Christian leaders in Jerusalem condemn surge of violence in Holy Land

Palestine Update 542

Christian leaders in Jerusalem condemn surge of violence in Holy Land

The Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem decry recent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians and the occupation of the “Little Petra Hotel” by Jewish radicals, saying Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land should show mutual respect.

By Lisa Zengarini

The Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem have strongly condemned the “acts of indiscriminate violence” leading to violent clashes that have been occurring in various locations of the Holy Land over the past two weeks. The latest incident happened on 2 April, when Israeli security forces killed three Islamic Jihad militants during a raid in the West Bank. It came amid growing tensions ahead of the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan that has seen a surge of violence, leaving over 12 people dead and many wounded. In the same period last year clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem led to 11 days of devastating conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas. In a statement released on April 2, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem expressed their condolences to the families of the victims, offering prayers and their closeness to them.

Risk of escalation
The Christian leaders expressed concern that tensions might “continue to increase during the rare confluence of major religious festivals among the three Abrahamic faiths: Ramadan, Pesach, and Holy Week/Easter”.

The need to walk in the pathway of peace
They therefore called upon the faithful within each of these three traditions “to show forth the mutual respect and care for one’s neighbor that is central to the teachings of each” of them”. The statement also appealed to governmental authorities “to exercise policies of religious tolerance, restraint of force, and de-escalation of conflict—and we commend them to the extent that they have already done so”.

“In these coming weeks that are sacred to our respective religious traditions, we encourage all people of good faith to walk in the pathway of peace that is so central to the symbolism of Jerusalem, “the City of Peace.” In this way, we can be true witnesses to the world of the common vision of Peace/ Shalom/Salaam that is enshrined within the heart of our separate but intertwined religious beliefs.”

The dispute over the Little Petra Hotel
On the same day the Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem issued another statement condemning the recent forceful occupation of the ‘Little Petra Hotel’ by the Jewish radical group ‘Ateret Cohanim’. The ownership of this building, located near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, has been disputed in Israeli courts after it was sold by the former Greek-Orthodox patriarch, Irenaeus I, in a controversial agreement signed in 2004. The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have repeatedly warned “against the illegitimate actions of extremists, carried out with intimidation and violence”.

Coercion and violence cannot lead to peace
In their statement, they said that by forcibly occupying the property of the Greek Orthodox Church ‘Ateret Cohanim’ activists committed a criminal trespass and are behaving “as if they are above the law”, remarking that the ‘Little Petra Hotel’ is an important part of the Christian heritage of Jerusalem. The Christian leaders argued that the Judaization of Jerusalem will only lead to instability and tension. “Acts of coercion and violence cannot lead to peace”, they said.

Harvard Law School ‘apartheid’ report leaves Israel’s defenders speechless
Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) lately issued a report that finds Israel’s treatment of Palestinians on the West Bank amounts to the crime of apartheid. The study, IHRC-Addameer-Submission-to-HRC-COI-Apartheid-in-WB.pdf came out on February 28 in the wake of five longer, wider-ranging, apartheid reports published since 2020 – and just before the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories published another apartheid report on March 21.

Prepared by the law school’s human rights clinic in partnership with Ramallah-based Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, the report was released without fanfare and received minimal press coverage. And it has, so far, drawn no public condemnation by the Israel lobby. The state of Israel reacted only with a perfunctory, non-substantive statement by its UN ambassador, Gilad Erdan, that “those who wrote the report on behalf of Harvard . . . decided to delegitimize the Jewish state because of their antisemitic views.”

Although only 22 pages long, the report includes 130 footnotes that deftly back up the text and let readers drill down further. The narrow focus shines a searching light on the customized legal instruments and processes implemented since 1967 to deprive West Bank Palestinians of their human, civil and political rights.

The international community invalidates its purported support for Palestine
A recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) places Israel in 10th place when it comes to the share of global arms exports from 2017 to 2021, with its primary recipients being India, Azerbaijan and Vietnam. Israel placed 14th in arms imports, its main suppliers being the US, Germany and Italy. The statistics indicate a 19 per cent increase over the period between 2012 and 2016.The US supplied 92 per cent of Israel’s arms imports from 2017 to 2021, including military aircraft and guided precision weapons. SIPRI’s report notes that the F-35 combat aircraft “has since 2018 been used in air strikes on targets in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria,” while also considered “a key component of Israel’s capacity to attack targets in Iran.”

 A report by The New York Times in January this year stated that the Indian government had purchased Israel’s Pegasus spyware back in 2017 as part of a $2 billion deal which occurred when Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, made his first visit to the settler-colonial entity. The same can be attributed to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which made the acquisition in 2019. According to The New York Times Magazine, Israel is strategizing its surveillance systems in the way it does weapons, making Pegasus “a key component of its national security strategy” and also used as leverage in securing Arab countries’ normalization of Israel and the Abraham Accords.

In view of arms exports and Israel’s prominence, the international community’s professed support for Palestine is invalidated. With Israel’s security narrative playing a major and profitable role in securing diplomatic support from the international community, not only is Palestine marginalised, but the arms deals with Israel clearly show complicity in the colonial process. Which begs the question – why is the international community still pretending to support Palestine when it is participating in practical ways to eliminate what is left of Palestinian territory?

During Ramadan, Israel Seems to Relish Attacking Palestinians
Starting on Saturday, April 2, hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide embarked on Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, celebrated by consuming no food or water from sunrise to sunset. But for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, celebrating this highest of holidays can only be done through immense difficulties.

Surrounded by towering walls of barbed wire, the people of Gaza live every day enclosed in what many have referred to as “the world’s largest open-air prison.” Since the illegal Israeli blockade in June 2010, which prevents Gazans from leaving the city and prevents any international support from arriving there, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has grown severe. Half of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are children, all of whom are subjected to Israel’s imprisonment; 38 percent of Gazans live in poverty, 54 percent are food insecure; and 35 percent of Gaza’s farmland is totally or partially inaccessible due to the occupation. And Israel doesn’t let up for Ramadan.

During Ramadan in 2014, the occupation dropped two hundred eighty bombs on the Gazan population, primarily in residential areas, killing over five hundred children. The killings do not stop for prayer. Unlike in Israel, there is no Iron Dome, Israel’s all-weather air defense force (heavily paid for by US taxpayer dollars) to protect the people of Gaza. At a time when the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, and children’s laughs should have filled the streets at night, they were instead paraded by the sounds of death. Since then, Israel has steadily cracked down on all forms of Palestinian Muslim worship.

Hamas: Palestinian intifada against occupation “ongoing”
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem has said that the growing resistance operations across the occupied Palestinian territories confirm that the Palestinian youths are involved in an ongoing intifada (uprising) against the Israeli occupation state. “Such escalating operations, like the one that happened at dawn in the occupied West Bank, reflect the occupation army’s failure to prevent the Palestinians from continuing their resistance despite assassinations and arrests.” Palestinian resistance operations are “a natural response to the occupation and its aggressive practices that target the Palestinian land and holy sites.” The Hebrew news website, Ynet, reported that Palestinian gunmen opened fire at dawn today towards an Israeli settlement in southern Tulkarem. During the past two weeks, 11 Israelis had been killed in resistance operations in the cities of Beersheba, Hadera and Bnei Brak.