[News] Palestine - Interview with Atallah Hanna
news at freedomarchives.org
Sat Jul 24 11:37:00 EDT 2010
Posted: 23 Jul 2010 06:08 PM PDT
Intifada Exclusive Interview with his Eminence
Archbishop Theodosios "Atallah Hanna"
Archbishop of Sebastia
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Of Jerusalem
"For those who use the Bible to support Israel need to differentiate
between God promise and Balfour promise, because the occupation is
the result of a promise given to the Israelis by Lord Balfour and not
by God." Archbishop Theodosios
Elias Harb: Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel has
claimed in varies publications that Jews, Christians and Muslims are
able to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem and that only under
Israeli sovereignty had freedom of worship for all religions been
assured in the city. How do you respond to that?
Archbishop Theodosios: The facts on the ground say exactly the
opposite, more and more Muslims and Christians are having great
difficulties in entering the city. We see thousands are denied the
entry to their holiest sites. The Israelis authorities are even
preventing the Arab Jerusalemites from entering the Holy sepulcher
and the Aqsa mosque on major religious feasts. It is very apparent
that the Israelis want Jerusalem to themselves and they do not want
to share it with others. It is a pity that the city of peace, which
must symbolize brotherhood and love to be transformed into symbol of
hatred and division because of Israeli actions.
EH: How has the Israeli Occupation affected Palestinians living in
the West Bank right to worship and visit the Holy Places in
Jerusalem? What is the importance of Jerusalem to the Palestinians?
Could be there a state for the Palestinians without Jerusalem as its
capital? How Israel developments projects changed the features of the
AT: Let me be clear on this subject, there will be no Palestine
without Jerusalem as its capital. It is ridicules to imagine
Palestine without Jerusalem, because it beats in the heart of every
Palestinian. In addition to that, Israel tries to change the features
of Jerusalem through its development projects like the light train,
the malls or the parks. They are trying to make Palestinians
foreigners in their own city. According to international law,
Jerusalem is still an occupied city, thus it has no right to change
anything in it. Whatever is the final agreement between the Israelis
and the Palestinians, the Palestinians should have the free right of
entry to their city without any restrictions; also they must have the
right to live in it, build their homes and resides in Jerusalem
without the interference of anybody. The Palestinian in Jerusalem is
in his city and his country and not a stranger and the treatment of
the Palestinian as a outsider is by itself a racist action.
EH: Many people around the around are unaware of the dwindling
Christian population in the Holy land. How critical is this situation
and what will happen to the future of Christianity in the Holy Land?
AT: First of all, I should stress on the fact that the Palestinian
Christians were here since Jesus times, where in the Books of Acts
in the Bible it was mentioned that there were Arabs listening to the
Apostles in Jerusalem. Christians Arabs had and still have a big
effect in the development of the Arab societies in the Middle east.
We are not visitors or strangers to Palestine. Our history is deeply
rooted in this area of the world. On the other hand, our numbers is
dwindling due to the occupation and the bitter reality it is causing.
But we are not afraid that Christians will disappear from Palestine,
because there will be always Christians in Palestine to continue the
message of Jesus Christ.
EH: Many Evangelical Christians in U.S. and western countries believe
that the emergence of the state of Israel is promised by God. They
support Israel financially. What is the Orthodox Church position on
AT: The Orthodox church as all churches in the Holy land refuses to
give excuses from the Bible for the unjust treatment of the Palestinian people.
I am very sorry to hear about some religious groups in the United
States that support the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian
territories. Such support cannot be justified from a Christian point
of view because Christianity is against any sort of occupation and
the injustice in it all forms and rationalization.
These groups need to re-read their Bible, because the Bible calls
call us to stand with the marginalized and the oppressed and not with
For those who use the Bible to support Israel need to differentiate
between God promise and Balfour promise, because the occupation is
the result of a promise given to the Israelis by Lord Balfour and not by God.
God is innocent from the unjust actions of the Israeli occupation of
our land since 1948 and until now.
EH: Israel has built the separation wall and claims it is for
security purposes, how do you respond to that? Also how has the
Separation Wall affected the daily lives of
Palestinians? Israel has created many facts on the ground in
the occupied territories; do you believe a two state solution to the
Palestine/Israeli conflict is still possible?
AT: First of all, I want to stress on the fact that wall is illegal,
even the highest court system in the world declared that it is
illegal, thus our duty as humans have an obligation towards their
brethren to dismantle this racist wall. The purpose of this wall is
simply to cut Palestinians from their neighbors, family and land. A
proof of that is the inhuman checkpoints, where if a person who wants
to visit his/her relative in Jerusalem, is not allowed to enter, and
if by some miracle he got a permission, he has to pass this awful
checkpoints where is treated in a very humiliating way. I do not
think security reasons have to do anything with it, especially that
62% of the wall is done. It is just an excuse to take more land
illegally and separate Palestinians from each other.
EH: Israeli and the Western press is demanding that Hamas release
Gilad Shalat, yet hardly anyone mention the thousands of Palestinians
political prisoners? Can you tell briefly the situation of
Palestinian political prisoners?
AT: There are about 11000 political prisoners in Israeli jails,
quarter of the Palestinian people at some point or another were in
prison since 1967. This is a big number. It is sad, that the
international media does not bring it up to the light. These are
people who fought for a just and right cause, and at the same time
they are treated in the most inhuman ways a person can imagine. The
duty of every free person on the world who believes in the human
rights, and who believes that all humans were born equal to stand beside them.
Not mentioning the biggest prison in the world is the Gaza strip.
There are a million and a half living in Gaza. We pray and ask every
free person in the world to work for the release of the people in Gaza.
EH: On May 31, Israeli commandos attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla
killing 9 humanitarian activists, wounding over 50 . Can you share
your thoughts on this recent attack?
AT: It is a very sad incident that we will never forget. The
brutality of the Israeli forces is expectable. Whenever people try to
show the dark side of the Israeli occupation and situation in Gaza,
they try to shut their voices down. Our condolences and thanks for
the Turkish government and people who stood a very brave stand toward
The flotilla which participated in it several people from different
nationalities and religions conforming that there are still people
who believes in the values of justice and peace.
EH: For the past 62 years, Palestinian who were expelled from
Palestine, have been living in refugee Camps in Gaza, West Bank,
Jordan, Lebanon, an Syria waiting for the right to return to their
homeland. What message of hope, would you give to these refugee's.
AT: I say to all the Palestinian refugees they should still not give
up their right of return. It is a right that could not be canceled by
time. It is a human right because every Palestinian refugee should
return to his/her home.
Do not lose hope because our cause is a just one and the person who
was wronged in a way or another should not be desperate, but we
should still claim our rights where we hope that one day and it will
be soon Enshaala (God Willing) that every Palestinian could return to
EH: Thank you Sayidna (Your Eminence) .
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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