Dear Mr. Dreher, a few notes on Gaza

Dear Mr. Dreher,

I know that sometimes people who write letters to public figures tend only to do so when they have something negative to say, so I first want you to know how much I have appreciated your words, ideas and attitudes in various forums.

Your ideas, together with those of others of the “non-establishment” conservatives in the US (such as those at The American Conservative Magazine) have given me great inspiration and even hope. I come from a decidedly left-wing and Democratic Party background, but have learned to really appreciate and respect thoughts such as yours. I’ve also come to be increasingly fed up with much ultra-liberal political correctness and intolerance for genuine diversity of thought.

I’ve also come to feel great sympathy for many sincere and thoughtful conservatives such as yourself, who have taken a battering under the Bush regime’s reinvention of conservatism – and yet to their credit who have stood up for their ideals, and for their country.

Now that I’ve gotten the good stuff out of the way, unfortunately I’m going to be a bit critical – specifically over your attitude on Gaza.

Recently you basically blamed everything happening there on Hamas – evil over-religious bastards, I think you referred to them as, and in reference to a man who was happy about martyrdom:

“That last paragraph is not the only thing you need to know about why what’s happening in Gaza is happening. But it’s the main thing”

With respect to you, sir, no it isn’t. What’s happening in Gaza is that it is

“probably no more than half the size of Kerry. It is one of the most populated places on earth. There are 1.5 million people in this tiny space. This means there is nowhere to hide. Dropping leaflets to tell people to leave is meaningless. There is nowhere else to go. It is so built up that collateral damage is inevitable from any bomb which is dropped. ”
(address by Address given by Cardinal Seán Brady, 13 January, 2009, Primate of all Ireland to the priests and people of the Diocese of Kerry)

You probably don’t know, but when the Civil Rights movement (substantial leadership of which was protestant) was at its height in the North of Ireland in the late ’60’s, the remnants of the Irish Republican Army left over from partition decades earlier, was sometimes satirised as “I Ran Away” because of their ineffectiveness at protecting Catholics, Irish Republicans & Nationalists or Civil Rights activists. I once heard it directly from a reliable source, that they had about 95 guns between them back then (in a book issued contemporaneously, it was listed at about 75). These were most likely old-fashioned WWI, WWII and farmers rifles and so on. He reckoned they would have needed about 2,000 to maintain an effective defence for the two-week height of the pogroms.

And when the pogroms did reach their heights, and when the Civil Rights marchers were gunned down by the soldiers supposedly sent to bring order, and when British ministers lied about it in parliament, there were queues of young men lining up in housing estates, to join the IRA. The British, through their policy of refusing to grant Irish people the same basic rights as British subjects, and by adopting a tactic of criminalisation, mass internment, and a strategy of physical force conquest, effectively created the IRA and their quarter of a century armed struggle, which led to the loss of lives (by all sides, not just the IRA) of over 3,000 people.

There are over 900 people dead in Gaza so far, 4,000 wounded, and my understanding is that 40% of the casualties are children. How many young men, do you think, are lining up to join peace marches right now?

How many Israelis are even willing to contemplate equal Civil Rights for the people who inhabited the land before they arrived from Europe and America, but who are now forcibly interned in the huge open-air concentration camp that is the Gaza strip? I suppose a two-state solution could have worked for South Africa too, but to say that nowadays tends to brand one a racist.

One of the things which shocked me was how intimidating the roar of a fighter jet can be. I had never heard it before. It is terrifying, especially when you have no idea whether it is going to fire a rocket or what it is targeting. The people of Gaza live with this fear constantly, every day. They are not allowed in or out of this small strip of land, except for a handful of people let out for the most exceptional of reasons. Over 80% of the people are fed each day by International Relief Agencies. Only 15% of people have any kind of full time paid work. It is difficult to exaggerate the sense of isolation and the level of destruction which surrounds you in Gaza. What is happening there is appalling and we should all pray that the current military offensive by Israel as well as the attacks by Hamas on Israelis will stop immediately.

Was this really about the 13 poor unfortunate Israelis (or is it 14 – notice how we count the individuals precisely when they seem more like us) who died in this recent border conflict – 4 of whom died in “friendly fire” – or is this about the classic response of politicians to create crises of violence in periods approaching elections as a way of unifying a population and quelling dissent? The Israeli elections were indeed coming up, and do you think that Hamas’ membership rolls are actually suffering from this?

It is a very sobering thought that in the land of our Lord’s life, death and resurrection, the Christian community has gone from approximately 25% of the population there thirty years ago to less than 2% today.
(Cardinal Seán Brady, as above)

Think that this is mainly because of Muslim antagonism or “dhimmitude”? Please consider this:

But the most powerful memory I have is of the day I travelled with the Latin Patriarch, Michel Sabbah to Gaza city. I was met by there by the Parish Priest, Fr Manuel Musallam. He has worked in Gaza for almost twenty years. Although his elderly mother only lives forty miles away he had not been able to visit her for several years. The very strict visa conditions mean that he couldn’t leave Gaza for fear the Israelis would not allow any priest to return.

His parish is made up of only 200 Catholics but it runs one of the largest schools in Gaza – the Holy Family primary school and high school. Almost all the pupils at the school are Muslim.

On the day I visited they were having the high school graduation. Hundreds of parents, grandparents and brothers and sisters had gathered to celebrate the success of the young graduates. The young people themselves put on a magnificent display of music and dancing. It went on for over an hour. It was one of the most joyful things I have ever seen. They also put on a play based on the story of the prodigal son.

This play was written especially for the occasion by Fr Musallam. It was very moving. People became very emotional at the dramatic scenes of the young son leaving his mother and father for a distant land. I think it touched on their constant fear of losing a loved one as well as their frustration as parents for the dreams of their young sons and daughters. Fr Musallam had written the play to emphasise the need for reconciliation
of brother with brother – a clear reference to the relationship between Hamas and Fatah and between Israeli and Palestinian. I don’t think anyone missed the point he was trying to make.

I tell you all of this because I was very inspired by this courageous, generous and hard working Catholic priest. He brings dignity and hope
to a community in despair. He is a reconciler and a peace maker. He is a builder of community. He is accepted and respected by the Muslim community because of his transparent goodness and his unquestionable commitment to people around him – whatever their religious or political background. His concern is to help the young people in his school to discover their dignity and to reach for their dreams. His work is focused on helping people to build up solidarity and community with one another and to be reconciled with their historic enemy. He is, as every Christian should be, an oasis of hope in a desert of despair.

(Cardinal Seán Brady, as above)

This conflict primarily solidifies the hold certain sections of the Israeli political class and their sympathisers abroad, who believe that a young Israeli soldiers life is worth risking on guarding herds of goats of the so-called “settlers”, who are illegally stealing land which is the recognised private property of Palestinians. It benefits the Western World’s – and America’s – equivalent of the French Algerian Ultras, who claim to be upholding the best of Western Civilisation, while practicing the worst of that civilisation’s habits when dealing with the native “outsiders” who have the unforgiveable gall to have always been born there.

Israel, from being a land of idealistic kibbutzim and a light to the nations, is being reduced to an exurb of the West in the Middle East; the national equivalent of a wealthy Latin American fraccionamiento, with its patrolling armed guards and checkpoints, its family members and shopping trips in “the States”, its neighbourhood air-raid siren to warn of armed attacks by thieves and kidnapping gangs. The crumbling and emptying buildings of the advance capital Tel Aviv betray the massive military, economic and political subventions necessary for the exercise in moral, social and economic unsustainability that is the Orwellian-dubbed “settler” hydra of colonial exurbs; dividing and conquering private Palestinian lands and their balkanised communities resulting. Judaism, from being the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit and the beating heart of moral consciousness in the Bride of God, is thus reduced to a bumper-sticker ideology for land-grabbing and physical conquest.

I’m not belittling Jewish suffering and their desire for a land of their own, and freedom in 1948. The Irish in 1848 were fleeing a horrific man-made famine, surviving brutality and the coffin ships, for land and freedom too. A man named O’Sullivan first wrote about “Manifest Destiny”, and a grand narrative justifying the brutal dispossession of the native tribes, and the onward march to the West. That we can empathise, does not remove the right and the duty to be critical.

This is not just about Jews and Muslims. This is about Adam, the eternal man, and his fall. When Cain killed Able, in a sense he too became the first man – the first animal to kill by choice, no longer a mere animal. In every generation on earth, we all live this same shifting moment – the possibility of this same moral choice and its consequences – forever. We should not let our moral compass be reduced to a pinball machine in which our opinions, reactions and emotions are bounced around by other people’s fixed talking points.

Are Christians to be reduced to mere political utility-maximisers and military couch-quarterbacks? Have we no insight to give to the children of the disposessed in the Land of our Lord, those who are forced to relocate and be numbered and allocated; those who are collectively crucified by an advanced, cosmopolitan power – thief, zealot, and innocent alike?

Tragically, one of first people to be killed in the current Israeli action in Gaza was a young girl called Christine. She was fourteen and a member of the Holy Family Parish, one of the few Christian children living in Gaza. In the words of Fr Musallam, she died ‘due to the severe shock she had from the bombing around her house.’ Just think about that for a moment. A fourteen year old girl dying from pure fear and shock! Just think about the images we have seen of Israeli and Palestinian children crouching in fear to shield themselves from missiles and bullets.

(Cardinal Seán Brady, as above)

Have we nothing to say to our elder brethren in reproach (Don’t forget, that Hannukah itself celebrates a national liberation story of the native Maccabees against the globalist Greeks and their local apologists.)? Is their grand vision to be reduced to a Walt Disney World rollercoaster ride of American Christian fundamentalists, who want to play cowboys and indians in Jesusland before the rapture?

Is that it? Is that all we have?

Thank you for your time, take care and God Bless…


it is worth remembering that the Gospels tell a story of the closest friends of Jesus who found it practically impossible to open their minds to the possibility that God was present in Jesus. It was more a question of opening their imagination. Imagination is the place where faith blossoms into living truth. As Newman says, “The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason but through the
imagination”. This is worth remembering as we face into the future.

(Cardinal Seán Brady, as above)</blockquote

There can be no peace unless people believe in peace. There can be no security unless there is security for all. There can be no justice unless there is justice for everyone in this land. Faith gives us hope that justice, peace and forgiveness are possible

(Communique of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in support of the Church in the Holy Land Bethlehem – Jerusalem)

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