelis was good.
Page 5: The first paragraph is highly misleading. If it was Israel’s intention to, “fracture the connection” and stop Palestinian Christians entering Israel, then why does Israel issue most Christians with one month permits at Christmas, Easter and other feasts? As Christians reject violence, most Palestinian Christians and peace loving Moslems acknowledge (privately) that the wall was built as a direct response to suicide bombers from within the Palestinian community.
Para 3: states figures and percentages but omits to point out the Christian population of Bethlehem has plummeted from 85% to 9% in 25 years mostly due to internal persecution and discrimination by radical Islamists. In Gaza the population has dwindled to a mere 1500, some of whom are now seeking refuge in Israel, the only state in the middle-east in which Christianity is growing. The collapse in numbers of Gazan Christians occurred between 2006-7 after Hamas ousted Fatah and took control. The then population of just 2500 came under attack, many were chased out at gunpoint and some were even kidnapped or killed, such as Pastor Rami Ayyad in 2007.
Para 4: draws attention to the alleged forced displacement of Christians from Bethlehem and East Jerusalem. The Bethlehem Christians with whom we have regular contact have no knowledge of this occurring. One stated: “none of us have ever had their houses demolished because we don’t build our houses illegally.” In East Jerusalem it is well known, although never discussed publicly, that the Israelis are buying Palestinian Arabs out of the homes given to them on a three generation tenancy agreement, by the previous King of Jordan, when the territory was under Jordanian control. They are paid full market price, given 50% of the agreed sale value in advance, allowed time to protest and create the facade of false eviction to save their lives, then the balance paid on moving. This is because in their culture, selling such property to Israelis will almost certainly result in death.
Page 6: This again is an abuse of the scriptures and misleading. The first passage about God creating man and the land for man’s benefit is true. However, the second paragraph is not found in Scripture. In both the Old Testament and the Quran, it is quite clear the land was given to the Jews by God as an everlasting covenant.
This fact can be found in multiple references from Genesis through Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and well into the New Testament. In the Quran you can find the references in Surat 17v104 – Surat 5.v20-21 and others. God did indeed create the earth and everything in it and because He did, He had the right to apportion it to whomever He wished. He therefore gave what we know as Israel and the Palestinian territory, and more, to Abraham and His descendants. We submit the theological reflection is distorted by including man’s words alongside God’s.
Page 7&8: Again we submit this is a misuse of the scriptures. To take one isolated example and use this as the foundation for an entire campaign against Israel is erroneous. God tells us not to judge. The Church should not judge nor take sides, nor should it take the Palestinian’s enemy and make it its own. Paragraph 2 implies a violation of Biblical commands has occurred yet Jesus clearly taught us to pray for our enemies and bless them – not curse them. This command has, it seems, been lost in the Kairos document.
Para 3: fails to point out that more Jews were displaced in the aftermath of the 1948 war than Arabs. During the late 1940s and early 1950s more than 850,000 Jewish refugees were expelled from the surrounding Arab states. The document fails to point out that it was the United Nations that determined the borders: borders Israel accepted and the Palestinians rejected.
The maps are misleading. Is it physically possible to fit 2.4 million people on these few remaining green islands? We work, travel and have lived in the Palestinian territory and the 2012 map is simply highly misleading.
PAGE 9: The matter of 93,000 Palestinians being forced to build illegally in areas not designated for them raises several questions. Who is forcing them to build and why? East Jerusalem has six building inspectors to supervise some 28,000 illegal developments. None are accessible because if inspectors seek to enter, they are attacked, so require police or army support. The reality is the properties do not get demolished as a consequence. Israeli sources state they have destroyed (at July 2012) 42 houses. Many are however bought secretly, but the exchange goes under the façade of illegal eviction and destruction, so it is impossible to say which may fall into each category. Our Palestinian Christian sources in East Jerusalem state no Christian homes have been illegally demolished.
PAGE 10: The matter of marriages is raised between Israelis and Palestinians. This statement is correct that Palestinians cannot simply marry and move to Israel. (It may be worth noting that the UK also has strict tests to establish the integrity of foreign nationals marrying a UK national). This page raises the question as to why many Palestinians would wish to live in Israel – a state they allegedly despise?
PAGE 11&12 Boutros’ story. This is a difficult situation and sad story. However, from our own research undertaken by Palestinians in Jerusalem, we know it is possible to get a residence permit. It is a lengthy process (and one reflected in the UK Border Agency laws and tests). So whilst highly frustrating for Boutros and his wife, Israel needs to be sure who is coming to live within its own borders, as does any state in the world. Boutros has the option of living in Beit Jala with his wife, from where he can use his Israeli ID to commute daily the six miles to Jerusalem, taking his wife with him to their respective jobs. He will not lose his Israeli ID unless he lives in Beit Jala for more than seven years.
PAGE 12: In the centre of life doctrine paragraph it states: in the 1967 War, Israel illegally annexed some 70 sq. km to the municipal boundaries of West Jerusalem, imposed Israeli law there and conducted a census in these areas giving permanent residency status, not citizenship, to the residents within the annexed areas. Israel treats Palestinian residents there as immigrants who live in their homes at the beneficence of the authorities and not by right. The Kairos document fails to address how and why Israel ended up annexing land. Israel was attacked by its neighbours: the allied Arab forces which included many Palestinians. In any war there are winners and losers. If the Arab states had not attacked Israel then perhaps this situation would not have happened? However, Kairos omits to recognise that Palestinians can at least live as residents in West Jerusalem without be killed, whereas it is impossible for any Israeli to live safely in the Palestinian territory, hence it is illegal for an Israeli to enter the Palestinian Territory for their own safety.
The document states: “Jerusalem is the heart of our reality. It is, at the same time, a symbol of peace and sign of conflict. While the separation wall divides Palestinian neighborhoods, Jerusalem continues to be emptied of its Palestinian citizens, Christians and Muslims.” This statement seems at odds with their previous admission that Palestinians do live in West Jerusalem as well as East. The document fails to point out, for example, how in north Jerusalem the wall had to be built to stop Palestinian militia shooting at aircraft landing and taking off from the city’s small airport (now closed). It also fails to point out that thousands of permits allow workers into Israel daily, or that 170,000 Palestinian children received medical attention in Israel in 2012, or that 8 emergency helicopter airlifts took place transporting seriously injured Palestinians to Israel for treatment. There are many Christians and Moslems living peacefully in Jerusalem. This statement about Jerusalem being emptied is simply untrue and misleading.
PAGE 13: Boutros, a Palestinian, continues his story: He states that returning to the Palestinian Territory would be like living in a “big prison.” He obviously does not like it. However, the big prison he speaks of has now been awarded Observer Status in the United Nations. To be awarded this status means the Palestinian State and its Government must have met certain criteria – would such criteria include its citizens living in deprivation or circumstances akin to a big prison? Does he know that the West gave $2.5 billion in aid in the year 2010-11 alone? Statistically they should all be millionaires! Boutros can live in the West Bank without losing his Israeli ID until seven years have passed, whereas a British Residence permit can be revoked after just 2 years of absence.
PAGE 14: Fida’s story is sad. It is difficult, frustrating and we agree that the system is too complicated and unfair, especially when opportunities for her to work in the West Bank as a Christian are limited. But it is one story out of thousands and needs to be kept in context. It is not representative of all cases. With independence comes many responsibilities and inevitably, international border restrictions. For example, overseas workers wishing to gain employment in the UK have many hurdles to clear to be granted permission to remain.
PAGE 15: “Reality is the daily humiliation to which we are subjected at the military checkpoints, as we make our way to jobs, schools or hospitals.” Although we are sorry they have to do this every day in order to access proper health treatment and jobs, the system is no different to the security measures at British air and seaports. When one crosses any international border (save the EU zone) one must endure checkpoints. The British have to endure being searched, x-rayed, our bags searched and taking off shoes – because radical terrorists decided to commit mass crimes; not entirely different to the reasons why Israel built the security wall.
PAGES 16&17: Rula’s story. We sympathise having spent many hours/days at checkpoints ourselves. It is deeply frustrating. But we must remember why was it built and why the checkpoints exist. Rula’s true enemy is not the Israelis; it is those who caused the security wall to be built in the first place. Many Israelis hate it as much as Palestinians – it is a necessary evil.
The document states the wall does not follow the green line. We agree. In fact the new tramway follows the green line as it passes the Old City. The document states the green line was to delineate the future Palestinian state from Israel, a state the Palestinians refused 19 years earlier. We submit that had the Palestinian leadership accepted the original offer, and the allied Arab forces not sought to destroy Israel in 1967, then perhaps none of this would have happened? Access to Christian holy sites is not prevented as permits are issued for both major and minor feasts. Most Priests are issued year round permits.
PAGE 18. The Wall and the International Court of Justice. We agree with the Palestinian claim that Israel has taken designated Palestinian territory. However, whilst Israel may not have responded to the directions of the ICJ neither has the Palestinian Authority sought to negotiate with Israel, but attempted to force settlements through the UN. These two matters are inextricably linked. Israeli sources have told us they know that they have to return some land once a settlement is agreed through proper negotiations: that 94% is undisputed but 6% will have to be re-negotiated in a like-for-like swap.
PAGE 19: shows the wall annexing Rachel’s Tomb. This again is a sad situation and had Palestinian youth and freedom fighters not thrown stones and petrol bombs, or shot at Jews visiting what is for them a holy site, the wall might not have gone this route. In January 2013 more Jews were attacked with stones and petrol bombs being thrown over the wall. Visitors have to travel by bullet proof coaches to visit this site. Ironically when Palestinian police try to stop stone throwing they are attacked by their own people and called traitors.
PAGE 20: Border Controls. As regular visitors to Israel we know well the levels of security at Ben Gurion. However, we suggest that if the UK faced similar existential threats from its neighbours we too would expect escalated security at our air and seaports. It is a strategy any nation on earth would exercise if presented with the same risks and threats. Because the threats emanate predominantly from Arab sources it is inevitable passenger screening will look more closely at Arab nationals.
The document states: “It is God’s land and therefore it must be a land of reconciliation, peace and
love. This is indeed possible. God has put us here as two peoples, and God gives us the capacity, if we have the will, to live together and establish in it justice and peace, making it in reality God’s land: The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it”.
We find this text block misleading as again the document amalgamates man’s words with God’s word in the last line. What we do agree with is when it says if we have a will to live together in justice and peace. This is an admirable statement which we support. However, the harsh reality is this is not happening. The Bible clearly states we reap what we sow. If God’s people sow discord against their neighbours what do they expect to reap? God clearly states in Genesis 12 that He will bless those who bless Israel and curse those that curse her. The Apostle Paul said we should “pursue the things that make for peace and the things by which we may edify one another.” Does the demonization of Israel edify? Is this attitude and mind-set in accordance with God’s will for his family? Did not Jesus say we should pray for our enemies and those who persecute us? That we should love our enemies and not repay evil for evil?
PAGE 21-23: Yasmin’s Story. This is tragic and an example of where it all went wrong. There is no excuse for this and we are very sorry to hear her story.
PAGE 24: The document encourages actions of various sorts. But we as a Christian family must question: what would Jesus say? Would Jesus endorse a BDS programme? Would He be happy with His church promoting discriminatory activity of any sort? Do two wrongs make a right? Jesus preached messages of repentance and forgiveness – not revenge – not to repay evil with evil. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” He taught us. The Emmaus Group submits that these suggested action points are unbiblical and should not be engaged in by Christians.
The narrative about holding Israel accountable for crimes is akin to taking the speck out of a brother’s eye while a plank remains in one’s own. The Emmaus Group recognises that Israel is not a perfect State any more than Britain is. It makes mistakes, demonstrated well by the awful experience of poor Yasmin and her children at Ben Gurion airport. But in fairness, perhaps we should ask the one million Israelis who spent days last November in bomb shelters what they feel? Perhaps we should ask how the 14,000+ rockets that have landed on Israel have affected their lives.
The Emmaus Group would like to remind the authors of this latest Kairos document of the systematic persecution and discrimination of Christians by radical Islamists within the Palestinian territories. Many Christians are fearful for their lives, have been threatened, shot and harassed by fellow Palestinians. Does the Kairos team plan to address these matters?
Can the authors explain why the Bethlehem Council of Churches issued a statement in April 2012 denouncing any relationship with anyone or any organisation that stands with Israel? It would appear the church of Jesus Christ has taken the Palestinian enemy to be their own enemy, when we are clearly called not to take sides or judge, lest we also be judged. Can the Kairos team explain why church pastors have had to leave Gaza at gunpoint – a territory where there is no Israeli presence? Or why churches in the west bank have to time the start of their services to coincide with the broadcasts form the mosques to drown out the sound of worship?
We encourage anyone, the authors of the Kairos document included, who stand for the protection of human rights, the right to life, dignity and freedom of worship. But before we seek to take the speck out of Israel’s eye we humbly suggest the Kairos team seek to remove the plank from the Palestinian eye. Forever blaming one’s neighbour will never lead to settlement – there must be open and honest dialogue by both sides and a desire to forgive, leave the past behind and press ahead to a better future.
It was Albert Einstein who once stated: problems cannot be resolved by thinking within the same framework in which the problems were created. He also said: peace cannot be kept by force – it can only be achieved by understanding.
The Emmaus Group UK