Keeping Faith with Hope: The Challenge of Israel-Palestine

By Harry Hagopian
June 4, 2019

Yes, this is the title of my new book which was launched last month and came out on 1 June 2019. The book is in essence an anthology of some of my articles over the past twenty years and it mirrors my decades-long hands-on involvement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are of course new additions and updates as well as a glossary that attempts to define the sensitive terms associated with this conflict and which often provoke unpleasant debates. Add to all this a powerful Foreword by Rami G Khouri, to my mind one of the sharpest analysts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Gulf regions, and a Preface by the editor, Simon Barrow, who is also the director of the Ekklesia think-tank.

So the 141-page short read is only a vessel for my own thoughts on this topic, and does not pretend to offer a magical solution to a conflict between two peoples and three faiths that has been festering for at least 52 years. Far from it in fact! But what my book does offer though is a cluster of different themes that have coloured my own observations and analyses over twenty odd years. It also shows how such thoughts have become increasingly less optimistic as I watch the vision for an independent Palestine collapsing – whether by omission or commission – into a perilous state of inertia.

Alas, I have watched the initial hopes of Oslo being dashed in the most brutal form when good will and good faith capsized and the hope that had then sustained many people became a rare commodity. I have seen an ugly separation wall come up that further separates Palestinians from their dream for a state on the internationally-recognised borders of 1967. So much so that there is now a Banksy-friendly establishment, The Walled Off Hotel, nestled against the wall in Bethlehem. I have seen the number of settlers and settlements on Palestinian lands metastasising so deliberately that the demography and geography of the country are now both under co-equal threat. I have seen roadblocks and checkpoints that are reminiscent of South Africa’s hated pass laws which criminalised black South Africans if they ever stepped into a white city, or when black people were relocated from areas zoned for white people. Take these visible signs of policy-fed humiliation and brutality, and simply substitute ‘black South African’ for ‘Palestinian’.

Indeed, Public International Law understands apartheid as a state-sanctioned regime of institutionalised and legalised racial discrimination. And that is happening today in Palestine to a proud people – whether Muslim or Christian – who are too weary of fighting against colossal odds and mighty powers or principalities. Just look at the ‘Great March of Return’ protests across the border in Gaza. Or the defunding of Palestinian and international institutions and the withholding of tax returns. Also consider the excess verbiage surrounding the ‘ultimate deal’ that might well be imposed upon Palestinians by Mr Kushner and his acolytes let alone his complicit allies. What will this deal do? It is meant to rend the political fundaments of a resolution to the conflict, cast aside the whole UN-constructed concept of land-for-peace as well as the subsequent framework for the Declaration of Principles of 1993, and in so doing force Palestinians to refuse the deal so they can then be finger-pointed as the bad guys who always reject peace.

In a sense, the Palestinian cause no longer inspires people in the same way it did at the turn of the century. Rulers of some countries – from the Gulf to North Africa – are so concerned about defending their own powers and prerogatives that they no longer are willing to pay even lip service to Palestinian hopes. And the Arab masses who are by and large supportive of Palestinian dreams are far too tired themselves to fight for them. Hence, the ‘deal of the century’ that wilfully tries to buy  Palestinian political acquiescence with lush economic incentives. Its first scene will be held in Bahrain in early June without any official Palestinian presence, not unlike staging William Shakespeare’s Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark – as Hussein Ibish, Senior Resident Scholar at The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, reminded us recently in one of his wry tweets. Throw some money at Palestinians, given how desperately they need it in Gaza and the West Bank, and they will forget the legitimacy of their political claims.

The various themes of my book explore the metamorphosis in the challenges and onslaughts facing Israel-Palestine. But my focus is not only on hard-core politics but equally on faith-based politics. In fact, when will the churches and mosques, as well as faith-based organisations across Europe and elsewhere, stop sitting coyly on the fence with an ‘on one hand, but on the other hand’ attitude and speak out with prophetic courage even if such courage is costly? Does giving a voice to the voiceless no longer constitute a component of faith?

As I was penning this article, a further thought rudely colonised my mind. Perhaps I should have suggested to the editor that we change the main title from Keeping Faith with Hope to ‘Keeping Faith in Hope'! After all, the cover of the book boldly challenges us with the Way of the Sorrows in Jerusalem.

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Keeping Faith with Hope, by Harry Hagopian, is available through a variety of online stockists, including Book Depository, Barnes & Noble and Amazon worldwide. See  Good Reads for other stockists.

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© Dr Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and political consultant. He also acts as Legal Consultant to OTS Solicitors in London (particularly on Brexit and immigration issues). He is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/HarryHagopian). Formerly Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches, he is now an international fellow, Sorbonne III University, Paris, and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land (The Russell Press).  Dr Hagopian’s own website is www.epektasis.net -- follow him on Twitter here: @harryhagopian and on Facebook here: https://m.facebook.com/MENA.analysis/

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