After the Gaza War



The following text is an open letter from Patriarch Michel Sabbah, on the raging war in his homeland of Palestine, its debilitating effects, and the long road to peace. 

The former Archbishop and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem shares his reflections on the deep-rooted causes of this “forgotten conflict”, reminding us that each of us plays a part in working towards true, lasting peace—just as Christ came to bring peace to the world.

After the Gaza War …

By Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Patriarch Emeritus.
Jerusalem, March 21, 2024 

Source: Israel Hamas war: Ground invasion of Gaza expected soon as Netanyahu warns ‘next stage is coming’

In Gaza today, there is war. It’s been already six months. Thousands of victims, and ruins throughout Gaza. It seems that we are at the last phase, in Rafah, a border town with Egypt, where a million and a half people, refugees and locals, have gathered. After that, there will be no one left to kill …

In Gaza, there have been several wars. Israel says this war will be the last. But until now there are human victims and ruins, like never before, and peace does not seem to be near. Victims, human sufferings are so many. More than suffering, more than the loss of men and women, children and babies, humanity is lost.

Why the war in Gaza? The immediate cause is the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023. But the direct cause is also the permanent siege imposed on all Gaza territory since 2007, since the Hamas political party has governed the Gaza enclave. Since then, the entire territory, 2 and a half million people over an area of 380 km², has been under total military siege, imposed by Israel, except for the necessary humanitarian aid

But the real permanent cause also are the deep forgotten roots: the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, begun in 1948, to which Israel has never been able to put an end with a peace agreement, and the international community seems to have forgotten it.

The deep roots are: Gaza under siege, and all of Palestine, towns and villages, subject to Israeli military occupation. Hundreds of deaths over the years, thousands of political prisoners, demolished houses, military check-points on all roads, disrupting freedom of movement and daily life, and a paralyzed, dependent Palestinian economy. In short, we are in a permanent state of war. In this state all the wars in Gaza take root, including that of October 7. And more will come, despite the useless inhuman violence of the present war, if a just, lasting peace is not reached between the two peoples. 

The present Gaza war is the first in intensity, in ruins, in number of victims, and also the first to awaken the world’s attention to a forgotten conflict.

The Gaza War Today says:

War must stop without further delay, because it is no longer a war. It’s a massacre. What after the war?

This time, Israel must win the battle for peace. Otherwise, it will remain an unnecessary defeat for all. It is time for the forgotten conflict to be put back on the agenda, and for the international community to take responsibility and build this peace, which has seemed impossible until today.

Peace means: the security of Israel and, at the same time, the security of the Palestinian people, whose only wrong is to be at home, on their land, in their towns and villages. In fact, the fundamental question that arises today is the following: do the Palestinian people have the right to stay at home, on their own land? To this question, until now, Israel says no, and there are plans for genocide or transfer. Which cannot be a path to peace or security for anyone.

To achieve peace, we must simply admit that even in this conflict, human beings are equal. Israelis and Palestinians, equally created by God, in the image of God, capable of loving, not killing. On this holy land, there is also room for both peoples, with the same political rights: two States, each at home, independent, free, each capable of loving, not of returning to resistance or war. For this, a new education is necessary. We have experienced war for decades, we now need a new education that makes both peoples capable of building and living peace. The leaders and the people also need to be re-educated.

Who is responsible for building this peace? First, the two peoples themselves, Israeli and Palestinian. Then the international community, the friends of Israel and Palestine. The true friends of Israel are those who help Israel achieve peace. Stronger in arms, to win wars, and remain insecure, is not friendship, nor true help to Israel.

One can ask the question: are the two peoples capable of living in peace, each in their own State? Why not? There is too much suffering and injustice in memory, that is true, but there is also the will to live, and there is the fundamental goodness that God has placed in everyone. God created the human being capable of life, not of death, capable of love not of killing.

The surest path to peace is peace with the enemy, especially when the two enemies share the same land. So, for Israel, peace is made first with the Palestinian people, then with all the regimes in the region. Peace with all the regimes in the region, what has been called the “Abrahamic alliance”, and maintaining hostilities with the Palestinian people, does not ensure peace. First peace at home, then with the neighbors. It should also be noted that peace with the regimes of the region is not peace with the peoples of the region. People remain enemies, even with peace treaties between regimes. Peace with the peoples of the region will come when peace is made with the Palestinian people. The strength of the World Powers can impose de facto situations and injustices, but it does not make the strength of the oppressed weak disappear, as has been seen until now. 

Therefore, the international community must finally take the necessary steps to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, and end the 1948 war with a peace treaty between the two peoples.

The Churches can and must help. It is their responsibility also. Pray, raise your voice and act. The Holy Land is the entire Holy Land, it is the two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, and the Christian community there is part of the two peoples. Everyone needs peace. You can help them. Christ came to bring peace to the world, and to his Holy Land too. The Church still has the same mission today.

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