The new leader of Kairos Palestine said the struggle against occupation by Israel has increasingly transformed from a political to a religious conflict. Hind Khoury, who became head of Kairos Palestine in April, pointed out that a century ago Christians represented 20% of the population in Palestine, but they have dwindled to 1% now.
“Israel is setting the agenda,” said Khoury, who pointed out that observance of Christian traditions such as pilgrimages to religious sites has been thwarted through imposition of measures such as travel checkpoints. “Israel has closed off the old city [Jerusalem] with barricades,” she explained. “It is practically impossible to follow holy traditions. Israel is keen to see Palestinian Christians go because it reduces our leverage with the West.”
Born in Bethlehem
Khoury is a Palestinian Christian born in Bethlehem. An economist, she previously served as Minister of Jerusalem Affairs with the Palestinian Authority and was appointed Ambassador of Palestine in France, where she served until 2010.
The occupation of our territory has been extremely hard.
Khoury has also worked in development of the occupied Palestinian territories with U.S. Agency for International Development, U.N. Development Program, U.N. Population Fund, the Bethlehem 2000 Project, the Multi-sector Review of East Jerusalem Project, and United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Even with such a strong background in economic development, Khoury said she hoped the Kairos Palestine general secretary’s position would be a good way to contribute to alleviating the struggle of the Palestinian people.
“The occupation of our territory has been extremely hard,” Khoury said. “Throughout history we have been constantly struggling against occupation, the religious persecution under the Israeli occupation, though, has been worse than any other.”
Palestine Kairos Document
The Palestine Kairos Document (“A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering”) was released in 2009 as a tool to focus the efforts of peace-loving peoples around the world, especially Christians, against oppression and occupation. It was developed in the spirit of the South Africa Kairos document launched in 1985 that proved effective in the struggles of that nation’s oppressed.
We are facing an extremely difficult reality.
The Christian Palestinian initiative Kairos Palestine, which Khoury now leads, relies on nonviolence to achieve a just, peaceful resolution of the conflict.
“We are facing an extremely difficult reality,” said Khoury, who had just finished a visit at the U.S. State Dept. when she sat down for an interview. She was featured speaker during a luncheon at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill, and then was on her way to North Carolina.
Khoury said her visits in the United States are to strengthen and build networks that will help move the Palestine Kairos situation forward. “The Palestine Kairos Document represents the voice of Palestinian Christians,” she explained. “It is a call to Palestinians and Christians around the world to pay attention to this situation that is only getting worse. We need action, want action. Prayers are not enough.”
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is the next Israeli target, according to Khoury. She said Israeli opposition is well financed. “BDS is the only way that gains have been made,” she said. “Nothing else has really moved anything; BDS influence has worked.”
An international boycott of Sodastream, an Israeli company that had been manufacturing illegally in the occupied Palestinian territories, resulted in the company moving all operations into Israel. GBCS had endorsed the boycott.
During her visits in the United States, Khoury said she has encountered people with kind, welcoming words. She described these people as intelligent, well-informed, and “clearly under a lot of pressure not to get close to BDS.”
Khoury mentioned confiscation of land in the occupied territories. “Caterpillar equipment is prominent, very present,” she emphasized. “No one can deny this. All can see it. I don’t know why this should be so strongly debated.”
Where is courage?
This injustice is so visible and verified, according to Khoury, but she said people tell her they can’t do anything about it.
“Where is the courage?” Khoury asks. “Where is the ability to be prophetic, to do the justice thing. You can’t keep saying these wonderful words without acting on them.”
Khoury questioned at what point do you realize that what you are doing about the Israel/Palestine conflict is making no difference. “At that point you must realize that you are not doing the right thing,” she suggested. “We cannot afford this situation anymore of halfway solutions and kind words. There is a lot more violence and polarization in the Holy Land.”