The Three Brothers

Note: I spent much of the day with the Diab family. Fr. Firas (Melkite) and Fr. Fadi (Anglican) are brothers, serving two of the congregations here. We watched our film being broadcast on SAT-7, which today focused on Fr. Firas’ ministry. The children were especially delighted to see themselves on TV. This whole trip has been far more intense than I had expected. From the varying perspectives I’ve heard to the suffering I’ve witnessed, it has been gut-wrenching. Today was particularly so, sitting down with some dear friends – both from Zababdeh and from the local Arab-American University of Jenin – to get their take on the current state of things. I also asked them, in particular, to this question: what it is that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can be doing to respond?

Essentially, Palestinian society is facing three major problems. The Israeli Occupation is still the primary obstacle, and the chaos it creates in Palestinian society has deep repercussions. But is far from the only problem. Islamic fundamentalism, represented by the likes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, is distressing for those seeking the modernization of Palestinian society. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (run by the Fatah Party) is beset with deep-seated corruption and independent militias.

In order to understand the problems, as well as the possible solution, one friend suggested that we begin by looking at where these three power brokers do their recruiting.

There is an abundance of large Palestinian families – with eight or nine children – with uneducated parents. Fatah recruiters look for the strongest son, the one who is giving his parents the most trouble. Fatah-related militias are becoming notorious for their extortionism and demands for protection money. Hamas, on the other hand, seeks out the gentlest son, the most reflective one. This has led to Hamas’ rise in political savvy and an improved reputation. The Israelis, looking for collaborators, also go to the same kind of family. They seek out the greediest one, the one who is willing to commit betrayal in exchange for financial recompense. They have made deep inroads into the community.

It may seem an abstract, but there is something to this vision of the metaphorical Palestinian family. It is not too outrageous to imagine these three recruits as brothers. Their situation makes them particularly vulnerable. And so, this family also holds the key to a brighter Palestinian future.

What can the Church, in particular, do?

The answers from my friends aren’t completely clear, but this much is: the advocacy work to end the Occupation could continue; the divestment process and corporate engagement must go forward; our work on economic development in Palestine is needed; our ongoing partnerships in ministry, education, health care, and relief are essential.

But the one question remains: what about the three brothers?