On behalf of all Palestinian refugees denied the right of return, those who remain under occupation and not included as part of any papal delegation, and on behalf of all Lebanese victims of the Israeli occupation army and its proxy militia, the Ikhras editors are pleased to announce the winner of the Muntadhar Zaidi Ikhras-Shoe-of-the-Month Award for May 2014 is Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai.
Ikhras condemns the lamentable and unprecedented decision of the Maronite Patriarch to visit occupied Jerusalem as part of the papal delegation greeting Pope Francis during his May 24-26 pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
No Maronite patriarch, not even Rai’s predecessor, Nasrallah Sfeir—a sectarian and polemic figure who openly advocated on behalf of the U.S. and Saudi-backed March 14 political coalition—has traveled to Israel since the Zionist state’s inception in 1948.
“I told Prime Minister [Tammam Salam] that we are going to Jerusalem on a church- and pastoral-related visit,” Rai said. “There is no political motive behind the visit.”
No political motive? As one of the highest religious authorities in Lebanon, and in light of the brutal legacy of Israeli occupation of Lebanon and its savage 2006 assault, the mere act of travelling there becomes political.
Is it not political that Rai also plans to greet former members of the Israeli-sponsored South Lebanon Army (SLA)?
“During his visit, the statement continued, Rai plans to meet with Lebanese affiliated to the South Lebanon Army – the militia that collaborated with Israel during its occupation of South Lebanon – who fled (voluntarily) to Israel in 2000.”
This will actually occur on the anniversary of Israel and the SLA’s defeat at the hands of the Resistance and people of South Lebanon on May 25, 2000, after a vicious 18-year occupation. Does one honor the victims of the proxy Zionist army on this occasion by gathering with their leaders in the enemy’s state and under its auspices?
It would behoove Al-Rai to welcome Pope Francis in Jordan but accompany him no further than the Allenby Bridge. His refusal to cross and pass through the Israeli checkpoint would send a powerful message to the Vatican and all Arabs: regardless of faith or sect, we refuse to set foot on occupied land; we refuse to acknowledge and legitimize the occupying power’s authority; we stand firmly with those under occupation until full liberation is achieved.
With no more than a few feet separating him from occupied Palestine, let al-Rai loudly echo the words of the Resistance for all those on the other side to hear:
“Jerusalem … we are coming.”