Thursday, November 24, 2016

Christmas Greetings from Palestinians

Dear Friend,
It's been a long time since I posted on this blog.
Israel is tightening its grip on all the land, making it more and more burdensome for the indigenous people to survive, let alone thrive.
As you know, Kairos West Michigan is the community we are building in W. Michigan. We are learning more about facts on the ground, listening to our brothers and sisters in Palestine (and Israel) and tracking with Kairos USA, and the growing network of churches and groups like ours wanting to build momentum for a just peace in the land of Abraham and Sarah, Isaiah and Micah, Jesus, Peter, James, John and Saul (Paul).
Here is the Christmas greeting from our friends in the land three religions call "Holy";

17 November, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, colleagues and partners of Kairos Palestine,

Christmas in Bethlehem continues to be celebrated as it has been for more than two thousand years, in spite of occupations and hardships. The message of peace and good-will given that first Christmas continues to inspire and sustain us as we strive to be led by love of the other and the right to life and dignity for all. Yes, the times remain bleak for Palestinians as hopes for peace have waned, and as destruction and violence ravage the region. But we refuse to give up hope that justice will be done. In this context, your friendship and solidarity stand out like a shining star of hope, mercy and support.

We thank you in the name of Kairos Palestine and all Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, for your persistent solidarity and advocacy for real peace. We thank you for the many resolutions, campaigns, talks, debates and more conducted with love so that the liberating truth is proclaimed.

We also give thanks for the many churches, church organizations, seminaries, congregations and wonderful people who have responded to our Kairos Palestine call that proposes a path towards justice and peace in the Holy Land. Thank you to those who continue to promote our Kairos call so that joined Christian action can make of us “the peacemakers” we are called to be.
Sadly, Israeli policies continue to impose realities on the ground that hamper the establishment of a Palestinian state and ignore all calls to respect international law, human rights and the law of war. In addition, Israel seems adamant to continue to feed despair among Palestinians.

Politically, Israel has tried to ensure that the Palestinian struggle becomes irrelevant to regional peace and has emphasized that the problem is the war on terror, ignoring how the injustice it perpetrates against the Palestinian people has fed terrorism, extremism and violence. Its policies undermine international law on a daily basis and claim exclusive religious rights to the land to justify continued occupation, settlement expansion, oppression, dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians.

And, while all of us who daily experience the effects of occupation are suffering, it is the children who are the most vulnerable. For this reason, Kairos has chosen the theme of “Children” for its 2016 Christmas Alert. Palestinian youth and children are targeted on a daily basis with intent to instill fear and humiliation. Respect for human rights, International Humanitarian Law and UN resolutions are important to ensure their safety and access to a minimum degree of decency and life. They are dehumanized as are all Palestinians and their struggle framed as part of world terrorism. According to a report by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, at least 1,000 Palestinian children between the ages of 11 and 18 have been detained by Israel since January 2016, many of whom have been abused and tortured while in detention. According to the Palestinian prisoner’s rights group, ADDAMEER, a total of 240 Palestinian children are currently being incarcerated by Israel. We need you to help us in our struggle for freedom and dignity, especially for our children.

We invite you this Christmas, as the 50th anniversary of the military occupation is dawning on us, to be also in touch with difficult realities in our world. Please take time to read our Christmas Alert with its theological reflections, articles, poems, stories and reports. Share it as widely as possible and try to follow the actions proposed in the epilogue. Follow the campaign throughout the four weeks of Advent and join us in proclaiming the Christmas message from Bethlehem where Jesus was born over two thousand years ago, a message of peace and good will for all. Provide us with your gift of compassion to help relieve the prolonged suffering of Palestinian children and all those who suffer injustice and oppression.

From the land where hope remains a promise and love a source of salvation for us and the world,
In peace,

Hind Khoury

General Secretary

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Meet Jeff Halper (ICAHD)!

I’ve met and interacted with Jeff Halper (in June, 2013). His positions contribute to ways that Israelis and Arab Palestinians could live in harmony together (Confederation?)

The more I read about his new book, WAR AGAINST THE PEOPLE, the more I want to see and hear him again. I can’t wait for May 6, 7:00 at Hope Reformed Church in Grand Rapids (corner Kalamazoo Ave SE and Burton).

My view is that if Americans knew what Mr. Halper knows, our unquestioning support for Israel would evaporate overnight.
Not that we wouldn’t continue to support them, but not is such an uncritical way.

Well, let me rephrase that. Our official US position has always been to be critical of the growing settlement enterprise. It’s just that there has seldom been even the threat of financial consequences, let alone the actual withholding of any of the $3.1B in annual military support. (Netanjahu’s government is wanting a 25% increase from US in the 2018-2028 period). And how sad that Mr. Trump is now on record as not seeing the Israelis settlements in the West Bank as a deterrent to peace over there (Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2016).

Mr. Halper, an American-born Jew, moved to Israel in 1973 and heads up the Israel Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD). He has long been incensed over the settlement enterprise that confiscates land on which Arab Palestinians have lived for a long, long time and demolishes their homes, businesses, schools and orchards, among other countless indignities.

In touting his new book, War Against the People, he will explain why the global elites, including the US, don’t pull the plug on the settlement enterprise. Mr. Halper explains that Israel has created “Global Palestine”, providing “on-the-ground-tested” weapons of security so those in control in the US, China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa and other places, can “police” their unruly minorities.

Israel has developed the weaponry, the tactics and the security systems (better than our Pentagon) for wars of repression being fought today (think US urban “unrest”, and the militarization of police forces all over our country and the world) Those are Israeli weapons systems!)

Israel has made a bargain with the power elites: “We know how to keep you in power. We’ll sell you our proven weapons. What we ask in return is that you may criticize us, but let us keep our Occupation”. Even Saudi Arabia and other (Arab/Islamic) Gulf states seem to in on the bargain. Questions? Ask Jeff on Friday night!

If you can’t make it on Friday, May 6, go to his Jerusalem website, or the US affiliate: . Thanks for tracking with us here at Kairos West Michigan (KWM) with thanks to our friends at The Micah Center, Vern Hoffman and Jordan Bruxvoort.

Monday, April 18, 2016

America and Israel's Original Sin


John Kleinheksel’s report on the KUSA/FOSNA Chicago conference, April 14-16, 2016

Jim Wallis is right, but let me expand on it. Racism is not only America’s original sin; it is the sin of every ethnic group that wants to view the world from “our” perspective only. American Caucasians (“white privilege”) do it. Afro-Americans do it. Palestinians do it; Israelis do it.

We take what is only part of the whole and make it the whole ball of cheese, excluding the other existing parts. It’s called idolatry. What will it take for separate ethnic groups to see the greater whole and work for an integrated society?

That was the chief question Kairos USA and Friends of SABEEL North America (FOSNA) had us address on April 14-16, 2016, on the campus of Garrett Evangelical Seminary in the heart of Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

I joined Western Seminarians Jenna Harms and Mark Mares to see the parallels between the deaths of African-Americans in Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, Oakland and Chicago; and the deaths of Arab Palestinians in Gaza, Beit Liqya and Jerusalem. The conference exposed the similarity of militarized force against civilian blacks and Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Professor Stephen Ray (an African-American from Garrett Seminary) kicked off the colloquy by helping us see that modern states are racially based and self-protective. Rabbi Brant Rosen (a Reconstructionist Jew from Evanston) insisted that 19th Century European nationalism hijacked Judaism to colonize and replace the indigenous people of Palestine. He appealed to fellow Jews to follow the “Exodus God” (deliverance from captivity), instead of the “Conqueror God” adopted by the settler movement in Israel today. For an elaboration of this theme, read Jewish dissident Robert Cohen’s blog here:

Many speakers pointed out that the ethnic group in control thinks they are the only ones with the right to use violence. For those in control, even those who “resist” have no right even to nonviolent resistance. Rev. Iva Carruthers, one of the mothers of the resistance movement in Chicago lifted the phrase of Eric Garner (“I can’t breathe”) to mythic proportions, making it a metaphor for the oppressed of every land. White privilege in the US and the Israel Defense Force (IDF) in Israel paint law enforcement as under attack and unjustly maligned. More sensitive Americans (and Israelis) have come to realize there is more to it than that.

At the end of the conference, Dr. Beth Corrie led the participants in examining: “Where do we go from here?” After sharing her resolve personally to read more Afro-American literature empathetically, during the silence she provided, I resolved to look at and admit my own complacency with “white privilege”. When Dr. Corrie gave 15 minutes to groups of 2 or 3 persons to discuss how to live going forward, it was a perfect space and time for Mark, Jenna and me to talk.

We agreed to hold each other accountable in learning more about minority points of view in W. MI. Classis Holland (Reformed Church in America) held a Black Lives Matter event recently which I blew off.

We pledged to work with Kairos West Michigan (KWM) to bring the valid Palestinian narrative to US consciousness so the grassroots will finally lift the heavy concrete of Congress and the White House off its AIPAC-inspired unquestioning support of Israel.

New director of FOSNA, Palestinian Tarek Abuata closed the conference with the challenge to see Palestinian suffering as the speck of sand in the Israeli oyster that will fashion a Pearl of Great Price as an end result. He pointed out that when Palestinian civil society called in 2006 for BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) it was not even on the US computer screen. Such actions are now being discussed even in the Main Stream Media (MSM) and even among Jewish students in colleges and universities (with some successes, as with G4S vowing to suspend operations in the West Bank).

We in KUSA and FOSNA agree that it is misreading Hebrew and New Testament scriptures to equate the modern Jewish State with God’s supposed promise of land to a reconstituted Israel. For Jesus of Nazareth, re-installing the Jewish (tribal) state was never the goal of the Kingdom of God he was ushering in (read Acts of the Apostles).

Tarek Abuata concluded his stirring challenge this way: “Jews will often remark, ‘You Palestinians are a demographic threat to us. You want to overwhelm us’”; to which Mr. Abuata replied: “What do you think you Jews have become to us? You have truly been a demographic and nationalistic threat to the existence of Arab Palestinians!”

Rabbi Brant Rosen’s blog is “Shalom Rav”. A link to his latest entry is here:

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Seminary Student Isr/Pal Report

Dear Friend,
Plan on attending the Seminary students' report on their findings in Isr/Pal last month!

Western Seminary, Semmelink Hall, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m., Thursday, February 18, 2016 (College Ave and 13th Street)

After hearing six reports, we'll subdivide into six groups for more intensive Q and A

Thanks to Marlin and Sally Vis and Prof. Travis West who gave guidance and will report too.

We strongly desire fresh, accurate assessment of the facts and attitudes on the ground in our region. Don't miss it! JRK

Sunday, January 10, 2016

"I Refuse to Serve in the IDF!"

This Sunday, [January 10, 2016] there is a call to stand in solidarity with a woman inducted into the IDF (Israeli Defense Force).

Here's the story: Tair Kaminer, a 19-year Israeli, got a call up order, requesting her to show up at the Israeli Army Induction Center ("Bakum") in Tel Hashomer, east of Tel Aviv, on 12pm, Sunday, January 10, 2016.

She does intend to show up at the stipulated time and place, but not in order to embark on the two years of obligatory military service required of girls under Israeli law. Instead, she will inform the recruiting officers of her refusal to become part of an army of occupation and oppression, whereupon, most likely, she will be sent to the military prison [From: Hanna Beit Halachmi , the publicist for Gush Shalom (Adam Keller and Uri Avnery).]

Here is her story:

Why I Refuse - Tair Kaminer's statement

My name is Tair Kaminer, I am 19. A few months ago a ended a year of volunteering with the Israeli Boy and Girl Scouts in the town of Sderot, on the Gaza Strip border. In a few days, I will be going to jail.

An entire year I volunteered in Sderot, working with children living in a war zone, and it was there that I decided to refuse to serve in the Israeli military. My refusal comes from my will to make a contribution to the society of which I am a part and make this a better place to live, from my commitment to the struggle for peace and equality.

The children I worked with grew up in the heart of the conflict, and went through traumatic experiences from a young age. In many of them, this has generated a terrible hatred - which is quite understandable, especially in young children. Like them, many of the children living in the Gaza Strip and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in an even more harsh reality, learn to hate the other side. They, too, cannot be blamed. When I look at all these children, at the next generation of both sides and the reality in which they live, I can but see the continuation of trauma and pain. And I say: Enough!

For years now there’s no political horizon, no peace process anywhere in sight. There’s no attempt of any kind to bring peace to Gaza or to Sderot. As long as the violent military way holds sway, we will simply have further generations growing up with a heritage of hate, which will only make things even worse. We must stop this - now!

This is why I am refusing: I will not take an active part in the occupation of the Palestinian Territories and in the injustice to the Palestinian people that is perpetrated again and again under this occupation. I will not take part in the cycle of hatred in Gaza and Sderot.

My draft date is/was set for January 10th, 2016. On that day I will report to the Tel Hashomer Induction Center, to declare my refusal to serve in the military, and my willingness to do an alternative civil service.

In conversation with some people I care about I’ve been accused of undermining democracy, though my refusal to abide by the laws which were enacted by an elected Parliament. But the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories live under the rule of the Government of Israel, though they had no voice whatsoever in electing that government. I believe that as long as Israel continues to be an occupying country, it will continue moving further and further away from from democracy.Therefore, my refusal is part of the struggle for democracy [and is] not an anti-democratic act.

I have been told that I am avoiding my responsibility for the security of Israel. But as a woman who regards all people as equal - and all their lives as equally important - I cannot accept the security argument as applying to Jews only . Especially now, as the wave or terror continues, when it becomes clear and evident that the military cannot ensure protection to the Jews, either. It is very simple - one cannot create an island of security in the midst of an oppressive occupation. True security can be created only when the Palestinian people live in freedom and dignity, in their own an independent state alongside Israel.

There were those who worried about my personal future in a country in which performing military service is held to be of supreme importance in the fabric of daily social intercourse. Caring for my future prospects, they suggested that I do serve in the army, regardless of my opinions - or at least that I don't make my refusal public. But through all the difficulties and worries, I chose to declare my refusal openly, for all to hear. This country, this society, are too important to me - I cannot and will not agree to keep silent. That was not the way I was brought up, to care only for myself and my private concerns. The life I had until now has been about giving and social responsibility, and such I want it to continue.

Even if I must pay a personal price for my refusal, this price will be worthwhile if it to helps place the occupation on the agenda of Israeli public discourse. Far too many Israelis don’t directly feel the occupation, and they tend to forget about it in their daily lives - lives that are eminently safe in comparison with those of Palestinians, or even of the Israelis who live in the Western Negev (Gaza border area)
We are told that there is no way other than the violent military way. But I believe that this is the most destructive way, and that there are others. I wish to remind all of us that there does exist an alternative: negotiations, peace, optimism, a true will to live in equality, safety and freedom. We are told that the military is not a political institution - but the decision to serve in the military is a highly political one, no less so than the decision to refuse.

We, the young people, must understand the full implications of such a choice. We need to understand its consequences for our society. After having deliberated these issues, I took the decision to refuse. I am not scared of the military prison - what truly frightens me is our society losing its humanity.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Forward into 2016

Dear Friend,

A new group of 40 Western Seminary students has left this weekend for I/P, under the direction of Marlin and Sally Vis and our (emerging) KWM Board President, Travis West, a professor of Hebrew at the Seminary.
Your/our Board will be gathering to chart our future on Monday, January 18. Pray we will have clarity, forward momentum and energy to persist in bringing about greater justice (with love) to the indigenous people of the land, the Arab Palestinians.
For years, I have been reading the outlook of Robert Cohen, a Jewish activist in the UK (marrried to an woman, who is an Anglican priest). Below is his New Year's "Manifesto".
Read it and stay tuned to our efforts to continue the struggle into 2016. Several of you have made year-end donations to the KWM cause and for that we give you hearty thanks. We are a 501c3 corporation (Checks to 296 Timber Lake Dr, E, Holland, MI, 49424).

My five point 2016 manifesto as a dissident, rebellious and awkward Jew

January 3, 2016 by Robert A. H. Cohen

I’m setting out my stall for the year as a digital Jewish activist focusing on Israel/Palestine.
Whether I like it or not, my religion, identity and cultural inheritance means this particular conflict is my problem. I can either attempt to ignore it (not easy) or do something about it (also not easy).
So, here’s my personal manifesto as a dissident, rebellious and awkward Jew in 2016.

1. Challenge the deniers –
I hear and read the following sentiments a great deal:
Jews committing atrocities? No way! How could that be? Maybe the odd fanatic or hothead but every nation has that problem. Israel has the most moral army in the world and we are the only democracy in a tough neighbourhood. All we have tried to do is build a nation to give us safety and security. And all we have received in return for our efforts is hatred and terror.

A Jewish State insisting on enduring innocence and eternal victimhood looks less and less tenable as each year goes by. As does the uncritical support of Israel by Jewish communal and faith leaders around the world. But it’s still a remarkably tenacious mind-set.
I’m reminded of this quote from Martin Luther King:
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

As the evidence keeps stacking up that something is rotting in the soul of Judaism the denial gets deeper and deeper. And that makes the possibility of taking a new direction harder by the day.

So this year I will continue to call out the truth deniers, the Israel right or wrong brigade, the head in the sand people, the innocence & victimhood junkies. I will keep reminding them that there is an occupation, there is a siege, there is stolen land, there is one law for them and one for us, there is collective punishment, there are stateless refugees that we created. There maybe two sides in this but only our side has political and military power and international protection. Israel may be a democracy but it’s a partial one and a failing one.

I will keep repeating all of this in the hope that the failed consensus continues to crumble
2. Pursue peace with justice –
There’s a lot of talk about wanting peace, especially on the Jewish side of things. I’m thinking of all those pro-Israel rallies organised by Jewish leadership groups where the crowds hold placards saying: Yes to Peace/No to Terror. There you have the whole false dichotomy in a single slogan. We are peace loving, they are hateful. They teach their children to hate, we teach ours to love. If that’s your starting point for making peace and your framework for the conflict then peace is a very long way off and you have some serious homework to do. If you think that Jews are not culpable for what has happened to the Palestinian people you are not ready to make peace.

So I will write with the aim of pursuing a just peace, one that will undoubtedly mean compromises on both sides, but a peace that means more than merely ‘quiet’.

3. Support Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) –

If you’ve spotted a better non-violent means of shifting the political dynamics on Israel/Palestine (even just a tiny bit) then let me know urgently. There’s been no diplomatic peace process worthy of the name for the last dozen years or more. Containment, creeping annexation and slow-motion ethnic cleansing are Israel’s preferred policy approaches. Remember, BDS is a tactic not a religion. It may just work in this situation, don’t bother trying it with ISIS. And by the way, campaigning for human rights for Palestinians is not anti-Jewish, but denying a people human rights certainly is.
So I’m sticking with this strategy…it’s better than knives, guns and suicide bombs. You can read more on my argument for Jewish BDS here.

4. Occupy Judaism –

Perhaps it’s all over for the Judaism that stood for kindness, justice and walking humbly with God. We seem to have swapped all our ploughshares for shiny swords. I hope not but the signs aren’t good. However, we have a mighty big Jewish storehouse of ethical thinking and prophetic action gifted to us across the millennia. We will need to draw on it to find our way back (and forward) from the current moral cul-de-sac we have run down. Judaism mixed with nationalism has brought us to this point in our history, I like to think that Judaism will also show us a way out. I will keep reminding myself and others of that fact.

5. Keep a sense of proportion and a sense of humour

It’s rather bleak out there right now with no sign of things improving in 2016. In fact I suspect things will get a lot worse before they ever get better. So I’ll be looking for things to celebrate. Small successes, minor victories. Hopefully these things make a difference, eventually. And if there’s occasionally something to smile and laugh about that’s important too.