Ashrawi: “Israeli Violations Against Churches Are Attacks Aimed At All Palestinians”

Dr_Hanan_Ashrawi-e1519621632648Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) denounced the latest Israeli decision targeting churches and their property in occupied Jerusalem, and said that such violations not only target holy sites, but are attacks against all Palestinians.

She said that freezing church assets in occupied Jerusalem, and the illegal decision to impose taxes on church property, are very serious violations targeting holy sites in occupied Palestine.

“These churches and their lands have existed in the holy land centuries before the Israel occupied Palestine, including Jerusalem – The Palestinian identity and heritage include the oldest and contiguous Christian presence in the holy land,” Dr. Ashrawi added, “Israel is now violating international laws, and basic religious rights, in addition to violating the status quo of the holy sites.”




Why Pence should listen to Christians in the Middle East, not just in the Bible Belt

PALESTINIAN-RELIGION-CHRISTIANITYVice President Pence visited my home country of Jordan during his much-anticipated (and delayed) tour of the Middle East, including stops in Israel and Egypt. The trip is designed to draw attention to the plight of Christians in the region, a key concern for many evangelical supporters of President Trump.

I was born and raised in a Christian family in the Middle East, and as an adult, I continue to live out my faith by providing trauma counseling to refugees, including Muslims, Christians and those of various other beliefs. Given my own upbringing and my work with refugees, I’m deeply concerned about Christian persecution abroad. I believe Pence and the current administration have the chance to actually help the church in the Middle East.

Here are four ways Pence could use his visit to make a difference.

1. Acknowledge Palestinians’ connection to Jerusalem.

While the United States does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the Trump administration should do more to acknowledge that Palestinians — including both Christians and Muslims — have a historic connection to Jerusalem.


Palestinian Christians and Muslims living in the Holy Land. A Christmas Message to Vice-President Mike Pence

160714131551-17-mike-pence-0714-restricted-super-169Mr. Vice President:

As you celebrate Christmas with your family and listen to the gospel story of the birth of Jesus, I hope you will read and reflect on the following piece I wrote a few years back.

I want you to open your eyes to the situation facing Palestinian Christians and Muslims living in the Holy Land. And I want you to understand why the Arab Christian leadership in Palestine was so troubled by your blindness to their plight that they refused to meet with you.

Christmas: Then and Now

Two thousand years ago, Palestine was subject to a harsh occupation, much as it is today. In some ways, though, the conditions back then allowed the residents of occupied Palestine greater mobility than the current inhabitants of that land.

As we are told in the bible story, Joseph had to take his expectant wife from Nazareth, where they were living, to Bethlehem, their ancestral village, in order to fulfill a requirement imposed by the authorities to register as part of a nationwide census. Today, of course, all of that would be impossible.

In the first place no Palestinian originally from Bethlehem could ever have moved to Nazareth. The occupation and closure of the West Bank makes that sort of movement impossible. Furthermore, Israeli law prohibits an Arab from Nazareth from marrying a Bethlehemite and bringing their spouse across the Green Line to live with them in Israel.

Additionally, while thousands of Palestinians in Bethlehem, both Muslim and Christian, can see Jerusalem from their homes, they can not go to the Holy City to pray. And Arab Christians from Jerusalem, likewise, can not easily go the Christmas services in Bethlehem to pray alongside their co-religionists at the seasonal event.



Jewish and evangelical Americans are divided over plan to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

nikkiThe United Nations General Assembly isn’t alone in its lack of support for the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

On Thursday, the body overwhelmingly rejected the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The move is a rebuke of the administration’s decision that many have warned could undermine the peace negotiations Trump promised during his presidential campaign.

But some of the most vocal critics are closer to the issue.

Only 16 percent of Jewish Americans support moving the embassy to Jerusalem immediately, according to AJC’s 2017 Survey of American Jewish Opinion. Slightly more than a third — 36 percent — favor moving it “at a later date in conjunction with progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.” But a plurality — 44 percent — disagree with moving the embassy all together.

Nearly 170 Jewish studies scholars from American colleges and universities signed a statement expressing “dismay” at Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:

“Jerusalem is of immense religious and thus emotional significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. It is the focus of national aspirations for both Israelis and Palestinians. We hope one day to see a world in which all inhabitants of the land enjoy equal access to the city’s cultural and material resources. Today, unfortunately, that is not the case.

A declaration from the United States government that appears to endorse sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem adds insult to ongoing injury and is practically guaranteed to fan the flames of violence. We therefore call on the U.S. government to take immediate steps to de-escalate the tensions resulting from the President’s declaration and to clarify Palestinians’ legitimate stake in the future of Jerusalem.”




Christian and Muslim leaders boycott Mike Pence’s Holy Land visit


US vice-president Mike Pence’s mission to the Holy Land to defend its shrinking Christian communities has been torpedoed by the refusal of Christian and Muslim prelates and Palestinian leaders to meet him.

The boycott was ignited by outrage over US president Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6th. As this day is celebrated by Christians as the name day of St Nicholas, Mr Trump’s choice of date for his announcement was doubly insulting.

Christian and Muslim Arabs regard East Jerusalem as the occupied capital of a future Palestinian state, a position formally adopted by all 57 Muslim states at last Thursday’s summit in Istanbul. The US alone has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Instead of beginning his tour on Sunday in Jerusalem and Bethlehem as planned, Mr Pence is set to arrive in Cairo next Wednesday for a brief meeting with president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before flying to Jerusalem to meet Israeli president Reuven Rivlin and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and to address Israel’s parliament. An evangelical Christian who urged Mr Trump to make his Jerusalem declaration, Mr Pence will be warmly welcomed by Israelis.

His stay in Cairo was curtailed when he was rebuffed by top Christian and Muslim clerics. Coptic pope Tawadros cancelled an audience with Mr Pence, arguing Mr Trump “did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people”. The pope heads the region’s largest Christian community, constituting 10 per cent of Egypt’s 93 million people.



Archaeologists expose Muslim-Jewish ‘dialogue’ in Jerusalem from 1,300 years ago

Seven-branched-Menorah-on-top-of-a-copper-vessel-fragment-1024x640Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave a scathing response Wednesday to United States President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel earlier that day.

Citing the city’s Muslim and Christian strongholds and historical ties, Abbas negated the Jewish state’s ancient claim on the capital, saying, “US President Trump’s decision tonight will not change the reality of the city of Jerusalem, nor will it give any legitimacy to Israel in this regard, because it is an Arab Christian and Muslim city, the capital of the eternal state of Palestine.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave a scathing response Wednesday to United States President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel earlier that day.

Citing the city’s Muslim and Christian strongholds and historical ties, Abbas negated the Jewish state’s ancient claim on the capital, saying, “US President Trump’s decision tonight will not change the reality of the city of Jerusalem, nor will it give any legitimacy to Israel in this regard, because it is an Arab Christian and Muslim city, the capital of the eternal state of Palestine.”

In remarks translated by Wafa, the Palestinian News & Info Agency, Abbas said, “Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine, is bigger and more ancient for its Arabic identity to be altered with a measure or a decision. The identity of Jerusalem and its history will not be forged.”

Indeed, Jerusalem’s Muslim identity was forged alongside the dawn of Islam. However, according to a pair of Israeli archaeologists, that identity was originally one of coexistence and tolerance. They say they have the 1,300-year-old archaeological evidence to prove it, and now they want to share it with the Muslim world.

Jerusalem-based doctoral students in archaeology Assaf Avraham, 38, and Peretz Reuven, 48, launched a crowdfunding campaign Wednesday to gather funds to continue their work in exposing a lesser-known period of Jerusalem history which, they argue, saw Jews and Muslims conducting “an inter-religious dialogue.”



Palestinian Christians, Muslims united: Archbishop


thumbs_b_c_95113cc317215e2d3a3bb97b79b03c6dThe image of a Palestinian Christian reading from his bible while the crowd of Muslim worshippers he stood among prostrated themselves on the ground, or Christian clergy joining their Muslim counterparts at the head of processions, have been widely shared during the past week of unrest over one of Jerusalem’s most important holy sites.

During more than a week of tension over new Israeli restrictions on access to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna has been among the most vociferous in his support of unity between Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

“It is our duty as Palestinian Christians and Muslims to remain united against Israel’s greed, which targets all of us,” he told Anadolu Agency as he mingled with the crowds gathered for prayers outside the walls of Islam’s third-holiest mosque.

“As everyone knows the Palestinian people are united against the occupation and racism,” he said.

Palestinian Muslims have refused to enter the mosque because of new metal detectors installed at its entrances following a gun attack that killed two Israeli police officers and three Palestinians.

Israel claimed the measures were a response to the attack but Palestinians see the measures as an attempt to expand Israeli control over the site, which according to historical agreements should remain under Muslim management and reserved for Muslim worship, though non-Muslims can visit. The mosque is also revered by Jews, who call it the Temple Mount.

“The churches of Jerusalem declared their solidarity with Al-Aqsa Mosque and we are here today to affirm our solidarity with our Muslim brothers,” the Archbishop said.