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Let My People Go
Israel - Middle East
Friday, April 25, 2014
Alf Cengia

In my last column I wrote about John Kerry's gaffe. He had chastised Israel in front of the world by declaring that its failure to release Palestinian prisoners speedily enough was one of the mitigating factors that resulted in a Peace Talks impasse.

My parents knew something about impartiality. Whenever we fought, as kids are wont to do, we knew that when they eventually stepped in we were all going to be made equally accountable. This was regardless of the fact that there may have been a primary instigator.

Any instigator was always counseled privately, while the punishments were meted out to the participants equally. Doing otherwise would have encouraged further conflict. The key (and simple) lesson was that fighting in the family was never going to be tolerated.

Kerry either didn't have parents who taught those ethics, or he forgot some basic lessons. Either way his public remarks will have only encouraged the idea that Israel is mainly to blame for the ongoing conflict. And that's the meme the world has largely adopted.

But Kerry isn't the only one who jumped on the Palestinian prisoner's cause.

This Easter, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit decided to forgo Passover greetings to his Jewish friends in Jerusalem. Instead, he delivered a W.C.C. statement of solidarity with some "5000 Palestinian men, women and children, languishing in Israeli jails."

Tveit stated that:

“As people of faith, we are called to pray for, visit, and tend to the needs of all prisoners, no matter the reason for their detention. For Israel and Palestine, prisoners have taken on even greater significance than in the past."

Tveit invited the churches in the "Holy Land" to commemorate these prisoners during Palestinian Prisoners Day (April 17) through “prayers and acts of solidarity that restore to them their freedom with justice and dignity.”

As the World Council of Churches noted:

"Some prisoners have been in Israeli jails since 1948. Since 1967, close to 750,000 Palestinians have faced detention in Israeli jails. Many are held under arbitrary administrative detention for lengthy periods with no access to quick and fair trial."

The WCC added that this decision by Israel had disrupted an "already fragile negotiations process." I thought that was a nice touch to their efforts at reconciliation. Good job, guys!

Adopting words and phrases such as "freedom", "justice", "dignity" and "arbitrary detention" within the framework of Palestinian suffering, immediately (and naturally) demonizes the party from which these injustices have been allegedly administered. What is lacking in that emotional narrative is hard data. Why were these prisoners incarcerated? Was it simply at the whim of Israeli hegemony?

CAMERA observed that it was no surprise the WCC had a soft-spot for liberation movements regardless of their violence and totalitarianism. In fact the word "liberation", "oppression" and "poverty" have often been erroneously invoked by Western apologists of Islam to excuse murder-suicides such as the 9/11 attacks.

But it is no surprise to me that the WCC is sloppy with its facts. Contrary to its claim that Palestinian prisoners have been jailed since 1948, CAMERA cites a Haaretz report which notes two Palestinians:

“Karim Younis and Maher Younis, will begin their 31st year in prison next week, making them the longest-serving of all the Palestinians currently doing time for terrorism in Israeli jails.” (Emphases mine)

Sadly, only those Palestinians sitting in Israeli jails tend to get any recognition. Over the years, anti-Israel activists have tended to overlook the injustice administered to those Palestinians their own jails, and within their own systems.

In 2013 a Gaza-based Palestinian Human rights group claimed that Hamas had arrested and tortured dozens of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on political grounds. The arrests coincided with demonstrations against Hamas on the anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat. At the time a Hamas spokesman was quoted as saying: "There's no place for collaborators, hypocrites or rebels...on our land."

According to a recent Gatestone Institute column, one report reveals that in 2014, the Palestinian Authority arrested 357 Palestinians for security and political offenses. Of those arrested, 42 were university students. The P.A. security forces raided and searched 60 Palestinian West Bank homes because of suspicion of security offenses etc. The report also claimed that in March the P.A. raided "42 private and public institutions, businesses, hospitals and charitable organizations in the West Bank"; and that it was "continuing to torture detainees."

Where was their Easter solidarity message?

Finally, let's not forget the Christians. At least one Anglican leader got it right when he devoted his Easter sermon to suffering Christians around the world. Let's also not forget Christians like Saeed Abedini who have been languishing in prison for their unwavering faith in Christ, not acts of terrorism.

I hope the World Council of Churches representatives had a wonderful Easter.

About Alf Cengia

Last week: On Peace Talks & Bullies

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