“It’s time to solve the crisis instead of managing it, as the United States and Israel usually do,” the Rev. Dr. Fadi Diab said today. “Because 76 years of military occupation is enough.” Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ramallah, visiting the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles with his spouse, Ruba, and their sons, Phillipe and Andrew, Fr. Fadi addressed a luncheon audience of 40 at St. Paul’s Commons, Echo Park. The Diabs are guests of Randall Heyn-Lamb and Doni Heyn-Lamb of the Jerusalem committee of our Program Group on Global Ministry. I had the pleasure of introducing Fr. Fadi.
He offered no detailed plan for peace, justice, and national self-determination beyond insisting that the status quo is unsustainable. Israel’s right-wing government and extremist elements in Palestine are caught in a feedback loop, with violence in the occupied West Bank at its highest level in 30 years. Settlers are increasing their attacks on Christians and their religious sites. The Palestinian Authority, weakened by corruption, is failing to control Hamas and other extremists.
Meanwhile, Fadi says, follow the demographics. With 90% of Palestinians living in cities and towns, and 76% of the occupied West Bank under Israeli security in the so-called Area C, Fadi suggested we take the word of Israeli leaders who say their ultimate plan is annexation of most of the territory once envisioned as the heart of an autonomous Palestinian state.
It’s hard not to be pessimistic. And yet our hope is in the name of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth,” Fadi said, adding, “Netanyahu doesn’t have the last word; God does.” He puts considerable faith in the church to pressure governments, especially in the United States, to take up the cause of Palestinian self-determination more forcefully, using economic leverage if necessary, as we did against South Africa during the international struggle against apartheid.
Bibi has also reawakened the Israeli center by trying to weaken the independence of the judiciary, which sometimes puts the brakes on settlements and helps the Palestinian cause in other ways. The Israeli courts will decide whether to veto their own disempowerment in the fall. Meanwhile, winter’s coming. The Arab Evangelical Episcopal School in Ramallah, where Ruba teaches Christian formation, needs $60,000 to replace its furnace, which is one year older than the occupation. Ramallah winters are cold (sounds great, huh?), and 850 Christian and Muslim students (pre-school through 12th grade) and 120 vocational students will need our help. Watch this space!