06 April 2018

Great and Holy Friday (of the Tyre)

This past Friday was Land Day in Palestine.

The original protest commemorated by Land Day took place during the Nakbah (a term coined by Dr Qustantîn Zurayq), the period from late 1947 to 1949 when 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were forced out of their homes by the nascent Israeli state. On 30 March 1948, six Palestinians were shot to death protesting the mass expropriation of land in Galilee to make way for Jewish settlements. Last week, Palestinians in Gaza used this date to protest for the right of return.

The protest in Gaza commemorating the 70th anniversary of the 1948 protest in Galilee, turned out to be even bloodier than the original: 17 Palestinians who protested along the border in Gaza were shot to death by the Israeli military, including snipers using live ammunition; nearly 800 more were injured. Most of those who were killed and injured were teenagers and young men. All but two of those who were killed were unarmed. This was, as several news outlets have noted, the most casualties Gaza has suffered in a single day since the 2014 Gaza war.

Though governments around the world have condemned the disproportionate and unjust violence against the protesters, typically, the American government has blocked an attempt to organise an inquiry through the UN Security council.

There is another protest today against the Israeli government: ‘the Day of the Tyre’, and the Israeli government is planning, again, to use disproportionate and unjust force against peaceful and largely-unarmed protesters. Indeed, there are already casualties. Please remember that this is a protest in just cause: the historical and moral force behind the Palestinian plea for the right of return is considerable.

For the Orthodox Christians of Palestine – making up half or more of the Christian population of Palestine – today will be Good Friday, just as the Land Day protests were Good Friday for the Catholic and Protestant Christians among the Palestinians. This is not insignificant. Like today’s Palestinians, the Judæans of the first century were an occupied people. They thirsted for liberation – a different liberation than Christ offered, but Christ showed His solidarity with them, all the same, with His mortal life. Christ Himself was crucified today, between two such men – thieves, or bandits, who were prepared to use violence against the Roman government. Notwithstanding those who have kinship with Him, today Christ would be standing alongside the same people, standing on the same land, victims of an imperial violence which looks frighteningly similar, and which is eager to wash its own hands of the blood.

The cosmic terms in which Christ’s death and resurrection obtain for us, and upon which the Church rightfully and joyfully insists, should not blind us to the historical reality within which that death and resurrection occurred, or the meaning of that historical reality as it continues to play out before our very eyes. This Great and Holy Friday, let us stand both in sorrowful contemplation of Our Lord’s passion, and in solidarity with those who continue to experience it, forsaken by the world. And let us not forget the hope for the resurrection which is to come.

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