Palestinian Christians Dislike Occupation Shock

Haaretz carries an opinion piece on the current dispute within the Greek Orthodox church by Moshe Elad (“reserve colonel and Orientalist who studies Palestinian society” according to his profile – the paper does not tell us that he is also a former military governor of Jenin and Bethlehem) entitled “The Palestinization of the church”:

Greek Orthodox Patriarch Irineos, “suspected” by the Palestinian Authority of leasing church lands to Israelis in the Jaffa Gate area, is going to be deposed through a religious putsch initiated by a group of priests led by Atallah Hanna, a Palestinian.

I’ve discussed this already here and here – and I’m no fan of Hanna, a man cited more than once in Arab sources as defending suicide bombings.

Irineos did what was done by his predecessors – Deodorus, Benedictus and Timotheus. The Greek Orthodox Church, the largest and richest of the Christian churches in our region, owning properties valued in the tens of millions of dollars, has leased and sold quite a bit of property to Israelis since 1948. Among those properties are valuable real estate like Saint Simon in Jerusalem, a large part of the Katamonim, Liberty Bell Park and the apartment houses and hotels around it, parts of Mishkenot Yamin Moshe, land in Caesarea, land around St. George’s Church in Lod, land in Nazareth, Haifa and along the banks of the Kinneret. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live on these properties, which were leased for 99 years.

This is where Elad starts distorting the truth. All of those locations are in Israel proper. The land currently under dispute is in an Arab part of Jerusalem captured in 1967, and was bought by a shadowy group at a highly uncompetitive price. As Danny Rubenstein has argued in the same paper, the purchase appears to have been part of a (most likely government-funded) strategy to isolate Palestinian Jerusalem for the benefit of the Occupation. That’s why this purchase is so controversial, and why Irenios is so adamant he had nothing to do with it (although, bizarrely, Hanna has recently taken the line that the sale itself was not the problem, only the way it was handled).

Elad then goes on to mutter darkly about PA designs on the church:

…And since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority a decade ago, the PA has made efforts to penetrate the ranks of the church in order to prevent the transfer of property to Israeli hands.

What, the PA is not in favour of the church selling land to support the Occupation? How unsporting!

The Irineos case is evidence of the PLO’s success at enlisting even Palestinian churches in the cause of the PLO’s nationalist goals. Thanks to this “theological Tanzim,” the Christian churches in our region are going through a process of Arabization, localization and Palestinianization. Through “reeducation,” they are changing from churches with a universal character to churches with a local Arab character, meaning from religious institutions that are supposed to preach reconciliation and peace to institutions that have nationalist, pro-Palestinian positions. Under pressure from the PLO, the PA and certainly Hamas, Palestinian nationalism is being turned into the common denominator between Christian and non-Christian Palestinians.

“Theological Tanzim”? “reeducation”? Nice sinister terms, but what exactly do they signify? And why should we not take the view that “reconciliation and peace” go together with Palestinian national aspirations, rather than being opposed? You don’t usually see “reconciliation and peace” without justice, a term Elad prefers not to consider. I wonder if Elad has a similar dislike of Israel’s Jewish religious establishment making “pro-Israeli positions” rather than sticking to fluffy platitudes? And the Greek Orthodox church does not have a “universal character”: it has a Greek character, just as the Church of England has an English character.

Elad then turns to the history of the movement to give Palestinians a greater control over the local Orthodox church:

…What began in 1908 as a struggle to improve the socioeconomic standing of the Christian Orthodox in the Land of Israel, under the leadership of the Palestinian author Khalil El Sakakini, will have been turned in 2005 into a struggle by Mahmoud Abbas and the PA, via a “Christian theological Tanzim,” to end Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel.

By “Land of Israel” rather than just “Israel”, Elad means the West Bank and Gaza. So while the Orthodox church should preach “reconcilation and peace”, his own gospel is the aggressive territorial expansionism of “Greater Israel”.

This is obnoxious. Of course Palestinian Orthodox Christians object to living under Occupation, and they dislike the idea of their church hierarchy colluding in it. This has been the case for a long time; if Elad thinks it is due only to “reeducation” by the PA, then he’s a deluded fool as well as a hypocrite.

3 Responses

  1. […] More today. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)BBC Reports on Religious Revival in NE IndiaA […]

  2. […] to the downfall of the previous patriarch, Irineos, as I blogged on back in May (here, here, and here). Klein notes that: Irineos, still recognized as patriarch by Israel, has for now resisted World […]

  3. […] I blogged at the time (here, here, and here), Irenaeus claimed that the deal with the Israeli settlers had been made without his knowledge by […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *