A Palestinian’s Plea to the British Prime Minister

A Palestinian’s Plea to the British Prime Minister

Palestinian theologian and pastor the Rev Alex Awad has been mentioned on this blog before.  I met him once a few years ago and he signed a book for me he had written that recounted the terrible events of the 1948 al-nakba through the lens of his own family…the book is a fantastic resource for a way in to understanding the Israeli-Palestinian ‘conflict’.

Alex has written an open letter to the British Prime Minister Theresa May and I am taking the liberty to post it here:

The Honorable Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:
 
I am a Palestinian who was born in Jerusalem in 1946 during the British Mandate over Palestine. During the first Arab-Israeli war in May 1948 I was two years old. My father, a civilian, was shot and killed in crossfire between the Zionist Haganah militias and the Jordanian army, leaving my mother to care for seven children. The oldest of my siblings was eleven and the youngest six months old. Soon after the death of my father, our neighborhood was taken over by the Israelis and we fled, becoming refugees. As I grew up, I began to ask questions about why my father was killed, what caused the Israel/Palestine conflict and what triggered all the suffering of millions of Palestinians and Jews in the last 100 years.
 
In time, I learned about the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate over Palestine. I discovered that in 1917, the British Foreign Secretary sent a letter, later called the Balfour Declaration, to Lord Rothschild and Zionist leaders, promising to support the creation of a homeland for the Jews in Palestine. After WWI, against the objections of my people, the British government colonized Palestine and made it possible for the Zionist movement to take over our homeland.
 
Your Honor, there is no way that your country can undo the tragic history of the last 100 years. All the wealth of Great Britain can’t compensate me and my fellow compatriots for the death, injury, loss of land and enormous suffering that came upon us and continue to bring pain to us due to the Balfour Declaration and other oppressive policies of your predecessors. I look back to the past only to remind you of the grave injustices that my people and I have endured, due partly to the United Kingdom’s past policies. I seek no apologies and no compensations. And as a Palestinian Christian, I offer you and the British people total pardon.
 
As I look to the future, I believe that your government can help to end to the Israel/Palestine conflict and bury the memory of the Balfour Declaration, and I call on you to have the courage and determination to do so.
 
Britain was among the first in creating this tragic conflict but shouldn’t be the last in taking positive steps to resolve it.
 
This year, which marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, your government can help Israelis and Palestinians begin to find the path to a just and genuine reconciliation.
Let 2017 be the year that Britain conducts its policy for Israel and Palestine independently of the influence and dictates of the United States.
 
A first step would be for Britain to recognize an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Once your government takes this courageous act, many reluctant European countries would be encouraged to follow suit. Already 138 countries including the Holy See recognize Palestinian statehood.
 
Your contribution to ending the Israel/Palestine conflict would not only save Israeli and Palestinian lives but could also usher in an era of peace and help to end bloody conflicts and acts of violence elsewhere in the Middle East and throughout the world.
 
Prime Minister, let Great Britain lead the way to peace under your brave and wise guidance.
 
Sincerely,
 
Rev. Dr. Alex Awad
Author, pastor, and retired missionary of the United Methodist Church
 
Alex Awad was born in Palestine and served there for decades as a missionary of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. Awad was the pastor of an international congregation at East Jerusalem Baptist Church, served as Professor, Dean of Students and Director of the Shepherd Society at Bethlehem Bible College, and is the author of two books: Palestinian Memories: The Story of a Palestinian Mother and Her People and Through the Eyes of the Victims: The Story of The Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Understanding a Mystery

Understanding a Mystery

Israel or Palestine – where is it heading?

A sermon by Richard Matcham based on Romans 11:25-36

“Lord I pray that the raw nerves and thin shells this topic will likely touch upon, will enlarge the capacity of us all to engage truthfully with the text and the world, and challenge us to be contentedly discontent with mystery, that we may be more loving to one another, and truly worship you in all your unsearchable and inscrutable ways.  Amen”

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone, on a topic that really interests you, and at the crucial point of insight, understanding and genuine learning, you hear the comment, “Ah, we can’t ever know that, it’s a mystery!”

We often deploy the “mystery card” because it seems to be a way of protecting our own limited understanding on a subject.

Take for example, the Trinity (you know what I mean)!

I’ve faced this situation quite a few times over the years, especially as a young Christian man in my mid-20’s, hungry to learn and know God.

“The Trinity,” we shout, “it’s a mystery.”  And with that mystical phrase, the conversation is closed, and genuine biblical understanding is shoved into the cul-de-sac of frustrated, genuine enquirers, where they stay until they learn to stop asking awkward questions!

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A Palestinian Catastrophe is a World Catastrophe

AlexLeading up to (yet) another anniversary of the ‘catastrophe’, or ‘Al-Nakba’, of the Palestinian people following the events prior and up to and since 15th May 1948, I will be posting excerpts highlighting this tragic situation from various angles.   I have taken my lead from the excellent book ‘Palestinian Memories by Palestinian theologian Alex Awad, Dean of Bethlehem Bible College and pastor of international East Jerusalem Baptist Church:

“Many Westerners view the Arab-Israeli conflict through distorted lenses, and not surprisingly, their understandings of the realities on the ground is influenced by blurred, false or partial information.

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Notably, numerous Christians in the United States and the West view the Arab-Israeli conflict from a perspective strongly influenced by popular sentiment relating to Biblical Israel and its place in the Promised Land and the way in which all of this relates to the political entity that is modern Israel. Pro-Israel groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and the powerful Jewish-American lobby, have also had a significant effect on both Christian and secular perceptions.

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These organizations influence – not control, but influence – many American institutions, including branches of government and the media. In addition, Hollywood has contributed much towards shaping Westerners’ distorted perceptions of the Middle East, with many popular films advancing the very worst stereotyped, comic-book portrayals of Arabs, be it the murderous terrorist, the “primitive” nomad, or the depraved oil sheik.

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The events of September 11, 2001 have also resulted, perhaps understandably, in even greater polarization between the Arab and Western worlds.  All these factors, combined with the tragic history of the Jews in Europe over the centuries, culminating in the Halocaust, have molded the lenses through which Westerners usually view the Arab-Israeli conflict. The purpose of [my writing], then, is to offer an overview of the land, its history and its people, one that might challenge and alter the prevailing assumptions with which the conflict is commonly seen.”

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I commend the book to you. alex_awad_2

Al-Nakba Horror – Remembering 1948 and the ‘Trail of Tears’

nakbaMay 15th, 1948 – The Palestinian Catastrophe, known as ‘Al-Nakba’, also known as Israeli Independence Day.  One date, one land, two peoples, opposite ends of the spectrum – one people in deep trauma, the other in deep joy, a joy which is certainly tinged with a darkness of soul that must be continually pushed down and ignored.  It won’t stay there forever.  This anniversary is coming round again, and it is right to remind ourselves what is going on, to stand up for justice, for people, for God’s sake.

Alex Awad:

“Eighty percent of the Palestinians living in Palestine (what is now Israel – excluding the West Bank) fled out of fear or were forcibly evicted by the Zionists.  Most of those who were not pushed out lived on the periphery of the Zionist military action, particularly in the Galilee, and thus managed to stay put, primarily because a cease-fire was signed before they could be evicted.  It was essential, however, for the Zionists to prohibit those who left from returning to their homes, despite international pressure and UN resolutions, and despite Israel’s own promises, made in return for recognition and membership in the United Nations.”

UN Resolution 194

“Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and those wishing not to return should be compensated for their property.”

“The 750,000 Palestinians who fled lost all their land and possessions in 1948 and became refugees.  Just as Jews in Europe were driven from their homes due to pogroms, Palestinians were forced to leave their homes and land because of Zionist ethnic cleansing.  In what may be termed a Middle Eastern “trail of tears”, refugees . . . trecked to Lebanon, Jordon, Syria, and other surrounding states.”

Palestinian_refugees_1948

Source:  commons.wikimedia.org

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Justice in the Middle East

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For too long Christians from the West that have taken the time to visit what is romantically called “The Holy Land” have contributed to a terrible injustice.

They dream of walking where Jesus walked, but all the while, the clock ticks and the coach waits, whilst they, rather ironically, run where Jesus walked.  The Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem.  They go, they rush, they take plenty of pictures, they scurry back onto the bus, and head off to the next place of biblical significance!

When will the madness end?

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