Monday, December 21, 2009

Another Sensible Plan: Where is "Good Will?"

Steps to create an Israel-PalestineJonathan Kuttab
The Los Angeles Times (Opinion) December 20, 2009 - 12:00am,0,328957...

For a while, it seemed that a two-state solution might actually be achievable and that a sovereign Palestinian state would be created in the West Bank and Gaza, allowing Jews and Palestinians at last to go their separate ways. But these days, that looks less and less likely.

With Israel in total control of the territory from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River and unwilling to relinquish a significant part of the land, it's time to consider the possibility that the current situation -- one state, in effect -- will continue. And although Jewish Israelis may control it now, birthrates suggest that, sooner or later, Jews will again be a minority in the territory.

What happens at that point is unclear, but unless continued military occupation and all-out apartheid is the desired path, now may be the time for Israelis to start putting in place the kinds of legal and constitutional safeguards that will protect all minorities, now and in the future, in a single democratic state of Israel-Palestine. This is both the right thing and the smart thing to do.

In recent years the idea of a one-state solution has been anathema to Israelis and their supporters worldwide. This has been fueled by the fear of the "demographic threat" posed by the high Palestinian birthrate. Indeed, many Israeli supporters of a two-state solution came to that position out of fear of this demographic threat rather than sympathy with Palestinian national aspirations.

At the root of their fear was the belief that despite Israel's best efforts to push Palestinians from land and property and to import Jewish settlers in their stead, the Arab population would keep climbing. And that, when the Arabs reached the 51% mark, the state of Israel would collapse, its Jewish character would disappear and its population would dwindle into obscurity.

Yet that scenario is not necessarily the inevitable result of either demography or democracy. Religious and ethnic minorities have successfully thrived in many countries and managed to retain their distinctive culture and identity, and succeeded in being effective and sometimes even dominant influences in those countries. Those who believe in coexistence must begin to seriously think of the legal and constitutional mechanisms needed to safeguard the rights of a Jewish minority in Israel-Palestine.

It is true that the experience of Israel with its Palestinian minority does not offer a comforting prospect. The behavior of the Jewish majority toward the Palestinian citizens of Israel has not been magnanimous or tolerant. Where ethnic cleansing was insufficient, military rule, land confiscation and systemic discrimination have all been employed. The relationship was not helped by the actions of Palestinians outside Israel who resented losing their homeland or by the behavior of some Arab countries, neither of which accepted the imposed Jewish character of Israel.

Yet it is possible, especially during this period when Jews are still the majority in power in Israel, to begin to envision the type of guarantees they may require in the future. Other countries have wrestled with this problem, and while each situation is different, the problem is by no means unprecedented.

Zionism will ultimately need to redefine its goals and aspirations, this time without ignoring or seeking to dispossess the indigenous Palestinian population. Palestinians will also have to deal with this reality, and accept -- even enthusiastically endorse -- the elements required to make Jews truly feel at peace in the single new state that will be the home of both people.

Strong, institutionalized mechanisms will be needed to prevent the "tyranny of 51%." A bicameral legislature, for example, should be installed, in which the lower house is elected by proportional representation but the upper house has a composition that safeguards both peoples equally, regardless of their numbers in the population. A rotating presidency may be preferable to designating certain positions for each minority (as in Lebanon). And constitutional provisions that safeguard the rights of minorities should be enshrined in a constitution that can only be amended or altered by both houses of parliament with a large (80%) majority.

Both Hebrew and Arabic will be designated as official languages, and governmental offices will be closed for Jewish, Muslim and Christian holidays. New laws will be enacted that strengthen the secular civil courts in personal status matters, while leaving some leeway for all religious communities to have a say in lawmaking, including Reform and Conservative Jews who currently chafe under the Orthodox monopoly over Jewish personal status matters in Israel. Educational systems that honor and cater to the different communities will give each a measure of control over the education of its children within a national system that maintains professional standards for all publicly-funded schools. Strong constitutional provisions will be enacted to prohibit discrimination in all spheres of life, while independent courts will be enabled to enforce such provisions.

Many on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, will reject this line of thinking, and in all cases, it is clear that a lot of goodwill and much careful thinking is necessary. But as the options keep narrowing for all participants, we need to start thinking of how we can live together, rather than insist on dying apart.

Jonathan Kuttab is a Palestinian attorney and human rights activist. He is a co-founder of Al Haq and the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When Will It Be Time for the Palestinians?

Mustafa Bargouti writes an op-ed in the Dec. 17 issue of the NY Times.
His brother Marwan, languishes in an Israeli jail (remember Nelson Mandela?). The US media has convinced the majority of US citizens that it is Palestinian "violence" and "terrorism" that prevents "peace" from happening.
Here is another point of view vying for a place at the US media table. It is not being believed (much) as of this reading. But will the time come when it will be believed and acted upon? Time will tell. JRK

When Will It Be Our Time?
Mustafa Barghouthi
The New York Times (Opinion)
December 17, 2009 - 12:00am

I have lived my entire adult life under occupation, with Israelis holding ultimate control over my movement and daily life.

When young Israeli police officers force me to sit on the cold ground and soldiers beat me during a peaceful protest, I smolder. No human being should be compelled to sit on the ground while exercising rights taken for granted throughout the West.

It is with deepening concern that I recognize the Obama administration is not yet capable of standing up to Israel and the pro-Israel lobby. Our dream of freedom is being crushed under the weight of immovable and constantly expanding Israeli settlements.

Days ago, the State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly, managed only to term such illegal building “dismaying.” The Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, stands up and walks out on the U.S. envoy, George Mitchell, every time the American envoy mentions East Jerusalem.

And Javier Solana, just prior to completing his stint as European Union foreign policy chief, claimed Palestinian moves toward statehood “have to be done with time, with calm, in an appropriate moment.” He adds: “I don’t think today is the moment to talk about that.”

When, precisely, is a good time for Palestinian freedom? I call on Mr. Solana’s replacement, Catherine Ashton, to take concrete actions to press for Palestinian freedom rather than postpone it.

If Israel insists on hewing to antiquated notions of determining the date of another people’s freedom then it is incumbent on Palestinians to organize ourselves and highlight the moral repugnance of such an outlook.

Through decades of occupation and dispossession, 90 percent of the Palestinian struggle has been nonviolent, with the vast majority of Palestinians supporting this method of struggle. Today, growing numbers of Palestinians are participating in organized nonviolent resistance.

In the face of European and American inaction, it is crucial that we continue to revive our culture of collective activism by vigorously and nonviolently resisting Israel’s domination over us.

These are actions that every man, woman and child can take. The nonviolent movement is being built in the villages of Jayyous, Bilin and Naalin where Israel’s segregation wall threatens to erase productive village life.

President Obama, perhaps unwittingly, encouraged this effort when he called for Palestinian nonviolence in his Cairo speech. “Palestinians,” he said, “must abandon violence. … For centuries, black people in America suffered…the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.”

Yet without public American complaint, the Israeli military has killed and injured many nonviolent Palestinians during Obama’s 10 months in office, most notably Bassem Abu Rahme who was killed in April by an Israeli high-velocity teargas canister. American citizen Tristan Anderson was critically injured by the Israeli Army in March by a similar projectile and remains in a deep coma. Both men were protesting illegal Israeli land seizures and Israel’s wall. Hundreds more are unknown to the outside world.

A new generation of Palestinian leaders is attempting to speak to the world in the language of a nonviolent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, precisely as Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of African-Americans did with the Montgomery bus boycott in the mid-1950s.

We are equally right to use the tactic to advance our rights. The same world that rejects all use of Palestinian violence, even clear self-defense, surely ought not begrudge us the nonviolence employed by men such as King and Gandhi.

Western lethargy means the clock may run out on the two-state solution. If so, the fault will rest with the failure to halt Israeli settlement activity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration that settlement construction will continue in East Jerusalem, with government buildings in the West Bank and on thousands of West Bank housing units already under development makes a mockery of the term “freeze.”

We Palestinians are completely accustomed to — and unwilling to accept — such caveats from Mr. Netanyahu.

The demise of the two-state solution will only lead to a new struggle for equal rights, within one state. Israel, which tragically favors supremacy rather than integration with its Palestinian neighbors, will have brought the new struggle on itself by relentlessly pushing the settlement enterprise. No one can say it was not warned.

Eventually, we will be free in our own country, either within the two-state solution or in a new integrated state.

There comes a time when people cannot take injustice any more, and this time has come to Palestine.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jesus and Barack: A Comparison

Jesus and Barack Obama
On Resisting “Evil”

A comparison of the teachings and actions of Jesus and the teaching and actions of President Barack Obama, in light of the “troop surge” in Afghanistan and his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, December 10, 2009

US President Obama was on the defensive in Oslo. He sheepishly admitted his achievements for “peace” were “slight”, especially when compared to others like Martin Luther King Jr., his hero from a previous generation (and also a Peace Prize winner).

We will look at his attempt to justify perpetrating the “just war” in Afghanistan and pose the question: “What would Jesus do?” in dealing with rouges who refused to “adhere to standards that govern the use of force” (para. 21).

He made a point that the 9/11 attacks on American soil originated “from Afghanistan” (para 48) with the strong implication that that government officially sanctioned or permitted it to happen and that therefore, the US has a right to “self-defense”. (What he failed to mention is that Al Qaeda, the self-declared foe of the US, has never been tied to any nation. It is a trans-national movement. Thus attacking a country is suspect, to say nothing of fruitless, with little or no hope of “winning” the “war”).

And besides, he went on to say, as “the world’s sole military superpower” (para 16), we defend not only US interests, but “global security” as well (para 17), (just as we did for European nations during WW II). America is involved in a “conflict we did not seek . . . in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks” (para 3).

He looks with favor on the teaching and actions of Jesus, as espoused by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. But only up to a point. He reserves the right to “use force” (para 13) and “the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation” (para 21). He lauds the way of nonviolence, even saying he is a “living testimony to the moral force of nonviolence” [of Martin Luther King Jr.].

In para 12, he claims not to bring a “definitive solution to the problems of war”, blatantly ignoring that a “Way” to peace has clearly been brought, taught, and lived out by his confessed “Leader”, Jesus of Nazareth. How can he argue there is no other “way” than to engage, as a last resort, in violence to counter violence? His Christian brothers and sisters must shake their heads in grief that the “Way” of our common Master is so finally dismissed. In not being “guided by their [Gandhi, King, and Jesus], examples alone” (para 15), he chooses to be guided by the oldest “way” in history: violence to be countered by violence as the only real way to “peace”. This lie of our Adversary (The Evil One) is universally acclaimed and practiced. Kill or be killed is the law of the jungle; it is not the Way of Jesus.

Can a nation’s leader choose nonviolent measures to combat “Evil”? Well, yes, he responds:

* 1) using international institutions like the UN (para 17),

* 2) living by the “standards that govern the use of force” (para 21),
* 3) using tough sanctions with rouge states (para 31 – 34);

* 4) protecting the “human rights” of individual citizens and in nation states (para 35-42);

* 5) committing to economic security and development for people everywhere (para 43, 44); and

* 6) expanding our “moral imagination” (instead of killing people by the supposed authority of “God” (para 45 – 54). (When individuals take the power of the sword to themselves, they attempt what only the “state” has authority to do).

Let it be said that Jesus, Peter, and Paul, (to name a few biblical characters) completely accepted the policing authority and power of nation-states (Matt. 20:25, I Pet. 2:13, 14; Rom. 13:1-7). (“Governors are sent by [God] to punish those who do wrong” (I Pet. 2:14). Nonviolence (“love, faith”, para’s 48 – 51) may not be “practical or possible in every circumstance” (para 50). He states as axiomatic that “A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies” (para. 15) yet lauds Pope John Paul’s “engagement with Poland” that stood down Russian oppression and President Nixon’s dealing with “the enemy” in China at the height of the Cold War without bloodshed. The “love” and “faith” [of Gandhi and King] “must always be the North star that guides us on our journey” (para 50). He lauds “love” and “faith” and “engagement” but retains the “right” to act violently.

Yet, in typical Barack Obama fashion, he wants it both ways. He wants the application of “love”, but not too radically if you please. He doesn’t trust it. He can’t bring himself to say, “It is not practical or possible”. All he can say is, “It may not be practical or possible” (para 50). Sometimes the use of force is preferable really to confront evil is what he really is saying. (We are glad he at least struggles with this).

President Obama states, “I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive, in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King” (para 14). Nor does he want to dismiss “love” and “faith” as “silly or naïve” (para. 51). Yet, that is exactly what he does when he talks and acts as though nonviolent resistance is inappropriate when the threat to our “security” calls for military action. It is here he parts with Jesus, (Gandhi and King) who do not apply (nonviolent) “love” selectively but consistently.

The “just war” theory does not come from Jesus. It comes first from St. Augustine, as an attempt to get (Christian) rulers to abide by “standards” (proportionality, as self-defense, protecting non-combatants, hoped for “success”, etc.) War has always been justified by combatants on either side. The “just war” is like Moses giving spouses permission to divorce. “War” was never what was meant to be between persons or among nations! Jesus had enemies. He refused to be an enemy. He engaged enemies. He wanted the best for enemies. He loved enemies, even when they were determined to destroy him.

Even in the moment of greatest danger to himself personally (and his disciples), Jesus did not argue that he had a right to “self-defense”. At no point did he surround himself with a militia to insist on or impose the “rightness” of his “Way”. His was a completely nonviolent approach to “enemies”. It is not relevant nor true that Jesus was acting uniquely for himself and his mission, as though his example does not apply to his followers at that time or for succeeding generations. We are to “love” our enemies and do good to those who abuse and “hate” us. This never justifies the use of force (violence).

That this way is not popular or adopted by leaders like Al Qaeda or the USA (as being too naïve or passive), does not take away from its application or relevance for Jesus’ followers in threatening situations or circumstances. There is a difference between the way of empire the “Way” of Jesus of Nazareth, a difference being blurred all too often. Alas, we are all “Constantinian Christians”, descendants of the Roman emperor who co-opted Jesus to justify wars against “the enemy” and ensure our “security”.

Finally, Mr. Obama asks us to live by his example, as he speaks of “the mother [his mother and grandmother] facing punishing poverty (who) still takes time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams” (end of the second to the last paragraph, para 53). Here then, is Mr. Obama’s “faith”:

We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that—for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work on Earth” (last para).

This sounds so noble and bracing. Mr. Obama thus sees himself and the US as the guarantor of “Global Security”, gathering up willing nations to work for the great Pax Americana, using Jesus’ nonviolent “love” selectively and insisting on the right to use force (of course, as a last resort) on those who would do the US (and our “friends”) harm.

In this way, the American version of empire will pass the way of all empires, of King David, of Babylon, of Persia, of Alexander the Great, of Rome, and yes, the Third Reich. In being true to King Herod and Pontius Pilate, he will be false to Jesus, Gandhi and King.

There is a “Way” to walk beyond the “Nation” as ultimate good, beyond the truism that “nation will fight nation, and ruler will fight ruler, over and over” (Matt. 24:7). It is the “Way” made crystal clear by Jesus and vindicated by God in his victory over self-aggrandizement and death.

Followers of Jesus will seek to be true to our Leader’s nonviolent Way of loving enemies, living generously toward others, even those who hate us (Matt. 5:38-48). When “the enemy is hungry, feed him; when he’s thirsty, give him a drink. . .Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good” (The Message, Rom. 12:20,21).

Any other “way” to peace, especially the use of (violent) force to counter “evil” leads to ever widening circles of vengeance, further injustices and destruction. Faith, hope and love are not to be applied selectively. They are to be applied consistently, completely, and with no coercion. Nonviolent, active resistance IS the “Way”. There is no “way” to peace by violent action. Active, nonviolent resistance is the “Way” to peace.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Bethlehem "Kairos Palestine" Document

A moment of truth:
A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering


We, a group of Christian Palestinians, after prayer, reflection and an exchange
of opinion, cry out from within the suffering in our country, under the Israeli
occupation, with a cry of hope in the absence of all hope, a cry full of prayer and faith in a God ever vigilant, in God’s divine providence for all the inhabitants of this land. Inspired by the mystery of God's love for all, the mystery of God’s divine presence in the history of all peoples and, in a particular way, in the history of our country, we proclaim our word based on our Christian faith and our sense of Palestinian belonging– a word of faith, hope and love.

Why now? Because today we have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the
Palestinian people. The decision-makers content themselves with managing the crisis
rather than committing themselves to the serious task of finding a way to resolve it.
The hearts of the faithful are filled with pain and with questioning: What is the
international community doing? What are the political leaders in Palestine, in Israel
and in the Arab world doing? What is the Church doing?
The problem is not just a
political one. It is a policy in which human beings are destroyed, and this must be of concern to the Church.

We address ourselves to our brothers and sisters, members of our Churches in
this land. We call out as Christians and as Palestinians to our religious and political leaders, to our Palestinian society and to the Israeli society, to the international community, and to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Churches around the world.

1. The reality on the ground
1.1 “They say: 'Peace, peace' when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). These days,
everyone is speaking about peace in the Middle East and the peace process. So far,
however, these are simply words; the reality is one of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, deprivation of our freedom and all that results from this situation:

1.1.1 The separation wall erected on Palestinian territory, a large part of which
has been confiscated for this purpose, has turned our towns and villages into prisons, separating them from one another, making them dispersed and divided cantons. Gaza, especially after the cruel war Israel launched against it during December 2008 and January 2009, continues to live in inhuman conditions, under permanent blockade and cut off from the other Palestinian territories.

1.1.2 Israeli settlements ravage our land in the name of God and in the name of
force, controlling our natural resources, including water and agricultural land, thus
depriving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and constituting an obstacle to any
political solution.

1.1.3 Reality is the daily humiliation to which we are subjected at the military
checkpoints, as we make our way to jobs, schools or hospitals.

1.1.4 Reality is the separation between members of the same family, making
family life impossible for thousands of Palestinians, especially where one of the
spouses does not have an Israeli identity card.

1.1.5 Religious liberty is severely restricted; the freedom of access to the holy
places is denied under the pretext of security. Jerusalem and its holy places are out of bounds for many Christians and Muslims from the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
Even Jerusalemites face restrictions during the religious feasts. Some of our Arab
clergy are regularly barred from entering Jerusalem.

1.1.6 Refugees are also part of our reality. Most of them are still living in
camps under difficult circumstances. They have been waiting for their right of return, generation after generation. What will be their fate?

1.1.7 And the prisoners? The thousands of prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons are part of our reality. The Israelis move heaven and earth to gain the release of one prisoner, and those thousands of Palestinian prisoners, when will they have their freedom?

1.1.8 Jerusalem is the heart of our reality. It is, at the same time, symbol of
peace and sign of conflict. While the separation wall divides Palestinian
neighbourhoods, Jerusalem continues to be emptied of its Palestinian citizens,
Christians and Muslims. Their identity cards are confiscated, which means the loss of
their right to reside in Jerusalem. Their homes are demolished or expropriated.
Jerusalem, city of reconciliation, has become a city of discrimination and exclusion, a source of struggle rather than peace.

1.2 Also part of this reality is the Israeli disregard of international law and
international resolutions, as well as the paralysis of the Arab world and the
international community in the face of this contempt. Human rights are violated and
despite the various reports of local and international human rights' organizations, the injustice continues.

1.2.1 Palestinians within the State of Israel, who have also suffered a historical
injustice, although they are citizens and have the rights and obligations of citizenship, still suffer from discriminatory policies. They too are waiting to enjoy full rights and equality like all other citizens in the state.

1.3 Emigration is another element in our reality. The absence of any vision or
spark of hope for peace and freedom pushes young people, both Muslim and Christian,
to emigrate. Thus the land is deprived of its most important and richest resource –
educated youth. The shrinking number of Christians, particularly in Palestine, is one of the dangerous consequences, both of this conflict, and of the local and international paralysis and failure to find a comprehensive solution to the problem.

1.4 In the face of this reality, Israel justifies its actions as self-defence,
including occupation, collective punishment and all other forms of reprisals against
the Palestinians. In our opinion, this vision is a reversal of reality. Yes, there is
Palestinian resistance to the occupation. However, if there were no occupation, there
would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity. This is our understanding of the
situation. Therefore, we call on the Israelis to end the occupation. Then they will see a new world in which there is no fear, no threat but rather security, justice and peace.

1.5 The Palestinian response to this reality was diverse. Some responded
through negotiations: that was the official position of the Palestinian Authority, but it did not advance the peace process. Some political parties followed the way of armed resistance. Israel used this as a pretext to accuse the Palestinians of being terrorists and was able to distort the real nature of the conflict, presenting it as an Israeli war against terror, rather than an Israeli occupation faced by Palestinian legal resistance aiming at ending it.

1.5.1 The tragedy worsened with the internal conflict among Palestinians
themselves, and with the separation of Gaza from the rest of the Palestinian territory. It is noteworthy that, even though the division is among Palestinians themselves, the international community bears an important responsibility for it since it refused to deal positively with the will of the Palestinian people expressed in the outcome of democratic and legal elections in 2006. Again, we repeat and proclaim that our Christian word in the midst of all this, in the midst of our catastrophe, is a word of faith, hope and love.

2. A word of faith
We believe in one God, a good and just God.

2.1 We believe in God, one God, Creator of the universe and of humanity. We
believe in a good and just God, who loves each one of his creatures. We believe that
every human being is created in God’s image and likeness and that every one's dignity
is derived from the dignity of the Almighty One. We believe that this dignity is one
and the same in each and all of us. This means for us, here and now, in this land in
particular, that God created us not so that we might engage in strife and conflict but rather that we might come and know and love one another, and together build up the land in love and mutual respect.

2.1.1 We also believe in God's eternal Word, His only Son, our Lord Jesus
Christ, whom God sent as the Saviour of the world.

2.1.2 We believe in the Holy Spirit, who accompanies the Church and all humanity on its journey. It is the Spirit that helps us to understand Holy Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, showing their unity, here and now. The Spirit makes manifest the revelation of God to humanity, past, present and future. How do we understand the word of God?

2.2 We believe that God has spoken to humanity, here in our country: "Long
ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in
these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom God appointed heir of all things,
through whom he also created the worlds" (Heb. 1:1-2).

2.2.1 We, Christian Palestinians, believe, like all Christians throughout the
world, that Jesus Christ came in order to fulfil the Law and the Prophets. He is the
Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and in his light and with the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, we read the Holy Scriptures. We meditate upon and
interpret Scripture just as Jesus Christ did with the two disciples on their way to
Emmaus. As it is written in the Gospel according to Saint Luke: "Then beginning with
Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures" (Lk 24:27).

2.2.2 Our Lord Jesus Christ came, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was near. He provoked a revolution in the life and faith of all humanity. He came with "a new teaching" (Mk 1:27), casting a new light on the Old Testament, on the themes that
relate to our Christian faith and our daily lives, themes such as the promises, the
election, the people of God and the land. We believe that the Word of God is a living
Word, casting a particular light on each period of history, manifesting to Christian
believers what God is saying to us here and now. For this reason, it is unacceptable to transform the Word of God into letters of stone that pervert the love of God and His providence in the life of both peoples and individuals. This is precisely the error in fundamentalist Biblical interpretation that brings us death and destruction when the word of God is petrified and transmitted from generation to generation as a dead letter. This dead letter is used as a weapon in our present history in order to deprive us of our rights in our own land. Our land has a universal mission.

2.3 We believe that our land has a universal mission. In this universality, the
meaning of the promises, of the land, of the election, of the people of God open up to include all of humanity, starting from all the peoples of this land. In light of the teachings of the Holy Bible, the promise of the land has never been a political
programme, but rather the prelude to complete universal salvation. It was the initiation of the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God on earth.

2.3.1 God sent the patriarchs, the prophets and the apostles to this land so that
they might carry forth a universal mission to the world. Today we constitute three
religions in this land, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Our land is God’s land, as is the case with all countries in the world. It is holy inasmuch as God is present in it, for God alone is holy and sanctifier. It is the duty of those of us who live here, to respect the will of God for this land. It is our duty to liberate it from the evil of injustice and war. It is God's land and therefore it must be a land of reconciliation, peace and love. This is indeed possible. God has put us here as two peoples, and God gives us the capacity, if we have the will, to live together and establish in it justice and peace, making it in reality God's land: "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it" (Ps. 24:1).

2.3.2 Our presence in this land, as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, is not
accidental but rather deeply rooted in the history and geography of this land, resonant with the connectedness of any other people to the land it lives in. It was an injustice when we were driven out. The West sought to make amends for what Jews had endured in the countries of Europe, but it made amends on our account and in our
land. They tried to correct an injustice and the result was a new injustice.

2.3.3 Furthermore, we know that certain theologians in the West try to attach a
biblical and theological legitimacy to the infringement of our rights. Thus, the
promises, according to their interpretation, have become a menace to our very
existence. The "good news" in the Gospel itself has become "a harbinger of death" for
us. We call on these theologians to deepen their reflection on the Word of God and to
rectify their interpretations so that they might see in the Word of God a source of life for all peoples.

2.3.4 Our connectedness to this land is a natural right. It is not an ideological
or a theological question only. It is a matter of life and death. There are those who do not agree with us, even defining us as enemies only because we declare that we want to live as free people in our land. We suffer from the occupation of our land because we are Palestinians. And as Christian Palestinians we suffer from the wrong interpretation of some theologians. Faced with this, our task is to safeguard the Word of God as a source of life and not of death, so that "the good news" remains what it is, "good news" for us and for all. In face of those who use the Bible to threaten our existence as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, we renew our faith in God because we know that the word of God can not be the source of our destruction.

2.4 Therefore, we declare that any use of the Bible to legitimize or support
political options and positions that are based upon injustice, imposed by one person on another, or by one people on another, transform religion into human ideology and strip the Word of God of its holiness, its universality and truth.
2.5 We also declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin
against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human
rights, bestowed by God. It distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier just as it distorts this image in the Palestinian living under occupation. We declare that any theology, seemingly based on the Bible or on faith or on history, that legitimizes the occupation, is far from Christian teachings, because it calls for violence and holy war in the name of God Almighty, subordinating God to temporary human interests, and distorting the divine image in the human beings living under both political and theological injustice.

3. Hope
3.1 Despite the lack of even a glimmer of positive expectation, our hope
remains strong. The present situation does not promise any quick solution or the end
of the occupation that is imposed on us. Yes, the initiatives, the conferences, visits and negotiations have multiplied, but they have not been followed up by any change in our situation and suffering. Even the new US position that has been announced by President Obama, with a manifest desire to put an end to the tragedy, has not been able to make a change in our reality. The clear Israeli response, refusing any solution, leaves no room for positive expectation. Despite this, our hope remains strong, because it is from God. God alone is good, almighty and loving and His goodness will one day be victorious over the evil in which we find ourselves. As Saint Paul said: "If God is for us, who is against us? (…) Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long . . . For I am convinced that (nothing) in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God" (Rom. 8:31, 35, 36, 39).
What is the meaning of hope?

3.2 Hope within us means first and foremost our faith in God and secondly our
expectation, despite everything, for a better future. Thirdly, it means not chasing after illusions – we realize that release is not close at hand. Hope is the capacity to see God in the midst of trouble, and to be co-workers with the Holy Spirit who is dwelling in us. From this vision derives the strength to be steadfast, remain firm and work to change the reality in which we find ourselves. Hope means not giving in to evil but rather standing up to it and continuing to resist it. We see nothing in the present or future except ruin and destruction. We see the upper hand of the strong, the growing orientation towards racist separation and the imposition of laws that deny our existence and our dignity. We see confusion and division in the Palestinian position. If, despite all this, we do resist this reality today and work hard, perhaps the destruction that looms on the horizon may not come upon us.

Signs of hope
3.3 The Church in our land, her leaders and her faithful, despite her weakness
and her divisions, does show certain signs of hope. Our parish communities are vibrantand most of our young people are active apostles for justice and peace. In addition to the individual commitment, our various Church institutions make our faith active and present in service, love and prayer.

3.3.1 Among the signs of hope are the local centres of theology, with a religious and social character. They are numerous in our different Churches. The ecumenical spirit, even if still hesitant, shows itself more and more in the meetings of our different Church families.

3.3.2 We can add to this the numerous meetings for inter-religious dialogue,
Christian–Muslim dialogue, which includes the religious leaders and a part of the
people. Admittedly, dialogue is a long process and is perfected through a daily effort as we undergo the same sufferings and have the same expectations. There is also dialogue among the three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as
different dialogue meetings on the academic or social level. They all try to breach the walls imposed by the occupation and oppose the distorted perception of human beings in the heart of their brothers or sisters.

3.3.3 One of the most important signs of hope is the steadfastness of the
generations, the belief in the justice of their cause and the continuity of memory,
which does not forget the "Nakba" (catastrophe) and its significance. Likewise
significant is the developing awareness among many Churches throughout the world
and their desire to know the truth about what is going on here.

3.3.4 In addition to that, we see a determination among many to overcome the
resentments of the past and to be ready for reconciliation once justice has been
restored. Public awareness of the need to restore political rights to the Palestinians is increasing, and Jewish and Israeli voices, advocating peace and justice, are raised in support of this with the approval of the international community. True, these forces for justice and reconciliation have not yet been able to transform the situation of injustice, but they have their influence and may shorten the time of suffering and hasten the time of reconciliation.

The mission of the Church
3.4 Our Church is a Church of people who pray and serve. This prayer and
service is prophetic, bearing the voice of God in the present and future. Everything
that happens in our land, everyone who lives there, all the pains and hopes, all the
injustice and all the efforts to stop this injustice, are part and parcel of the prayer of our Church and the service of all her institutions. Thanks be to God that our Church raises her voice against injustice despite the fact that some desire her to remain silent, closed in her religious devotions.

3.4.1 The mission of the Church is prophetic, to speak the Word of God courageously, honestly and lovingly in the local context and in the midst of daily events. If she does take sides, it is with the oppressed, to stand alongside them, just as Christ our Lord stood by the side of each poor person and each sinner, calling them to repentance, life, and the restoration of the dignity bestowed on them by God and that no one has the right to strip away.

3.4.2 The mission of the Church is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice, peace and dignity. Our vocation as a living Church is to bear witness to the goodness of God and the dignity of human beings. We are called to pray
and to make our voice heard when we announce a new society where human beings
believe in their own dignity and the dignity of their adversaries.

3.4.3 Our Church points to the Kingdom, which cannot be tied to any earthly
kingdom. Jesus said before Pilate that he was indeed a king but "my kingdom is not
from this world" (Jn 18:36). Saint Paul says: "The Kingdom of God is not food and
drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom.14:17). Therefore,
religion cannot favour or support any unjust political regime, but must rather promote justice, truth and human dignity. It must exert every effort to purify regimes where human beings suffer injustice and human dignity is violated. The Kingdom of God on earth is not dependent on any political orientation, for it is greater and more inclusive than any particular political system.

3.4.4 Jesus Christ said: "The Kingdom of God is among you" (Luke 17:21).
This Kingdom that is present among us and in us is the extension of the mystery of
salvation. It is the presence of God among us and our sense of that presence in
everything we do and say. It is in this divine presence that we shall do what we can
until justice is achieved in this land.

3.4.5 The cruel circumstances in which the Palestinian Church has lived and
continues to live have required the Church to clarify her faith and to identify her
vocation better. We have studied our vocation and have come to know it better in the
midst of suffering and pain: today, we bear the strength of love rather than that of
revenge, a culture of life rather than a culture of death. This is a source of hope for us, for the Church and for the world.

3.5 The Resurrection is the source of our hope .Just as Christ rose in victory
over death and evil, so too we are able, as each inhabitant of this land is able, to
vanquish the evil of war. We will remain a witnessing, steadfast and active Church in
the land of the Resurrection.

4. Love
The commandment of love
4.1 Christ our Lord said: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one
another" (Jn 13:34). He has already showed us how to love and how to treat our
enemies. He said: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour
and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his
sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the
unrighteous (…) Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:45-47). Saint Paul also said: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil" (Rom. 12:17). And Saint Peter said: "Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called" (1 Pet. 3:9).

4.2 This word is clear. Love is the commandment of Christ our Lord to us and
it includes both friends and enemies. This must be clear when we find ourselves in
circumstances where we must resist evil of whatever kind.

4.2.1 Love is seeing the face of God in every human being. Every person is my
brother or my sister. However, seeing the face of God in everyone does not mean
accepting evil or aggression on their part. Rather, this love seeks to correct the evil and stop the aggression. The injustice against the Palestinian people which is the Israeli occupation, is an evil that must be resisted. It is an evil and a sin that must be resisted and removed. Primary responsibility for this rests with the Palestinians themselves suffering occupation. Christian love invites us to resist it. However, love puts an end to evil by walking in the ways of justice. Responsibility lies also with the international community, because international law regulates relations between peoples today. Finally responsibility lies with the perpetrators of the injustice; they must liberate themselves from the evil that is in them and the injustice they have imposed on others.

4.2.2 When we review the history of the nations, we see many wars and much
resistance to war by war, to violence by violence. The Palestinian people has gone the way of the peoples, particularly in the first stages of its struggle with the Israeli occupation. However, it also engaged in peaceful struggle, especially during the first Intifada. We recognize that all peoples must find a new way in their relations with each other and the resolution of their conflicts. The ways of force must give way to the ways of justice. This applies above all to the peoples that are militarily strong, mighty enough to impose their injustice on the weaker.

4.2.3 We say that our option as Christians in the face of the Israeli occupation
is to resist. Resistance is a right and a duty for the Christian. But it is resistance with love as its logic. It is thus a creative resistance for it must find human ways that engage the humanity of the enemy. Seeing the image of God in the face of the enemy means taking up positions in the light of this vision of active resistance to stop the injustice and oblige the perpetrator to end his aggression and thus achieve the desired goal, which is getting back the land, freedom, dignity and independence.

4.2.4 Christ our Lord has left us an example we must imitate. We must resist
evil but he taught us that we cannot resist evil with evil. This is a difficult
commandment, particularly when the enemy is determined to impose himself and
deny our right to remain here in our land. It is a difficult commandment yet it alone
can stand firm in the face of the clear declarations of the occupation authorities that refuse our existence and the many excuses these authorities use to continue imposing occupation upon us.
4.2.5 Resistance to the evil of occupation is integrated, then, within this
Christian love that refuses evil and corrects it. It resists evil in all its forms with methods that enter into the logic of love and draw on all energies to make peace. We can resist through civil disobedience. We do not resist with death but rather through respect of life. We respect and have a high esteem for all those who have given their life for our nation. And we affirm that every citizen must be ready to defend his or her life, freedom and land.

4.2.6 Palestinian civil organizations, as well as international organizations,
NGOs and certain religious institutions call on individuals, companies and states to
engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything
produced by the occupation. We understand this to integrate the logic of peaceful
resistance. These advocacy campaigns must be carried out with courage, openly
sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice. The aim is to free both peoples from extremist positions of the different Israeli governments, bringing both to justice and reconciliation. In this spirit and with this dedication we will eventually reach the longed-for resolution to our problems, as indeed happened in South Africa and with many other liberation movements in the world.

4.3 Through our love, we will overcome injustices and establish foundations
for a new society both for us and for our opponents. Our future and their future are
one. Either the cycle of violence that destroys both of us or peace that will benefit
both. We call on Israel to give up its injustice towards us, not to twist the truth of reality of the occupation by pretending that it is a battle against terrorism. The roots of "terrorism" are in the human injustice committed and in the evil of the occupation. These must be removed if there be a sincere intention to remove "terrorism". We call on the people of Israel to be our partners in peace and not in the cycle of interminable violence. Let us resist evil together, the evil of occupation and the infernal cycle of violence.

5. Our word to our brothers and sisters
5.1 We all face, today, a way that is blocked and a future that promises only
woe. Our word to all our Christian brothers and sisters is a word of hope, patience,
steadfastness and new action for a better future. Our word is that we, as Christians we carry a message, and we will continue to carry it despite the thorns, despite blood and daily difficulties. We place our hope in God, who will grant us relief in His own time. At the same time, we continue to act in concord with God and God’s will, building, resisting evil and bringing closer the day of justice and peace.

5.2 We say to our Christian brothers and sisters: This is a time for repentance.
Repentance brings us back into the communion of love with everyone who suffers, the
prisoners, the wounded, those afflicted with temporary or permanent handicaps, the
children who cannot live their childhood and each one who mourns a dear one. The
communion of love says to every believer in spirit and in truth: if my brother is a
prisoner I am a prisoner; if his home is destroyed, my home is destroyed; when my
brother is killed, then I too am killed. We face the same challenges and share in all that has happened and will happen. Perhaps, as individuals or as heads of Churches, we were silent when we should have raised our voices to condemn the injustice and share in the suffering. This is a time of repentance for our silence, indifference, lack of communion, either because we did not persevere in our mission in this land and abandoned it, or because we did not think and do enough to reach a new and integrated vision and remained divided, contradicting our witness and weakening our word. Repentance for our concern with our institutions, sometimes at the expense of our mission, thus silencing the prophetic voice given by the Spirit to the Churches.

5.3 We call on Christians to remain steadfast in this time of trial, just as we
have throughout the centuries, through the changing succession of states and
governments. Be patient, steadfast and full of hope so that you might fill the heart of every one of your brothers or sisters who shares in this same trial with hope. "Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet. 3:15). Be active and, provided this conforms to love, participate in any sacrifice that resistance asks of you to overcome our present travail.

5.4 Our numbers are few but our message is great and important. Our land is in
urgent need of love. Our love is a message to the Muslim and to the Jew, as well as to the world.

5.4.1Our message to the Muslims is a message of love and of living together
and a call to reject fanaticism and extremism. It is also a message to the world that
Muslims are neither to be stereotyped as the enemy nor caricatured as terrorists but
rather to be lived with in peace and engaged with in dialogue.

5.4.2 Our message to the Jews tells them: Even though we have fought one
another in the recent past and still struggle today, we are able to love and live together. We can organize our political life, with all its complexity, according to the logic of this love and its power, after ending the occupation and establishing justice.

5.4.3 The word of faith says to anyone engaged in political activity: human
beings were not made for hatred. It is not permitted to hate, neither is it permitted to kill or to be killed. The culture of love is the culture of accepting the other. Through it we perfect ourselves and the foundations of society are established.

6. Our word to the Churches of the world
6.1 Our word to the Churches of the world is firstly a word of gratitude for the
solidarity you have shown toward us in word, deed and presence among us. It is a
word of praise for the many Churches and Christians who support the right of the
Palestinian people for self determination. It is a message of solidarity with those
Christians and Churches who have suffered because of their advocacy for law and
justice. However, it is also a call to repentance; to revisit fundamentalist theological positions that support certain unjust political options with regard to the Palestinian people. It is a call to stand alongside the oppressed and preserve the word of God as good news for all rather than to turn it into a weapon with which to slay the oppressed. The word of God is a word of love for all His creation. God is not the ally of one against the other, nor the opponent of one in the face of the other. God is the Lord of all and loves all, demanding justice from all and issuing to all of us the same commandments. We ask our sister Churches not to offer a theological cover-up for the injustice we suffer, for the sin of the occupation imposed upon us. Our question to our brothers and sisters in the Churches today is: Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?

6.2 In order to understand our reality, we say to the Churches: Come and see.
We will fulfil our role to make known to you the truth of our reality, receiving you as pilgrims coming to us to pray, carrying a message of peace, love and reconciliation. You will know the facts and the people of this land, Palestinians and Israelis alike.

6.3 We condemn all forms of racism, whether religious or ethnic, including
anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and we call on you to condemn it and oppose it in all
its manifestations. At the same time we call on you to say a word of truth and to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. As we have already said, we see boycott and disinvestment as tools of non violence for justice, peace and security for all.

7. Our word to the international community
7. Our word to the international community is to stop the principle of "double
standards" and insist on the international resolutions regarding the Palestinian problem with regard to all parties. Selective application of international law threatens to leave us vulnerable to a law of the jungle. It legitimizes the claims by certain armed groups and states that the international community only understands the logic of force. Therefore, we call for a response to what the civil and religious institutions have proposed, as mentioned earlier: the beginning of a system of economic sanctions and boycott to be applied against Israel. We repeat once again that this is not revenge but rather a serious action in order to reach a just and definitive peace that will put an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories and will guarantee security and peace for all.

8. Jewish and Muslim religious leaders
8. Finally, we address an appeal to the religious and spiritual leaders, Jewish
and Muslim, with whom we share the same vision that every human being is created
by God and has been given equal dignity. Hence the obligation for each of us to
defend the oppressed and the dignity God has bestowed on them. Let us together try to
rise up above the political positions that have failed so far and continue to lead us on the path of failure and suffering.

9. A call to our Palestinian people and to the Israelis
9.1 This is a call to see the face of God in each one of God’s creatures and
overcome the barriers of fear or race in order to establish a constructive dialogue and not remain within the cycle of never-ending manoeuvres that aim to keep the situation as it is. Our appeal is to reach a common vision, built on equality and sharing, not on superiority, negation of the other or aggression, using the pretext of fear and security. We say that love is possible and mutual trust is possible. Thus, peace is possible and definitive reconciliation also. Thus, justice and security will be attained for all.

9.2 Education is important. Educational programs must help us to get to know
the other as he or she is rather than through the prism of conflict, hostility or religious fanaticism. The educational programs in place today are infected with this hostility. The time has come to begin a new education that allows one to see the face of God inthe other and declares that we are capable of loving each other and building our future together in peace and security.

9.3 Trying to make the state a religious state, Jewish or Islamic, suffocates the
state, confines it within narrow limits, and transforms it into a state that practices discrimination and exclusion, preferring one citizen over another. We appeal to both religious Jews and Muslims: let the state be a state for all its citizens, with a vision constructed on respect for religion but also equality, justice, liberty and respect for pluralism and not on domination by a religion or a numerical majority.

9.4 To the leaders of Palestine we say that current divisions weaken all of us
and cause more sufferings. Nothing can justify these divisions. For the good of the
people, which must outweigh that of the political parties, an end must be put to
division. We appeal to the international community to lend its support towards this
union and to respect the will of the Palestinian people as expressed freely.

9.5 Jerusalem is the foundation of our vision and our entire life. She is the city
to which God gave a particular importance in the history of humanity. She is the city
towards which all people are in movement – and where they will meet in friendship
and love in the presence of the One Unique God, according to the vision of the prophet Isaiah: "In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. "He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Is. 2: 2-5). Today, the city is inhabited by two peoples of three religions; and it is on this prophetic vision and on the international resolutions concerning the totality of Jerusalem that any political solution must be based. This is the first issue that should be negotiated because the recognition of Jerusalem's sanctity and its message will be a source of inspiration towards finding a solution to the entire problem, which is largely a problem of mutual trust and ability to set in place a new land in this land of God.

10. Hope and faith in God
10. In the absence of all hope, we cry out our cry of hope. We believe in God,
good and just. We believe that God’s goodness will finally triumph over the evil of
hate and of death that still persist in our land. We will see here "a new land" and "a new human being", capable of rising up in the spirit to love each one of his or her brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Amira Hass is Angry. Can You Tell?

Israel has made settlers of all its citizens
Amira Hass
Haaretz (Opinion)
December 9, 2009 - 12:00am

Would any of the settlers who opposed the Civil Administration inspectors this week be living in the territories had the governments of Israel not established and encouraged them?

Would the Gush Katif evacuees have moved to mobile homes in Ariel in the expectation of spacious permanent housing had the government clearly declared that this was forbidden - because the settlements will be evacuated in the near future for a peace agreement - and that evacuation-compensation money would not be paid to anyone who moves to the West Bank?

Do the settlers clashing with the forces of law and order not know that those who have committed crimes - from racist threats and blocking roads, to wholesale cutting down of trees, arson and beating and murdering Palestinians - have not been investigated or have been forgiven and forgotten with a wink?

The settlers' feeling of betrayal is natural. Haven't the state and its institutions taught us that the settler is superior to everyone else?

Yes. The settler, in fact, is us.

The freeze orders will not change what exists now: an elite state for Jews and a sub-space for Palestinians - truncated, cut up, asphyxiated.

The distinction in the mind nowadays between the state of Israel and the settlers is artificial.

So is the distinction between the bad and the good, the violent and the law-abiding, the residents of the Migron outpost and the residents of Etzion Bloc settlements and the territories that have been annexed to Jerusalem, or those who live to the West of the separation fence.

Those who laud the freeze orders are thinking about relations with the United States.

The subordinated and occupied do not factor into their calculations. And indeed the land that was stolen from them in Beit Jala (for the benefit of Gilo) is like the land of Qalqilyah that Alfei Menashe coveted and is coveting.

The legitimacy of the settlement blocs exists only in the Israeli consensus. In reality, it is these blocs and Ma'aleh Adumim that are destroying the chance of a fair peace, because they and their separated roads are laying the groundwork for a crippled Palestinian political entity.

There is a lot of ingratitude in the media assault on the settlers, who have been manning barricades for the sake of a reality from which many Israelis are benefiting and accept as natural.

Had the governments of Israel been interested in containing the Golem they had created on time, they would not have cynically exploited the Oslo agreement to accelerate building and lure more and more Israelis with settlers' benefits.

Former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin would have evacuated the Hebron and Kiryat Arba settlers after the massacre Baruch Goldstein committed in the Tomb of the Patriarchs / Ibrahimi Mosque.

His government and subsequent governments would not have strangled Bethlehem with the Tunnels Road and with the "moderate" settlement of Efrat that snakes and twists along the hills.

They would have prepared the public for a just scenario by which to bring all the settlers back home and would have apologized for having lured them to transgression.

However, in 1993 we missed a one-time opportunity to develop as an entity, the aim of which is not territorial expansion at the expense of another people - who were prepared for very painful concessions for the sake of its independence and for the sake of peace.

We missed an opportunity to expel the deed of disposession from our state's institutional and mental chromosomes.

It is no wonder the setters are saying there is no difference between Kibbutz Baram and Psagot, between Givat Shaul and Alon Moreh.

Precisely in the shadow of diplomatic negotiations, Israel chose a policy of accelerated settlement in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

It is expelling Palestinian inhabitants from their homes there by various methods.

In this way, Israel is drawing a straight line between Kiryat Shmona and Beit El, between Tel Aviv and Givat Ze'ev. It has made settlers of us all.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

A Third Narrative

There needs to be a new, third narrative that bridges the chasm between the Palestinian narrative and the Israeli narrative.

Bereaved Circle—Families Forum ( gives us help in this. After Rami Elchana and Nurit Peled-Elchana lost their daughter to a Palestinian suicide bomber, they were eventually led to appear with Palestinians who lost their children to the warfare.

Listen to Nurit, Rami’s wife, tell this story:

When my little girl was killed, a reporter asked me how I was willing to accept condolences from the other side. I replied without hesitation that I HAD refused to meet with the other side: when Ehud Olmert, then the mayor of Jerusalem came to offer his condolences, I took my leave and would not sit with him.
For me, the other side, the enemy, is not the Palestinian people. For me the struggle is not between Palestinians and Israelis, nor between Jews and Arabs. The fight is between those who seek peace and those who seek war. My people are those who seek peace. My sisters are the bereaved mothers, Israeli and Palestinian, who live in Israel and in Gaza and in the refugee camps. My brothers are the fathers who try to defend their children from the cruel occupation, and are, as I was, unsuccessful in doing so. Although we were born into a different history and speak different tongues, there is more that unites us than that which divides us (Peled-Elchana, 2001).

Mark Braverman (Fatal Embrace: Christians and Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, pp. 259,260), also reports the article by Sara Roy in the January 2, 2009 Christian Science Monitor entitled “Israel’s ‘Victories’ in Gaza Come at a Steep Price”:

I hear the voices of my friends in Gaza as clearly as if we were still on the phone; their agony echoes inside me. They weep and moan over the death of their children, some, little girls like mine, taken, their bodies burned and destroyed so senselessly.
In nearly 25 years of involvement with Gaza and Palestinians, I have not had to confront the horrific image of burned children—until today. What will happen to Jews as a people, whether we live in Israel or not?
Why have we been unable to accept the fundamental humanity of Palestinians and include them with our moral boundaries? Rather, we reject any human connection with the people we are oppressing. Ultimately, our goal is to tribalize pain, narrowing the scope of human suffering to ourselves alone.
Our rejection of ‘the other’ will undo us. We must incorporate Palestinians and other Arab peoples into the Jewish understanding of history, because they are a part of that history. We must question our own narrative and the one we have given others, rather than continue to cherish beliefs and sentiments that betray the Jewish ethical tradition. Israel’s victories are pyrrhic and reveal the limits of Israeli power and our own limitations as a people: our inability to live a life without barriers. Are these the boundaries of our rebirth after the Holocaust? As Jews in a post-Holocaust world empowered by a Jewish state, how do we as a people emerge from atrocity and abjection, empowered and also human? How do we move beyond fear to envision something different, even if uncertain?
The answer will determine who we are and what, in the end, we become.

And here is Mr. Braverman’s comment on the above illustrations: It’s life or death. It’s our choice between a commitment to empire or to our future as members of a human community. A persistent, steadfast focus on this choice must inform the activities of our faith communities if these religious traditions are going to not only ‘survive’ but be a force for the survival of our species on this planet (Ibid, p. 260).

Order Mark Braverman’s book from his website:
Sara Roy is with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Jewish People, Zionism and Justice

The Jewish People, Zionism, and the Question of Justice

When I was a boy in the 1950s attending Hebrew School in Philadelphia, we would receive little cardboard folders with slots for dimes distributed by the Jewish National Fund. On the cover was a picture of a tree being planted by handsome, tanned people in shorts. When the card was full, you sent it in and in return received a certificate with your name on and a bigger picture of a tree, which was the tree you had planted in Israel. It was fun and it was a thrill – I was reclaiming the homeland. I saw pictures of kibbutzim and orange groves filling the valleys and dreamt of going there someday.

Four decades later, now a middle-aged man, I saw pictures of Israeli bulldozers uprooting three hundred year-old olive trees and Jewish soldiers restraining Arab villagers crying hysterically over the destruction of their groves. I traveled to the West Bank – Israeli occupied Palestine – and saw the hillsides denuded of trees to build concrete Jewish settlement cities. I saw Arab houses leveled and gardens taken to make way for a 30 foot-high concrete wall cutting through Palestinian cities and village fields. I saw that this was wrong. I didn’t buy the story that this was for defense. I could see that it was a lie.

When I returned to the United States and began to talk about my horror, sadness and deep concern over what I had seen, I was told by many of my fellow Jews that I must not talk like this. I was informed that this makes me an enemy of the Jewish people and that I was opening the way for the next Holocaust. I was told by many Jews that I was disloyal to my people, that I had “gone over” to the “Palestinian side.” One Jewish rabbinical student informed his colleagues that I was obviously a convert to Christianity “masquerading” as a Jew in order to cause the destruction of the Jewish people. I have spoken about my experiences before many groups, almost all of them in churches. I have yet to speak in a synagogue. I am trying hard to make sense out of this and to figure out a way forward. Here is what I have figured out so far.

Jewish History: Survival and its Shadow

Zionism was the answer to the anti-Semitism of Christian Europe. The failure, despite the Enlightenment, to establish Jews as an emancipated, accepted group in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the rise of political anti-Semitism in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century gave birth to political Zionism under the leadership of Theodore Herzl. Zionism expressed the powerful drive of the Jewish people to establish ourselves as a nation among other nations, with a land of our own and the ability to achieve self-determination. This is why, in sermons from synagogue pulpits, in lectures on Jewish history, in classroom lessons for small children, and in spirited discussions about the Israel-Palestine question, you will so often here the preamble “throughout the centuries…,” followed by a description of the suffering of the Jews at the hands of our oppressors. Indeed, it’s in our liturgy, notably in the Passover Seder. The story of Jewish survival despite constant persecution is in many ways our theme song — it’s in our cultural DNA, it’s the mantra of our peoplehood. It runs deep.

This unique Jewish quality is not the product of some cultural aberration or collective character flaw. Developing this particular brand of “character armor” has been part of our survival throughout long ages of persecution, marginalization, and demonization. We survived, in part, by creating rituals, habits and attitudes of insularity, pride and persistence that allowed us never to forget, never to let down our guard, and to always be proud of our stubborn vitality in the face of “those who sought to destroy us.” When, in our modern liturgical idiom, we talk of the State of Israel as “the First Flowering of our Redemption,” we are reflecting the reality of our survival, the meaning of the achievement of political self-determination in the context of Jewish history. It is good to have survived.

But we must also see clearly the shadow that this history casts on us today. We have striven to be the masters of our fate – but, having achieved this, we must also realize that we are responsible for our actions and for the consequences of these actions. Being free, we have free choice. The tragedy of Jewish Diaspora history, in our own cultural narrative as well as in reality, is rooted in our history of powerlessness and passivity. Zionism came to correct this, and it has undeniably succeeded, indeed far beyond the expectations of Jews and non-Jews alike. But if we now become slaves to the consequences of empowerment, then we are not free, and we are not truly powerful. The Nazi Holocaust in particular casts its shadow over our modern history and the history of the State of Israel. The Nazi’s campaign to eradicate world Jewry has become part of our uniquely Jewish “Liturgy of Destruction,” the way we Jews throughout the ages have made sense of our suffering by turning to the broader context of Jewish history. From this matrix of vulnerability, victimization and meaning-making comes the Zionist cry, “Never again!” But the modern State in its policies, carried out purportedly to preserve our people, and using the Holocaust as justification for unjust actions, is betraying the meaning of Jewish history. You cannot achieve your own deliverance, even from the most unspeakable evil, by the oppression of another people. Indeed, in this current era of power and self-determination for Jews in Israel, we face risks to our peoplehood that far exceed the physical perils brought by millennia of persecution.

Israel and Palestine: Reality Stood On its Head

The stormy controversy over the Israel-Palestine question today – a controversy that is splitting the Jewish community here in the United States as well as Israeli society, stands as evidence of this risk. The history of conflict and bloodshed between the State of Israel, its Arab neighbors, and the indigenous inhabitants of historic Palestine is the unavoidable and predictable result of the colonialist nature of the Zionist enterprise. Although Zionism, unlike the other European colonial projects, was not directed originally toward the occupation and exploitation of a subject people – the Zionists sought only to create a refuge for a themselves – it is no less a settler colonial enterprise for that. What is uncanny and tragic is that in the current discourse, the roles of the combatants are turned upside down: The Jews are portrayed as the victims, and the Palestinians as the aggressors. In truth, it is the Palestinians who are the victims: dispossessed, powerless, and pained. In every way, the Jews are victorious and all-powerful. The Jews of Israel are, to be sure, victimized by acts of popular resistance on the part of Palestinians, and the terrorizing effect of these acts is not to be minimized. But in the perspective of the current power balance, and in comparison to the effect of Israel’s military occupation on Palestinian society, these are pinpricks. At the same time, this resistance, fueled by the desperation and humiliation of a displaced and occupied people, has been amplified and exploited by political forces within and outside of Palestine. As terrifying as acts of resistance such as suicide bombings and cross-border shellings are, Israel’s current hegemony, power, and certainly her security are not threatened by these acts. Suicide bombings are horrible and terrorizing. But it is too easy, too convenient to tar an entire people with this brush, which is precisely what has happened. The image of the Palestinians as a violent people, as “terrorists” bent on the destruction of Israel, is not a true picture. The truth is that by and large the Palestinians are a peaceful, patient people – and at this pass an angry, humiliated and pained people. Their sin over the last 60 plus years has been their relative lack of organization – set up effectively by the British during their 30-year rule — in the face of the highly organized and effective Zionist colonial project. They are paying for this now as they face the ongoing dismantling of their economy and their infrastructure, and the continuing program to disable their leadership and ability to self-govern. Israel has taken over where Britain left off – and with far greater efficiency and thoroughness.

The Jewish Discussion

Although it is painful and deeply troubling, I see the ferocity and depth of the current split within the Jewish community in the Diaspora as an opportunity for dialogue. This is an issue of crisis proportions for Jews, and we need to take it seriously. We must encourage this conversation — we stifle it at our great, great peril. It is our responsibility as Jews to examine our relationship to Israel, rather than to passively accept the story fed to us by the Jewish establishment: the synagogues, Jewish Federations, lobbying organizations and the rest of the apparatus devoted to maintaining the mighty stream of financial and policy support for Israel from the US government and from private sources. We must examine our convictions and feelings about the meaning of the State to us personally, especially in relation to anti-Semitism. For example, do I, as a Jew living in America, believe that the State of Israel is important to me as a haven if I should feel unsafe or disadvantaged in my home country? Do I personally feel that the existence of a Jewish State is an essential or part of my Jewishness, or of the religious values and beliefs that I hold as a Jew? Do I believe that the world owes a state to the Jews because of the centuries of violence against and persecution of the Jews, culminating in the Nazi Holocaust? These are all important questions – they need to be asked, confronted, and measured against the realities of contemporary life. Furthermore, as Diaspora Jews we need to question where we get our information about the history of the State of Israel and about the current political situation. What news services do we rely on, what websites do we visit? What do we know about the discussion going on inside Israel today, exemplified by the active dialogue to be found in the pages of Haaretz, the organizations voicing opposition to Israeli government policy, and the accelerated pace of revisionist Zionist history being produced by Jewish Israeli historians?

We must become willing to overcome our profound denial about the current reality and the injustices wrought by Zionism. Walter Brueggemann, the Protestant theologian, in his work on the prophetic imagination, writes about the prophetic call to grieve and to mourn, that only in this way can we hope to move on to a new and better reality. Only when we are able to cry, in Jeremiah’s phrase, for our own brokenness, and to confront the implications of the suffering we have caused, can we be the beneficiaries of God’s bounty. In other words, we must break through the denial about what we have done. The power structure, of course, is committed to the very opposite. The State turns the story on its head in order to paper over the truth: “This is done in the name of national security.” “These others are the terrorists, they are the obstacles to peace.”

One particularly “slippery” form of denial, of this failure to grieve, is how some Jews take issue with some of the actions of the Israeli government while still avoiding confronting the fundamental issues of justice. This can take several forms. The first is the “pragmatic” approach, which can also be called the appeal to “enlightened self-interest.” “The Occupation,” so this position goes, “was a mistake. It’s bad for Israel. Denying self-determination for Palestinians and subjecting them to the humiliation of a military administration breeds hatred and desperation, which is then visited upon Israelis in the form of violence.” Some American Jewish organizations, hoping to avoid being marginalized by the mainstream community, or labeled “Pro-Palestinian” adopt this position, ignoring the issue of justice.. “Israel,” they say, “should smarten up and change its policies if it wants to live in peace and limit the economic drain of unending conflict.” In informal conversations with some Jewish Americans who articulate this position, I have heard confessions that their position is really much more extreme with respect to their feelings about Israeli policy, but that they feel it important to hew to this line for strategic purposes, in order to maintain credibility with the Jewish establishment as well as with government legislators.

A second kind of denial, for me more serious and more disturbing, is to be found in the ranks of what has come to be called the Jewish Progressive movement. In his critique of this element of American Judaism, Jewish Liberation theologian Marc Ellis notes that whereas this element of Jewry critiques aspects of Jewish ascendancy by recognizing the validity of Palestinian aspirations, it limits the scope of the critique by accepting the need for this same Jewish ascendancy as a solution to Jewish history. This viewpoint acknowledges the issue of justice, but attempts to do this within the context of Jewish mainstream assumptions of entitlement with respect to the rights of the Jews to historic Palestine. “If we can just clean up this messy business of the Occupation,” say these people, “things will come out alright, and we will be able to enjoy the land with a clean conscience.” This viewpoint limits the discourse to actions post-1967: it denies the history of Palestinian displacement prior to that. Indeed, Progressive Jewish organizations avoid discussion of the Nakba, an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe” used to describe the ethnic cleansing of three quarters of a million Palestinians from historic Palestine by Israeli forces between1948 and 1949. Indeed, progressive Jews have been known to become quite irritated with fellow Jews who raise it. Finally, it avoids the fundamental question, which is how a Jewish State, founded as a haven and a homeland for Jews, can be a true democracy, providing justice and fair treatment for its non-Jewish citizenry. It avoids the related and equally fundamental question of demography – the issue that, above all others, drives Israeli foreign policy and fuels the current political and military conflict. On the whole, Jews outside of Israel across a wide spectrum from “establishment” to “progressive want to avoid these questions – indeed, they are off limits.

This is denial – it is a fundamental failure to accept the consequences of Jewish actions in pre- and post- 1948 Palestine-Israel, and thus a failure to grieve over the particularly Jewish tragedy from which we as Jews suffer today. Returning to the pre-1967 borders (as if that will ever happen) will not make everything better. It will not make Israel a just society with respect to its Palestinian citizens. It will not erase what was done to the Palestinians who were driven out of their cities, towns and villages in 1948. It does not place the issue of justice as primary. Rather, it places the interests of Israel as primary, and promotes an entitled, supremacist, paternalistic stance with respect to non-Jewish inhabitants of historic Palestine, on whichever side of the final status border they may reside when a political settlement is finally achieved. It pre-empts our horror over the crimes we are committing and the suffering we have caused. It muffles our own cries of pain over our sins and our cruelties. It squelches the agony of confronting the contradictions and the excruciating dilemmas. It blocks the discussion. It closes our hearts.

Conclusion: Christians, Jews, Anti-Semitism, and Our Accountability

The issue of anti-Semitism is complex and deeply embedded in two thousand years of Western history. Among liberal Christian theologians and religious leaders, supersessionism – the concept that Christianity, embodied in the Gospels, came to replace Judaism as God’s plan for humankind – has become the Great Evil. The argument, well supported by history, is that this idea, developed in the first centuries after Christ and central to Christian belief and doctrine, laid the groundwork for anti-Semitism. But in their zeal to correct the injustices of the past, and to in effect atone for anti-Semitism, Christian leaders and thinkers are in danger of losing sight of an important aspect of early Christian thought. Christianity, in its reframing of the relationship of God to humanity, produced a revolution — in effect, it moved the concept of “Israel” from the tribal to the communal. In the Christian reframing, God’s commitment to humanity through his election of the seed of Abraham, assigned a special role in history, was transformed into God’s love for humankind and the invitation to all to become part of a universal spiritual community. This was a great contribution, a great step forward, and it has special relevance today, as all religions struggle to move from “Constantinian,” power-based religions to communities based on a commitment to diversity, human rights and justice. The choice between religion based on and consorting with political power and oppression, and religion grounded in a concept of community is one that must be faced by all the faiths. Jews and Christians must talk about this, indeed they must come together with their Muslim friends and colleagues to together confront what may be the central challenge of our times. We stifle this discussion at our peril.

To our Christian sisters and brothers I say – do not, out of a sense of guilt for anti-Semitism, give the Jewish people a free pass. Do not confuse anti-Semitism with critique of Israel, and in so doing fail to hold Jews accountable for our choices and our actions, as members of the human community, as individuals, and as a nation state — especially as a nation state. To make this mistake, to allow yourselves to be – I will use the word – bullied by the threat of the charge of anti-Semitism, is to commit a pernicious fallacy. As Jews we sought political self-determination, and we got it. Now we must behave in accordance with principles of justice and in accordance with international law as an expression of universally agreed-upon principles of justice. As Jews, we are confronted daily with this choice as we witness the illegal and oppressive actions of the Jewish State toward the Palestinian people it is so rapidly displacing. Empowerment – political empowerment – presents a mighty challenge to values. The Prophets knew this well, continually speaking this truth to the power structures of their day. To the crushed and exiled Jewish people of his time, Second Isaiah declared that redemption and comfort was coming, but only when the people acknowledged the divine meaning of their suffering. To my coreligionists in Israel and America, I say that we will ultimately survive as a people only to the extent that we can understand how our own suffering makes us part of humankind, and responsible for suffering wherever and whenever it happens. It was Roberta Feuerlicht, the Jewish ethicist who famously wrote, “Judaism survived centuries of persecution without a state; it must now learn how to survive despite a state.”

Mark Braverman is a Jewish American with deep family roots in the Holy Land. He serves on the advisory board of Friends of Sabeel North American and on the Board of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA. He is the author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land. Information and additional writing at

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Role of "Faith" in Israel/Palestine

Remarks for Panel on the Role of Faith in Bringing Peace to the Middle East
11th Annual meeting of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation
October 24, 2009
Mark Braverman

Thank you, Fr. McManus, and thanks to the organizers for inviting me to say some words on this important topic. I am pleased to be in the company of my friends Imam Hendi and Bishop Graham. Before I accepted the invitation to be here, the program listing on the internet page called for a Rabbi — I cannot, in the contemporary frame, claim that professional title. But I remind us that the title Rabbi means “teacher,” and that it was applied to and claimed by a great Jewish teacher, Joshua the son of Joseph, who lived during the time of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus in occupied Judea. A man who his disciples called “my teacher,” who preached on hillsides, in the city square, and in the synagogues of his time. And who of course, witnessed the abuses of power and spoke truth to that power, both secular and religious. So I am honored and pleased to claim that legacy and take my place with my esteemed colleagues from my sister faiths.

I am the grandson of a fifth-generation Palestinian Jew. My grandfather was born in the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. He emigrated to the U.S as a young man, and so I was born here in 1948 – the year of the declaration of the State of Israel. As such, I was raised in an amalgam of Rabbinic Judaism and political Zionism. I was taught that a miracle – born of heroism and bravery – had blessed my generation. 
I first visited Israel as a boy of 17, and I fell in love with the young state. I was proud of the miracle of modern Israel – of what my people had done, creating this vibrant country out of the ashes of Auschwitz. After college, I lived for a year on a kibbutz, ignoring the implications of the pre-1948 Palestinian houses still in use and the ancient olive trees standing in silent rows at the edges of its grounds. Returning to the USA, my concerns about Israel’s policies increased in direct proportion to the pace of illegal settlement-building. Still, I held to the Zionist narrative: the Occupation, although lamentably abusive of human rights, was the price of security. Then I went to the West Bank.

Traveling in Israel and the Occupied Territories my defenses against the reality of Israel’s crimes crumbled. I saw the Separation Wall – I knew it was not for defense. I saw the damage inflicted by the checkpoints on Palestinian life and on the souls and psyches of my Jewish cousins in uniform who where placed there. I saw the settlements and the restricted roads. I heard about the vicious acts of ideological Jewish settlers on Palestinian farmers and villagers. And what is more, I learned that 1948, what I had learned to call The War of Liberation, was the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of ¾ of a million Palestinians from their villages, cities and farms. And I knew that what I was witnessing in the present, the whole apparatus of occupation, was a continuation of that project of colonization and ethnic cleansing. It horrified me and it broke my heart. But the part of the experience that had the most profound impact on me was that I met the Palestinian people, and recognized them, no – claimed them – as my sisters and brothers. That summer, 40 years after my first encounter with the Land, my relationship to Israel changed forever.

The subject of this panel is Religious Faith as a Path to Peace. I believe that for the answer the question posed to this panel we can turn to no more authentic source than the very mouthpieces of God, the prophets. And, for our subject today, no better representative of that group than Amos. Two weeks ago the lesson from the lectionary included this passage from Amos chapter 6:

Seek the Lord if you want to live!
Or he will break out like fire against the house of Joseph
And devour Bethel, and there will be no quenching of it.

Amos comes right at us, and it is the gift of God’s anger that he gives us, and, I would say it is God’s pain that he gives us. At bottom, what Amos is pouring out is a message about what God wants. And what God wants is justice. Speaking with the authority and voice of God, Amos is instructing us in how the world works:

You have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them;
You have planted lovely vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.

And Amos tells us why this is so:

Because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain.
I know how numerous are your transgressions, how huge are your sins –
You – the enemies of the righteous, who do it for the money
And turn away from the sufferers at the gate.

You can acquire the wealth, you can build and live in your houses, plant your vineyards, but: “you shall not live in them,” “you shall not drink their wine.” Really? Is that now what we see everywhere in the world? Do we not see the world’s wealthy living in huge houses while the poor languish in the open or in squalid camps? Do we not see land taken and homes demolished to make way for cities? Do we not see outright land taking, house demolition and theft, the story of Naboth’s vineyard replayed continually?

Of course the prophet sees this. And he recognizes our peril. In true prophetic fashion, Amos presses the point – I know what is going on, he says to us, I can see it, better than you can. In fact, the prophet sees nothing else. And so he presses the point, repeating the key words:

Hate evil and love good.
Establish justice at the gate.

What is this gate? This is not the pearly gates, this is not some higher court. The judgment that counts is that which is rendered in our towns, at the gates of the cities, where in ancient times justice was pursued at the grassroots. It was a community. We confront the eternal, not at Heaven’s Gate, but at the gates of our cities. This is the justice imperative. Then, says the prophet, then, and only then

Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to the remnant of Jacob.

He doesn’t say the Lord will forgive. He says, be gracious — in other words, this is how we earn God’s love. This, in fact, is how we know God’s love.

To know God’s love, and to be faithful to this divine gift and the imperative to act that it brings requires that in every historical age, in every lifetime, the command to pursue justice must be re-examined and re-learned. Sixty four years ago, Christians stood before the ovens of Auschwitz-Birkenau and said, “What we have done?” There ensued a project to rid Christian theology of what one prominent theologian has called “The Christian sin:” anti-Semitism. In traditional Christian theology, the Jews were depicted as the cursed of God – scattered over the earth as proof that they had rejected God. Modern Christian thinkers realized – correctly – that this theology had set in motion the great evil of Jew hatred over the millennia, and that it had to be corrected. In the new theology that grew up after WW II, the Jews were seen no longer as the darkness but as the light. No longer displaced by the “new Israel” of Christianity, the Jews were now reinstated as God’s elect – the original covenant between God and Abraham was in force. Generations of theologians and clergy have been educated in this revised theology. But in the current historical context, there is a problem with this theology, in particular with respect to the issue of the land promise.

Recently in my reading, I came across an example of this problem. In the June 2009 edition of Cross Currents, Fr. John Pawlikowski, Director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago named the Vatican’s 1993 recognition of the State of Israel pivotal in correcting the anti-Judaism of Christian theology. With that act, he writes, “the coffin on displacement/perpetual wandering theology had been finally sealed.” I find this an astonishing argument. Consider: recognizing the Jewish state corrects Christian theology! Not that this particular aspect of Christian theology did not need fixing, but consider the implications of this: It’s not only that the Jews are OK, that they are not damned and deserving of eternal punishment. It’s that the proof of that is the establishment of the State of Israel. If God has restored the Jewish people to their land, then this is proof of their election. The original covenant is valid and in force.

There is more here. Pawlikowski takes aim at another fundamental of Christian theology – the spiritualization of the land. This is a hallmark of Christian theology. In the Christian reenvisioning, God is universal, and as such not tied to a geographical location. In this way the land was lifted out of the original tribal context, becoming a symbol of a new world in which God’s love is available to all of humankind. But Pawlikowski tells us that this is wrong because it is a repudiation of the covenant with the Jews. By spiritualizing the land, he claims, Christians had in effect claimed it for their own, thus depriving the Jews of their birthright. This to me is an astonishing argument. The whole point of spiritualizing the land was to transform it from a key clause in the covenant between God and one particular people into a universal symbol. This is not to say that Christians at different times in history have claimed the land for “their” exclusive God. But that is the point – that was wrong. If it was wrong for Christians then it is wrong for Jews today. But in this reasoning, Pawlikowski is saying that the fact of the State of Israel has theological power – God has returned the land to its rightful owners. There are many, many examples of this powerful current in contemporary Christian theology. I recently heard a Lutheran theologian, arguing for the primacy of the Jewish claim on historic Palestine, say that the land was the Jewish sacrament. This is not the radical Zionism of millennial dispensationalist end time theology. This is a Christian Zionism hiding in plain sight, in mainstream Christianity.

We have to be very concerned about this. Christian triumphalism has been replaced by Jewish triumphalism. The Christian desire for reconciliation and atonement has morphed into theological support for an anachronistic, ethnic nationalist ideology that has hijacked Judaism, put the continued existence of Christians in the Holy Land at risk, continues to fuel global conflict, and has produced one of the most egregious, systematic and longstanding violation of human rights in the world today.

However well-intentioned the original motivation for atonement and reconciliation was, in the current historical context, it presents a barrier to the global justice agenda of the modern church at congregational and denominational levels, and has muzzling effect on the discourse. In a tragic, disturbing irony, vigilance against anti-Semitism has come to trump commitment to social justice when it comes to the plight of the Palestinians. This goes against God’s will. God requires justice. The times call out for the prophetic.

Christians today talk about the need to honor the deep Jewish attachment to the Land of Israel. But as a Jew I must consider hard the distinction between loving a land and claiming it as my identity and as my birthright. When you claim a superior right to a territory shared by others, whether that claim is made on religious or political grounds, you head straight for disaster, which is exactly what the Jewish people are confronting in the State of Israel today – not only political, but cultural, psychological, and spiritual. We need to take a long hard look at our willingness to invoke the land clause of the covenant. The theology of the land, like that of election, like any other aspect of scripture, must be open to conversation with history. As Harvey Cox said in the recent WCC conference in Bern, Switzerland,

What does the Bible mean by ‘promised land’? How has the term been hijacked and used for various political reasons, when maybe that is not the significance of the texts at all? Ancient Israel is often confused with modern Israel. They are not the same. The Jewish people and the modern State of Israel, though they overlap in certain ways, are not the same, and therefore we have to be thoughtful and self-critical about how that theme is dealt with.

Happily, Harvey Cox’s statement in Bern is only one example of a shift in how Christians are now beginning to understand the meaning of their Jewish origins and the parallels between our own time and the situation of the Palestinians (i.e. Jews) of Jesus’ time. They understand the gospels as the record of a movement of social transformation and of nonviolent resistance to the evil of empire. Jesus was confronting the evil of the Roman Empire and telling his people, the Jews of Palestine, what was required to bring about the Kingdom of God. I find myself saying to Christians who seek a devotional pilgrimage to the Holy Land: Yes! Go! Walk where Jesus walked! For, if you do go and indeed see what is to be seen, you will not only walk where he walked but you will see what he saw. You will see land taken through the imposition of illegal laws and the tread of soldier’s boots. You will see the attempt to destroy community and family through the taking of farms and the destruction of village life. But you will also see nonviolent resistance represented by demonstrations against the separation wall, by families of Palestinians and Israelis who have lost children to the conflict gathering together, by Jewish men who have taken off their uniforms and joined with Palestinian men emerging from Israeli prisons who pledge themselves to reject violence and enmity and to work together for a new society. You will see it in the farmers who refuse to abandon their land, even as the walls go up, the restrictions on movement tighten, and the everyday harassment and violence against them intensifies. And then, you will return to your Bibles and understand the origin of Christianity as a movement of nonviolent resistance to the forces that would remove women and men from the source of their strength and from knowledge of God’s love.

So the church is — or should be — right at home here. This is the social justice agenda that permeates the American church – it’s not a hard call! Except for the interfaith issue. That makes it difficult. I know. I know what charges you open yourselves to when you dare to criticize the State of Israel. I have been the object of those same charges. And I can only imagine the impact that it has on you. But I say to you: do not let yourselves be held captive to our struggle. Honor the Jewish people as your sister and brothers, and honor the painful process that we must go through as we begin to look in the mirror and consider what we must do now to be OK with God. You may witness our journey, you may love us as we confront the awful consequences that have resulted from our nationalist project. But do not wait for us. In these urgent times, you must not allow yourselves to be held captive to our struggle. Tragically, history has erected a wall, a wall that has today created the activity of interfaith dialogue – an activity that is too often confined to polite, careful encounters that avoid the tough issues and observe strict rules against criticism of Israel. What we need is not dialogue but communion, common cause in the pursuit of justice. There are some in the Jewish community – still not the organized community itself, but many individuals and several newly founded organizations – who are taking the prophetic step outside the mainstream and are ready, as faithful Jews, to join with you in this prophetic endeavor. Find us. Bind us to you. Let us together be faithful servants of God.

I know that for Christians in the U.S. today, taking this prophetic stance puts the interfaith reconciliation work of decades at risk. Professional, personal and family relationships are on the line. That is painful and that is very hard. But as Walter Brueggemann reminds us, the prophetic requires us to deal with the full range of emotions – especially those we want to avoid: sadness and grief chief among them. Only by acknowledging what has been broken can we be open to the new.

Jim Wallis has written that when diplomacy and the political process alone fails to bring about the change that is needed, broad social movements emerge to change the wind: to push and to direct the political and diplomatic process. It is up to us, at the grassroots, to change the wind. Here, today, as we in the U.S. confront the reality of our government’s responsibility in this struggle, I submit to you that it now falls to the church to lead. Without this movement, led by and located within the church, a church freed up theologically to go forward and to raise its prophetic voice, our President will have very little chance to do what he wants to do in the Middle East.

The church in the U.S. is poised to fulfill its calling. You are here – wide, deep, vast, strong, organized — with the scriptures pointing you directly to the divine imperative to do justice at the gate. And we Jews, who have suffered too long, must turn away from our history of suffering and turn ourselves toward a process of reformation in which we purge ourselves of the exceptionalism and triumphalism that has brought us to this perilous pass.

My prayer is that we will all, of all faiths, heed this prophetic call, receive God’s love and know God’s will:

Hate evil and love good.
Establish justice at the gate.

Thank you and God Bless You.

Mark Braverman is a Jewish American with deep family roots in the Holy Land. He serves on the advisory board of Friends of Sabeel North American and on the Board of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA. He is the author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land. Information and additional writing at