Extremism has led to the most violent year in the Holy Land since 2005. The following article was published in the September-October 2023 issue of NewsNotes.
In December 2022, the Knesset returned Benjamin Netanyahu to power as Israel’s Prime Minister after his 2021 ousting due to corruption charges. Netanyahu’s government has pledged to prioritize settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories and the annexed East Jerusalem. This has led to accelerated violent attacks on Palestinians, home demolitions and evictions, and desecrations of Christian and Muslim holy sites.
Incidences against Christians include vandalism at the Cenacle Convent and a cemetery in the Old City of Jerusalem. Jonathan Kuttab (a Palestinian Christian and a Human Rights lawyer) said about these acts, “Attacks by religious fanatics on places of worship and individuals of another religion are… despicable. They go beyond racism and discrimination in that they invoke the name of God in justifying bitter hatreds and hostilities against entire communities. Those performing the attacks do so with zeal, venom, and a feeling that they are serving God. In a frightening incident recently, Jewish fanatics attacked Stella Maris Monastery in Haifa, claiming it is a Jewish holy site.” Stella Maris Monastery is a Catholic monastery belonging to the Religious Order of Discalced Carmelites.
Moreover, there has been an increased clamp down on access to worship for Christian and Muslim worshippers. On Holy Saturday, only 1,800 Christians were allowed to worship at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, down from the high of 11,000. On August 18, Israeli Police prevented thousands of Christians from reaching Mount Tabor to mark the Feast of the Transfiguration for the second consecutive year.
The Israeli government proposed incorporating the Mount of Olives into its national park plan, thereby placing it under control of the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority. This could deprive Christian denominations of holy sites held by the Armenian and Greek Orthodox Patriarchates, the Catholic Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, and the Russian Orthodox Church. The site holds immense spiritual significance for Christians globally.
Meanwhile, more than 200 Palestinians and nearly 30 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of 2023, the deadliest year since 2005. In the town of Huwara, hundreds of Israelis attacked Palestinians with a violence so brutal that the Israeli military commander for the West Bank called it a “pogrom.” A pogrom is a violent mob attack approved or condoned by authorities against persons and property of a religious, racial, or national minority. According to CNN, the commander said the Israel Defense Forces were not prepared to prevent rioters from setting fire to Palestinian homes and businesses or from blocking emergency responders.
Recently, the world witnessed a show of military collective punishment when Israeli forces invaded Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank in the middle of the night. The New York Times reports that Israel cordoned off the refugee camp in Jenin, pummeled it from the air and ground and destroyed crucial infrastructure for water and electricity. Since 2022, Jenin has endured near-daily incursions by Israeli forces.
In May 2022, an Israeli officer killed a Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abul Akleh, in Jenin. Since then, there has been no accountability for her death.
Rep. Andre Carson re-introduced the Justice for Shireen Act in Congress (H.R.3477) to identify individuals and entities who carried out the attack, to identify any U.S. defense materials, funds, or services implicated, and to provide any relevant unredacted report.
Rep. Betty McCullum introduced the (H.R.3103) to protect the Palestinians arbitrarily arrested and detained in Israeli military prisons without trial, including children. The bill ensures that Israel does not use U.S. funds to commit human rights violations in the West Bank.
The United States gives $3.8 billion to Israel in military support alone. Support for Palestinians in the form of $75 million in food assistance is being obstructed by Rep. Michael McCaul and Sen. James Risch, despite the appropriations already being passed in Congress’ 2023 budget.
Faith in action:
Ask Congress to support the legilsation mentioned in this aricle
Ask for the release of refugee food assistance funds to Palestinian Refugees https://mogc.info/UNRWA
Photo of Shireen Abu Akleh via WikiMedia Commons