( Old Palestinian Church at Yafa port)
After the unfortunate comments last week by Pope Benedict regarding his views ( or not) of Islam, things did not bode well for either Muslims or Christians.
The Pope should have known better, and perhaps ought to follow in the steps of his predecessor Pope John Paul II who was very much beloved by Christians, Muslims and Jews for his tireless work to promote dialogue and understandings between religions and nations.
Strangely and of all people around the globe some Palestinian Muslims decided to burn and destroy their fellow Palestinian churches and property!
Why! Perhaps we can call it stupidity, act of extremism and severe case of ignorance or actually all of these things.
Some Muslims who protested the Pope’s words,have proven his words to be true that they are “ violent creatures” that do not know any other way to express disagreement or discontent but only through violent means!
Aside of the validity of the Pope's remarks, which I find highly disrespectful to Muslims,let alone invalid, what’s more disrespectful, however, was the actions taken by some Muslims in torching down Christian properties in Palestine.
I find it abhorring and quite embarrassing to Palestinians and Muslims in general that Palestinians Christians came under assault, which to me represent an act of betrayal and a stab in the back.
( The late Edward Said throws a stone at the Israeli side of the border in Lebanon)
Palestinians Christians happened to be at the forefront of struggle and sacrifice for Palestinian rights and the quest for Freedom and independence.
People like world-renowned intellectual the late Edward Said who made the Palestinian cause an international issue in the academic world,and whose work inspired generations of Palestinians as well as millions of people around the world, and whose gallantry had lent itself to great many men empowering them unafraid.
Also Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna, one of the greatest religious leaders In Palestine today, an ardent Palestinian patriot who defended both Muslims and Christians against repeated Israeli violations, and suffered indignation and many arrests by the Israeli authorities for his patriotic zeal.
Here in the US, I am fortunate to know great many Christian Palestinian colleagues, friends and brothers. Men like Ray Hanania a great friend and a mentor who tirelessly worked for his Palestinians identity and cause since the early seventies and who pioneered Arab American journalism in Chicago and in the country.
My friend and professor Mazen Qmsiyeh who not only dedicate a great deal of his time to work for Palestinian freedom for both Muslims and Christians,. But also suffered professionally as a result of his work. His work and devotion continues to inspire so many people for his exemplary dedication
Palestinian poet, author, and playwrite and best friend, Natalie Handal, who lives and breathes Palestinian issues personally and professionally and whose thoughts I find very inspiring and touching every time we talk and in her deep soul I often found insights to issues of identity and exile I wrestled with over the years. for that I am deeply indebted
( Natalie Handal on a cover of her latest CD, of Arabic Musical sound and her poetry)
Through this forum, I would like to publicly and deeply apologize to my friends and to the rest of the Palestinian Christians for the transgression committed against them and their property and churches in the Palestinian areas.
This crime I am sure does not represent the feelings of the general Palestinian public or authorities. The actions of a few do not represent the will and feelings of the whole.
It would be the same thing if Christians started burning down mosques and hunt for Muslims to kill them because Bin Laden killed Christians or as he often does when preaching of hatred and terrorism!
However, one must take a hard look at the reasons behind such acts of self-destruction, and I am not talking about the Pope’s remarks.
*The man in the prison
The way I see some of the Palestinian people behavior in West Bank and Gaza, is like a grown man who was abused as a child, and have grown disturbed, and unstable because of injures and violations during his childhood.
He is a traumatized, unstable, disturbed, and often times resort to violent expressions of himself at the slightest provocation.
The cause for this man’s misery and state of insanity, is the Israeli occupation, in itself a violent enterprise, built on enslaving, humiliating and exploiting an entire segment of humanity.
(Father Atallah Hanna arrested by Israeli Police)
Over 900,000 Palestinian civilians went through the Israeli prison system in the past 30 years according to official Palestinian figures. Israeli prison system tortured, humiliated, and destroyed the lives of Palestinians who were entangled by its web of violence.
After the prison experience, the Palestinian leaves bitter, unstable, injured, his manhood shaken, his humanity taken way, and then let loose in the society to either heal on his own or stay traumatized forever by the prison experience.
Generations of Palestinians went without meaningful education because of long prison terms and constant arrests.
For such man, violence becomes the only expression he knows to express his views. He was victimized before but helpless in prison shackles, but now he is provoked and insulted, but now without the shackles so he feels free to strike back with the only way he knows best. Which is violence.
Violence restores his lost confidence and the gun becomes the symbol of his lost manhood.
Unfortunately he directs his expected act of violence at harmless holy sites belonging to people who share him his own identity, nationality and language and above all the misery of being themselves occupied and victims of the same executioner
( The late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said)
The behavior of the late Yaser Arafat and now Mahmoud Abbas’s men did not help either, they too became abusers of the Palestinian people, often times behaving like Mafia bosses, thugs and sheer criminals instead of Politicians or statesmen.
Muslims should raise funds to repair Churches
This, however, does not justify attacking Christian places of worship, and therefore Muslims should help in raising funds to repair the damage incurred by those attacks.
This should represent a token of solidarity between Christian and Muslim Palestinians.
I call on Muslim religious leaders in the US especially in Chicago to reach out to Christian Palestinian religious leaders and work together to repair those damaged churches and repair the souls too.