Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Israel's Wall Starves the Catholics

We've heard about this--but Novak writes about it.

It's another perspective on the State of Israel's thought-pattern:

On Good Friday, I stood atop the remnant of the Santa Barbara shrine, destroyed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and observed a panorama of the picturesque village of Aboud. I could see properties confiscated to make room for the Israeli security wall, at the cost of centuries-old olive trees. Nearby are two enclosed, heavily guarded Israeli settlements, with four times Aboud's Palestinian population.

Defenders of Israeli policy claimed my facts were wrong Feb. 16 when I wrote that the wall threatens Israel's tiny Christian minority and particularly Aboud's Christian roots going back two millennia. Coming here for a firsthand look, I found the plight of the village's Christians worse than I had reported.

Christians share the harsh fate of Palestinian Muslims in the wake of the disastrous Second Intifada. The blunt-spoken head of Roman Catholic Palestinians, Latin Patriarch Michael Sabbah, told me: "The world has abandoned the Palestinians."

If the world is uninterested in Palestinians generally, the plight of their co-religionists attracts the attention of Roman Catholics -- with Aboud a striking example. Of the village's 2,200 residents, 418 are Catholics and 375 Greek Orthodox. Thirty Catholic families have moved out, and more are expected to follow.

With transportation to Israel for Palestinians cut off, some 100 residents of Aboud who used to work in Tel Aviv have nothing to do here. Suhel Fawade, a 31-year-old Catholic, told me he has not had a job for seven years and consequently cannot marry to start his own family.

Foreign Ministry officials assert concern for their country's Christians. But Father Firas Aridah, the Catholic pastor here, worries that his flock is losing its young generation. "They are after our water," he told me, referring to Aboud supplying 20 percent of the West Bank's ground water. The bitterness is intense. Israel's 2001 destruction of 500 olive trees, in reaction to a settler's murder, left scars. So did the IDF bomb planted in Santa Barbara's shrine in 2002 because of suspicions that terrorists were meeting there.

...Sami El-Youssef, financial vice president of Bethlehem University, said he believes there is a conscious Israeli policy of getting rid of the Christian minority, whose discomfiture is more politically embarrassing for Israel than Muslim distress.

...Israeli government officials argue the wall may not be pretty but saves lives. Retired IDF officers at the Economic Cooperation Foundation, a Tel Aviv think tank, believe the wall creates a climate of hatred. "I think it may be producing another generation of terrorists," Brig. Gen. Ilan Paz told me. That is even worse than driving out the Holy Land's remaining Christians.

One has to credit Joe Farah, a leading Dispensationalist, for running this column in his WND editorial page. It is certainly NOT the kind of PR that the State of Israel wants--but Novak's piece happens to reflect the truth.

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