By Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban
This is not the only Israeli attack on churches and mosques in occupied Palestine. Killing worshipers is a common criminal practice that terrorist Zionist groups have mastered for over 70 years in Palestine. Baruch Goldstein opened fire on unarmed Palestinian Muslims praying inside the Ibrahim Mosque; and Zionists have made a statute for him at the entrance to Al-Khalil (Hebron)
One day before the massacre perpetrated by the forces of terrorism against worshipers in Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church in the Al-Karada neighborhood in Baghdad, a similar terrorist attack was carried out by Jewish settlers who burned the Baptist Church on Prophets Street in occupied Jerusalem, after they burned a number of mosques as part of their attempts to Judaize Palestine. Zakaria al-Mashriqi, a leader in the church, said “right-wing Israeli settlers broke a number of windows of the two-story church and hurled Molotov cocktails inside it, completely burning the first floor.” The church was built in Jerusalem in 1897 and housed the Palestinian Bible College until 1948, when parishioners were pushed out by armed Jewish gangs during the violence accompanying the creation of the state of Israel.”
This is not the only Israeli attack on churches and mosques in occupied Palestine. Killing worshipers is a common criminal practice that terrorist Zionist groups have mastered for over 70 years in Palestine. Baruch Goldstein opened fire on unarmed Palestinian Muslims praying inside the Ibrahim Mosque; and Zionists have made a statute for him at the entrance to Al-Khalil (Hebron). Such crimes usually pass by without any condemnation on the part of those who claim responsibility for preserving coexistence among peoples and defending religious freedom.
With the strongest possible condemnation of the horrible crime committed in Our Lady of Salvation Church, one cannot compare the reaction to crimes against churches in Iraq and those muted responses to crimes committed by terrorist Zionists against Christians and their churches in occupied Palestine: In the second case, reactions are almost non-existent. I have not seen any media coverage or political condemnation of the crime committed by Jewish settlers against the Baptist Church in Jerusalem.
As a result of the massacres and displacement perpetrated against millions of Palestinians since the 1940s, the number of Christians dropped to unprecedented levels despite 14 centuries of tolerance and coexistence. Israel’s destabilizing of Lebanon led to the 1975-90 Civil War and the consequent violence which led to mass migration on the part of Christians from Lebanon. This is what has been happening in Iraq since 2003 where Western powers are destabilizing the country for objectives related to dominating the Middle East.
The crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians do not distinguish between Muslims and Christians: the martyrs and the prisoners are always Christians and Muslims. After days of burning the Baptist Church in Jerusalem, the settlers, protected by Israeli occupation troops, attacked the Prophet Yusuf tomb in Nablus. These Zionist crimes against Arab Christians became more ferocious since Bush’s war on Iraq and even more brutal since the publication of the recommendations of the Catholic Synod for the Christians of the East which condemned violence, terrorism and all forms of religious extremism, racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The Catholic Synod called on Christians to “adhere to their homeland,” stressing that “Christians are an essential component of the peoples of the region, and that they should be actively involved in the political, cultural and economic life of their countries in a context of mutual respect and continuous dialogue with people of other religions, particularly with their Muslim partners.”
Muslims, who have lived in tolerance with Christians and Jews for 14 centuries, agree with this approach. Israel is the only nation which prevents Muslims from worshiping in their mosques on Fridays and religious occasions and prevents Christians from going to their churches. Yet, no one in the “free” West, the defendant of human rights, dares condemn this brutal insult.
Zionism is a danger, not only to unarmed Palestinian civilians whom it humiliates, imprisons and assassinates in front of the cameras of the “free” world, but also to coexistence, tolerance and peace in the Middle East. Christ was born in Bethlehem in the “East.” Prophet Mohammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Saint Paul embarked on his mission from Damascus carrying Christ’s message and spreading Christianity all over the world. Who are those who want to empty the East of its Christians in the same way they emptied it of Jews? Who are those who attack mosques and churches to sow conflict between Muslims and Christians, something that never existed before the creation of Israel?
On these grounds, confronting Zionist crimes in Palestine is the duty of all the free people of the world, not only in defense of coexistence in Palestine alone, but in defense of coexistence, tolerance and peace in the Middle East and the world at large, in the same way that killing innocent worshipers in the Lady of Our Salvation Church in Baghdad is a condemned terrorist act, every transgression against any holy place, Muslim or Christian, and worshipers, Muslim or Christian, is a terrorist act which should be condemned by the whole world.
Keeping silent toward Israeli crimes has become a threat to the freedom, security and safety of people everywhere; so it is important to call for a correct reading of the link between the Baptist Church on Prophets Street in Jerusalem, the Prophet Yusuf tomb in Nablus and the Lady of Our Salvation Church in Karada, Baghdad.
Professor Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media adviser at the Syrian Presidency and former expatriates minister. She has also been a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She has a doctorate in English literature from Warwick University, London. She was the media spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.