As a New Yorker living over a year in Jordan, I remember warm summer nights on the hills outside of Amman, watching the nearby lights of Jerusalem and Jericho. Last year I happened to visit the Jordan River on the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, where the River winds through Israel and Jordan at the Baptism site, and the borders reverse and rewind ignoring territorial order and defying human separation. I remember trips to Israel to visit family in Beersheba. Yet there I was bit by a neighbor's dog while I examined the beautiful pink bougainvillea that hid the barbed wire fence separating them from the nearby impoverished Arab village. Perhaps this was an omen. Israel has turned into a rabid dog, attacking without mercy, purpose or plan. We Americans who live in the Middle East have a very different view of the events of Gaza than the US Congress who just passed a resolution supporting Israel in its brutal invasion. For over a year we have listened to the ongoing complaints from aid workers, UN personnel, NGO's, religious leaders and volunteers who have told us about the inhumane treatment of the Palestinians both in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank. Now we have friends and colleagues who have lost family and loved ones in the slaughter in Gaza. TV here shows the pictures of the burned children, the dead infants, the raw grief and desperation--images not seen in the American media. Do Americans realize white phosphorus bombs are scorching skin and lungs? That ambulance and humanitarian aid drivers are shot? That Gazans are murdered in shelters they are ordered to go to by the Israeli army? How can Israel, founded by survivors of the horrors of the holocaust, repeat the vicious crimes they fled! Are the voices of the Israelis who oppose this violence reaching the ears of Americans? Are they hearing the cries of the orphan, the widows and the oppressed that their prophets echoed in the Bible? Psalm 10 well describes the action of the Israeli army today: "They lurk in ambush in public squares and in secret places they murder the innocent; they spy out the helpless." I happened upon a demonstration of Arab Christians for Gaza last night; their leader pleaded with me to send their statement about the current situation in Gaza to America. There are Christians (whose Bishop was forbidden by the Israelis to enter to celebrate Mass for them last month), Druze as well as Muslims in Gaza. All are victims--I wake up at night, unable to sleep, realizing that nearby those lights I see at night, jets are streaking carrying death and destruction. People are freezing, starving and bleeding because of weapons my tax money paid for. And I know in their hearts, my family and friends in Israel realize the great injustice perpetrated on their brothers and fellow-Semites, the Palestinians. It is not anti-Semitic to speak for the Palestinians--Arabs and Jews are all Semites--entitled to live in this Holy Land in peace. There would have been no rockets sent to Israel if there were no blockade, and food, medicine and the basic needs of life were available in Gaza. With the current statistics of deaths in this conflict, 1 Israeli life = 100 Palestinian lives. Are not all lives sacred? Where is the conscience of Israel and America? Takeer Barakat, internationally known Palestinian artist living in the West Bank, watching his friends and relatives under attack in Gaza, speaks for us all here when he says the worse thing about this war for us here is the feeling of helplessness. Both Muslims and Jews celebrate their ancestor, Abraham, abolishing child sacrifice, when God rescued his son Isaac from the knife. Today, can we rescue the children of Gaza from being burned, blinded, disabled and sacrificed to guns and bombs? Does Israel now practice child sacrifice in defiance of their ancestor Abraham, sacrificing their sons as well?
Here is the statement by Arab Christans in Jordan about Gaza, distributed by the Orthodox Society at the demonstration this week.
"As indigenous Arab Christians of the Holy Land we are appalled by the senseless indiscriminate and wanton slaughter of Palestinian civilians perpetrated by the Israeli army which has been taking place for the past two weeks in full view of the whole world. No serious attempt so far has been taken to put an end to this latest tragedy which has gravely shaken the very foundations of our faith in humanity and our fundamental continuous search for peace, truth and justice in our distressed Holy Land.
We are unable to understand the abject failure of all the powers in the region, the world, all international authorities and institutions to grasp the basic human necessity to stop the Israeli killing machine immediately. This is taking more and more lives in a seemingly endless and grotesque nightmare of futility that can only beget more anger, misery and despair.
We strongly affirm the following statements as ask all those who have ears to listen to our seemingly desperate cry to the whole world.
1. Immediate and unconditional end to all current carnage and opening up of access for humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
2. Permanent lifting of air, sea and land siege of Gaza and its 1.5 million inhabitants that has rendered the whole strip an open air prison for the better part of the last two years.
3. Strong condemnation of Israeli policy in the region that has been based upon brute force to implement its policies without consideration to any basic Palestinian rights.
4. Israeli occupation and its premeditated destruction of the very fabric of Palestinian life both Moslem and Christian alike over the past decades is the root cause of the problem. In the face of this longest occupation and collective punishment and harassment of people in modern history it is the right of the Palestinians to resist in whatever means available as is proper and just for any people who find themselves under such conditions.
5. The people of the world should continue and escalate their courageous condemnation of Israeli deliberate apartheid policies against the Palestinians which have consistently led to situations such as this throughout the history of the Arab Israeli conflict.
6. It is time for the world to realize that the roots of the conflict are deep and complex not by any means as mendaciously portrayed by Israeli politicians as a war against Hamas. What is happening is a brutal merciless unjustifiable destructive war against the Palestinian people and their right to exist in security and dignity like all people in the world.