Father Dave Smith and Father Mark Battison
Dave: Okay, Father Dave here with Father Mark I’ve, just come back from England and Mark, is from England, and we’re in Sydney, and we’re talking about Palestine, That’s about it, isn’t it? Or Israel and Palestine, which at the moment, is as desperate a situation, I think, as it has been within my lifetime, Would that be correct? No, I guess … It probably would be correct. I mean we had the, I suppose the …
Mark: We’ve had the Intifadas and the previous wars and yeah and so on, but this seems to have escalated past all of those People are now starting to talk in terms of it having world implications.
Dave: Well, this is it I mean … It seems to me we’re looking potentially here at World War III. I think I’m going to find that tweet again, which I shared this morning, which I shared on Twitter and Facebook from a guy called Alexander Dugan who is a professor of some sort. I just thought it was very well put.
“In these days and after…” Sorry
“In these tragic days and after cruel bombing by Israel of a Palestinian Hospital in Gaza, the final loss of American control over the Islamic world is total and irreversible. Now the globalists have to fight simultaneously Russia, China and World Islam If that is not World War, III ..” Is there anything more than the ..,? Oh, “If it’s not World War III, what the hell is it?”, he says, and I thought that really encapsulated the situation.
Mark: Yes, it does, but I think we’re possibly a few steps still away from it, and by that I mean that what’s happening right now in in Israel/Palestine – it’s political, It’s not about individual people or indeed, the difference between Jewish, Christian or Muslim faiths. They’re easy. It’s easy for us to to label things in that way but the truth is that for a very long time the politics has been influencing enormously what’s happening in that part of the world and if you …
It’s very hard to be a Christian on occasions because we believe that Jesus Christ is at the centre of every human being. We believe that the Holy Spirit, works in the world, and we believe that it works for peace and for good, and there are undoubtedly billions and billions of acts of kindness and generosity and hope going on all the time but that’s not where the politicians seem to want to see the world.
Now what do I mean by that? The truth is that there has been oppression and occupation of Palestinians for, you know, well, we could say the last 75 years since Al Nakba, but you know, prior to that, and possibly not immediately prior, but for thousands of years, Jewish and Muslim people lived perfectly happily together in the in the land, that is now Israel/Palestine.
It was called Palestine at that time and then the politicians from Britain got involved, and from France, and the segregation and things of like that happened, and then there was a political guilt in the world and, to a certain degree, a Christian guilt, around the Holocaust. And how do we rectify what happened to the Jews in the Holocaust because that was the greatest event of catastrophe and murder that the world has ever really seen in recorded history? And so, in a sense, like everything, the pendulum never seems, to stop in the middle? It swings from one way to the other.
Israel were given this piece of land but with very clear instructions on how to manage it, and the responsibilities they had towards the indigenous Palestinians, and so on, but because of the guilt, the politicians have never enforced any of those conditions, and Israel, perhaps understandably (and I say ‘Israel’ in terms of again politicians and leaders, not average everyday person on the street), perhaps understandably, decided that this must never happen again, and the only way to do that was to create an environment in which it couldn’t happen again, and that meant to eradicate anybody who wasn’t Jewish Israeli from that part of the land, and that’s where the Nakba came from. It was the reduction, you know, the removal of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, their lands, their businesses, and it’s been going on ever since. The Nakba was a not a one-off event. It’s a 75-year event.
So, if you see things in those historical terms, you start to see why it is that Israel gets the political support it does now, and why it feels inviolate when it comes to whatever actions they want to take. They are going to find international support rather than International condemnation.
Dave: Yeah, look, I always remember Uri Avnery’s illustration, the great late great Jewish peace activist He used to say it was likea man jumping from a burning building. He had to jump, but he landed on some innocent guy on the side path. When he jumped. You know, the Jewish people needed a place of safety, particularly after the Holocaust – absolutely – but they landed on the Palestinians, and it wasn’t their fault,
Mark: No, but the actions as a consequence of that are very much the responsibility of the government of Israel, which has moved evermore extremism in its right-wing views and its work, so you you’re starting from that point, and then you see,
Dave: it’s been encouraged and bolstered and supported by the US and that’s why …
Mark: Britain caused it and America keeps it going. But, you know, the truth is the US needs a strong, militarily strong, Israel to keep all these horrible Arabs and Muslims in place in the way that they see it because there’s oil considerations, there’s power bases there, but even.
Taking that aside, what Hamas did and, you know, what Hamas have done is to use young men, full of testosterone, who have grown up, been born and grown in total occupation – never known freedom. They’ve seen their parents, grandparents their siblings, get poorly, not allowed out through the gates, not getting visas to get treatment, … dying They’ve lived without the freedom that we take for granted, and then along comes Hamas with promises of revenge and freedom, and when you’re testosterone-filled and you’ve been told that you’re going to be a martyr, and, you know, what you’re doing is legitimate in the sight of God because of what’s happened for over … and away they go.
The truth is this is when I said it’s hard to be, a Christian. We cannot condone violence of any kind, it doesn’t matter if I can understand those frustrations and I can understand the fears. Being a Christian says, no violence, never, ever brings a resolution, It may be short-term resolutions but it will never be long term, and peace is the only, and we’ve often said, those of us who support Israel Palestine, there’ll never be peace for Israel unless they find peace with Palestinians first, and I feel that this has now set us back.
We were at a point where people were starting to talk about – in in senior positions within governments around the world, they were starting to talk and use the word ‘apartheid’, because the Israeli state is an apartheid state. There’s no question of that now. People like Desmond, Tutu identified it. The church in South Africa has come out and acknowledged it, and if those people don’t know what apartheid is ..
Dave: Jimmy Carter, I think, as well, in the US in his book …
Mark: Ah …, yes, well, indeed and there are many other very clever and erudite people around the world who have seen it in this way, and that was starting to gain traction, which meant, ultimately, in a period of time. political pressure would start to come on to the state of Israel, to say to the government, ‘You know,you can’t continue down this road. You have to find a way of making peace’.
We all know the two-state Solution is now dead in the water. It’s, not possible, but that doesn’t mean to say there can’t be peace of some kind or another. And what Hamas have done has now put this back decades probably, because we’re going to have to go back to the starting point of saying to, you know, that what Israel has done in the past will now have been wiped clean from everybody’s memories and it’s almost starting again, you know, and you, Dave, have had, your own experiences. I’ve had my ..
The very first time I went to Yad Vashem, I was leading a group of Christian pilgrims, and I had my collar on, and I walked into Yad Vashem with them and they’re all there for the first time, and there was a great big banner by the door that said, “Never trust these Christians; They still believe … they still blame us for killing their Jesus’‘ – at the opening, entrance to Yad Vashem! And that level of fear in Jews in Israel is, no doubt whatsoever, is underpinning a lot of the things that have happened, and you have to pray for that fear to go, you know: Christians don’t blame Jews for killing their Jesus. .
Dave: Well, look, let’s be honest though. I mean some have. I mean, even great figures like Martin Luther. We’ve had a terrible history of anti-Semitism within the church – no doubt about that, and no doubt there’s some of it still around.
Mark: I don’t hear it on a regular basis. In fact, it’s the old pendulum again. Now, you’re, so careful, not to say anything that could be classed as antisemitic that you daren’t even feel that you can challenge things that are, you know, against the teachings of Jesus
Dave: Yeah. The problem is equating criticism of the actions of the Israeli government, with anti-Semitism, and that’s where we want to say, ‘surely the two have to be separate. things’. You must be able to criticize an action of a government without being seen as being racially prejudiced.
Mark: And that’s why the definition of the IHRA definition, which has been adopted by governments around the world, is so problematic.
Dave: I appreciate what they’re saying is that people use criticism of Israel as a mask for their antisemitism. No doubt that’s been done, but there has to be legitimate political discourse as well which … outside of that.
Now you mentioned, as Christians, we need to look for a peaceful solution. This is one of the distressing things. I read, particularly American politicians, who supposedly are coming from a Christian perspective. I mean that the level of violence, they’re advocating is, just mindless They’re, talking about, they seem to be advocating genocide of the entire Palestinian people,
It’s deeply disturbing, and we included, well, I think I quoted in … last week, Nikki Haley, who’s a presidential candidate, you know, and some of her rhetoric, but other Senators over there … the language is vile It’s as if they’re advocating a genocide of the Palestinian population,
Mark: But the government of Israel has been advocating the genocide of the Palestinian population for a very long time, The …and I’m talking about the current members of the current government, because it’s moved to the right. The people who, you know, you’ve got people in charge of the police who’ve got 51, I think it is, criminal convictions, You’ve got, you’ve, got people who have very, very extreme views around genocide and they are in positions of power.
I had two examples. One was a … I spent time with a young Jewish teacher, Obviously I’m not going to say her name, but she was being encouraged to teach her children, around the 10 and12 year olds, that Arab children were less than human and therefore didn’t need to be seen as human or treated as human. She left the teaching profession because of that.
I’ve spent time, as I’m sure Dave has, and others listening to people in ‘Breaking, the Silence’ and other organizations. Where people who have spent time as in their doing their national service in Israel, who have come away with the most horrendous stories of how they, are taught that to eradicate Palestinians as a perfectly legitimate aim for Jewish people or for the state of Israel, not for Jewish people, my apologies, for the state of Israel. My own view is that the average Jewish person and the average Palestinian person are horrified by what’s going on.
I’ve got some close Jewish friends there, as I know Dave has. We have some close Palestinian friends. I had an email this morning from one saying “My heart is broken into a million, a billion pieces because of the bombing of the hospital in Gaza’‘, and, you know, the request by Israel, for people to move South, and then bombing the only two safe routes that were supposed to be used, and so on,
But in all of this, the one thing we have to hope on is that Christ will eventually conquer all of this because there’s an old saying that, “It will be all right in the end. Well, if it’s not all right, then it’s not the end”, and whether you’re a Zionist and believing that particular, you know, the world will be right when. Christ comes again, or whatever you believe in. The truth is, as a Christian, it’s hard to be a Christian in these times because you’re human side of you wants to cry out for revenge in some case for all the horrors of both sides, but the truth is, as Christians, If we don’t start, or we don’t continue to be messengers and beacons for peace, then who will? If not us, who will?
Christians need to be able to move above all of the politics and all of the violence and all of the hatred. Engage with it, discuss it, share it. I’m involved in putting a conference together next year where we’re going to be talking about anti-Semitism and anti … anti-Christianism, believe it or not, as a result of …
Dave: I didn’t think that was a word
Mark: Well, neither did I..I think we might have made it up, but nevertheless, it’s a result of things that have been happening in Jerusalem, and also islamophobia. And this conference is designed to acknowledge and to work on why it is all of us at times have those feelings and every human being gets those feelings on occasions because they look out at the world and see these things happening, but as Christians we have a God-given duty to talk about the peace that must come and how we can help shape it in our local communities.
We need to talk about peace, not about revenge, not about the violence. We need to preach peace because out of peace comes hope, and out of hope comes joy, and that’s what God wants for his creation – hope. peace, joy. That’s what we want, and even though this is all going on over there, we’re praying like crazy and we’re doing everything we can if the opportunity arises to engage with it.
As Christians, we have a duty to talk about and preach peace, So in our churches, in our families, in our communities, wherever it might be, if this subject comes up, I encourage everybody not to take sides – to preach peace for both – because if God is in all the world and if God’s in every part of the world, then even in the horrors of Israel-Palestine God’s there in the heart of It hoping to bring some kind of peace through any and everybody he can work through.
And. It doesn’t matter if you’re, Christian, Jewish Muslim, whatever. The truth is that we all go back to one God who created us for peace.
Dave: I think you said it all brother We’ll keep praying and keep doing what we can.
Father Mark Battison is the current president of Friends of Sabeel, Australia – a Christian Palestinian human rights organisation.