This week, the US-based Episcopal Church said it would contemplate action against companies involved in the occupation of Palestine, especially in the construction of the separation wall Israel is building in the West Bank.
The wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, is viewed by the bulk of the international community as a land grab and an attempt to kill any prospect of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank.
Earlier, another American church, the Presbyterian Church, embarked on a campaign to against companies involved in the building of Jewish-only settlements in the occupied territories.
“We salute these two churches for taking these courageous steps to help the oppressed Palestinian people,” said archimandrite Ata Allah Hanna, spokesman of the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.
“We do hope and pray that other churches and groups will act similarly in fulfilment of Jesus Christ’s ideals of siding with the victims of oppression.”
He told Aljazeera.net the churches’ decisions were not made hastily or haphazardly.
Church groups went to Palestine
“They dispatched their representatives to Palestine who saw the enormity of Israeli repression and persecution. It is imperative to point out that no real Christian can accept, condone or ignore the colossal crimes Israel is committing in this holy land.”
Some Jewish leaders have denounced the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches’ attitudes towards its barrier.
“There is a certain moral blindness here that is very hard for me to understand,” Rabbi Erec Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, was quoted as saying on Friday.
“There is no parallel pressure on the Palestinians. That is unfair,” said Yoffie, who has been convincing the leaders of the Presbyterian Church to revoke its campaign.
Responding to the claims of a Jewish leader that the campaign was motivated by anti-semitism, Ikrima Sabri, the mufti of Palestine, said:
“These rabbis are with Israel, right or wrong,” he said.
“They want the world to turn a blind eye to the slow-motion holocaust Israel is carrying out against five million defenceless and helpless human beings whose fault is their enduring yearning for freedom from Jewish tyranny.”
Some have accussed the church
Sabri said he would welcome any American or European church leaders in Palestine so they would see for themselves the “indescribable reality of Israeli persecution of our people”.
“Let them come to the Holy Land and see the horrendous crimes American taxpayers are made to finance and perpetuate,” he said.
Sabri challenged pro-Israeli fundamentalist evangelical leaders in America to be faithful to the teachings of Jesus.
“I want to ask them: Would Jesus have condoned the demolition of innocent people’s homes? Would he have condoned the wanton destruction of farms, orchards, vineyards, roads, businesses and environment? Would Jesus have condoned this pornographic oppression Israel is practising against our people?”
Hanna also called on Christian leaders not to be intimidated by the charges of anti-Semitism.
“The real anti-Semitism is the wicked crimes Israel is committing here. Real Christians should not abet or support these crimes, either directly or indirectly.”
“Let them come to the Holy Land and see the horrendous crimes American taxpayers are made to finance and perpetuate”
Israel enjoys overwhelming support among millions of evangelical Christians in the United States who are allied with the Republican party and could decide if George Bush will be re-elected or not.
The evangelicals follow a religious doctrine that stipulates that Jews are God’s ethnic people while Christians are the Almighty’s spiritual people.
They also believe that Israel’s actions are mandated and sanctioned by God and that any criticism or opposition to Israeli policies is inconsistent with the Divine’s will.
However, during the past few years, some non-evangelical Protestant denominations challenged the evangelical stance on Israel, dismissing it as incompatible with the ideals of peace and justice as preached by Jesus.
Some of these churches, such as the Quakers, have dispatched peacemakers and observers to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to monitor the persecution meted out by the Israeli occupation army and paramilitary Jewish settlers.
Last week, Israeli settlers attacked and severely beat two Christian peace activists who were escorting Palestinian children to their school south of Hebron. The Israeli army has not apprehended the attackers.