Palestine's Gaza Priest, Manuel Musallam, Delivers a Blistering Easter
By Stuart Littlewood
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, ccun.org, April 5, 2010
Stuart Littlewood views the Easter message of Gaza’s courageous
Fr Manuel Musallam in which he delivered a blistering attack on Israel’s
occupation and its rape of the holy sites, and a damning indictment of the
silence of the cowards in the West.
Fr Manuel Musallam recently
retired at the age of 71 after serving as the parish priest of the Holy
Family Church in Gaza for 14 years. For most of that time the Israelis would
not allow him to visit his family and friends in the West Bank. So, in spite
of failing health, he soldiered on through the devastating siege and the
I was privileged to meet him a couple
of years ago and I just love the way this man speaks out. He doesn't mince
words. He tells it the way it is, with truth and style.
hasn’t silenced him or dimmed his perceptions.
This Easter he's
concerned, as always, about the occupation and how it robs those in the Holy
Land of Easter's message of hope and joy:
We Christians of Palestine have been under occupation for many long
years. We’ve been suffering with bitterness at being kept away from the
Holy Sites. We’ve been denied our right to worship in Jerusalem. Many
Christian generations have never been able to reach Jerusalem to visit
its holy places.
The occupation has been continuously imposing
unlawful obstacles. This year, we are confronted by the Israeli
Apartheid Separation Wall, checkpoints and roadblocks guarded by Israeli
soldiers denying us movement and access to Jerusalem.
All these measures not only suffocate the Palestinian people, but
also asphyxiate peace in Israel and Palestine.
Fr Manuel explains how Palestinians are denied the freedom to worship as
and where they please, even at Easter. In particular, they are prevented
from going into Jerusalem. The Zionist claim that Palestine was “a land
without a people for a people without a land” has had a disastrous impact on
the Palestinians. "It does not mean that Jerusalem is without a people, but
rather it should be evacuated to be handed over to another people. David Ben
Gurion himself articulated the plan in 1937 when he declared: 'We must expel
Arabs and take their places.'”
"Every stone built in the Apartheid Wall, every axe
strike digging under the Al-Aqsa Mosque and every house
destroyed by Israel will increase the intensity of
resistance and resentfulness."
Fr Manuel Musallam
"Every stone built in the Apartheid Wall, every axe strike digging under
the Al-Aqsa Mosque and every house destroyed by Israel will increase the
intensity of resistance and resentfulness. However, cooperation with
Palestinians will give Israel the hope for a future, dominated by serenity
“We lament Jerusalem...”
He warns of the relentless Zionist programme to completely Judaise
Jerusalem, alter its features, expel its people, destroy its houses, seize
its land and build numerous settlements.
We lament Jerusalem, and miss its beautiful ceremonies. This year
thousands of tourists will weep with us. They will not be able to march
the “Way of the Cross” with Palestinians. There will be no national
Palestinian folklore to discover or Arab religious crafts to take with
them as gifts, and no local prayers, hymns and music to experience in
the warm faith of believers in Palestine. They will be shocked entering
the Holy Sepulchre to find Israeli police inside.
Easter symbolizes liberation from sin and slavery but hopes of national
liberation are evaporating. The slavery and humiliation of occupation are
felt more keenly than ever by Palestinian Christians.
We do not foresee any political settlement, or an end to occupation,
or hope for the return of Palestinian refugees, or the forming of our
state with Jerusalem as its capital, or the right to self-determination,
or the liberation of thousands of prisoners, free access and movement,
an end to Gaza siege, and the dismantling of the Apartheid Wall around
We are appalled by the continuous threats of more war.
And we are distressed by the daily humiliation, hunger, thirst,
unemployment and the absence of sustainable development in our country.
The world's silence is perplexing, he says, and the international
community seems unable to implement the resolutions it used to create the
State of Israel. Recent events only to lead closer to the abyss.
reminds us that Palestinians have been building and enhancing Jerusalem for
5,000 years and never stopped – except during the occupation, which has
practically destroyed everything they had accomplished. Unable to find any
traces of their own heritage, he observes, the occupiers have annexed some
of the Palestinians’ holy places.
"Jerusalem was the city of God, peace and prayer, but has
been converted into a city of man, war and hatred. Instead
of becoming the key to the doors of heaven, it has become a
key to war and blood."
Fr Manuel Musallam
"Jerusalem was the city of God, peace and prayer, but has been converted
into a city of man, war and hatred. Instead of becoming the key to the doors
of heaven, it has become a key to war and blood."
“Protect our holy sites”
Jerusalem, the holiest place on earth, is now the focus of sin and crime,
he says, because one man is killing another, insulting him and trampling his
dignity and his right to live.
Jerusalem is ours. It is not a disputed land. We are not soliciting
to share the legacy and heritage of Jerusalem with Israel or with anyone
We do not accept the speech of Israeli leaders that
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that building in it is no
different from building in Tel Aviv. Occupation is a sin and a form of
terrorism, and when relying on the texts of the Torah to kill people or
expel and remove them from their land it rises to the level of a crime
against humanity. All perpetrators should be judged by the International
Criminal Court before being judged by the just court of God.
Supporters of Netanyahu's remarks, and those who fail to condemn them,
simply give Israel more time and excuses to intensify its crimes against the
Palestinian people. Hence they become accomplices in a “sin against the
In his appeal to the world this Easter, what seems to worry
Fr Manuel most is how the dwindling numbers that are now allowed to reach
the holy sites might cause them to be turned into historic monuments or even
destroyed. In the eyes of Israeli leaders, these places are “pagan sites”
and whoever destroys them is brought closer to God. "A long time ago," he
the Zionist Jewish leader Theodore Herzl said: “If one day we recover
Jerusalem and I am still able to do anything when we do so, my first
action will be to cleanse it thoroughly. I will remove everything that
is not holy and burn the monuments that are centuries old.”
Israel has devastated and tortured us in their many wars. We ask you to
see the wounds of innocent Palestinian people and to be compassionate
towards the Palestinian holocaust that you witness with your own eyes
and touch with your own hands, and to know those who perpetrated this
crime against our children. Search with us for justice that is the
mother of peace. Protect us and safeguard our Holy Sites.
I recall that in 2008 Fr Manuel was with his Christian community during
their darkest hour when Israel, with a nod from America and the EU,
unleashed a deadly onslaught intended to finally crush the half-starved
"Wimpish churchmen and politicians in the West would wet
their pants at the very thought of speaking plainly against
Zionist lawlessness and cruelty the way Fr Manuel does,
which is why the Holy Land is such an unholy mess."
At the height of the killing spree, Fr Manuel sent this message from the
smoking ruins to anyone who would listen:
Our people in Gaza are treated like animals in a zoo. They eat but
remain hungry; they cry, but no one wipes their tears. There is no
water, no electricity, no food, only fear, terror and blockade... Our
children are living in a state of trauma and fear. They are sick from it
and for other reasons such as malnutrition, poverty and the cold... The
hospitals did not have basic first aid before the war and now thousands
of wounded and sick are pouring in and they are performing operations in
the corridors. The situation is frightening and sad.
In exasperation he added: “May Christ's compassion revive our love for
God even though it is currently in 'intensive care'."
Wimpish churchmen and politicians in the West would wet
their pants at the very thought of speaking plainly against Zionist
lawlessness and cruelty the way Fr Manuel does, which is why the Holy Land
is such an unholy mess. Their inaction ensures that nothing changes for the
better. Indeed, the situation gets progressively worse. Some will no doubt
be muttering, “Will nobody rid us of the turbulent priest?” as did King
Henry II in 1170, referring to Thomas Becket who rebelled against his unjust
But we need many more good and turbulent priests. They
inspire. They might even succeed in goading the cowardly international
community to action. Meanwhile, it seems God still has work for Fr Manuel,
even in retirement.
Stuart Littlewood is author of the
book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under
occupation. For further information please visit
expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors
and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah & ccun.org.