By Wisam Rafeedie – Dec 27, 2023
Palestinians and especially Palestinian Christians voiced their outrage at the heads of Palestinian churches this week. Palestinians began a popular campaign of condemnation against these leaders after they met with Chaim Herzog, the president of the genocidal, murderous, usurping zionist entity. The heads of the churches responded with justifications included language such as maintaining “status quo,” and “protocol.” In their explanatory statement, as they described it (which was really an apologetic statement), they demanded “to stop the bloodbath,” but they did not refer to the entity as the perpetrator of “the bloodbath”—identifying the perpetrator is apparently not allowed.
In response, the members of the Christian denominations in Palestine and in the countries where the refugees live issued a statement calling the meeting “shameful and shocking.” It is especially egregious considering that the meeting took place with one of the most prominent figures of the occupation entity, who justified the genocide of Palestinians by claiming that “there are no innocent civilians in Gaza.” The statement of condemnation has already received thousands of signatures from Palestine and abroad.
Indeed, it was shocking and shameful that the heads of Palestinian churches dared to hold this meeting while the Zionist entity is slaughtering our people, including the Christians of Gaza, while their churches are being destroyed, their hospitals are being stormed and destroyed, such as the Baptist Hospital.
It seems that these church leaders did not understand the political and provocative connotations of their meeting. Their actions have revealed their lack of national awareness and solidarity with the victims of Palestine, and their lack of respect for the feelings and realities of the Palestinian Christians, who they claim to represent religiously. Therefore the aforementioned statement of condemnation launched the slogan: “You do not represent us,” and called for boycotting them and not receiving them in the holidays this month, and demanded disciplinary accountability.
In response to the provocative meeting, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) released a statement titled “Shame Will Forever Haunt Those Who Participated in the Meeting with the President of the ‘israeli’ Entity.” There is no greater shame than shaking hands with the murderous criminal while your people have been slaughtered for more than 80 days.
The Hamas movement also expressed shock at the meeting, and rightly confirmed what the Palestinian Christians recognize: “We believe that this Christian leadership, with this behavior, does not represent the children of our people of all denominations.” Hamas’ position aligns with the general Christian popular opinion expressed strongly on social media.
Religious institutions and historically suspicious behavior
What greatly irritates Palestinian Christians is that the heads of churches, with their official position at the head of their churches and their unpatriotic, inhumane, and normalizing behavior, have called into question the patriotism and history of Palestinian Christians. This constitutes a gross abuse of the history of Palestinian Christians and their role in the Palestinian national struggle.
Do we need to be reminded of the national heroes that emerged from the Christian community and left an enduring legacy for our people and its revolution? Leaders like George Habash, Wadie Haddad, and Nayef Hawatmeh? Or Christian religious leaders and fighters like Atallah Hanna, Manuel Musallam, and Hilarion Capucci? Or the thousands of Christian fighters, martyrs, and wounded in the history of the Palestinian national struggle? This is known to our people everywhere, and therefore the meeting of the heads of the churches with the leader of the Zionist entity is a provocative stab at this history, at the existence and national role of Palestinian Christians.
Once again, we are faced with the relationship between Palestinian Christians, who are patriots par excellence, and their religious institutions in Palestine. Since the early twentieth century, Palestinian Christians have been fighting courageously against the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Palestine and Jordan. The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, the Greek institution that has dominated the church since the sixteenth century, has given away hundreds of thousands of dunams of land to Jewish settlements and it continues this practice today. Orthodox Christians of Palestine clashed against the church in a bitter conflict, not only because of land theft, but also against the Greek domination and colonial practices against the Arabization of the Orthodox Church. Last year, a conflict also erupted between Palestinian Armenian Christians and the head of the Armenian Church, who transferred properties belonging to the Armenian Church in the Old City of Jerusalem to the settlers.
In all of these battles, the confrontation was not limited to Christians, but was a national confrontation that included various political currents, religious and sectarian affiliations, and believers and non-believers as well. The battle in all of these cases, and the latest of which is the normalization meeting with the representative of the Zionist entity, is a national battle par excellence, so we have repeatedly noticed the participation of Palestinian Muslims in the struggle against the Greek League giving away Palestinian land. The unity of the Palestinian people is ongoing as shown by the signatures of activists of Muslim religious origins on the statement issued and referred to above.
All of these confrontations indicate that the religious institution does not represent the national aspirations of the people of the churches, and does not reflect a religious national position that is consistent across the entire spectrum of the Palestinian people, including its Christians, under colonial occupation. The Christian religious institution has always been in a valley—the valley of coexistence, normalization, and appeasement of the colonizer, while the Palestinian Christians are in another valley, the valley of resistance and struggle. The Palestinian people are with the Resistance until liberation and return, while the heads of churches meet the representative of the genocide under the pretexts of protocol and status quo. Clearly the heads of churches represent themselves, not the Palestinian Christians.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Wisam Rafeedie is a former Palestinian political prisoner, full-time researcher and lecturer at the Department of Social Sciences at Bethlehem University – Palestine. He previously worked as a part-time lecturer in Sociology and Cultural Studies at Birzeit University. He holds two master’s degrees from Birzeit University, one in sociology for his thesis on the changes in the status of women in contemporary Palestinian literature before and after Oslo, and the other in contemporary Arab studies.
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