January 23, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 459

Palestinian Christian Leader in Praise of Martyrdom Operations and the Formation of a Muslim and Christian Human Shield to Defend Iraq

January 23, 2003
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 459

In July 2002, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate decided to fire Father 'Atallah Hanna[1] (also known as Archimandrite Theodosios Hanna) from his post as official spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Church, following statements he made in praise of suicide attacks.[2] Nevertheless, Father Hanna continues to present himself as the Church's official spokesman, and has not stopped issuing statements lauding suicide attacks.

Recently, Father Hanna offered his views on three different occasions: during a sermon marking the Epiphany at a Greek Orthodox cathedral in Jerusalem, during a rally at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and during a reception for an official delegation in Haifa. The following are excerpts of statements made by Hanna during these events:

At A Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Jerusalem

In a January 19, 2003 sermon marking the Epiphany and the baptism of Jesus, at a Greek Orthodox cathedral in Jerusalem, Hanna said: "Palestine is from the sea to the river. The Jordan River is a holy river forever and it is the natural border of Palestine. We emphatically refuse any concession on [even] a grain of the land of our precious homeland. Just as Ramallah, Gaza, Nablus, and Jenin are Palestinian cities, so are Haifa, Nazareth, Jaffa, Ramle, Lod, Beersheba, Safed, and others Palestinian cities. We have not relinquished and we will not relinquish our historic right, and we will not agree to any concession on these cities. These are Palestinian cities that were occupied in 1948."

"The Zionist Jews are foreigners in this land. They have no right to live or settle in it. They should go somewhere else in the world to establish their state and their false entity. With regard to Palestine and its beating heart Jerusalem, it was never in the hands of the Jews. It was and will forever remain Arab. Jerusalem is an Arab city and the Jews must not settle in it, be masters over it, or carry out any type of religious ritual or ceremony in it. They must leave their homes. They have no right to live on land, [or in] cities or villages that are not theirs…"

"We do not believe in so-called 'peace with Israel' because peace cannot be made with Satan. Israel is the greatest Satan. No concession and no truce must be made [with Israel]. Any type of peace with this entity is concession, submission, and retreat from pan-Arab and national principles… The negotiations and the other attempts [at an arrangement] will not restore the Palestinians' rights to them. The Palestinians' rights will be restored only by resistance. What was taken by force will be restored only by force…"

"Resistance is the obligation of every Palestinian Christian Arab, as it is the obligation of every Palestinian Muslim Arab."

"We encourage our youth to participate in the resistance, to carry out martyrdom attacks, and to participate in removing the occupation. There is a need for resistance to the occupation, and for Islamic-Christian cooperation, so that we will remove the foreign Zionist Jewish intruders and so that the gates of Palestine will open wide and all those who were uprooted or emigrated in 1967 and 1948 will return…"

"From this holy Church, and in the presence of all the believing clerics, we give today a prayer for the sake of the souls of our Shahids and resistors and for the sake of our heroic Palestinian people, whether living in the homeland or outside it… We say to the sons of our people: 'Do not retreat, do not fear, and do not despair.' The Arab Palestinian right to this land is stronger than any false Zionist military ammunition, which will disappear sooner or later. This is because the Zionist entity plundering our lands and our holy places is an entity that cannot maintain stability, and its end will be to disappear, just like all kinds of colonialism on our land in the past have disappeared."[3]

At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem

Hanna delivered similar statements during a rally held on Friday, January 17, 2003 in the square of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem to protest the "American threats to attack Iraq." Participating in the rally were Christian clerics, Palestinian Christian personalities, and local residents. Hanna, who was introduced as the official spokesman of the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem and Holy Lands, gave a speech on behalf of the clerics. Condemning the upcoming war on Iraq, he said: "From the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Christians' holiest place, we express our Church's and our people's solidarity with the heroic Iraqi people which is subject to daily provocations… From this holy place, the tomb of Jesus, we demand determined and vigorous Arab and international intervention to prevent the aggression against Iraq and against its proud people…"

"We stand alongside our Iraqi brothers, in heart and in spirit. The ones who target them target us as well. We bless Iraq and its people, from Jerusalem, the capital of the independent Palestinian state… We have assembled a national Palestinian Islamic-Christian commission, comprising Muslim and Christian clerics, so that [its members] will go to Iraq, constitute a human shield, and convey our message."

Hanna spoke out in praise of suicide attacks: "We declare publicly our blessing, support, and legitimization of the brave Palestinian resistance [carried out] by any means, including the brave Fidaiyin[4] martyrdom operations… The names of the Fidaiyi Shahids [the martyrs] will be inscribed in the history of our Palestinian and Arab people in holy white letters. The voices of those who defame these acts of heroism and honor are nothing more than anomalous voices that do not represent Arab and Palestinian public opinion…"

"The Fidaiyin martyrdom operations aimed deep inside Israel are unique pioneer operations that deter the Zionist enemy. They have caused great damage to this enemy, which understands nothing but the language of force and thinks that only force will bring peace. We say to the enemy: 'Leave our land, our Jerusalem, and our holy places. This is Arab Palestinian land, that has no connection whatsoever to the Jews and the Zionists'…"

"Martyrdom operations are an excellent and good way to resist the Zionist invasion of the Palestinian land. In front of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, we bless the souls of the heroic Shahids and the families of the Shahids. We demand that these families be looked after, helped, and adopted, because the occupation targets them."[5]

At a Haifa Reception

According to Al-Quds Press, Hamas' news agency, during a "reception for an official delegation in Haifa," Father Hanna called for joint Islamic-Christian operations to interfere with the imminent U.S. attack on Iraq and liberate Palestine from "the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river." Hanna said that when he is freed from house arrest and his passports are returned he will put together a Christian delegation that will go to Iraq to serve as a human shield against the anticipated war.

Hanna also told the delegation: "The Fidaiyin are the heroes of this nation. We are proud of them and resolutely refuse any attempt to defame their deeds… They are not committing suicide, as some claim, and they are not terrorists, as others claim – they are resisting the occupation. We unreservedly support the martyrdom operations." Hanna also called on "Palestinian Arab Christians to participate in resisting the occupation in all forms, since they are part of the Palestinian people and of this nation." He said, "True reform is reform that must provide an answer to the question of how it is possible to escalate the resistance in all ways, so as to actualize our national goals."[6]

Two days after these statements were published, Hanna strongly denied having made them.[7]


[1] Born in Haifa and holds both Israeli citizenship and a PA passport granted by Arafat.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 405, July 30, 2002, Greek Orthodox Church Spokesman Replaced for Supporting Suicide Attacks .

[3] Al-Hayat (London), January 20, 2003

[4] Similar to "martyr," in common use.

[5] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 18, 2003.

[6], January 11, 2003;, January 11, 2003, and Al-Sabil (Jordan), January 15, 2003.

[7] Al-Ahali (Israel), January 13, 2003.

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