Recently, the Christian Coalition held a rally in Washington DC to re-capture the “glory days” when it held considerable power in the 1990s Republican political arena. It proudly reiterated its staunch support of Israel and its opposition to any Palestinian state. But as a Palestinian-American Republican of the Christian faith, I found this display to be nothing short of shameful and hypocritical.
Fundamentalist Christian ministers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would have their congregations believe that if one does not stand by Israel, God would not forgive them. It is also believed that for Jesus Christ to return to Earth, support for Israel must be whole and unconditional. What Falwell, Robertson, and like-minded ministers don’t tell their parishioners is that they are forsaking their Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering under Israeli occupation.
The violence in the latest Palestinian Uprising for freedom has sadly claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 lives, overwhelmingly most of whom are Palestinian. Among them are Palestinian Christians. Many Palestinian homes have also been demolished by Caterpillar D9 bulldozers, and if the Christian Coalition thinks that Israeli guns and bulldozers are selective in their targets, they might want to consider bringing the next 700 Club show to the Palestinian territories.
The fact is that Palestinian Christians not only have been killed, but many others have been maimed and disabled for life by Israeli bullets. Christians have also suffered under the inhumane Israeli siege by not being able to leave their towns, go to their jobs, seek medical care, and attend schools. Churches have been fired on by Israeli anti-tank missiles, and at least one car carrying Catholic officials was fired on despite the waving of a Vatican flag.
What are some facts that everyday Americans should know about those they have forsaken? It often surprises people to know that Palestinian Christians are considered the “living stones” of Christianity since we are the direct descendants of the disciples of Jesus Christ. Further, Christians make up about 15% of the world’s Palestinian population. Even popular St. George, still a patron saint throughout much of Europe, was a Palestinian Christian.
Among the most fervent players in the battle against Israeli occupation have been Palestinian Christians. Let us not forget articulate Palestinian spokeswoman, Hanan Ashrawi, and world literary critic and Columbia University professor, Dr. Edward Said. There’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Michel Sabbah and Melkite Reverend and Author Elias Chacour. Among Palestinian revolutionary leaders, there are individuals like George Habash and Nayef Hawatmeh. And it should be noted that six parliament seats were allocated to the 70,000 Christians of the occupied territories during 1996 elections.
My intent is not to bring about a divide between Palestinian Muslims and Christians. After all, they have always fought side by side é both struggling for Palestinian liberation. A liberation of land, dignity, human rights, and security. Rather it is to demonstrate how an important segment of Palestinian society has been completely ignored throughout this conflict.
The Israeli PR machine has cleverly turned this whole situation into a religious conflict, to its credit. Islam is widely viewed as a religion for violent fanatics, which is far from the truth of this serene religion. But which side would the West understandably side with?
Falwell and Robertson are eloquent when talking about Christian values, but why are they siding with Israelis in this human liberation struggle? And where were they when the Israelis besieged one of Christianity’s holiest sites, the Church of the Nativity — the place of Jesus’s birth — earlier this year? Where were they a couple weeks ago when more than a hundred Palestinian Christians demonstrated against Israeli home demolitions in the town of Beit Sahour — the town where the Three Wise Men first saw the Star of Bethlehem?
Many American Christian Evangelical pastors find their basis of support of Israel in the Book of the Revelations which predicts doom of the present world, but Christ once said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” It seems that fulfilling prophecies while Palestinian Christians suffer under Israeli brutality is far more important than peace in the Holy Land.
Ultimately, this is a conflict between peoples not religions. But as the Christian Coalition abandons suffering Palestinian Christians, I wonder how well the Coalition members studied the psalms on hypocrisy?
Sherri Muzher, who holds a Jurist Doctor in International and Comparative Law, is a Palestinian-American activist and free lance journalist.