Robbery of home of Near East Council of Churches Gaza official nothing more than a normal crime

Never let it be said that Judith Sudilovsky, Middle East correspondent for Catholic News Service, is asleep at the wheel.

She has been reporting for us for many years and hardly any news of significance escapes her careful watch. So when she learned that robbers invaded the home of  Constantine Dabbagh, executive director of the Near East Council of Churches, July 23, she was on the story in a flash. She wondered: Could he have been targeted because he’s Christian?

Sudilovsky got to the bottom of the story quickly and accurately. Here’s her report:

The robbery in his Gaza home could have happened anywhere, said Near East Council of Churches Gaza executive director Constantine Dabbagh, a day after three masked but unarmed men broke into his home and took money, jewelry and his car, leaving his four-room apartment in an upheaval.

Dabbagh was quick to dispel the notion that the robbery was an anti-Christian attack.

“It’s something that happens everywhere and yesterday I was a victim. My name could be Mahmoud or Cohen, it would have been the same thing,” said Dabbagh in a July 24 phone conversation with Catholic News Service.

“It had nothing to do with the fact that I was Christian. They were only interested in taking the money and jewelry and car.”

A day after the attack Dabbagh could even joke about the incident.

“Their questions were very unpolitical and very unreligious. They just asked where the gold and money was,” he said wryly.

The attackers forced their way into his home as he was leaving for work, he said, and handcuffed him and his wife and hit him once as they ransacked the apartment. The police responded quickly after he reported the crime, he said, and indeed found his dismantled car within 24 hours.

Dabbagh has heard of several instances of robberies in Gaza in the past few weeks. Most such robberies are carried out by one person and normally take place when the homeowners are away, he explained.

The fact that there were three robbers who carried out the attack in broad daylight has riled Gazans and the attack is the talk of the street now, Dabbagh said. People are furious, he said.

Still, he added, he can’t gauge whether these robberies are an indication of growing lawlessness in Gaza or just the result of “normal” crime as there is in every other society.

“In any place where this is unemployment and a continuing siege, you may expect to have more crime,” he said.

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