The Church of the Holy Sepulcher,Jerusalem
Over the last five years or so Israeli settlers who have moved in to occupy Palestinian villages have not only forced out the occupants, but vandalized Christian Churches, monasteries, and cemeteries. Two years ago the monastery of the Sisters of Bethlehem was firebombed in a midnight attack, the perpetrators of which left graffiti on the outside walls saying “Price Tag,” “Death to Gentiles,” and “revenge” in Hebrew. The same terms were painted on tombstones in the Greek Orthodox cemetery in Jaffa. Israeli settlers vandalized the car of a Catholic human rights lawyer in Jerusalem.
Vandals left graffiti—in Hebrew—stating that “Jesus is a monkey” on the walls of the Dormition Abbey, a Benedictine monastery that marks the traditional site of the death of the Virgin Mary. “Jesus is a Son of a Bitch” and “Price Tag” had been sprayed on the Abbey’s walls the year before.
“Price Tag” refers to a campaign initiated four years ago by Israeli settlers on Palestinian lands to intimidate Palestinians and other non-Israelis into leaving the Holy Land. It refers to the “price” that Palestinians must pay for their opposition to the expansion of Israeli territory into the towns and villages which they have occupied from time immemorial.
Now the Israelis want to extend their “security wall” into the Cremisan valley and then expropriate the land there that currently belongs to Palestinian Christians. The mayor, Vera Baboun, met with Pope Francis to ask his help in preventing this land-grab.
Why don’t we hear more about these atrocities? CBS reporter Bob Simon who died last month in an automobile crash in New York did a story back in 2012 on the plight of Palestinian Christians. Then Israeli ambassador Michael Oren put pressure on CBS to squelch the story before it was even completed. Simon recalled the incident:
According to Israeli government figures, tourism is a multi billion dollar business there. Most tourists are Christian. Many of them are American. That’s one reason why Israelis are very sensitive about their image in the United States. And that could be why Ambassador Oren phoned Jeff Fager, the head of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, while we were still reporting the story, long before tonight’s broadcast.
Don’t misunderstand me. I have been to Israel four times. It is an amazing country. The Israelis have made the desert bloom. But there is also tremendous human suffering there, a suffering that former President Jimmy Carter compared to the Apartheid of South Africa until its termination in 1994. Had Mr. Carter wanted to hit closer to home he could have compared it to the plight of African-Americans in Mississippi or Alabama in the first half of the twentieth century. The Palestinian peoples who are descended from the biblical inhabitants of Canaan and lived there through the kingships of David and Solomon, through the invasion of the Assyrians, who remained in the land when the Jews were taken to Babylon and when they returned, who survived Alexander and his Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Arab invasion of 636 as well as the Turks in the 12th century, are now being driven out—Christian and Muslim alike—by policies that want to purge the land of all who are not Jews.
Today the Master Builder of this racist theocracy is addressing the United States Congress as the invited guest of Speaker Boehner. I am not in favor of denying any one Holy Communion, but if I could make an argument that the Eucharist should be withheld from any Christian, it would be for John Boehner’s betrayal of his Palestinian brother and sister Christians. Don’t misunderstand me, Prime Minister Netanyahu is not personally interested in driving all non-Jews from the land of Eretz Yisrael. I would have some respect—profound disagreement but still respect—for him if this was a matter of something in which he truly believed. But the Prime Minister, to keep his Likud party in power, courts support from those nationalist and those ultra-orthodox parties and individuals who want to make Israel 100% an Orthodox theocracy. (note: not all ultra-orthodox wish to make Israel a theocracy; there are many who believe that the political questions need await the Messiah who will decide. And, of course, the majority of Israelis are secular Jews who have abandoned the idea that the land is theirs by a “divine right.”) Tragically our own nation has involved itself in Israel’s racist agenda by our unqualified support for Israel both politically and militarily. It is time that we reexamine our policies toward Israel and come to a more balanced and just stance.