The Truth about the Church of the Nativity
(or the Israeli claims that Palestinians left the Church in a bad shape)
Father Labib Kobti
May 13, 2002

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What do you want them to say? It was a war of misinformation and Public Relations.
Israel felt herself in a very bad situation and needed to explain to the world why she besieged in the Oldest Christian Church of the world.  The Palestinians were morally justified in their resistance, even as that resistance led them to the Church of the Nativity.  Whether inside or outside of the Church, Palestinians have every God-given right in the world to resist foreign domination.

The article of Patriarch Michael Sabbah on May 8th have repeated this truth more than once: the right to resist occupation. You can read online

Israel tried to tell the world that she did nothing wrong.  That Israel entered a Palestinian town just to defend the future of the Israelis. That they deprived an entire population of food, water and freedom so as to protect the security of the Israelis. And that all their behavior was not only ethical but just for the sake of peace. And that the snipers shooting on anything that moves in the church was legal and rightful. And they shot some unarmed people, including a priest, as well hungry and thirsty people, in the dark deprived of electricity. How many Israeli soldiers were killed by Palestinians inside or outside the Church?  None.  How can Israel claim that they were involved in battles with the Palestinians inside the Church? Israel's claims are dismissed as silly LIES and MISINFORMATION.

We do not understand why Israel is inundating the media with stories of how littered the Church was after the exit of the Palestinian resistance fighters?  Surely Israel cannot think that the litter left behind by these fighters is worse than depriving people of food and water?  Surely the litter is not worse than holding a people under domination and implementing a system of apartheid?  Surely the litter is not as bad keeping entire towns under house arrest and curfew?

The fact is, the Palestinian fighters committed no crimes in the church, if they had, Israel would have let us know quite a while ago as Israel was monitoring every moment and every conversation in the church.  In fact while Israel was monitoring the Church, Israel slaughtered eight people inside the Church.  One was killed while he was putting out a fire, another while he went to the aid of a wounded man, another while he hungrily ate grass in the garden because the besieged had been deprived of food for weeks by Israel.  An Armenian Priest was shot by Israeli soldiers because he dared open a window for fresh air.

Certainly these things are all far more important than some litter left behind by over 200 men who stayed in a church for 38 days. It is more than normal that litter would be there; invite ten people to eat at your house and you need to clean for hours after them. Perhaps some incidents by fearful, anxious and nervous people have happened inside the church, this needs yet to be proved! In fact, lock a cat in a box and it will fight. But these incidents, if they have happened would not determine that the Palestinians were respectful to the place and to the priests.

In order to deflect attention from the crimes committed against the Palestinian people, and the resistance fighters inside of the Church of the Nativity Israel has started a campaign of blatant LIES and MISINFORMATION.  What else can Israel do to hide the civilian casualties they caused in the church?  Or to make people forget that they literally tried to starve Palestinians to death?  Or that they shot at Christian clergy?  Or that they desecrated parts of the Church of the Nativity with flares and riddled the building with bullets?  Or that they burned parts of the priests house and the church?

Israel now is involved in an intricate tap-dance to distort what really happened in the Church and to try to salvage some sort of relationship with the Palestinian Christian community.  Thank God so many Christian clergy stayed in the Church to protect the resistance fighters, or else there would be no one to stand up against the LIES and MISINFORMATION that Israel is spreading.  It does not take much to dismiss all Israeli claims as either fishy or fabricated.

It is not shocking to me that Israel is arming herself with misinformation to fight the truth on the ground.  During the horrors of White South African apartheid that government would kill thousands of South African Blacks and then defend its tactics with LIES and MISINFORMATION as well.  It is truly a disgrace to kill and then blame the victim in order to garnish international support.  It was sick in White South Africa and it is sick today in the Palestinian territories.

The White regime in South Africa tried to dub the native black population of being bloodsuckers, being responsible for a whole litany of crimes, they called them terrorists and said that they were a people who did not love their children and sent them to kill and be killed...  Does this sound familiar?  They inundated the American press with MISINFORMATION and LIES as well they stated repeatedly to the media that:

1) The Apartheid is trying to work in the interest of the black population. Los Angeles Times, September 10, 1985

2)  That the government and soldiers of White South Africa were disciplined:  "We are not trying to oppress people, but are doing this for their own benefit." The New York Times, August 24, 1985

3) The White "fight to defeat the Blacks with all the lawful means at their disposal"  The New York Times, August 24, 1985

4) They accused the Blacks of using women and Children as "Human shields",  Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1985

5) They said that stones killed like any other weapon. The New York Times, November 23, 1985

Again does this sound familiar yet?

This tactic of MISINFORMATION and LIES is the oldest weapon in the world and it is being employed by Israel because they have no legitimate tactic to try to defend the horrors of the occupation and their dastardly deeds in the Church of the Nativity.

Again, what can Israel say?  That indeed they wanted to destroy the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian infrastructure and as such destroy in hopes for a future Palestinian State?  Did you expect Israel to admit that her only desires are to crush the Palestinian dream for independence? Just yesterday the Likud Central Committee of Sharon and Netanyahu rejected Palestinian State!
will they tell us that they want to keep the Palestinian as good little subjects of the occupation or drive them off of the land of their fathers?  Of course not.  That's why Israel wants to focus on the litter left behind by the Palestinian resistance fighters. It is the best way now to cover-up what she has done and will do next.

The Franciscans never complained about the behavior of the Palestinians inside the Church. The Franciscans knew that this would happen and they stayed in the Church to ensure that Israel did not destroy the Church and to ensure that Israel did not slaughter the Palestinians inside.
Has the Vatican complained of the behavior of the Palestinians inside the Church?  Did the Vatican have any qualms about the Palestinians seeking sanctuary in the Church?  Did the Vatican demand that the Palestinian resistance fighters leave the sanctity of the holiest and oldest Christian church in the world, built by Helena the Mother of Constantine the Emperor of Rome around the year 325, with the two other churches of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the place of the resurrection of our Lord and the Church of the Holy Spirit, unexcited today on the Place of the Pentecost on Mount Zion?  No.

The Vatican neither complained of their presence not wanted them to leave so as to be killed by the Israelis. The Vatican wanted a just solution for them and tried all its best to bring them out of the church unharmed. The Vatican was unhappy by the way the Israeli snipers were killing the Palestinians inside a holy place. These killings, yes, desecrate more the holy site where the Price of peace was born than the litter. These hungry Palestinians reminds the world of their poor ancestors the shepherds at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord. In fact Jesus was not born in a clean house but in a dirty manger.

Did Israel tell the press that the Franciscans with great love shared what little food, water and medical supplies they had with the Palestinians?  Did the Israel tell the press that while Israel was depriving the Palestinians of their dignity and rendering them parasites with no hope or future that the clergy in the Church valued the lives of the Palestinian resistance fighters so much that they decided to stay and protect them so that Israel would not invade and massacre them?  No. While telling the world about the litter that was left behind, Israel never conveyed to the world that the Friars of the Franciscan Order, the Orthodox Priests and Armenian Priests preferred to stay with the Palestinians than to go free.  We never heard that these Priests insisted with great honor and love to defend the oppressed when they could simply have left the Church of their own free will.  No one was held hostage in that Church.  Israel should stop its campaign of LIES AND MISINFORMATION.

In fact the Israeli told first the world that two hundred Palestinian terrorists invaded the Church of the Nativity and took the Priests hostage.  Their lies started unraveling immediately as Priests with access to cell phones started calling people and telling them that they were there of their own free will.  The lies of the Israeli media SPIN machine were debunked and the only ones who believed those lies in the civilized world were Christian Zionists who are too cowardly to make a stand for the Palestinian-Christians that are being oppressed, killed and humiliated by the Israeli war machine.

Whatever became of those two hundred so called "Palestinian terrorists?" by Israel, soon we found out that there were less than 45 people on Israeli wanted lists hiding in the Church.  Twenty-eight were sent to Gaza, Thirteen were unfortunately exiled by force and against International Law.

The Palestinian Authority should demand that Israel exile to Poland, Russia, Ethiopia, Brooklyn and New York the many settlers who have burned Palestinian farms, olive trees and houses, killed Palestinian farmers, women and children. If Israel can claim to exile Palestinian resistance fighters in the name of "defense" then the Palestinian Authority should be able to demand under the same right of "defense" and by International Law that the hundreds of thousands of settlers return to their countries of origin.

The arrogance of the occupation is most evident in the pontifications of the Israelis who point at litter left behind in the Church. And claim the right to exile people from their own land. Who in the world cares about litter left behind in the Church?

I place more value on reports from my Franciscan Friars who lived through the ordeal with the Palestinians, I trust that the Franciscans who had a history of standing with the oppressed and not fearing death as instruments of peace, can tell us all the TRUTH.

And I believe that this Franciscan Order who saved a lot of Jews from the holocaust during the Second World War in Rome, Peruggia, Assisi and many other European cities will speak the TRUTH rather than the LIES and MISINFORMATION that Israel is spreading.

I hope that the world newspapers, TVs and Radios as well the Internet will tell the TRUTH, all the truth and only the truth. And set us all free, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims, because only the TRUTH can set us free.

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