If the Halo Trust wants to bring people together, why does Mishal Husain want to keep them apart?
“It’s nice to see people cooperating,” says James Cowan of the Halo Trust. It’s a pity Mishal Husain hasn’t got the message. She doesn’t seem to know that the six-day war arose because of yet another failed attempt (by the Arabs) to annihilate Israel. (Or if she does know, she isn't interested)
Relying on 'our ignorance' of the facts, she posed the carefully formulated killer question she’d been leading up to on the Today programme this morning. (Scroll to 3:2:59)
You need to listen to get the full effect, but there was almost a note of glee in the venomous-sounding tone she used to probe for the context-free answer she sought. “Who left them?”
Here’s the transcript:
“Eleven minutes to nine. Churches on the banks of the River Jordan in the West Bank, abandoned for more than 50 years because of the 1967 Arab Israeli war, will now be available to visit, thanks to de-mining work that has been completed there, by the Halo Trust. Its chief executive James Cowan is on the line; good morning.
Good morning Mishal
Describe the sites that you’ve been working on.
Well Mishal, the Halo Trust normally works with communities to help put them back to normal. We work in countries like Afghanistan and Yemen but this is a very special situation, where these eight churches have been mined and booby-trapped during the six-day war and it came to our notice that, it’s a long time ago actually, in 2014, that they needed to be cleared. So we got the various churches together, asked them if they’d work together - eight different denominations - and then we got the Israelis and then we got the Palestinians, and so all three major faiths, and we looked at how we could do this. All the churches had been booby-trapped and then surrounded by a huge mine-field of eleven hundred land mines, so it was going to be technically complicated but also quite diplomatically challenging, and it was great just walking into the Greek Patriarch’s church with the other members of their denominations, big hats, big beards, twinkly eyes, and getting them to sign, for the first time really, a cooperative agreement to do this work.
And those mines and booby-traps, who left them?
So they were put there by the Israelis, ah, during the six-day war as a protective belt. And, of course we were appalled at the laying of the land-mines because they remain in the ground, just lethal, decades after the event, but I think, to Israel’s credit, they were at least prepared to join us in removing that threat.
And the significance of these churches is that they’re all built around the site where Christ was believed to have been baptised.
Yes, it’s extraordinary and one of the great sites of Christendom and actually the Jewish faith as well, um, should be treated in this way, so it’s really nice that fifty three years after the event we’ve now managed to finish the last land-mine; we blew up five hundred of them actually, in a huge daisy-chain explosion. When we walked into these churches, it was like walking into a time capsule with beer still on the shelf, the table laid for dinner, and it was just wonderful to return there and now we can begin the process of actually restoring the churches.
Right. So they’re not necessarily in a fit state to have visitors, and obviously the virus is affecting the West Bank and is certainly affecting people’s ability to travel there from other parts of the world but is there a lot of restoration work that now needs to begin?
There’s a huge amount of restoration work. You can imagine after fifty three years of being abandoned the churches need a lot of work doing to them. But I think in a time of Covid, as you mention, grim times, it’s nice to have a story like this in which there’s actually a bit of hope, and in a place like the West Bank where these three faiths have competed with each other for millennia its nice to see them cooperating.
James Cowan of the Halo Trust, thank you very much.
I suspect for Mishal Husain the history of the conflict is little more than an inconvenience. I wouldn’t want single her out as this is pretty much in line with all BBC groupthink. But on this occasion she particularly obtuse. She seemed to completely overlook the point that the mines were placed there to protect the churches, not as an act of aggression against Palestinians.ReplyDelete
Mishal Husain is of Pakistani heritage and was educated mostly in Saudi Arabia. In other words she will have been surrounded by anti-semitic or anti-Jewish tropes and narratives throughout her youth and, it goes without saying, would have heard very one-sided accounts of the Arab-Israeli conflict. If she has ever criticised those two countries or their education systems, it has passed me by. She seems to have no problem with a critical approach to Israel, the USA and the UK.ReplyDelete
How many churches in the Middle East have been destroyed by Muslims in the last 60 years? Answer: most of them. How many synagogues have been destroyed in the Middle East (outside Israel) in the last 60 years? Answer; nearly all of them.ReplyDelete
Reason for the destruction: Hatred of Christians and Jews.
How many mosques in Europe have been built by Muslims in the last 60 years? Answer: thousands of them. How many mosques in Europe have been destroyed by Christians in the last 60 years? Answer: none of themDelete
Reason for the tolerance: Judeo-Christian values