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Seeking justice and peace for Palestinians

The war on Gaza today is just another episode of the 100-year war on Palestine

by the Rev. Prof. Dr. Mitri Raheb | Mission Crossroads

A tableau at the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem shows the Christ child amidst rubble. (Photo by Doug Dicks)

The pictures of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza being forced by the Israeli military to evacuate the northern part of the Gaza Strip heading south evoked old memories of the 1948 Nakba. In 1948, Jewish Israeli terror groups destroyed and erased over 500 Palestinian villages and displaced nearly 800,000 Palestinians,¹ including more than 50,000 Palestinian Christians who had to flee, thus becoming refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon.

The British Empire sowed the seeds of injustice in 1917. It was in that year when Lord Balfour promised Jewish Lord Rothschild that Palestine would be established as “a national home for the Jewish people.”² The Jewish population of Palestine at the time was less than 5%. The declaration did not give any attention to the rights of the Arab population of Christians and Muslims that constituted 95% of the population.³

To facilitate the permanent settlement of European Jews in Palestine, Britain lobbied for the Mandate for Palestine, and this was granted on April 25, 1920, by the League of Nations.⁴ While all other mandates were to “prepare the natives for independence,” the British Mandate over Palestine was to prepare Palestine for a Jewish settler colonial project. In defending this decision before the House of Lords in 1922, Balfour explained the theological motives behind his colonial policy. He stated: “We have never pretended that it was purely from these materialist considerations that the declaration originally sprung. … It is in order that we may send a message that will tell them (the Jews) that Christendom is not oblivious to their faith, that it is not unmindful of the service they have rendered to the religions of the world, and most of all to the religion that the majority of Your Lordships’ house profess, and that we desire to the best of our ability to give them that opportunity of developing, in peace and quietness under British rule, those great gifts which hitherto they have been compelled to bring to fruition in countries that know not their language and belong not to their race.”⁵

Banners hung near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. (Photo by Doug Dicks)

The British Empire, the United States and major European countries continue to support Israel. Nowhere was this clear like in November in Gaza. After the attack of Hamas on Oct. 7, the heads of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy came to show their unwavering solidarity with the State of Israel. The United States opened its military storages for Israel and asked for $14 billion in addition to the $3.8 billion annually⁶ originally approved under the Obama administration.

Without dismantling the settler colonial system of oppression with its apartheid policies, its theological justifications and its subtle cultural bias against the Palestinian, our region will continue to experience wars. Equality, human dignity and compassion are necessary ingredients to any solution. The shortest road to peace is through justice. The fruit of justice will be peace.

The bias toward Jews versus Palestinians continues from the time of Balfour to today. This bias is based partly on Christian Zionist ideology that keeps equating the Israelites of the Bible with the Israelis of today.⁷ The Palestinians, on the other hand, continue to be demonized, portrayed by the Israeli State as “barbaric,” “human animals” and “terrorists,” slogans the Western media keep reiterating.⁸ The suffering of the Palestinian people continues to go unnoticed. The death of more than 32,000 * Palestinian civilians in Gaza with over 75,000 injured, the deliberate⁹ targeting of hospitals and schools, and the destruction of mosques and churches does not seem to count nor move the hearts of Western leaders. Palestinians are seen as the “others” while Israel is seen as an ally. Israel is run by Ashkenazi European Jews and thus members of the “white” tribe. They are the last surviving Western settler colonial project that needs to be defended by all means, especially after the failure of these countries to prevent the Holocaust.¹⁰

The injustice against the Palestinian people that started in 1917 by the British Empire, the ethnic cleansing that was done to the Palestinians in 1948¹¹ and the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land is the root cause of what we see today. The war on Gaza today is just another episode of the 100-year war on Palestine. The so-called Peace Accord, which was signed at the lane of the White House in 1993, did not bring peace because it did not take the settler colonial dimension of the State of Israel, the complicity of the Anglo-Saxon world, nor the legitimate rights for self-determination of the Palestinian people seriously.

The attempt to keep ignoring the Palestinian people by signing the so-called “Abraham Accords”¹² between Israel and a few Arab countries was blown away in November. The doctrine based on pure military and surveillance approaches failed. Without dismantling the settler colonial system of oppression with its apartheid policies, its theological  justifications and its subtle cultural bias  against the Palestinian, our region will  continue to experience wars. Equality, human dignity and compassion are necessary ingredients to any solution. The shortest road to peace is through justice. The fruit of justice will be peace.

1 Rempfer, Kyle. Israeli Operations Uprooted Palestinians in 1948. Many Fear a Repeat. The Washington Post, Nov. 3, 2023.
2  Who Was Behind the Balfour Declaration?
3 Khader, Bichera. The Palestinian Question and the Arabs (1917-2017): Popular Support, Government Stakes. IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2017. European Institute of the Mediterranean.
4 British Mandate for Palestine.,by%20the%20League%20of%20Nations.

5 Palestine Mandate: Vol. 50: Debated on Wednesday 21 June 1922. UK Parliament.

6 Cortellessa, Eric. ‘War is Expensive’: How the Israel Aid Package Went From Big to Bigger. Time, Nov. 9, 2023.

7 Krusch, David. Zionism: Christian Zionism. Jewish Virtual Library.

8 Medet, Halil Ibrahim. Israel Paints Palestinians as ‘Animals’ to Legitimize War Crimes: Israeli Scholar. Anadolu Ajansi, Oct. 10, 2023.
9 Omar, Qais Omar Darwesh. Israel Bombs Another UN-Affiliated School in Gaza, Killing and Injuring Dozens of People. Anadolu Ajansi, Nov. 18, 2023.

10 Ayyash, M. Muhannad. Israel is a Settler Colony, Annexing Native Land is What it Does. Al Jazeera, July 7, 2020.

11 Pappé, Ilan. The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 36, No. 1, Autumn 2006, pp. 6-20.

12 The Abraham Accords. U.S. Department of State.

*  Visit for current casualty numbers and other real-time updates.

The Rev. Prof. Dr. Mitri Raheb is president of Dar al-Kalima University.

Read other stories from the Spring 2024 edition of Mission Crossroads here.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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