06/15/2010, 00.00
PALESTINE – ISRAEL

For Gaza priest, Israel’s occupation humiliates the Palestinian people

“There are no differences between Christians and Muslims because we all suffer the same way,” Fr Manawel Musallam says. He is in favour of a dialogue with Israel, but wants to see “concrete steps” in defence of the population. “Many factors,” he believes, “prevent us from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Gaza (AsiaNews) – Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and its occupation of Palestinian territories “are a source of humiliation for the [Palestinian] people”, and “undermine people’s lives”, said Fr Manawel Musallam, former parish priest at the Holy Family Church in Gaza. Speaking to AsiaNews, he said that Christians and Muslims are in the same boat, and suffer the same way. The Israeli government could “ease” its hold on Gaza and give a powerless population some breathing space. Yet, pressure by the international community on Israel has not changed things. “We are still under occupation and only when it ends will the situation improve,” Fr Musallam said.

For the Catholic priest, “There are no differences between Christians and Muslims because we all suffer the same way” as “the people of Palestine”.

“Christians are not threatened by Muslims,” he said. Everyone faces the same problem, that of “humiliation”. Their lives that are “disrupted” and they exist without “light, power and water”.

Years of blockade have stunted the development of the territories. “We don’t lack food, but there are no jobs, so people do not have enough money to buy it. For many, there is no future.”

Father Musallam slams Israel’s strategy of acting as if it did not have any borders. In Jerusalem, “it annexes entire pieces of land without considering that Jerusalem is equally Muslim, Christian and Jewish”.

Borders, Palestinian refugees, and Jewish settlements are unresolved problems that affect the path towards peace and reconciliation.

In Gaza, reconciliation is impossible for Fr Musallam, and the return of Palestinian refugees is not foreseeable.

As a representative of the Palestinian community, Fr Musallam is “in favour of a dialogue” with Israel. However, he also wants “to see concrete steps taken for the protection of the population”, first among them, “open crossings” because the blockade has strangled the local economy. From the international; community, he would like to “see people on the ground rather than idle chat.”

“We cannot surrender or give up hope even if Israel does not want peace,” he explained. “It is hard to send signals of hope” because there are “so many factors that prevent us from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” Yet, “I always pray with my faithful, saying that we cannot lose hope for peace.”

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