Desperate for Money, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Slanders Israel

Jan. 24 2022

Theophilus III, the Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem and his church’s senior clergyman in Israel, wrote an article earlier this month in the London Times under the headline, “Christians Are under Threat in the Cradle of Their Faith,” which begins with a declaration that he and his coreligionists in Jerusalem “know what it is to live in darkness.” Flour Hassan-Nahoum, the deputy mayor of the Israeli capital, responds:

Theophilos III claims that there is regular desecration and vandalism of Christian sites in Jerusalem, as well as rising violence against Christians. These allegations are uncorroborated by the city and the police. If there was truly a trend of rising violence against Christians, wouldn’t we expect such incidents to be reported to local law enforcement before being aired to the foreign press? . . . Theophilos’s claims paint a false narrative of the tolerant culture we have so carefully nurtured in our city.

The contradictions between Theophilos’s assertions and the realities of daily life for Christians in Jerusalem and Israel suggests ulterior motives for his claims. The frustration he expresses over property rights in the Christian Quarter provides a hint on what may be behind this.

Theophilos writes: “It is at the Jaffa Gate that an Israeli radical group is seeking to occupy two big buildings, acquired through illegitimate transactions.” When appointed Patriarch of Jerusalem in 2005, Theophilos began a legal battle against the sale of two hotels by his church to a Jewish NGO in 2004. The legality of the transaction was upheld by the Jerusalem district court and later by the supreme court in 2019. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchy has in fact sold large swaths of property in Jerusalem over the last decade, including under Theophilos himself.

The Greek Patriarchy has had financial problems for decades, which is why it began selling land in Jerusalem in the first place. The COVID-19 closures to foreign tourists have rendered it in financial dire straits and it is looking to gather sympathy and much-needed donations from the Christian world. It is so depressing to me that even today in 2022 after hundreds of years of anti-Semitism and persecution from the different Churches and their leaders that the age-old tactic of scapegoating Jews to gain sympathy is still alive and well.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jerusalem, Jewish-Christian relations, Middle East Christianity


How Israel Can Break the Cycle of Wars in Gaza

Last month saw yet another round of fighting between the Jewish state and Gaza-based terrorist groups. This time, it was Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) that began the conflict; in other cases, it was Hamas, which rules the territory. Such outbreaks have been numerous in the years since 2009, and although the details have varied somewhat, Israel has not yet found a way to stop them, or to save the residents of the southwestern part of the country from the constant threat of rocket fire. Yossi Kuperwasser argues that a combination of military, economic, and diplomatic pressure might present an alternative solution:

In Gaza, Jerusalem plays a key role in developing the rules that determine what the parties can and cannot do. Such rules are designed to give the Israelis the ability to deter attacks, defend territory, maintain intelligence dominance, and win decisively. These rules assure Hamas that its rule over Gaza will not be challenged and that, in between the rounds of escalation, it will be allowed to continue its military buildup, as the Israelis seldom strike first, and the government’s responses to Hamas’s limited attacks are always measured and proportionate.

The flaws in such an approach are clear: it grants Hamas the ability to develop its offensive capabilities, increase its political power, and condemn Israelis—especially those living within range of the Gaza Strip—to persistent threats from Hamas terrorists.

A far more effective [goal] would be to rid Israel of Hamas’s threat by disarming it, prohibiting its rearmament, and demonstrating conclusively that threatening Israel is indisputably against its interests. Achieving this goal will not be easy, but with proper preparation, it may be feasible at the appropriate time.

Revisiting the rule according to which Jerusalem remains tacitly committed to not ending Hamas rule in Gaza is key for changing the dynamics of this conflict. So long as Hamas knows that the Israelis will not attempt to uproot it from Gaza, it can continue arming itself and conducting periodic attacks knowing the price it will pay may be heavy—especially if Jerusalem changes the other rules mentioned—but not existential.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israeli Security, Palestinian Islamic Jihad