Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Palestinian outsider ...


Jean Zaru

It's hard to say -- or think -- anything very hopeful about the situation of the Palestinians. An ancient people is being harried and harassed into oblivion by a bullying settler state, Israel, fully supported by our country, especially its political class. Not surprisingly, Palestinians resist erasure as best they can, often with ugly results.

So it was a great privilege to hear on Friday from a Palestinian who is trying to project a vision of resistance that affirms life while refusing to compromise with injustice whether by Israelis toward Palestinians, by any religion against another, or by men towards women. Jean Zaru represented the Jerusalem-based ecumenical liberation theology center, Sabeel, at a Berkeley conference sponsored by its North American friends. I'm not going to try to reproduce Zaru's talk; I would not do it justice. Rather I'll share just a bit from a handout of what she said on another occasion,

My first problem has always been introducing myself. If I called myself a Palestinian, I was equated with terrorism. If I said I was an Arab, I was assumed to be a Muslim. If I said I came from Jerusalem, thinking this would make things clearer for my fellow Christians, someone would immediately say, "Oh, you are Jewish! Shalom." And, when I continued to point out that I am Christian the inevitable final query came: "When were you converted?"

I give the only reply I can: "Sorry, I cannot give you the satisfaction of saving my soul. I am a Christian, I must tell you, because my ancestors were Disciples of Christ. They were members of the first Christian Church which was in Jerusalem." ...

As I continue on my journeys to affirm the presence of 12 million Arab Christians in the Middle East and of a Palestinian people struggling for justice and freedom in at least a part of their homeland, new obstacles and pressures reveal themselves. For liberal Christians, influenced by Holocaust theology and European history and guilt, I am not, as a Palestinian Christian, a part of their agenda. My very existence disturbs the balance. For fundamentalists, I am not among the chosen. Rather, I am one of the cursed. As so as a Palestinian, I stand in the way of the fulfillment of the prophecy of God. I cannot win for it seems that I am not part of the theology of many, if not most, of my brothers and sisters.

Yet, my entire life has been affected and encompassed by Biblical teachings and interpretations. As a Christian, a Palestinian, a woman, an Arab and a Quaker, the teachings of western churches have affected me personally and, collectively, my people in very specific ways.

Read the whole thing.

The Israeli occupation has been, in language the religious scholar Rosemary Radford Reuther used at the same meeting, "lethal to the Palestinian Christian community. They get it from all sides." In 1967, the indigenous Christians of Jerusalem and the West Bank numbered some 13 percent of Palestinians. Today, Christians are less than one percent. Christian holy sites are no longer living churches -- they been "museumified."

Actually, I didn't have to go to some conference to learn about this -- many corner store owners in San Francisco would be happy to share a similar story. Just ask in the places with a picture of Jerusalem pasted on the back wall...

3 comments:

prof said...
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Jane R said...

Oy, I got the same spam the other day.

Meanwhile, re: Jean Zaru: I am so glad you got to hear her. I heard and re-met her in the Bay Area several years ago when she was visiting and speaking. Had met her way, way back in the early 80s I think it was, at the first Harvard conference on Women, Religion, and Social Change. Her granddaughter is a student here at Guilford! (The college frequently has students who are graduates of the Friends' School in Ramallah.)

How is Jean's health?

janinsanfran said...

We didn't talk enough with Jean to learn about her health. She appeared fine, but I suspect this is a person who has spent a lifetime appearing fine when under great stress.

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