this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr

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Friday, 1 May 2009

a giant oak

March of Return to the demolished village el Kafrein 29/4/2009. Photo by: Oren Ziv/
I can't find a full story on this tonight. Will look it up tomorrow. What a wonderful picture. A little about Kafr Ein.

As promised (2nd May) From the International Women's Peace Service (2004) My emphasis:
The name ‘Kafr’ is an old local term for village and ‘Ein’ means ‘spring’ (where water comes from). There are 10 springs and 10 reservoirs on the mountain, one of which was recently damaged. There is a deserted ancient site on the top of a local mountain known as Haraek. The ancient site is believed to contain a pre-Islamic church and a mosque. According to local legend the site was destroyed during the Crusades and one villager survived the destruction of the village and came down to found Kafr Ein. There was until 14 April a famous oak on the top of Haraek believed to be hundreds or even thousands of years old. The oak is named Sheik Ibrahim as it was located close to the ruins of the Sheik’s house. It was believed that commanders had met under the giant oak for many centuries.
There are many Christians involved in pointing out the injustices of the Occupation, from the Quakers to the Catholics to the Protestants to the Christian Peacemaker Teams. Also, there were many Palestinian Christians who suffered when the land was cleansed. They had lived on the land for centuries, and they still make up a part of the Palestinian population.
Christians find themselves under the hammer of the Israeli occupation to no less an extent than Muslims, yet America—supposedly a Christian country—stands idly by because its most politically influential Christians have decided that Palestinian Christians are acceptable collateral damage in their apocalyptic quest. “To be a Christian from the land of Christ is an honor,” says Abbas, a Palestinian Christian whose family lived in Jerusalem for many generations until the purge of 1948. “To be expelled from that land is an injury, and these Zionist Christians in America add insult.” Abbas is one of the handful of Palestinian Christians that could be described as Evangelical, belonging to a group that appears to be distantly related to the Plymouth Brethren. Cherishing the role of devil’s advocate, I had to ask him, “Is the State of Israel not in fact the fulfillment of God’s promise and a necessary step in the second coming of Christ?” Abbas looked at me briefly and laughed. “You’re kidding, right? You know what they do to our people and our land. If I thought that was part of God’s plan, I’d be an atheist in a second.”
When I lived in Oman, there were some Arab-Christians on the staff (also a red-haired, blue-eyed Egyptian; there are a number of blue-eyed Arabs, actually, red hair is a little more unusual). No-one had a problem. They would tell me that the person was a Christian, and business would go on as usual. That is not to say there has not been discrimination, such as against the Coptic and other Christians in Egypt, but Egypt is not everywhere. In fact, Edward Said, the prominent (but sadly no longer with us) Palestinian commentator and theorist was a Christian. He is held in high esteem by many in the Arab world, as is Jewish Noam Chomsky, Lebanese Christian (but communist, I think) musician Marcel Khalife. That is just a smattering of the religious make-up of people who are concerned with the area, and who stem from the area.

During the Israeli war on Gaza, a local AP reporter surveying the damage inflicted, made these observations (7 January, 2009):
On Tuesday, the only shop I found open was the Shifa pharmacy run by my friend
Eyad Sayegh. He's an Orthodox Christian, and I stopped to wish him a Merry
Christmas — Eastern churches celebrate Christmas on Wednesday.

Eyad told me he forgot it was Christmas.

. . .

I drive into downtown Gaza, trying to prove to myself I can still do something I have done so often before -- drive through my city.

I reach the Catholic school I attended, where my late father used to bring me every day. The building is undamaged. I stand in front of it, wondering if I will ever walk my children to this school.
It is true that some Christian businesses and some people have been targeted by extremists in Gaza. It is also true that the Hamas government does not condone these actions according to this report and others that I have read. But it also true, from the above, that the thing that was stopping Christian businesses from running, and Christian schools from operating, in this case, was the bombardment of the area by the Israelis.

According to the 2004 report, Forgotten Christians from The American Conservative (Anders Strinberg):
Among the remnant communities in Palestine, most belong to the traditional Christian confessions. The largest group is Greek Orthodox, followed by Catholics (Roman, Syrian, Maronite, and Melkite), Armenian Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans. There is also a small but influential Quaker presence. These communities are centered in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, and Ramallah.

For them, the conflict with Israel is quite obviously not about Islamism contra enlightenment but simply about resistance against occupation. To be sure, there have been periods of tension between the Christian communities and members of the Islamist groups, yet to many Christian Palestinians the Islamist movements have emerged by default as the heroes in the conflict with Israel. Following the incremental atrophy of leftist ideals, the Islamists are seen as the only ones who are willing and able to fight the occupation. The Lebanese Hezbollah, widely seen as a nonsectarian organization that is able to cooperate with people of all faiths, is particularly admired both among the refugees in Lebanon as well as those who remain in Palestine. “We have received far more support and comfort from the Hezbollah in Lebanon than from our fellow Christians in the West,” remarked one Christian Palestinian refugee in Damascus. “I want to know, why don’t the Christians in the West do anything to help us? Are the teachings of Jesus nothing but empty slogans to them?”
This question is fair, and is further explored in the article. I will post a commentary on it in just a moment. Hezbollah are Shia, yet they have the support of Palestinian Sunnis and Christians, due to the reciprocal support and comfort outlined above. Baer explores this quite a lot. My aunt and my uncle, devout Catholics, visited Jerusalem a while back. They were asking me if I recommended whether they go to Jordan or not. Howard had ratcheted his scare policies up to the extreme, and probably, it didn't hurt to be a little wary, considering there had been attacks within Jordan, though not with alarming regularity (once or twice is alarming enough, however). I asked my aunt, seeing as she is so religious, and she and my uncle used to be extremely compassionate (I'm not so sure nowadays), to say a prayer for the Palestinians while she was there. The startled look that she gave me, as if 'Why would I do that?' made me retract my request, or mumble something apologetic. I had inklings things weren't right there, but I didn't know quite how deeply.

I had a very close Palestinian friend, yet he had never really filled me in. A comment he made once about the Europeans he had met in India where he studied was that he'd tell them about Palestine, and they'd agree with him, but when they met up with anyone from Israel, they would immediately sympathise with them. I think that is just the obfuscation, again. We don't know, and it's hard not to believe the propaganda. Also, the individual people you meet are not the policy makers. Why would our governments support such blatant human rights' abuse? Why indeed? So, seeing as when he met me, that was his experience, I guess he was too tired to get into it all again. He would mention little bits, but it was my friendship with him that made me search out more about the history of his land, rather than any urging from him, or any form of what some might view as indoctrination. I am ashamed at how ignorant I was when I was living in an area where I could have learned so much, and sharing an office with somebody who could have informed me even more. Anyway.

So the question exists, for my auntie and others who consider themselves Christian:
"I want to know, why don’t the Christians in the West do anything to help us? Are the teachings of Jesus nothing but empty slogans to them?" Within Perth it is the Wesley Church which always hosts the pro-Palestinian rallies, and the Church of England's divestment from Caterpillar was due to requests from their colleagues in Palestine. But we don't hear about the subtleties of the make-up of the Palestinian population, and we don't learn of the churches' concern in the mainstream media, they are some of the answers to the question. The following is Strindberg's response:
This is a justified and important question, but the answer is not straightforward. The Catholic Church has, in fact, long argued for an end to the Israeli occupation and for improvement of the Palestinians’ situation. The leaders of the Eastern Orthodox churches have taken similar, often more strongly worded positions. Likewise, many Lutheran and Calvinist churches run organizations and programs that seek to ease the suffering of the Palestinians and draw attention to the injustices with which they are faced. Usually working within strictly religious frames of reference, however, their impact on the political situation has been minimal. Read more He continues to explore the influence the Christian Zionists have on this issue, both in Israel and in the States.
As for original Jews, I am sure I have read of them being in Palestine before the Nakba. But I cannot find any references at the moment. My friend writes: In the city of Nablus in the West Bank,(25 km from my town) there are maybe hundreds of Palestinian Jews. They fight and resist the Israelis as much as Palestinian Muslims or Christians do. In fact some of them were martyred and killed by the Israeli forces. They are still living in Nablus until now [not the martyred ones, obviously].The Christian population before the Nakba was quite large: 20-30% depending upon which report you read. It is now about two percent. Many are in the refugee camps in Lebanon. They make up a sizable proportion of the diaspora.
At the time of the creation of the Israeli state in 1948, it is estimated that the Christians of Palestine numbered some 350,000. Almost 20 percent of the total population at the time, they constituted a vibrant and ancient community; their forbears had listened to St. Peter in Jerusalem as he preached at the first Pentecost. Yet Zionist doctrine held that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Of the 750,000 Palestinians that were forced from their homes in 1948, some 50,000 were Christians—7 percent of the total number of refugees and 35 percent of the total number of Christians living in Palestine at the time.

In the process of “Judaizing” Palestine, numerous convents, hospices, seminaries, and churches were either destroyed or cleared of their Christian owners and custodians. In one of the most spectacular attacks on a Christian target, on May 17, 1948, the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate was shelled with about 100 mortar rounds—launched by Zionist forces from the already occupied monastery of the Benedictine Fathers on Mount Zion. The bombardment also damaged St. Jacob’s Convent, the Archangel’s Convent, and their appended churches, their two elementary and seminary schools, as well as their libraries, killing eight people and wounding 120.
There had been settler Jews, not Zionists, within Palestine, but I am not sure when they arrived. The following from this Jews for Justice in the Middle East report (via if Americans knew):
“Before the 20th century, most Jews in Palestine belonged to old Yishuv, or community, that had settled more for religious than for political reasons. There was little if any conflict between them and the Arab population. Tensions began after the first Zionist settlers arrived in the 1880’s...when [they] purchased land from absentee Arab owners, leading to dispossession of the peasants who had cultivated it.” Don Peretz, “The Arab-Israeli Dispute.”

“[During the Middle Ages,] North Africa and the Arab Middle East became places of refuge and a haven for the persecuted Jews of Spain and elsewhere...In the Holy Land...they lived together in [relative] harmony, a harmony only disrupted when the Zionists began to claim that Palestine was the ‘rightful’ possession of the ‘Jewish people’ to the exclusion of its Moslem and Christian inhabitants.” Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest.”
I believe in many of the Ten Commandments, though I am not particularly religious. I do not believe that it is good to hurt or kill people, or that there are many instances in which it can be justified. I also believe in concepts that do not overtly, or institutionally, seem to be written into any great religion, of equality between all people and equality of men and women, and protection of children. All the religions will support these points of view, but there will always be exceptions to the rule that can be exploited, and have constantly been exploited throughout history, to benefit one group and to dispossess the other. Conversely, the existing Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups within the occupied territories working towards justice show that religion can also be pivotal in doing what is right. There are just as many atheists and agnostics in there, I don't think that Anarchists against the Wall would be terribly religious,and no doubt other religions and beliefs are also concerned and try to do what they can.

This fact remains, though: Usually working within strictly religious frames of reference, however, their impact on the political situation has been minimal. Relief is being provided, but is the word being spread? To a degree, yes, considering Israeli Jewish activist Jeff Halper spoke to churches (but not synagogues, who would not host him) in Australia, and British Muslim author, Imran Ahmad, also has been doing a tour throughout the U.S. speaking mainly to church audiences. Antony Loewenstein, in Australia, a Jewish opponent to Israel's actions in the occupied territories has spoken to Muslim audiences (bravely so, not because of the audience, but because of the backlash from certain elements of the Jewish community). Christian, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has shared the floor with Noam Chomsky, but has also been barred from a Catholic university, and others such as anti-occupation American Jew, Norman Finkelstein often find it difficult to get speaking engagements, or finds they have been cancelled (I believe that the school referred to in that link has reversed its decision now).

From Dreams of my Father, Obama writes that he got his start in civil rights in church groups in Chicago, starting with a Catholic church. Religious groups can be at the forefront of positive change. Further, Pope Benedict XVI is set to visit Israel and the occupied territories (that has no connection with Obama, I think). The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem said Sunday that Pope Benedict XVI, who is scheduled to visit Israel soon, will tour and preach at "the al-Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, which symbolizes the right of return and holds a message of peace, brotherhood, and justice" when he visits May 11.

Christian Palestinians have mixed reactions to his visit, but if he could maybe venture just a little deeper into the territories, perhaps visit Gaza, oh what change could happen if the head of the Catholic church was to, for humanitarian purposes in line with the teachings of the God he believes in, condemn the occupation and do everything in his power to stop it. The quotation above is a step in the right direction. Even so, the mainstream media probably wouldn't pick up on the story. It would garner a full page opinion piece in Ha'aretz, and four lines in the New York Times.

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this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr