By Fr. Paul Hansen, C.Ss.R.
For the past two weeks and a bit I have been communicating almost daily with Palestine. As many of you know, I was asked by the CRC to represent them on an Ecumenical Kairos Led Delegation to Palestine eighteen months ago. During that time I met with many families throughout the West Bank, politicians, Church leaders, the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Now we are, at least for the moment, experiencing a Cease Fire between Hamas and Israel. During that time I lived with the others in Bethlehem – a walled city having daily to pass in and out through gates manned by Israeli soldiers. Yes by soldiers in an Occupied Land.
We have now a pause after 11 days or so of fighting. What comes next? If the same old, same old that has been happening in varied forms since 1948 then anticipate another flare up in four or five years.
Balfour Declaration – In 1917 the British Government issued the public statement – the Balfour Declaration. At first this was announcing support for the establishment of a “National home for the Jewish People in Palestine.” Palestine then was an Ottoman Empire region with a small minority of a Jewish population. After the First World War the British ruled Palestine from 1918 until 1947. They then handed Palestine to the United Nations and withdrew their forces and encouraged their citizens to move out. The UN then took over and created a political reality for the Jews and the Palestinians.
NAKBA – In 1948 May 15th Zionist militias invaded Palestine and expelled tens of thousands of people from their homeland. Seven hundred thousand Palestinians were driven out. There are a few translations for the word NAKBA, I prefer the translation Catastrophe. It was the mass expulsion of Palestinian Arabs from British Mandate Palestine during Israel’s creation 1947-49.
This is a very simplified attempt to create an easy context. But as we know nothing is easy when it comes to politics and money.
It is my opinion that nothing will change and this crazy insane shooting will continue unless we grapple with what I see as the fundamental problem.
With the Six Day War of 1967 Israel won East Jerusalem, West Bank, Golan Heights and elements of the southern desert bordering Egypt. The United Nations declared these lands to be Occupied and not belonging to Israel. Such is the case to this day. However many in Israel consider these lands are those promised by God to the Jewish people. “From the River to the Sea.”
Who Owns The Land
“Land will not be sold absolutely,
for the land belongs to me,
and you are only strangers and guests of mine.”
Years ago when in Rome I asked a scripture scholar about land and ownership from a biblical perspective. His response was very interesting given the history of Israel and the promised land comments. “God can give land to no one.”
This reminded me, being a Canadian, of the Doctrine of Discovery. What is this doctrine? The Doctrine of Discovery is a principle of international law dating from the late 15th century. It has its roots in a papal decree issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1452 that specifically sanctioned and promoted the conquest, colonization and exploitation of Non-Christian territories and peoples.
That is why the Indigenous peoples of the Americas wish that the present pope would formally negate this doctrine from the books. Pope Francis has commented on it but not formally revoked the doctrine.
From the perspective of the Palestinians, their lands are being occupied and they are beginning to be seen as living in an Apartheid State. They have little to no political rights and their lands are being taken over by Settlers financed in part by Christian Zionists from the North of the Americas. Palestinian olive groves and farms are being destroyed and in East Jerusalem their houses at the moment are being destroyed and the people are being thrown out and are now homeless.
Every Tuesday and Thursday I participate in an hour on Zoom with folks hearing the struggles of the Palestinian people and praying with the Anglican priest Naim Ateek founder of Sabeel and the Palestinian Liberation Theology.
Church leaders in Palestine are calling out for support and prayers. If the situation does not receive a just resolution I, and many others in Palestine, fear for a potential devastating War.
We have all seen in the daily News broadcasts of the destruction that has happened in Gaza with so many children and women having been killed. Hospitals have been damaged and buildings in total rubble. Hundreds of people are homeless. This must not be allowed to continue in the future.
I ask all confreres to please hold the struggle of the Palestinian people, to hold them in your prayers and thoughts and do what you can to pressure the Canadian government to speak to this major tragedy.
Upon returning from Palestine 18 months ago, I was invited to join a NGO titled: “Catholics For Peace and Justice in the Holy Land.” We are doing our best here in Canada with gestures of solidarity and speaking to our government.
On Saturday, May 22nd, the group that went 18 months ago spent almost 2 hours on Zoom relating to folks in Palestine whom we met and who hosted us. The one word from them spoken loud and clear was NIGHTMARE. We are losing hope they said for a future for us and our children.
This little piece was just a thinking out loud not a formal thesis.
Tiktoker sings for Palestine