Hamas attack on Israel watershed moment says Kiwi

Hamas attack

The Hamas attack on Israel over the weekend was not a surprise, says a Taranaki-raised New Zealander working in the Holy Land.

Br Peter Bray FSC, Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University, says the Hamas attack is a “watershed moment that could have a long-term impact on life here in the Holy Land”.

While he disapproves of violence as a response, he can understand why Palestinians have reacted the way they did at the weekend.

He cites the Israeli military’s  and the settlers’ ongoing and increasing violent attacks on Palestinians over recent months and provocative moves by settlers around Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the Jewish feast.

“With the extreme rightwing government in Israel and the stated priority of the expansion of settlements in the West Bank the pressure on Palestinians has been enormous,” he says.

More Palestinians have been killed by the military and settlers this year than any year since 2006, says Bray.

Forgotten people

Bray says there’s been “growing frustration among Palestinians that the international community has forgotten about them and let Israel do whatever it wants”.

He mentions Israel’s steady expansion of settlements, which are forcing Palestinians off their land or out of their houses.

The continued pressure on Palestinians with home demolition has left them very aware that they are being driven off their land, Bray notes.

He also says many settlers make it “very obvious” that they want to take the whole land and do not want Palestinians around.

“The Palestinian Authority has not been able in any way to contain what Israel has been doing, so the Palestinian frustration has boiled over through Hamas, who claim to be defending what remains of the Palestinian land and its people,” Bray explains.

He says the Israeli military is now embarrassed because Hamas fighters were able to take over several military bases and settlements near Gaza and capture soldiers and civilians as hostages.

Now there are real fears the Israeli military will strike back with significant violence in retaliation, he says.

“They began to do that today and who knows where that might lead. I think this is a watershed moment that could have long-term impact on life here in the Holy Land.”

Based on the available information, Bray says another university executive council meeting will decide what to do for the rest of this week.

“We are unsure what is going to unfold today and tomorrow,” he says.

After an emergency council meeting, the university decided to teach online.

“It is impossible to get in or out of Bethlehem at present, so our students from Jerusalem– about 40 per cent of our student population – are not able to get here.

“However the campus will be open and staff members from Bethlehem will be expected to be in their offices tomorrow.”

While all his students and staff are alright so far, Bray is asking for prayers.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

Tags: , ,