For Netanyahu and Trump, Palestinian Christians are only pawns for political gain

We are an integral part of the Palestinian people, yet we are virtually invisible for those in the White House who claim to care about Christianity.

By Fr. Emmanuelle Awwad

A photo taken near the ruins of the Saint Barbara Church in the West Bank village of Aboud. (Bukvoed/CC-BY-4.0)
A photo taken near the ruins of the shrine of Saint Barbara in the West Bank village of Aboud. (Bukvoed/CC-BY-4.0)

When Israel barred Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting Palestine last week, it was a clear attempt to keep the congresswomen from witnessing the impacts of military occupation for themselves. This decision, however, also revealed the extent to which the very leaders who claim to care about Christians in the Middle East are willing to weaponize religion.

I was supposed to meet with the congressional delegation. My plan was to introduce them to the reality of my people, and particularly the Christian Palestinian community, by telling them about Aboud, the village I have been serving for over a decade. I was hoping that our village could symbolize not only the hardships of life under military occupation, but also a message of hope for the prospects of peace through the fulfillment of the rights of everyone, including the right for Palestine to be free.

Aboud is located around 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) northwest of Jerusalem and has a population of around 2,000 people. I serve in a church that has had uninterrupted services since the year 332 AD. The Church of Saint Mary was built at the same time as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Historically, Aboud had around nine churches and monasteries, including the shrine of Saint Barbara, which dates back to the fifth century and was blown up by the Israeli army in 2002.

We are a village full of history yet almost no pilgrims or tourists visit us. The fact that Aboud was part of the path taken by the Holy Family from Jerusalem to Nazareth doesn’t seem to impress those in charge of making touristic packages. Instead of having a responsible and ethical pilgrimage to the Holy Land, including engaging with the local population, visitors prefer to tour stones without getting to appreciate the traditions and customs of those who have been taking care of those places for centuries.

Three settlements, Halamish, Beit Aryeh, and Ofarim, have been built on our village’s land. The existence of these Jewish-only settlements has become part of the daily nightmare that our people must endure. Aboud, known historically as the “City of Flowers,” once had enough water to survive on its own. Today, its main water resources are under Israeli control, and mostly serve the Israeli settlements nearby. Some of our villagers have access to their own water only if they buy it from an Israeli company.

Aboud has been deprived of developing almost 12,000 dunam of land (2,956 acres) due to restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation. In other words, there are only 2,000 dunams, or 608 acres, available for development. This has dealt a major blow to our local economic and housing needs. Young people today can’t find affordable places to live, and many are leaving our village.

 

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While some prefer to talk about Christians leaving this region, we have chosen to set an example of resilience by doing everything possible to stay on our land. That is why, with the initiative of our own community, we are developing housing and tourist plans with one main goal in mind: to keep a strong and vibrant Christian presence in the birthplace of Christianity.

In this context, we can understand why neither President Trump nor Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted the congressional delegation to visit Palestine. It is not only the reality of the occupation that they did not want Tlaib and Omar to see, but particularly how it affects Palestinian Christians. We are an integral part of the Palestinian people, yet we are virtually invisible for those in the White House who claim to care about Christianity.

When they talk about “Christianity,” they seem to be reading from a different Bible: we talk about a God of love and compassion, while what we mainly hear from them is about hatred and the political use of religion. Our region knows exactly what happens when holy books are used to justify crimes.

On Dec. 16 and 17 we will be celebrating – once again without much fanfare, as we have done for centuries – the feast of Saint Barbara, one of the most important pre-Christmas celebrations in the Holy Land. Our families will be celebrating an ancient festival that very few get to see simply because places like Aboud, and others such as Burqin, Taybeh, Jifna and even Nablus and Jericho, are rarely visited by foreign Christian tourists.

We open our arms to Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, as well as other members of Congress, to join us for the celebration of Saint Barbara. Here they will meet a proud people that have carried on their traditions for generations and will continue to do so. All we are asking for is actions that will help us achieve what any human being wants: to live in dignity, freedom, justice and peace.

Fr. Emmanuelle Awwad is the parish priest of the Palestinian village of Aboud.

15 responses to “What would Israelis do if Palestinians disappeared overnight?”

  1. Duh says:

    Israel gets a free genocide without having to commit it. They’ll blitzkrieg Jordan wondering if that’ll work twice.

  2. carmen says:

    They kill palestinians to keep from killing each other. Once that’s done, they’ll turn on each other with a vengeance.

    • duh says:

      I don’t know if Jewish Israelis would fight a civil war amongst themselves but it’s likely there would be minor upheavals (maybe some violent protests here and there) the unity against the Palestinians is now covering up.

  3. Lewis from Afula says:

    These people are JORDANIANS that have simply unilaterally re-named themselves for tactical reasons.
    Therefore, they CANNOT disappear – because they NEVER actually appeared in the 1st place !

    • Rivka Koen says:

      At first I read this as “removed themselves for tactical reasons.” I’m laughing now because this is probably what Lewis would say if this actually happened.

    • carmen says:

      @Lewis – keyboard screaming is the tactic used by people who aren’t telling the truth. Not a good look honey. Just like the more you tell this lie doesn’t make it the true.

    • duh says:

      It would be an interesting plot twist if Jewish Israelis got collective amnesia, then found out they did in fact expel every non-Jewish person from Mandate Palestine. Honestly, the basic idea of the novel is too clever for its own good. Like we need another narrative where Zionists get what they’re after with no blood on their hands.

  4. Firentis says:

    It’s an interesting premise. The truth is that if all the Arabs just magically disappeared there would be a vast celebration. The conflict would be over and all the land would be ours. We could cut the military budget by a huge amount. People would have to do less military service and less reserve duty. The prices for housing would drop because there would suddenly be an extra several hundred thousand apartments unoccupied. The government would seize all the property and would sell it off. Ideally it would use the money generated to vastly improve infrastructure. The towns/villages would be renamed and Jews would move in. Some places would probably be bulldozed and nature would be allowed to take them over. All those beautiful hills in Judea and Samaria would become national parks used for hiking and picnics. There would be much more tourism as well once there are fewer possible risks. Israel could host tens of millions of tourists yearly.

    What would the downside be? Several million fewer consumers buying products would mean that local manufacturers would take a hit. There would be shortages in some professions – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, but also the hospitals would have less patients. I suppose we would have to import doctors and nurses from elsewhere – either Eastern Europe or India. There would probably be shortages in other professions too, like construction, which would have to be filled by importing labor.

    Politically the right-wing would collapse into numerous camps with secular and religious groups within the right-wing splitting on issues of religion/state. I would guess that it would be possible to pass laws promoting a separation of religion/state because absent the need to shore up maximalist territorial demands much of the right would no longer be beholden to the Haredim on issues of religion/state. And also because it would be much easier to form a government with the disappearance of the Arab parties.

    Overall it would probably take a couple of years to adjust. After that all that will remain would be an annual celebration of the miracle of the disappearing Arabs, perhaps with some mixed feelings if the Druze were to disappear as well.

    • duh says:

      “After that all that will remain would be an annual celebration of the miracle of the disappearing Arabs”

      I guess you’ve given up on denying the political movement known as Zionism was always bent on ethnic cleansing. And way to support my point above.

      • Firentis says:

        If the Arabs were to magically disappear, the scenario laid out in the article, is an expression of the author’s Zionist desire for ethnic cleansing?

        • duh says:

          No and I think it should be obvious how that’s a dumb question. You were discussing how Jewish Israelis would react in real-life to a fictional scenario. The sentiment you described clearly doesn’t reflect on the author’s motivation for writing the novel.

    • Ben says:

      You should get together with Itshak and The Great Rav Kanievski and other magical thinkers and have a “let’s play my favorite supremacist fantasy” party.

      • Firentis says:

        Did you read the article?

        • Ben says:

          Yes, but David and I also read what you wrote here and the tone you wrote it in, and we have also read what you have written in several previous posts. Which with all due respect I would call not so much magical realism as cold unrealism with massive contempt. A different genre. Then there is Itshak. And The Amazing Kanievski and his magic act. So consider this a meta-analysis?