THE “intolerable” occupation of Palestine by Israel must end, and justice must come before peace and reconciliation, the Professor of Theology at Bethlehem University told an audience in London last week.
Delivering the annual Embrace the Middle East lecture, at St James’s, Piccadilly, Professor Jamal Khader described the occupation as a “sin against God” that must be countered by non-violent means. Britain should support this goal, he said, by putting pressure on Israel through economic and diplomatic means.
“We should never forget the main goal is to have a real change on the ground: to end the occupation and allow Palestinians to be free and independent.”
Professor Khader, who was born in Zababdeh, a village in the West Bank, called for renewed efforts to fight the despair that led to the emigration of Palestinian Christians and “desperate acts”. Israel had the support of Western countries and gained economically from the occupation, to the tune of billions of dollars. It must be made to realise that the occupation was “unacceptable to the international community”. He warned of “Jewish extremism”, the “hatred” preached by some rabbis, and the need to challenge theologies that had been used to justify the injustice perpetrated against the Palestinians. Israel’s own security was predicated on peace with the Palestinians.
Asked by a member of the audience about compassion, he replied, that, while “we work to avoid hatred,” there was “a lot of anger because of the occupation and daily humiliation. . . People easily talk about reconciliation, compassion. What I say is, we need justice, peace, and reconciliation in that order. Please do not tell me to forgive . . . when I suffer injustice. Let us work for justice then peace, reconciliation, and compassion will follow immediately.”
When a member of the audience spoke of the “complexity” of the situation, he replied: “Complexity is a call for you to do nothing. . . It is not complex . . . There is an occupation, and it should end.”