A few weeks ago, I attended a film presentation and discussion hosted by a local group, Caribbean Against Apartheid in Palestine (CAAP). The documentary film entitled, Our Story, is self-described as providing “a Palestinian perspective on the history of occupation and ethnic cleansing. The story of the Palestinian people’s NON-VIOLENT action against apartheid.”
From my perspective, it is a must-see documentary for all Barbadians interested in learning more about the Palestinian people. Their history, present, and future in this documentary are told by Dr Mustafa Barghouthi who was born in Jerusalem in 1954.
Dr Barghouthi was one of the founders (Oct 2001) of Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People, a programme that aims to protect Palestinians, including those engaged in non-violent protest, through the presence of international civilians to deter or at least bear witness to Israeli Defence Force and settler violence. He also serves as an Associate of the Oxford Research Group, a programme dedicated to developing effective methods for positive change on security issues through non-violent means.
In June 2002, Dr Barghouthi co-founded the Palestinian National Initiative and currently serves as its Secretary-General. The Initiative aims to develop mass non-violence and international solidarity as the preferred means of resisting the Israeli Occupation.
Dr Barghouthi points out: “If those who suffered during the Holocaust and died would come back to life, I am sure they will be today supportive of the Palestinian rights, because they would not accept injustice that they were also subjected to.”
The documentary, Our Story, gives us a clearer picture of what Palestinians face daily in the occupied territories and what he and the people with him are doing through non-violent means to end the occupation and atrocities.
I know too well that we are subjected to news reports almost completely devoid of any information that highlights non-violent actions against the Israeli Government. All we seem to be fed is that Palestinians are terrorists hell-bent on wiping Israel off the map. That is why discussions like those held by CAAP are important for the Barbadian public to get a better understanding.
I was pleased to see a cross-section of Barbadians there that night who interacted and asked questions. The featured speaker after the film was the grandson of a Palestinian refugee who eventually ended up settling in the Canary Islands. Alejandro Escamilla-Hadia spoke of his grandfather’s plight in the 1940’s as Palestinian lands were forcibly taken and Israel became a state.
The group CAAP was formed to highlight the apartheid policies of the Israeli Government. It also seeks to advocate for greater recognition of the Palestinian people. I expect that CAAP’s task will not be easy. The narrative here, for a very long time, is that Israel has every right to exist and whatever happens to the Palestinian people is of their own making.
This narrative tends to sidestep the issue of atrocities carried out by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people. This narrative is reinforced by persons like Pastor Flloyd N. Hall who also writes for Barbados TODAY. In his column His World Agenda of January 30, he writes under the title Jewish ownership is clear, “…Israel has the right to expand and develop the area as it sees fit. It actually belongs to the Israelis.”
This type of thinking as espoused by some Christians suggests that the state of Israel has a God-given right to do whatever it wants to the Palestinian people in order to maintain its status. This narrative and type of thinking are grossly inaccurate and my readings and research have led me to learn that there are many Christians themselves who do not support this idea of a God-given right to Palestinian lands.
For example, Dr Benjamin L. Corey writes “No, The Bible Doesn’t Command We ‘Stand With Israel’”. Dr Corey is a theological scholar, author, speaker, and blogger. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell and received his Doctor of Intercultural Studies from Fuller. In his article found on patheos.com, he writes: “When reporting or lamenting over the gross human rights violations and genocide by the modern state of Israel against the Palestinian people, many Christians immediately freak the heck out.”
He added: “In fact, I am often told that I am “not a Christian” because I dare criticize the state of Israel’s behaviour, as if blind support of a modern nation state were an obligation of being a true Christian.…God commands us to stand with Israel! But is that even true? Preachers will claim God commands we stand with Israel in order to be blessed, but that’s not what the Bible says.
“In Genesis 12:3, God is reported to have told Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” This was a promise to Abraham- neither biblical Israel nor modern Israel existed when this was written. It was a promise to Abraham as part of God’s covenant with him. The same preachers say, “Yes! It was a promise to Abraham and that extends to his descendants- Israel” but that’s not the whole story, either.
“The Bible actually teaches that “not all that descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Romans 9:6) and that a true descendant of Abraham is not ethnic but a matter of the heart (Romans 2:29). Israel as a nation state is not what the Bible talks about when it talks about Israel. The New Testament Israel is comprised of all those who accept the King of Israel: Jesus. The biblical prophets are the last people who would seem “pro-Israel” because they were constantly rebuking Israel for bad behaviour. And they didn’t hold back forceful language, either– some wrote that God utterly hated every expression of their religion because they were ignoring justice for the poor and marginalized.”
Dr Corey continued: “The Bible doesn’t command we blindly support people who are committing evil acts. This is a concept we seem to understand in day-to-day life, but all logic goes out the window when it comes to standing with Israel. Blindly supporting Israel would be like supporting a friend or family member regardless of their behaviour, and I see nothing in the Bible or the teachings of Jesus that suggests we are supposed to support those who do evil, as they do evil.
“Israel is an apartheid state where the indigenous people are oppressed and victims of untold daily discrimination and violence; a place where Christians have had to petition the government so that they can walk down the street without being spat upon, a place where Christian places of worship are routinely attacked, where Palestinian children are mercilessly oppressed and even slaughtered, and a nation that is consistently rebuked by the international community for human rights violations that would not be tolerated anywhere else in the world.”
It is interesting to note a comment to this article by a Palestinian Christian: “Thank you for the article. I can safely assume that my thanks are on behalf of all Palestinian Christians who have no place in the destructive eschatology of the Evangelicals. What is happening to us, the true descendants of the land, cannot be looked upon as collateral damage. The church of the Holy Land is quickly diminishing. 1400 years of Islamic rule did not do a fraction of the damage done in less than a 70 years of Israeli rule…”
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)