A Message to my American Christian Brother and Sisters
who support the “Deal of the Century”
By a Palestinian American Christian Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS,
president and CEO of Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF)
Last week U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu jointly announced that they had carved out the “Deal of the Century” for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But deals are business transactions about “things” like buildings and shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Or perhaps as entertainment during over-hyped game shows about money behind a curtain or suitcase.
Deals are not something that should be made about the human rights of other people or their aspirations for self-determination and freedom. In fact, many critics rightly have pointed out that Palestinians were not included in discussions and that negotiations require both sides to be seated at the table. Rather, it appears that the Palestinian people, both Christian and Muslim, are what have been placed on the menu.
There are some facts you should know about your Arab Palestinian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. We were the first followers of Jesus Christ (Acts. 2:11-16). We saved the Christian faith in the Holy Land for over 2000 years, as the faith of Islam came in the seventh century. Before the establishment of Israel, our presence in Jerusalem was over 51% and 20% overall in the Holy land. Today we represent less than 1% of the population. We consider ourselves as the “living rocks” of the faith and have served as a bridge with both Jews and Muslims in the region.
The indigenous Palestinian people in the Holy Land, including we Christians have been relegated to inanimate chess pieces in political “deals” throughout history. We lived for centuries under an Ottoman Occupation only to be carved out by the British and French after World War I. After World War II, we were ethnically cleansed from our homes through the Nakba (catastrophe) with some of us living under Occupation and others, including my parents, fleeing for their lives in refugee camps. Even during Jesus’ time, we were under Roman Occupation with some token authority given to Herod.
While the US has founding principles built on self-determination, freedom and democracy, this is not the first Deal-of-the-Century which devalued those aspirational ideals and dehumanized human beings. In the Louisiana Purchase, US and French leaders usurped tribal rights and lands. And, of course, during slavery, traders routinely made “deals” about other human beings as if they were cattle.
But our Lord reminds us to always hope. Responses by US politicians, media, and even among some Israeli political circles have been overwhelmingly outspoken about the exclusion of Palestinian voices and a deal which calls for no evacuation of settlements, limits Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, and includes no path to statehood. A deal that merely tries to legitimize a status quo that focuses on permanent occupation and denial of human rights.
Ultimately, the one silver lining in this is that it has crystallized the difference between two different and convergent Christian “Ways.” The ideals represented in this Deal seemingly regard the Holy Land as a geographical location with historical monuments. This Way is focused on hegemony and territorial conquest. But for Palestinian Christians, our primary focus is on the people, the living rocks of the church. This deal perpetuates the suffering of our families, the denial of self-determination, freedom and equal rights. As Christians, we should all reflect on which is the true Way that He advocated during his earthly life.
Gospel stories such as the Good Samaritan, reinforce to me that our Lord does care about the suffering of my people, of all people. That like my people, He preached to those who were living under a brutal Occupation. It is this belief that helps me to remain steadfast that the key for unlocking peace resides in the pursuit of human rights, dignity and equality for all of us.
I give a blessing of thanks to all the Good Samaritans that have helped to ease the suffering and defend the rights of the Palestinian people. And I extend a welcome to all American Christians who seek to learn more about the truth of the Palestinian people. As He promised, “seek and you will find.”
God bless America and protect the Palestinian people.