Again, Ms. Sudilovsky is painting a picture of
Muslim Palestinians as intimidating and
brutalizing Christian Palestinians. She quotes
several unidentified Palestinian Christian youth
expressing a concern for their safety after a
murder, a bombing and a physical attack on a
couple in a car. She also quotes Monsignor
Musallam at length describing a number of
negative changes at the parish school and in the
atmosphere of the society in general since Hamas
came to power. Although I can’t say whether or
not this article quotes the unidentified
Christian youths and the Monsignor fully and
accurately, it stands in stark contrast to the
following Inter Press Service article published
less than three months earlier.
Christians And Muslims Coexist In Gaza
By Mohammed Omer
GAZA CITY, Nov
27 (IPS) - As Sunday dawns in Gaza City the
traditional Islamic call to prayer mingles
melodically with church bells.
Side by side,
mosque and church doors swing open, welcoming
the faithful. Greetings are eagerly exchanged.
kidnapping and murder of Rami Ayyad, the manager
of Gaza's only Christian bookstore, sent
shudders through the Christian community.
Was this a hate
crime or simply a tragic occurrence?
Musallam, head of Gaza's Roman Catholic
community, doubts the attack was religiously
"Rami was not
only Christian," the Musallam told IPS. "He was
Palestinian. Violent acts against Christians are
not a phenomenon unique to Gaza."
hearing of the murder, the elected Prime
Minister Ismail Hanyieh of Hamas ordered the
Palestinian ministry of interior to dispatch an
investigative committee to "urgently look into
the matter", labeling Ayyad's death a "murderous
"We are all one
people who suffer together for the sake of
freedom, independence and restoration of our
inalienable citizenship rights," Hanyieh stated
publicly. "We are waging a single struggle and
refuse to allow any party to tamper with or
manipulate this historical relationship,
[between Muslims and Christians]."
approximately 3,000 Christians still call this
former Egyptian territory home - with the
majority of the community living within Gaza
City near the three main churches: The Greek
Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, and the Gaza
Gaza have the same rights as their Muslim
neighbors, rights guaranteed under the
Palestinian Declaration of Independence. Within
the Legislative Council, several seats have been
reserved for Christian leaders.
Seventeen-year-old Christian student Ali Al
Jeldah told IPS about attending a dual faith
school: "My life is normal and I've never felt
oppressed. Being Muslim or Christian is never an
"I have many
Muslim friends. We hang out and study together
with no differences at all," Al Jeldah said.
Lelias Ali, a
16-year-old Muslim student at Holy Family
School, concurs. "We have a unity of struggle, a
unity of aim - to live under the same
circumstances. This land is for both of us and
being a Christian or Muslim should not separate
us" she said.
"I have lots of
friends. Being Muslim or Christian is not an
issue," Diana Al Sadi, a 17-year-old student
"I go to my
friends' homes for happy and sad occasions," Al
Sadi said, "including Christmas and Easter. They
visit mine during Eid [the Muslim holiday that
marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month
students were asked if Christians are being
harassed by Hamas or the Palestinian police, all
agreed that this was not the case.
has extremists," Lelias Ali states. "Sometimes
I'm criticized for not wearing my Hijab. But
that has nothing to do with being Muslim or
Christian. Those people don't represent our
Pausing for a
moment, she considered the assertions in the
international media regarding Muslims and
Christians: "We should not let such ideas sneak
into our minds. If we don't unite, then we
Christians in Gaza feel singled out or
oppressed, Musallam says, "Palestinian
Christians are not a religious community set
apart in some corner. They are part of the
But what of
Hamas, a fundamentalist Islamic political
organization? Have Palestinian Christians
experienced persecution or racism under their
leadership, as Western papers insinuate?
relationship with Hamas is as people of one
nation," Musallam contends. "Hamas doesn't fight
religious groups. Its fight is against the
And what of the
Western media assertions that Gaza's Christians
are considering emigrating because of Islamic
Musallam corrects the misconception. "If
Christians emigrate," he states resolutely,
"It's not because of Muslims. It is because we
suffer from Israeli siege. We seek a life of
freedom. A life different from the life of the
dogs we are currently forced to live."
Now, it’s possible that Ms. Sudilovsky’s article
is the more accurate of the two, but I have my
doubts after receiving from the Monsignor a
piece he recently wrote about the situation of
the Palestinians which seems to contrast
glaringly with Ms. Sudilovsky’s coverage of the
Monsignor’s views. She interviewed Monsignor
Musallam at least 10 times - he is quoted in at
least 10 out of 43 articles including this one,
far more than anyone else – and managed to
elicit from him not a single direct criticism of
Israel. The closest thing to criticism comes in
the form of a few statements indicating a
defiance of sorts, “Our job is to study. That
is our weapon against the Israelis,” “We will
fight against all hope,” “We are under siege,”
and “What you see on television cannot be
compared to what is happening. The word love is
choking in my throat. ... We are living like
animals in Gaza.” Note that the Israelis are
not mentioned by name in the last three more
strongly worded statements the Monsignor
supposedly made during Israel’s recent assault.
So based on Ms. Sudilovsky’s reporting one gets
the impression that the Monsignor does have some
issues with Israel, but outside of its violent
invasion of Gaza, they’re few and fuzzy. I find
this rather notable in light of the many pointed
criticisms of Israel and its occupation the
Monsignor makes below.
Fr. Manuel Musallam
Holy Family Church – Gaza
Israel, our neighbor in Gaza, has failed to
manage its affairs with its neighbors. It
corrects the Palestinian people especially
because it claims Palestinians resist its return
to the “Promised Land.”
It is correcting us, Palestinians, with war,
massacres, war crimes, and displacement:
It has destroyed our homes, our farms and our
villages and established settlements on them.
It has uprooted hundreds of thousands of
productive olive and orange trees, and has
forbidden us from reaping the yields of our
It has opened bypass roads and eroded our
lands. It has destroyed, fragmented and
isolated our cities, villages and fields. It
has built and set up hundreds of checkpoints to
disrupt our lives. It has prevented us from
reaching our holy places of worship in the Aqsa,
the Nativity and the Holy Sepulchre.
It has built the apartheid wall around the West
Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza.
It has broken our bones and forbidden treatment
It has assassinated our leaders in different
We have lived in tents, and it has forbidden us
the means of living and work.
It surrounds us with a siege that suspends our
It has thrown us in a "ghetto" with no water, no
electricity, no medicine or food or work. We
are dying a slow death.
Sedrot, close settlement to Gaza, became a
Wailing Wall that all world leaders and tourists
come to in order to see the relics left by
Qassam missiles, which have killed 12 Israelis
since 2002. Whereas, we do not dare build a
monument that perpetuates the memory of
thousands of innocent Palestinians during war
crimes in Gaza, because Israel will not fail to
destroy it during its construction.
In the recent barbaric war on Gaza, hundreds of
innocent children, men and women and the elderly
were burned in the furnaces of sophisticated
bombs and missiles. And what difference is there
between the furnaces in which the Jews died in
Germany and Poland and the furnaces in which we
died in Gaza?
People of good will like Archbishop Drummond
Tutu and human rights organizations, lawyers,
and specialists in crimes against humanity,
started to come to visit us. Israel hindered the
delegations from reaching us, humiliating them
as they were holding them up at the borders of
Jenin, Rafah, and Beit Hanoun until they got a
permit of entry [after] Israel destroyed lots of
marks of their war crimes.
The United States with its right to the veto
defeated any solution or commitment to
international law, so Israel behaved as above
the law. Now America wants to change
international law so that the leaders of Israel
will not be put on trial as war criminals.
Israel roams over our land, it has no borders.
Every day, it engulfs a plot of land, thousands
of square meters. Is it possible that the world
recognizes a state with no borders after 60
years of its establishment? The state of Israel
is the unique model of this in the world.
Israel says: "Is it conceivable that a
democratic state tolerates the shelling of its
cities and citizens with rockets for 10 years
and has 11 people killed?" We respond with; is
it conceivable that any people accept to remain
under 60 years of occupation without resisting?
The world remembers the handmade Hamas rockets
but does not remember the developed phosphorous
missiles from which we suffer every day.
If we resist, the world screams at us and labels
us as terrorists and does not scream at those
who have occupied us for six decades. Is it not
a crime against humanity for us to live under
occupation and humiliating siege all this time,
When we attack a settlement that stole our land
and the trees that sustain us, the world rebukes
us and labels us as killers of innocent people,
but the world does not lift a finger to remove a
settlement that it recognizes as illegal and is
a war crime under the law.
The world puts a major condition on the part of
the Palestinian people, Hamas and Islamic Jihad,
to deal with for the peace [process] in the
Middle East. This condition states that Hamas
and Islamic Jihad denounce violence and
recognize Israel. Today, you should put the
same condition [on Israel] if you can. You
should ask all Israelis and their extremist
right government, which rejects all agreements
and treaties, to recognize the Palestinian
people and their legitimate rights. Then, you
can make your international decision, but be
just and unbiased.
Why is it wrong for us to hold one prisoner
named Shalit for negotiations? And it is not
wrong for Israel to hold twelve thousand
Palestinian prisoners, who live in places where
animals cannot live. And prisoners who leave the
jail get out handicapped.
Every day Israel invades our cities and villages
and unrightfully detains a number of innocents.
Why is it wrong that one family in Israel
suffers or one of their children is
panic-stricken, and it isn't wrong for thousands
of Palestinian families to suffer and a whole
nation to be panic-stricken?
After successive wars, Israel has also left
behind, a whole destructed people.
• Farmers whose trees and fields were burnt by
substances. Their farms are no longer arable.
• Workers who became unemployed and whose
appetite is not satisfied of bread dipped in
water or tea.
• Merchants whose goods get seized in Israeli
ports. They have to
sell their storehouses so they pay for their
goods’ storage and
then they go bankrupt.
• Employees whose salaries get eaten away
against an imaginary
rise in prices. This is if the salary is
reached to them after a year
from its due date.
Disabled after being hit with advanced violent
weapons that amputated their limbs – what sorrow
and grief they have and those who serve them –
there are no institutions for them or
experienced [medical personnel] for their
treatment and rehabilitation and recovery from
their despair and brokenness.
Children who have been dismembered and afflicted
with trauma and psychological diseases of fear,
their bodies thin with malnutrition. Some have
died of fear; some have been snatched by
barbaric, Nazi violence as they were
breastfeeding, or have died of a bullet that
pierced them in their mothers' wombs.
Who cures them all? Who compensates for their
lost rights? Who cures children who have seen
their families injured and bleeding, children
who have seen their parents die in their arms
and have heard, for the first time, the rattle
of the conflict that never occurred to them, a
strange and horrible sound that will accompany
them in their sleep and wakefulness as long as
Who cures children who will sleep in the hands
of terror, or with anxiety in their eyes,
urinating on themselves and their beds, or in
their school uniforms that they slept in,
because their scant sleeping attire has not yet
dried? They go to school in the morning trying
to conceal themselves and hide the smell of
The child who used to cry when he sees a drop of
blood on his finger, has felt himself drowning
in blood; he tramples in his father's and
mother's blood with bitterness and sorrow in his
desperate search for someone to stop the
bleeding, so that his parents will live. Who
will heal this child?
On the first day of the bombing, we heard some
sad and deplorable stories about the white
phosphorus bombs that are internationally
banned, from the Shifa hospital doctors and from
satellite TV reporters. After the doctors had
provided first-aid to some of the injured and
sent them home, they returned to the hospital
with their bodies smoking as the phosphorus
reacted again in their bodies and [reignited.]
It is no wonder then that resistance is born and
multiplies until it spreads to all the people of
Palestine. It is no wonder that we all turn to
Hamas, the resistance, or to fundamentalist
elements in our search for deliverance from the
occupation and our woes.
When will Israel understand that correcting
people with war, violence and occupation is a
moral mistake and a war crime; a crime against
humanity? That war does not build peace? That
it cannot occupy a people forever.
It is going too far in correcting the homes of
the Palestinians, so it demolishes them even on
their heads and their children, women and elders
without the restraint of conscience. It knows
that the home means peace and stability and the
end of dispersion. Therefore, it demolishes the
homes and shakes up its residents so that no one
will rest in their homeland and among their
It disrespects the sanctity of a child's smile,
so it orphans them; the vitality of youth, so it
humiliates them and treats them with disdain;
the pride and arrogance of the olive, orange,
lemon and fig trees, so it destroys them with
military bulldozers; it pains their eyes to see
the splendor of the land that has become green
after being worked by a farmer from my country,
so it causes its desertification!
After all this, our resistance becomes terrorism
and some of our primitive missiles threaten the
security of the state of Israel, and the
security of the civilized world. So the borders
are closed and Gaza is declared a hostile,
prohibited area, drowning in the dark, with its
people parched and starving, ships of the
Atlantic patrol our sea to monitor our armament
and oversee the demolition of the arteries, the
tunnels, which we have lived from.
With notorious hypocrisy, the butcher and the
victim have been made equal. Our cause stands
out as an issue of dialogue between factions, as
a conflict on a loaf of bread and a glass of
water, as appeasement and opening of crossing
points. The world forgets or pretends to forget
that our cause is one of emancipation of a
people, land and holy sites. The sound of the
Aqsa cannot be heard because of the racket of
the excavations beneath it and near it; the
screams of the city of Bethlehem from the pain
of gestation of the settlements and the wall
winding around its neck cannot be heard because
of the sound of stone saws and construction in
Jabal Abu Ghneim, and the screams of Jenin’s
children, Beit Hanoun, and Rafah which the
Statute of Liberty does not hear.
The terrorism of the state of Israel has become
the right to protect its borders and its people;
but when we ask for freedom according to the
heavenly and humanity laws, our resistance
become destructive terrorism.
O world, you do not have the right to request
peace and security for Israel, the occupier the
aggressor, before giving us all our lost
national rights, justice, and complete
compensation for all what Palestinians have lost
since the World War I.
Israel, which occupied our land 60 years ago,
hasn't left a flower or even their scent in our
mountains. We are facing an enemy that has
destroyed the flowers, figs, olives, oranges,
lemons, cypress, palm, poplar, berries, birds,
sea, land and humans.
O people, Israel is whose friend? Is it
possible to build peace with them? How can we
preach of peace to our people, when they have
killed the peace? How can we preach love, when
hatred, murder and terrorism towards us fill
How can we preach hope, when it is dying in all
our hearts? Israel has strangled the words of
reconciliation, love, pardon, hope and
forgiveness in our hearts.
Since history began, we existed, and history can
testify how fragrant our history is. Since the
day the people of Zion stepped on our land with
Joshua Ben-Nun, then with David Ben-Gurion, and
today, Palestine is passing from tragedy to
disaster, from a war crime to a crime against
humanity and from massacre to genocide.
I guess the Monsignor managed to keep all these
sentiments bottled up every time Ms. Sudilovsky
interviewed him. Or did he?