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by Dory Elliott


I have recently read the A.P.J.N. report of its deliberations in Jerusalem September 14-22, 2004 and feel that I should make some comments as a Christian concerned about truth and justice.

First of all a word about where I'm coming from.

My husband and I were teachers at the Anglican International School in Jerusalem and lived in Israel for 3 years, from 1998-2001.

We were extremely involved with our work at the school and because of this and lack of quality time given to the subject, I cannot claim to be a great student on the Middle East but conscience demands that I must at least be a faithful witness.

For the first 2 years that we worked at the school, we lived on campus, the final year we lived in the Christian Arab quarter and the Jewish quarter of the Old City.

The school was a haven for children of, I think, 41 nationalities, including Arab and Jewish children. They were a wonderful example of acceptance and, amongst the older children, intelligent debate.

We were living in Latin Patriarchate Street in the Christian Arab quarter during the first year of the "Strike" or Intifada of 2000. Our landlord was a wonderful Christian Arab who owned the local pizza parlour. It was a very popular place with tourists as well as teachers from the school. Every Friday he showed the Jesus video, free of charge, to all who were interested.

A few months earlier, Arial Sharon had made an unofficial visit to the Temple Mount, the location of the Golden Dome and the AL-Aqsa Mosque which had come under the control of the Palestinian Authority. This area is no more than a few hundred yards from where we lived.

There was a terrible backlash of terrorist activities which escalated throughout the year 2000 - the year that many Palestinians as well as Israelis had hoped would bring greater prosperity to the country from an expected increase in tourism, to celebrate the Millennium

It was sad to see the newly built hotels lying empty and some only partly built.

It was even more painful to see and hear our neighbours' fears as their shops and cafes slowly went out of business, either through forced enclosures because of threats or just fear of reprisals if they did not show solidarity with their Arab brothers.

They also suffered through loss of visitors as the atmosphere worsened and the few visitors who came to Jerusalem, were too frightened to go to the old city. One young Palestinian we knew who worked as a waiter had hoped to go to university later that year. All such hopeful prospects must have died.

Our new Arab friends started to withdraw from speaking to us as it became dangerous for even Christian Arabs to have any dealings with Jews and then Americans and then people who associated with either of these. Not that we were in danger but we began to feel very isolated. The water supply on our roof was tampered with twice and our landlord, who had moved away, had to come back to fix it. His comment was "You see how my neighbours love me?" The climate felt lawless and unjust.

During that time wild rumours started to spread. "The Jews poison our water supplies" was one such. Everything that went wrong was the fault of the Jews.

I then began to learn about the propaganda machinery employed by the more radical Palestinians under Yasser Arafat. The protest against Sharon's Temple Mount visit swung into action with immediate effect. Hand posters were produced and distributed and the shutdown of any possible dialogue between the two sides was all too apparent.

It was obvious to anybody there that this was a not-to-be-missed opportunity for outward demonstrations of implacable hatred by a strong hardcore of political activists.

I learnt about the indoctrination of children at school. Even young children are taught through their teachers and text-books to hate Jews in a most deliberate harmful way. The effect on the development of young children is self-evident.

While Arafat was authorising these things and promising some of his neighbours that the intention to "drive the Jews into the sea" was still on course, he was simultaneously courting the Americans and blaming Israel for not encouraging peace talks.

We were shocked by some of the British media coverage at this time. Articles such as "The Jenin Massacre" were so unfair that it was hard to understand.

A body from the International Red Cross was called in to investigate that particular event. They found that there had been nothing like a massacre; in fact Israeli soldiers had gone from house to house in pursuit of terrorists, risking their own lives in order to minimize casualties, something they often do. This practice is taken advantage of by Hamas and others by booby-trapping the houses and then shooting at point-blank any survivors that crawl out.

Yet I watched a BBC world service report, given by a young reporter who reckoned he could smell the rotting corpses under the bulldozed building under his feet.

In contrast to the large headlines that announced the "massacre", the findings of the investigatory body were given little space in the British press and I didn't hear or see anything on TV or radio.

I can only conclude that the sources were biased. One reason for this could be that the international press were not allowed into trouble-spots because of the dangers. This Israeli restriction meant that much reporting relied heavily on secondary sources. This source of information was usually supplied by the Palestinian news media. They were much quicker than the Jewish authorities to see the political opportunities for propaganda.

We saw TV footage of Israeli soldiers armed with rifles or in tanks, juxtaposed with shots of children throwing stones, the obvious inference being the unfairness of the contest. The armed men behind the children were not shown. Nor was the context explained properly.

There was however, a notorious incident when a French camera-man took footage of Palestinian people celebrating the 9/11 disaster. This man risked his life in refusing to be intimidated by certain members of the PA.

Which brings me to the A.P.J.N. report.

Mr Naim Ateek, a contributer to the report, is head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Theology Centre, a political church group with a history of presenting a most unchristian bias against Israel.

Perhaps Rev. Ateek has reason to be bitter if what he says about the Jews taking his family's property is true. And certainly in times of war many unjust things happen. However to use this incident to justify his continual and focussed attack on Israel's right to exist should surely be questioned by any Christian body.

Why has he not mentioned the background or the history or the circumstances of the wars between Jews and Palestinians? Is he relying on the general ignorance of most people in the west?

I know that the problems are complex and most of us do not have the time or inclination to delve into such a potentially volatile subject, when we already have much to occupy our attention, but the general rhetorical tone and the lack of factual context adopted by Mr Ateek makes one wonder about the quality of his appraisal.

An educated man such as Mr Ateek, should be more accountable -- especially as a Christian. Surely a guide to clergymen in the Holy Land should present the fuller picture when he takes trusting fellow Christians to Palestinian refugee camps, as is his habit over many years.

As well as showing these peoples' plight it is only fair to mention the true causes of their misery. He could also include the fact that apartments built for them are standing empty. Sadly, their current plight is more useful to others of their own people. They are being used as a political football by the P.A Why is Mr Ateek doing the same?

Some of the extreme statements printed in the APJN report need challenging I believe.

"Cocky young soldiers"

I think it might be worth considering the very different cultures involved here. Ignorance of differing priorities has repercussions that are not always realised. Can you imagine, for instance, how it feels for a mature Arab man to be stopped and questioned by a young Israeli woman, especially one in uniform. Honour is of the highest priority in the Arab culture, in the social, public arena. This is the only reason I can think of that can explain how they can justify sniping at these young soldiers, on a regular basis and killing or seriously injuring so many.

"The State of Israel has systematically and deliberately oppressed and dehumanised the people of Palestine."

Here, examples cited include the construction of the wall, built to protect men, women and children from being attacked, sometimes in large numbers. While we lived there, there were several large scale tragedies, including busloads of commuters and school-children, a wedding group, a large gathering in a hotel celebrating a Jewish feast, and many other smaller scale but equally tragic incidents that don't reach the international press.

It cannot be denied that the ordinary working Palestinian families have been affected, sometimes seriously, as in being cut off from their means of livelihood. The repercussions on all sides are tragic but to exclusively blame Israel is a travesty of justice and to explain the cause as being "apartheid" politics is cruel and ignorant. Not one word is spoken about the dehumanising effect that politicised hatred has on the Palestinian population, in this context.

Again, the establishment of illegal Israeli settlements as another cause of this "oppression and dehumanising of Palestinians" needs some unpacking.

There is more than one cause of these settlements being established.

One reason is that years before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority {terrorist in its inception} Arabs and Jews lived together quite amicably in many areas and land was legitimately sold to Jewish people. Now it is an offence punishable by death for any Palestinian to sell land or property to a Jew. There is a well known tragedy among those who have been praying for a Christian Palestinian, a man with a very large family, who has been incarcerated for many years, by the PA, for selling a small piece of land to a Jew.

Another reason is that settlements have been created as a buffer between hostile communities -- ie hostile to Israel. This you will be aware of because of the recent publicity given to the pulling out of Gaza.

Ma'al Adumin is a well established Israeli settlement which was built in arid desert like most settlements. It was a region nobody was interested in though technically a Bedouin Arab area in the hills outside Jerusalem. It is a very beautiful town and is now attracting a lot of attention. It has been the plan for some years to annexe this town to Jerusalem with a road. The reasons are varied -- security and tax revenue are amongst them.

When Mark Twain visited the Holy Land about a 150 years ago he reported on the barren wilderness he saw throughout the land. He marvelled that such an hostile, uninhabitable place should be of any world significance. At the time it was inhabited by nomadic tribes. Nobody wanted to live there.

The Ottomans had political jurisdiction over the land. The emperor encouraged Jews to do the administrative paperwork because they seemed to be good at it. Palestine had not had its own government for nearly 2000 years though many other nations had ruled over it and there had always been a presence of Bedouins and Jews living there during the entire Diaspora. The northern regions around Galilee had become swampland, infested with Malaria-carrying mosquitoes and useless for agriculture.

In the C19th many Victorian British Christians, some of them influential members of parliament like Lord Shaftesbury, began to feel that it was time for the Jews, dispersed amongst the nations, to return to their Promised Land.

At the same time, the changing political borders of the European countries and the increased intensity of the pogroms against the Jews, despite raised hopes that the "Enlightenment" seemed to bring in western Europe, caused many young Jewish people to turn their eyes towards the Holy Land.

A significant meeting was convened in Switzerland by a Swiss Jew named Herzl and many young Jews started to make preparations to return -- to a barren inhospitable but Holy land. Such disparate people as Napoleon and the prime-minister of England also encouraged this return, for their own political reasons.

The first European Jews to go over and try to settle the land were white collar workers, young idealists, ill-suited to till the unyielding earth and turn a wilderness into a land flowing with milk and honey.

They died by the thousands -- of malaria mostly, but also exhaustion and malnutrition -- husbands, wives and children. Jewish farmers also came, encouraged and minimally supported by philanthropic Jews such as the Rothschilds and Montifiore.

As they worked they attracted nomadic Arabs, who saw the possibility of settling down and farming the land. I visited the earliest settlement with the school.

We saw the beautiful but simple houses with their rudimentary utensils lovingly preserved, testifying to a poor but dignified lifestyle. We heard how the local Arab village had helped them and "been kind to them". The picture was one of unusual wholesomeness of vision, courage and desire to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours. I would say this sense or desire to live in peaceful community is one I encountered many times as we visited earlier kibbutzim, museums and monuments of various kinds.

Two years ago Tony and I studied the "Holocaust" at Yad Vashem. We discovered this same desire to learn lessons, to benefit others, to try and understand what caused the hatred they endured. Their willingness to look at, to analyse, to record minutia in the cause of humanity (they don't restrict their lessons to personal profit) is worthy of respect. The same willingness to understand the other's point of view is still evident today among many Israelis and is reflected in their newspaper coverage of events.

I cannot imagine the same kind of dispassionate reporting going on in this country. Our reaction to recent terrorist attacks is evidence enough of the pain and outrage we feel -- and it should be expressed. But to look at all the factors without fear or favour requires a discipline we are not familiar with. And then to endure attacks like these on an almost weekly basis needs integrity of a high order.

My concern is that the country I love and belong to, i.e. Britain, must not behave wrongly towards these people. We have a history of betraying our friends for selfish reasons. Of course all nations have things in their past of which they are not proud. My concern is that the church does not throw in her lot with the politically expedient; that we learn from our mistakes.

When the League of Nations decided that the Jewish people needed their own land, Britain was given the job of overseeing this transition in Palestine (the name given to Israel by their Roman conquerors in honour of their ancient enemies, the Philistines). It is worth reading the "Balfour Declaration" to get an idea of the vision and goodwill intended towards Israel at that time.

However, Britain came under increasing pressure from the Muslim Mufti of Jerusalem and the Arab countries around and Britain compromised on the original decision made by the League of Nations (now the UN).

In 1945, my father-in-law was stationed in Haifa, a major port in Israel. He and other British soldiers were ordered to fire on Jewish people, newly released from the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, as they jumped off the boats that hadn't been allowed to dock in Haifa, in a desperate attempt to swim to land. This was in response to the Mufti's insistence that the number of Jews allowed into Palestine/Israel be severely reduced.

The dimensions of the land promised to the Jews by the League of Nations, were also greatly reduced, and a new country was created (called Trans-Jordan, now Jordan) for the Palestinians and other Arabs.

All Jewish institutions established in that area east of the river Jordan, were to be confiscated and all Jews sent to the greatly reduced area (1/3 of the original size) designated Israel. Incidently, these Jewish refugees were not called victims of apartheid and neither was the new regime there in Trans-Jordan called the "occupation". However, any Palestinians who wanted to remain in Israel were allowed to remain.

These Palestinians benefited in many ways; financially and in terms of education. They were not always first in the queue and many were poor but so were many Jews -- it was, after all a very young country..

The day after Israel was given her land (reduced in size -- but greatly appreciated) she was attacked by her surrounding Arab neighbours. Jordan invaded and seized, illegally, what is now called the "West Bank", also referred to as "occupied territory", by the media who listen to the continual sound bites of those who hate Israel.

She didn't "take on" Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq" as Jeremy Bowen reported. She defended herself against all these countries. She has never been the instigator of war (not in the last 2000 years anyway -- some may accuse her of this in Old Testament times!)

Scripture talks about Israel, one day, being surrounded by all the nations, prior to Armageddon. Some say that it will take that kind of pressure before the Jewish people will look for their promised Messiah, Yeshua -- "Blessed be He who comes in the Name of the Lord".

Scripture also says that God Himself will judge those nations that treat His people with contempt. Why do we, as a nation, agree so readily with Israel's enemies? More sadly, why does the institutional church allow such a flimsy, insubstantial and biased argument to cloud its sense of fair play? Are we too going to prove former oppressors of truth right when they talked about repeating a lie so many times that people would eventually believe it?

In this report, views are presented as facts. There is no mention of a name that could be traced and questioned about these facts. There is no representation of the Israeli side of the debate. Perhaps this is because the visitors were invited over to Palestine/Israel during a major Jewish holiday.

A photo is shown of Israeli soldiers guarding the tomb of the patriarch. There is no explanation given. The truth is that monuments of all kinds that testify to the existence of Israel's past presence in the land are systematically destroyed and those that aren't, routinely used as public lavatories -- this we have seen.

Palestinian Christians did flourish in the land a few years ago. Our friends who worked in the school and lived in Bethlehem, invited us to their home on several occasions.

They were loved and respected in the community. They told us that when they first arrived there was an 80% majority of Christians living there, with 20% Muslim. As troubles increased, the Christians started to leave -- mostly for their children's sake. Many went to America like families whose children were in my class did. The school lost several families this way.

The brother of one of my students was shot and killed while out jogging. He was assumed to be Israeli. As the situation worsened, almost anyone who was educated was regarded with suspicion, especially if that person related to people of different nationalities.

The last I heard was that there was an inverse ratio of 80% Muslim and only 20% Christian living in Bethlehem, with that small percent decreasing all the time. We saw the Christian Palestinians, all men, waiting for their small church doors to open and admired their courage and tenacity. We shopped in the local shops selling beautiful carved ornaments of olive wood and felt the tension.

If you visited the workshops, as we did, and saw the talent of these people, it would break your heart too, to see their horizons closing -- not because of Israeli oppression but because of the threatening environment they live in.

Israel tried to persuade the Christian Arabs to stay and promised to protect them (it's in Israel's interest to keep a non-violent group within Palestinian towns).

During our time in Jerusalem, a group of terrorists attacked the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, taking those inside hostage. They deliberately drew fire from the Israeli soldiers who tried to protect/rescue the hostages. We later heard about the rough treatment handed out to those inside. The terrorist's aim was to make Israeli soldiers fire at a Christian church and hopefully kill an innocent Christian. The terrorists claimed that they were protecting the Christians from the Israelis.

And the people caught in the middle? They said nothing. Perhaps we would do the same in their situation. I have worked in schools in Britain where victims of bullies have turned against people who were trying to help them. It seems safer to not antagonise the big guys. Retribution is a very real threat.

With similar intentions, terrorists took over an area in a friendly largely Christian Arab town called Bet-Jala on the side closest to a large Israeli settlement called Gilo,with whom there was a good relationship. They fired into Gilo's residential area. Israeli soldiers were despatched to defend the inhabitants. The hope was that Israeli soldiers would inadvertently kill a Christian or damage a church. A 10 year old boy in my class who lived in one of those houses in Bet Jala which were taken over by the terrorist group, described to us how he tried to get on with his homework while people were firing out of his bedroom window.

This kind of abuse done to ordinary Palestinians, regularly, by some of their own people is mysteriously ignored in this report. And "honour" is given to the late Yasser Arafat.

I don't mean to suggest that Israel does no wrong. They can over-react. They could be accused of paranoia. But I cannot help thinking "would we do any better in their circumstances?"

Our police, it seems, made a mistake in a tense situation and killed an innocent man whom they suspected of being a suicide bomber. It can happen.

When we lived there, Israelis were bulldozing the houses of known terrorist leaders who exerted a strong negative influence in their communities. The occupants of the houses were warned to leave and were given time to do so. Yet the reports coming out from the foreign press usually talked about "innocent Palestinians" being victims of Israeli brutality.

Of course I don't know if mistakes have been made and innocent people have had their homes demolished. What I do know is that if an innocent Palestinian, especially a child is killed, there tends to be an outcry from the Israelis themselves and an investigation.

It struck me that, for some within the Palestinian community, the death of a child was used as a political victory, almost a triumph. Never were innocent Palestinians the target, though many have been killed.

When we first arrived at the Anglican school, we were given various introductions to life in Israel, presented by various representatives. I remember the talk given by an Englishman who had served in the Israeli Defence Force. He told us of the training in ethics and education that went alongside of military training. The soldiers were not only instructed to refrain from any kind of racism; he knew of a high ranking officer who had been demoted for cussing Palestinians. The difference in attitude could hardly be greater.

The report states that it is "deeply troubled by the use of US made weapons and aircraft provided to Israel and being used for attacks on civilian targets which occur with increasing frequency."

Is the problem that the US helps Israel as well as Palestine?

Billions of US dollars have been given to the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat and used on weapons supplied by other Arab nations as well as for building sumptuous mansions for Arafat and his close friends and family. We saw a fairly recent one being constructed in Bethlehem from our friend's apartment window. Yet we must honour him.

Who are these innocent civilian targets? Israel is watched like a hawk by the rest of the world. Are they really going to target innocent civilians? A country whose government is based on the best they know from western democracies, whose Knesset is their pride and joy ( largely influenced by the British system)? Can you not see a malicious mindset at work here?

I must confess, reading this report has been very painful to me. Perhaps you have to live in Israel/Palestine to understand more of what goes on. When we lived there, innocent Israelis were sniped at in their cars every day. Every day young families were considered fair game. As you walked the streets, evidence of terrible injuries were to be seen all over.

The paramedics who dealt with injuries had to classify them into 4 catagories -- something like light, medium, severe, life-threatening. Loss of limbs came under light. I think I remember reading about injuries that came under the medium category. Most of us would have put such horrendous injuries into a higher category.

To make matters worse there seemed to be no sense of shame or regret shown by the perpetrators. It was a matter for rejoicing by so many.

We were there when 2 Israelis took a wrong turning in their car and found themselves in Ramallah. They ran in fear of their lives into a PA police station. I don't know how hard the police there tried to protect them.

What I do know is that those men were beaten to death by a frenzied mob who went in and then threw their bodies to the crowd outside. Photographs taken at the time showed a gleeful triumphant mob, one of whom was proudly displaying the blood on his hands.

There is an appeal for Bush and Blair to "intervene and resuscitate the peace process."

How shallow or deceptive is this? It is disingenuous to say the least. Yasser Arafat was offered practically everything he wanted.

The problem seems to be that what is really wanted is for Israel to not exist any more. Hamas, Hezbolah and others have actually said this. They have no intention of allowing a western democracy to break up the solid block of Islamic countries around. It is an insult to Allah. It is important for the church to take its head out of the sand and say it like it is. The problem is the age-old one of jealousy -- which the Bible tells us "is as cruel as death."

If we do not stand with Israel and her right to exist as a nation we will be complicit with her ancient enemy whose name we know.

The UN cannot bring about justice on its own. Even the APJN report itself dismisses the UN's ability to act as a peacekeeping force (while promoting its use to officiate in Jerusalem, in another part of the report). How will they succeed in the middle east when they failed so significantly in Rwanda?

The Spiritual content of the report is woefully lacking. There seems to be no acknowledgement of spiritual issues at all. The appeal is for "dialogue with people of other faiths" Are you really agreeing with yet another pluralistic remedy? Syncretism has always been the cause of loss of truth in the church -- there is no Redemption in it, no Salvation and in the end precious little morality. Syncretism, like Humanism, ultimately denies Christ. Is this what you want?

I am not suggesting that there should be no talking. I am suggesting that there is another spirit at work here that needs to be exposed and rejected. Please Anglican Church, don't "sell your birthright for a mess of potage." I simply appeal to you to look at this again from another perspective.

There are others who know a lot more about the political and historical background than I. And there are far more Spiritual people than I. What I do have is first-hand experience of living in Israel/Palestine, a fair amount of secondary evidence amassed from newspapers, conversations etc. and a love for the people living in that part of the world. Also love for the church and for my own country.

Dory Elliott and her husband Tony taught at the Anglican International School in Jerusalem around the time of the start of the Second Intifada.

This was written May 10, 2005 and posted on the Reactionista website (, October 6, 2005.


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