Archbishop Hanna Attallah cries for Palestinian Unity
A man on a mission: Archbishop Hanna Attallah cries for Palestinian Unity
by OCP on November 7, 2010
Dr. Aref Assaf
Close to 500 people were treated last Sunday to a most moving speech
by Archbishop Hanna Attallah who traveled from Jerusalem to be the
keynote speaker at the 42nd Annual Convention of the US-based United
Holy Land Fund. Theodosios (Hanna) of Sebastia (born 1965) is the
Archbishop of Sebastia from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of
Jerusalem. Ordained on the 24 December 2005 at the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre, he is the second Palestinian to hold the position of
Archbishop in the history of the diocese.
His eminence, delivered in perfect Arabic a most passionate plea for
the world leaders and peoples to view the tragedy of the Palestinian
people as one deserving their fullest attention. Over sixty years of
suffering, dispossession and living in the Diaspora, he asserted, is
far too long a punishment. More importantly, he was poignantly
demanding the different Palestinian factions to reunite their efforts
under the umbrella of national unity. The linkage between justice and
political influence, he asserted, is a weapon Arabs and Palestinian
Americans must employ in effecting pro-justice and pro Palestine
policies. The Archbishop's eloquence, demeanor and stately presence
were a source of elation for many in the audience. They were also
sufficiently indicative of how leaders can stir uneasy feelings about
how inadequate is our commitment to celebrating and nurturing
political narratives while remaining proactively committed to
defending our national struggle.
The core of his message was the centrality of Jerusalem in the
realization of Palestinian national aspirations. He stated that
"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
the 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 was the final agreement
between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Palestinians should
have the free right to enter their city without any restrictions, and
also they must have the right to live in it, build their homes and
reside in it without the interference of anyone. The Palestinians in
Jerusalem are in their city and country not a stranger. The treatment
of the Palestinian as outsider is by itself a racist action."
As for the support Israel receives from so called Christian Zionists
in the US, the Archbishop was adamant that 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." He added he was
"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 us to stand with the
marginalized and the oppressed and not with the oppressors.
For those who use the bible to support Israel need to differentiate
between God's promise and the Balfour promise (Balfour Declaration),
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 '48 and until now."
On a joyous side note, we were treated to the introduction of Dr.
Leila Ghannam who is the first woman to ever hold the title of
"Muhafeth' or Governor for the Ramallah and Al-Biereh Governorate.
Dr. Ghannam, spoke of the Palestinian educational achievements under
the most difficult circumstances of statelessness and military occupation.
I was particularly impressed with her important statements
considering that we languish under a suffocating military occupation,
our people have surpassed expectations. But I was more troubled with
what she alluded to about the challenges and serious deficiencies our
youth faces in Palestine. While we are proud of the number of
graduating students each year, I worry about providing opportunities
for them to translate their education into tangible and productive
achievement for our people.
It was refreshing to hear her reassuring words that our people will
overcome the bleak conditions of disunity and the occupation.
Palestinian Americans can and must play a decisive role in moving our
people ever closer to achieving their dream of sovereignty and
independence. As a son of a refugee who passed away recently, his
dream of returning to his village, Allar, unfulfilled, I am burdened
with the future of our people. Palestine lives in our hearts and
conscience and its love and suffering is manifested into our actions
or lack thereof. Many of us work superbly as individuals but we can
never seem to work as a united group. I know more can and needs to be
done. As you visit other cities in the US, please tell our people to
unite and to work together for the cause of beloved Palestine. Sadly,
political and ideological divisiveness has reached our shores. You
need to remind us of what we are.
The United Holy Land Fund, which is a registered non profit tax
exempt entity in the US, raised close to $100,000 which will go to
help Palestinian students with their college tuition. The UHLF is led
by a dedicated group of volunteers based in Illinois, US and has
branches in several States.