The Latin Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem has decried the new eruption of violence in Israel and Palestine following the murder of four teens, stating that it can only be ended by humanizing the other side. “This cycle of violence is always hovering over us but this particular episode brings it home in a horrific way because suddenly it took on real humanity,” Fr. David Neuhaus, S.J., told CNA July 2 in reference to the recent kidnapping and murder of 3 Israeli teenagers. “We got to know the three boys, their courageous and noble mothers, their families ... it is often more anonymous… people dying whose stories we do not know, whose families we never see.” Noting how right now “is a time of enormous sadness as the cycle of violence is supreme,” the priest explained that “the three boys were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood,” and lamented the fact that Israeli officials have used their death as an excuse to increase attacks. Following the discovery of the teenagers’ bodies Monday, Israel launched 34 airstrikes over the Gaza Strip, which officials stated was a response to 18 rockets that had previously been fired into Israel from Gaza, and blasts from both sides have continued throughout the week.
“Immediately the Israeli authorities used the kidnapping to carry out hundreds of arrests and continue a war that has been going on for too long” he observed, stating that “with the discovery of the bodies, Israeli extremists began looking for opportunities to take revenge.” Drawing attention to the kidnap and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdair, a 16-year-old from Palestine whose body was found Wednesday in West Jerusalem following the funeral of the three Israeli teens, Fr. Neuhaus explained that the killing appears to be a retaliation. According to the BBC, Khdair’s funeral has already been postponed, causing tensions to increase following rallying and protests in Palestine. However police are slated transfer Khdair’s body to his family following Friday prayers, which end at roughly 12:30 local time. Fr. Neuhaus explained that in the midst of the ongoing conflict both countries follow a discourse “based upon a vision of reality in which there are ‘two sides’ and a ‘wall’ between them.” “It is a discourse that hides the humanity of one side and focuses on the humanity of another side,” he observed, stating that it “resembles Hollywood movies where the ‘good guys’ are really ‘good’ and the ‘bad guys’ are really evil!” “Of course, ‘we’ are always the ‘good guys’ and they are always the ‘bad guys.’” But before “we can even really embark on a true dialogue in order to find ways out of the cycle of violence” there is a need to develop “a new language,” the priest said. “Each supposed side needs to embark on a bit of self-criticism and discover the real humanity of the supposed other side,” he noted, stating that the Church has the “great responsibility” to speak with a language that respects all: “Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims.” Recalling Pope Francis’ recent visit to Jordan, Israel and Palestine, Fr. Neuhaus stated that he is an example of the Church’s mission to show “love and concern for all.” “The biggest lie of all is that there are no alternatives to the cycle of violence. Pope Francis kept on pointing to the alternatives: realizing that we are brothers and sisters, children of one loving Father and that we are called to go out toward the other with generosity and creativity!” A message that all need to hear right now is that “violence only leads to death,” the priest affirmed.
“Insistence on revenge means that we are already dead.”
The BBC reports that the Palestinian organization Hamas, which Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netinyahu has faulted for the murder of the Israeli teens, has agreed to a potential cease-fire if Israel stops their airstrikes. Israel has stated they will cease striking only when rocket blasts from Palestine stop.