Sunday, August 11, 2019

What is the "BDS" Movement? Should we "Support" it?

What About the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement (BDS)?
Rev. John Kleinheksel, Kairos West Michigan (KWM) blogger

Perhaps you too, have had mixed feelings about the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). What is it? Is it dangerous to the State of Israel? Is it a legitimate nonviolent tactic by civil society to bring human rights to Palestinians in Israel/Palestine? Has it ever “worked” over time and in different places, globally? Should we oppose it? Endorse it?

What I want to do in this article is to 1) hear what Palestinian civil society is saying in their call for BDS; 2) understand what the Israeli lobby has done to twist its meaning here in the US; and 3) be completely conversant with the critique of an informed Jewish commentator, (namely, Brant Rosen).

Here is relevant material from the Palestinian (civil society) organizers of the BDS movement (July 9, 2005):
One year after the historic Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which found Israel's Wall built on occupied Palestinian territory to be illegal. . . .(and) Fifty-seven years after the state of Israel was built mainly on land ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian owners, a majority of Palestinians are refugees, most of whom are stateless. Moreover, Israel's entrenched system of racial discrimination against its own Arab-Palestinian citizens remains intact. . . . In view of the fact that people of conscience in the international community have historically shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in the struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions; and Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid and in the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression;
We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.
These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Even if the BDS movement took root in the US, how effective would it be in bringing the Israeli State to negotiate for Palestinian self-determination with their own State, alongside the Israeli State, adjudicating the “right of return”?

This matter is especially relevant now because recently, the US House passed HR 246, strongly opposing the BDS movement. The vote was 398 – 17.

Boycotts have a long and storied history in the US. The Presbyterians conducted a boycott of a Florida-based tomato processing plant some years ago, bringing that company to the negotiating table resulting in higher pay for the workers. When businesses boycotted the State of South Africa, it had an effect on the Apartheid government there, bringing an end to the institution of Apartheid. (Of course, there is still racial reconciliation work to be done there as well as here in the US).

The voices of traditional Israeli State sympathizers convinced the US Congress that the BDS movement was devised by Israel’s “enemies” to delegitimatize the Israeli State (eliminating Israel’s right to self-determination). [Here is the full text of HR 246]
As the newspaper Haaretz makes clear, House Democrats have been eager to show the US its total support for Israel to counter GOP accusation that “The Squad” (Muslim freshwomen Representatives) defines the Democrat’s luke-warm support for Israel. Not so, the vast majority of the House has declared in passing this Bill! [Read the Haaretz report here, but you may need to subscribe to get the full article!]

Friend, what we really need is a Pro-Israel, anti-Zionist Jew to educate us about the real meaning of the House vote.
Fortunately, we have such a person. His name is Rabbi Brant Rosen, the Midwest Regional Director for the American Friends Service committee (AFSC), formerly the rabbi of Tzedek synagogue in Chicago (a Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation).

He rightly points out that the real goal of the BDS movement is NOT to exclude the Israeli State “from the economic, cultural an academic life of the rest of the world” (HR 246). Rather, the BDS movement has three goals: 1) to end the occupation; 2) to insist on equal rights for Palestinians; and 3) to recognize the legitimacy of the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees.

So, you who read this report, make up your own mind about the way forward. KWM is committed to providing time and space for the underlying issues in our region to be openly discussed, with a view to bringing adjudication of grievances experienced by both Israelis and Palestinians. KWM is laser-focused on dealing honorably with the growing calls for “justice” for the downtrodden and disrespected.

Here is the cry for help from our Palestinians brothers and sisters and the way they couch their call for BDS:

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.

With countless others, Kairos West Michigan will continue to pursue an honest, just and peaceful resolution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Four Views on "The Deal of the Century" (Economic Summit in Bahrain)

Four Views of the Bahrain Economic Summit
(and the “Deal of the Century”)
John Kleinheksel, Kairos W. MI (June 20, 2019)

In preparation for unveiling “The Deal of the Century” to “end the conflict” in Israel/Palestine, the Trump administration is calling for an Economic Summit for Arabs, Israelis, and Palestinians, June 25, 26 in Bahrain.
Palestinian Arabs and most Arab states refuse to come. Israeli leaders have not been invited because of it.

There are at least four views on the meaning of this Summit (and the “Deal of the Century”)

1) The Israeli/US view: One – State, with Palestinians subsumed under Israeli control
Mr. Trump and his associates are billing it as an opportunity for Arabs and Arab Palestinians to boost the viability and effectiveness of a Palestinian-based economy (but tied to Israeli control mechanisms).
As summarized in the Wall Street Journal (May 19, 2019):

Palestinian officials have said they are wary of an effort by the Trump administration that would bring economic relief but doesn't acknowledge their political and national aspirations for an independent state.
“No matter how compelling a picture they paint of what life could be like in Gaza and the West Bank...the fact is you can’t trade Palestinian views on compromises on Jerusalem, statehood and sovereignty for a chicken in every pot, a computer in every house, aid and trade,” said Aaron David Miller, a distinguished fellow at the Wilson Center who has worked on previous U.S. Middle East peace efforts.
The administration is said to be seeking tens of billions of dollars for investment in Gaza and the West Bank as well as neighbors Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon [a Middle East “Marshall Plan”]
The economic plan is modeled after efforts to boost economies in Poland, Japan, Singapore and South Korea with an aim to allow the Palestinians and neighboring countries “to get to a place of self-sufficiency and get to a place to raise their standard of living,” the senior administration official said. [Wall Street source:]

2) A Christian Palestinian View: Two – States side by side, each with “autonomy” in their own space
The Palestinians have rejected it out of hand as it would mean (from their point of view) that they are accepting Israeli control of the One State reality, “relinquishing their right for full sovereignty over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the right of return”.

In the words of Philip Farah, the Palestinians are still holding out for the Two State solution, with a viable Palestinian State, side by side with Israel, “with all governmental institutions.” In this view, Palestinians can build a Palestinian economy on their own once the barriers of Occupation are removed (Statement by the Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace – PCAP).
Thus, they don’t want to be an economic entity tied to the Israeli economy.

3) A “Liberal Zionist” view: Two – States side by side (e.g., Aaron David Miller)
In a June 18, 2019 statement to CNN, Mr. Miller says “The Real Goal of Jared Kushner’s Peace Plan” (and, by extension, the Economic Summit) is three-fold:
1) Boosting Mr. Trump’s stock with US hardliner supporters of Israel
2) Gutting the Two-State solution
3) Entrenching the status quo in I/P (P. M. Netanyahu’s Likud in charge)

He sees Mr. Trump as fully supporting the present One State Israeli State under P.M. Netanyahu, and condescending to the Palestinians (who fully realize the US has no intention of pursuing the “Two-State”.)

But for all his erudition and knowledge about the Middle East, Mr. Miller has no suggestion as to a way forward, other than Mr. Trump “throw(ing) his support behind a candidate who is serious [about peacemaking]. There is NO such Israeli Prime Minister candidate that wants a Two-State solution. Here is his CNN article:

4) A Kairos view: One State with liberty and justice for all (Mark Braverman, KUSA Executive Director)
1) The Two-State never was a viable option (given the hard-nosed Zionist philosophy of controlling the One State, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River)
2) The US has never been an honest broker (the US has ALWAYS favored Israelis dominance)

In questioning Mr. Miller’s point of view, Mr. Braverman asks: “Is he asking for more effort to negotiate for the Two-State solution? Then we are “wasting our time with him”. Negotiating for a Two-State solution “is always a snare and delusion; it’s a dead end”, (post from Mr. Braverman to John Kleinheksel, June 20, 2019).

Strongly implied in this view is the need for BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) to apply “economic and political pressure brought against Israel” [as with S. Africa] (post to John Kleinheksel, June 20, 2019).

Thus, the Kairos USA position is to convince the Palestinians to give up the notion of the Two-State and hold Israelis accountable for bringing liberty and justice for all in One pluralistic (secular) Democratic State as here: [You have to do a search for "One Democratic State"]

Americans need to learn first-hand of the oppression experienced by Arab Palestinians, in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem (to say nothing about the second-class citizenship experienced by Arab Israelis, 21% of the population of Israel, who have minimal representation in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.)

Thanks to Mazin Qumsiyeh, we have a graphic look at how Israel has expanded its control over all of historic Palestine, all the while claiming Arab terrorists want to control “all” of it. Click here and explore what B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization in Israel has now made clear.

Posted by John Kleinheksel, Executive Director, Kairos W. MI

Friday, March 29, 2019

Better Use of This Blog

Dear Friend,
I see I have been neglecting to post relevant material on this blog.
The reason is simply that I've invested more energy in Kairos West Michigan, the movement/community we are building in W. MI.

Please follow us on our new Website: and the blog we have there.

BTW, MUSALAHA is a Messianic Jewish organization that has both Jesus believing Jews and Jesus believing Arab Palestinians. You can imagine the challenge of being in fellowship with each other. But our common Lord, Jesus, is the uniting personality that enables Jews and Arabs in the land of our Lord, to really be in touch with each other's narratives and forge bridges instead of strengthening the walls that divide.

There are some exciting new initiatives we are working on in KWM. Be part of our community. Learn with us. Travel with us.
Advocate with us. Help us elevate the Palestinian narrative that is regularly smothered by the frenetic efforts of the Israeli lobby that insists that only the Israeli narrative be the predominant one that is heard. Thanks for checking in. John

Resilience in a Time of Escalating Violence

This is the report of one of our collegues on the ground: Salim Munayer, of MUSALAHA.
It came out on March 29, 2019. It represents the kind of wrestling that we in Kairos West Michigan affirm.

Resilience in Time of Escalating Violence
As the time drew near for the public affairs leaders’ seminar, which took place this past weekend in Athens, we at Musalaha began to worry about the mounting tensions in the land. Nonetheless, we continued planning for the weekend meeting. Almost every other day we could hear shooting and saw news of killings. We felt concerned because in the past when things got tense and violence escalated, people withdrew and didn’t want to participate until things quieted down. The participants of our groups face pressure from family and friends not to come meet together with “the other.” The tension and violence in our country continued to escalate to a high level. However, to our joy and encouragement, the members of the group were determined to come and meet with each other, to share and listen to one another.

This group of public affairs leaders had previously met several times at a desert encounter weekend and a couple of other weekend seminars. They had already begun to develop relationship and trust. They had already gone through our identity seminar and were ready for the upcoming seminar about historical narrative. This seminar is usually the most difficult. The historical narrative seminar is one of the milestones in the stages of reconciliation for Musalaha and is usually the most heated, emotionally charged and difficult to facilitate. Talking about historical narrative can become heated and emotional because it examines and challenges the stories of history we’ve been told by our schools, communities, and families that have formed our worldview and our individual and collective identities. History is rarely taught in objective bullet point form but is weaved into a story that gives meaning to our identity, therefore becoming a narrative. Narratives are useful for motivating people to action and giving them a sense meaning and belonging. The historical narratives we believe tell us who we are, who our enemies are, why our enemies are wrong and we are right, and inspire loyalty to our group. In instances of conflict, especially ours, there are often many narratives that conflict with each other.

In the seminar on historical narrative, not only do they learn about historical narrative, but they also have to write down the two main narratives and work in groups to present each other’s narratives. The purpose is not only to process their own narratives and see the challenges to it but also to see the gap between the historical narrative they’ve been living by and that of the other group. Seeing and understanding this gap is very important to illuminate to people the shortcomings about their narrative. Many times when the groups present, they make statements that aren’t true and reveal their biases. They resort to denial, rejection, and blaming. The two groups ask difficult questions aimed at each other. Things can get charged quickly and people shut down.

With this group, there were many challenging questions, but they were answered with openness and civility which was encouraging; however, it was still emotionally draining. Unfortunately, many times the groups stop here at attempting to understand each other’s narratives. However, with this group, we were able to facilitate the creation of a joint narrative for the Israelis and Palestinians. To my joy, this group was able to create a joint, common narrative that they could build together. For example, they discussed creating a shared narrative of being in and living in the land together. Points they had in common were that both communities have experienced exile, both have felt betrayed by the international community, and both dislike the current situation of segregation, suffering from their political leaders, and the current cycle of fear and violence perpetuated by extremists on both sides. Lastly, they talked about how they want to turn conflicting narratives about 1948, which for Israelis is the year Israel gained independence and for Palestinians is the year of Nakba or catastrophe, into a new narrative that bridges the two. They showed great maturity and resilience. They also agreed to continue meeting and are determined to start a joint project.

Did we solve the Conflict this weekend? No. We didn’t expect to. But we DID help 20 community leaders find their way through the emotionally charged discussion that brings us one step closer to reconciliation. Who knows if one of these people will be a leader of their political party and help to give us all a better future?

By Salim J. Munayer, Ph.D

Executive Director

Friday, August 3, 2018

Palestinian Christians Respond to "The Jewish State" Declaration (Basic Law)

Dear Friend of Kairos,
There have been countless statements opposing Israel's declaration of Israel as the "Homeland of the Jewish People" (Basic Law by the Knesset).
At their request, here is the statement by our friends, Kairos Palestine (Christian-based, but open to other faiths).
It is unflinching in its denunciation of this act, spelling out its implications.

1. The Jewish position
To be fair, let's be clear about the Jewish position:

"To be a Jew is NOT to be racist. "We have a right to our national existence. We are 'unique' that way.
"Arabs" (the 20% that stayed, not fleeing in 1948), just have to accept that fact.
"(The millions in the West Bank, Gaza and Arab dispersion, count for even less. They are in the way.)
"Arabs will NEVER be citizens like Jews from all over the world, who are welcome home here.
"The problem has always been that they just do NOT and never will accept us in their neighborhood.
"So, our military has had to be (and will continue to be) vigilant against the 'terror' they are determined to inflict on us.
"We are entitled to do anything that we must, to protect our security and existence as The (one) Jewish State.

2. The Palestinian Arab position
Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace
Statement on the Jewish State (Basic) Law
(from Philip Farah, officially affirmed by Kairos Palestine)


Israel has always defined itself as the State of the Jewish People, and its recent adoption of the Jewish Nation State Law is simply a declaration to the world of its historic commitment, ideologically and programmatically, to Jewish supremacy. Many critics of Israel’s 51-year-old occupation of Palestinian East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights have referred to Israel’s occupation of these territories as a system of apartheid. However, some among these critics, such as President Jimmy Carter, rejected the use of the same term to describe Israel’s relationship to the roughly 20 percent Palestinian Arab minorities who hold Israeli citizenship within Israel’s 1948/49 border. After the passage of the new Israeli law, such critics ought to open their eyes to the historical reality of Israel since its establishment in 1948, and recognize the deep racism that underlies its state and society.

The expropriation of Palestinian land and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the early years of Israel’s existence were traumatic. Israel’s Absentees’ Property Law (1950) and Land Acquisition Law (1953), among others, resulted in the pauperization and ghettoization of Palestinian citizens of Israel. More than 60 laws directly and indirectly ensured that they remain far behind Israeli Jews in every aspect of their existence including their access to the legal system, citizenship privileges, income and employment, distribution of resources and social welfare, accessibility to land, educational resources, availability of health resources, and political participation. The Israeli occupation in 1967 of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, and the extreme form of apartheid practiced there are an extension of the settler-colonial praxis that created Israel.

What is new is that Israel now feels emboldened by the ascendancy of right-wing racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia in the United States in particular, and western societies in general. It no longer feels that it has to conceal its own racism. The recent love fest of right-wing extremists in the annual conference of Christians United for Israel in Washington, DC is emblematic of the convergence of Zionism with anti-democratic forces in the West. Thankfully, others in the West are speaking out more forcefully against racism and discrimination in all its forms. And the movement of solidarity with the Palestinians is growing worldwide, including in the United States and Europe.

We call on all people of conscience to condemn Israeli apartheid unapologetically and to heed the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions in solidarity with the Palestinian non-violent struggle for justice, peace, and freedom. In particular, as a faith-based group, we call on other people of faith, including our evangelical brothers and sisters, to challenge Israel’s intensifying apartheid. For Christian groups to remain silent about the implications of Israel’s Jewish Nation State Law and all other Israeli human rights violations stands in contradiction to the Biblical mandate to do justice and to stand with the oppressed.

Well, Kairos friends, there you have it. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine, desiring equal treatment under a common law, not a Law that favors Jews.

Are they entitled to this desire? Are Jews open to this desire? There are many Jews, both inside Israel and beyond the fluid borders, as well as persons all over the globe, who are working to bring about this desired result.
We in the Kairos movement, will be unrelenting in pursuing this goal.
Right now, the US administration is clearly in favor of the Jewish position; some of our evangelical Christian brothers and sisters are in favor of it as well, to the dismay of many.

Plan now to gather as a Kairos community in Holland/Zeeland, MI on Monday, October 29, for a presentation by our colleagues, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) and The Holy Land Trust, as they give us an assessment of how the nonviolent resistance movement is doing in the land Jews, Christians and Muslims call "Holy".

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Embassy Change/Gaza Protests & "Evangelical" Debate

Dear Friend of Kairos W. MI,

Now and then, one finds a clear articulation of the situation in Israel/Palestine.
Ron Sider has an article in his Evangelicals for Social Action that does it for me.
Here it is:

By Andrew F. Bush and Rob Dalrymple

Recently, the world watched the shocking televised split-screen images of Israel resorting to live fire against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza, killing dozens and wounding hundreds including women and children, while simultaneously Israel joyously celebrating the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. For the Trump administration, which had authorized the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv, the day was portrayed as a triumph, a gesture of unqualified support for Israel, and a gift to the Trump administration’s passionately pro-Israel base of supporters among evangelical Christians.

Almost no hint of the sorrow in Gaza crept into the Jerusalem festivities. Instead, images broadcast by western media perpetuate a narrative that promotes the Israelis as victorious underdogs who have overcome the world, while castigating the Palestinians as violent protesters who engaged in mutiny when that underdog prevails. Such media coverage is not only inequitable and unjust, but it propagates a storyline that perpetuates a conflict instead of fostering peace. Scheduling the opening of the embassy on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding as a modern state, the event was effectively a repudiation of Palestinian aspirations for their own sovereign state.

Such media coverage is not only inequitable and unjust, but it propagates a storyline that perpetuates a conflict instead of fostering peace.

Political pundits quickly began pointing out a long list of possible negative results of the embassy’s relocation and the continued harsh treatment of Gaza’s citizens. Such a unilateral move forfeits any leverage that a final settlement of Jerusalem might offer in peace negotiations, as well as America’s role as a fair arbiter between Israel and Palestine. Such a move will further isolate Israel and America globally, while handing Shi’a Iran and Sunni Muslim extremists a tool to inflame anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment. In short, in the view of many pundits, the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem will ultimately hurt Israel.

According to some evangelicals, the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem is sanctioned by God, in that Jerusalem is the God-ordained capital of Israel—and, consequently, is an event that should be supported by all Christians. But many others, including a wide array of Christians who also identify as evangelicals, do not look at the day’s events in the same light. While on the one hand we rejoice with the Israelis, we also recognize that these events may well work against the state of Israel and its long-term security. Further, this action represents a rejection of the Palestinian historical presence (both Christian and Muslim) and their relationship to the land.

Simply put, Jerusalem is a shared city. Recognizing one people’s relationship to the city, while simultaneously ignoring the rightful claims of the other, is not a move towards peace, but a provocation that will necessarily result in unrest—not because one side is composed of radical terrorists while the other is peaceful victims, but because inequities foster strife.

As a result, a growing number of evangelical leaders view these events with concern. Not only for the political and social ramifications for Israel and Palestine, but also for the apparent diminishing of the gospel of God’s universal love in Christ Jesus—through Christians’ fervent support of Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people, the emphasis on nationalism above humanitarian needs, and the superseding of the clear, ethical teachings of Christ by speculative interpretations of prophecy.

Such inquiring evangelicals do not discount the importance of the State of Israel to the Jewish people, the centrality of Jerusalem in the Jewish faith, or even, in many cases, the prophetic role of Israel in what they understand to be the events that will mark the end of this age and the return of Christ. Where, though, they ask, is the compassion of Christ for the weak regardless of nationality or ethnicity?

How can Christians speak of the destruction of nations which oppose Israel in the end times without shedding a tear? In the same way as the Hebrew prophets who would only flatter Israel’s ancient kings by shouting “Peace, peace,” (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11) when there was no peace in store for God’s people because of its sins, questioning evangelicals are asking if the unqualified support of Israel—of even its harshest political policies toward Palestinians—is actually participating in Israel’s self-delusion, and perhaps of its destruction? At the least they wonder, does not such support by pro-Israel evangelicals frustrate Israel’s ancient call to be a unique humanitarian oasis in the world? Wouldn’t it be so much more like the kingdom of God if Israelis and Palestinians both could have celebrated the fulfillment of their peoples’ hopes in Jerusalem?

Evangelicals are asking if the unqualified support of Israel is actually participating in Israel’s destruction.

For those evangelicals who are asking such questions, an embrace of a more compassionate Christianity should not be equated with an exclusively pro-Palestinian political posture. To do so would frustrate the very borderless compassion and inclusiveness which they seek to promote. Rather, these evangelicals emphasize that they seek to be ‘pro-humanity’ in their spiritual lives, not only as it touches Israel and Palestine, but in matters of ethnic tensions in the United States, the flow of refugees globally who are cast adrift by war, famine, or other horrors, and other social issues.

Evangelical supporters of Israel repeatedly return to a belief in the chosenness of the Jewish people, and the favor of God upon them as demonstrated by the creation of the State of Israel. One might ask, though, what this chosenness implies. And what are its limits?

In the first sermon of Jesus as recorded by Luke (4:14-30), Jesus infuriated his synagogue audience in Nazareth by bringing to their attention that even though in the time of the prophets Elijah and Elisha there was famine and illness in Israel, it was a Gentile woman from Sidon and a Syrian army captain who miraculously were fed and healed. The message was straightforward: chosenness by God should not be equated with an exclusive claim to God’s blessings.

This was an outrageous message to the first-century Jews listening to Jesus. It undermined their national identity, which was founded upon their understanding of an exclusive claim upon God’s blessings. Such teaching crossed a red line for them, and they sought to put Jesus to death. Jesus lived to teach another day, and throughout his brief ministry on earth, he demonstrated what the universal love of God looks like both by blessing the sinful (Mark 1:40-45) within Israel and granting the prayers of those without (Matthew 15:21-28).

Perhaps an important takeaway from the jolting images of celebrations and concurrent deaths is that Christians should take a fresh reckoning of their understanding of the gospel of Jesus, and how as its messengers we are to carry that gospel into the world as peacemakers, reconcilers, and bearers of hope. Many evangelical Christians are doing just that, and inviting others to join them. [The Kairos movement is one important bearer of HOPE. Please be part of it! - 296 Timber Lake Dr E, Holland, MI, USA, 49424 --jrk]

Andrew F. Bush, D.Min., is a professor of missiology at Eastern University, and continues his more than twenty years of Christian service in Israel/Palestine.

Rob Dalrymple, Ph.D., is a pastor, teacher, and writer based in California.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sowing Hate, Reaping Death

Sowing Hate and Reaping Death

By Rami Elhanan

April 28, 2010 "Occupation Magazine" -- - My name is Rami Elhanan. Thirteen years ago, on the afternoon of Thursday the fourth of September 1997, I lost my daughter, my Smadar, in a suicide attack on Ben-Yehuda street in Jerusalem. A beautiful sweet joyous 14 year old girl. My Smadar was the granddaughter of the militant for peace, General (Ret.) Matti Peled, one of those who made the breakthrough to Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. And she was murdered because we were not wise enough to preserve her safety in Matti’s way, the only correct and possible way – the way of peace and reconciliation.

I do not need a Remembrance Day in order to remember Smadari. I remember her all the time, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 60 seconds a minute. Without a pause, without a rest, for 13 long and accursed years now, and time does not heal the wound, and the unbearable lightness of continuing to exist remains a strange and unsolved riddle …

But Israeli society very much needs Remembrance Days. From year to year, like clockwork, in the week after Passover, it is drawn into the annual ritual: from Holocaust to the Rebirth of the nation, a sea of ceremonies, sirens and songs – an entire people is swept into a whirlpool of addictive sweet sorrow, eyes tearful and shrouded; mutual embraces accompanied by `Occupation songs` and sickle and sword songs [1] against the background of images of lives that were cut short and heart-rending stories … and it is hard to avoid the feeling that this refined concentration of bereavement, fed directly into the vein, is intended to fortify our feeling of victimhood, the justice of our path and our struggle, to remind us of our catastrophes, which God forbid we should forget for a single moment. This is the choice of our lives – to be armed and ready, strong and resolute, lest the sword fall from our grasp and our lives be cut short.[2]

And when all this great sorrow is dispersed with the smoke of the barbeques, [3] when Israelis return to their daily routines, I am left enveloped in great sorrow. I miss the old good Land of Israel that never existed, and I have feelings of alienation and estrangement that keep increasing with the passage of years, from war to war, from election to election, from corruption to corruption.

And I think about the stations of my life, on the long journey that I have taken on my way to a redefinition of myself, of my Israeliness, of my Jewishness and of my humanity. About the light-years that I have traveled, from the young man who 37 years ago fought in a pulverized tank company, on the other side of the Suez Canal, from the young father who 28 years ago walked the streets of bombed Beirut, and it did not at all occur to me that things could be otherwise. I was a pure product of a cultural-educational and political system that brainwashed me, poisoned my consciousness and prepared me and others of my generation for sacrifice on the altar of the homeland, without any superfluous questions, in the innocent belief that if we did not do it, they would throw us – the second generation after the Holocaust – into the Mediterranean Sea.

Nearly 40 years have passed since then, and every year this armour of victim hood continues to crack. The self-righteousness and the feeling of wretchedness keep dissipating, and the wall that separates me from the other side of the story keeps crumbling.

When Yitzhak Frankenthal recruited me to the Bereaved Families Forum 12 years ago, for the first time in my life I was exposed to the very existence of the other side – to this day I am ashamed to say that for the first time in my life (I was 47) I encountered Palestinians as normal human beings, very much like me, with the same pain, the same tears and the same dreams. For the first time in my life I was exposed to the story, the pain and the anger, and also to the nobility and the humanity of what is called “the other side.”

The climax of that journey was the meeting between me and my brother, the “terrorist” who spent seven years in an Israeli prison, the peace-warrior Bassam Aramin, who wrote to us, among other things, the following moving words:

“… Dear Nurit and Rami. I wanted to express my identification with you as a brother on this sad day, the anniversary of the death of your beautiful and pure daughter, Smadar. There is no doubt that this is one of the saddest days, and from the moment we met I did not have the courage to write to you about it, for fear of adding more sorrow and pain to your hearts. I thought that time would likely heal that deep wound. But after I myself drank from that same bitter cup that you drank from before me, when my daughter Abir was murdered on 16 January 2007, I understood that parents never forget for a moment. We live our lives in a special way that others do not know, and I hope that no other human beings, Palestinians or Israelis, will not be forced to know …”

Today my perception of the two sides is completely different from what it was 40 years ago.

For me, the line that separates the two sides today is not between Arabs and Israelis or Jews and Muslims. Today the line is between those who want peace and are willing to pay the price for it, and all the rest. They are the other side! And today, that other side, to my dismay, is the corrupt group of politicians and generals that leads us and behaves like a bunch of mafia dons, war criminals, who play ping-pong in blood among themselves, who sow hate and reap death.

But this evening I want to talk specifically to those who are in between, who are sitting on the fence and watching us from the sidelines, I want to talk to the satiated Israeli public that does not pay the price of the Occupation, the public that sticks its head in the sand and does not want to know, that lives within a bubble, watches television, eats in restaurants, goes on vacation, enjoys the good life and looks after their its own interests, shielded by the pandering media that help it to hide from the bitter reality that is concealed only a few metres from where they live: the Occupation, the theft of lands and houses, the daily harassment and oppression and humiliation, the checkpoints, the abomination in Gaza, the sewage on the streets of Anata …

On this evening, especially, I want to address the Left public in all its shades, those who are disillusioned and angry, those who are afflicted with apathy, with despair and weakness, those who enclose themselves in the bubble of themselves and grumble on Friday nights, but are not involved with us in this hard war against the aggressive pathogen of the Occupation that threatens to destroy the humanity of all of us. And on this evening, the evening of Remembrance Day for the dead on both sides, I want to ask them to join us in our war against this fatal affliction! I want to tell them that to be bystanders is to be complicit in crime! I want to tell them that there are many who are not willing to stand aside, who are not willing to be silent in the face of evil and stupidity and the absence of basic accountability and justice!

And I want to tell them about the true anonymous heroes of our dark age!

About those who are willing to pay a high personal price for their honesty and decency, those who dare to stand in front of the bulldozers with rare and amazing courage, the refusers who say no to the omnipresent militarism, the combatants for peace who discarded their weapons in favour of non-violent resistance, the resolute demonstrators who crush against the terror of the police and the army in Bil’in, in Ni’lin, in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan every weekend, the lawyers who struggle every day in the Ofer camp military Court, and in the High Court of Justice, the heroic women of Mahsom Watch, the dedicated peace activists from abroad, like the late Rachel Corrie who gave her life, and also the those who blow the whistle on crimes and conspiracies, from Anat Kam to Gideon Levy and Akiva Eldar, and also the peace organizations of both peoples, and especially the bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families who are bringing about the miracle of reconciliation despite their tragedies.

The darker the sky gets, the more visible are these stars gleaming in the darkness! [4] The more the oppression becomes opaque and evil, the more they, with their heroism and their noble struggle, save the honour and the humanity of all of us!

And today we desperately need to expand the circles of non-violent opposition to the Occupation! This evening I call on you from here and from the bottom of my heart: get out of your bubble! Join the mosquito that buzzes unceasingly in the ears of the Occupation, [5] that annoys and irritates and harasses, and does not let Filth prevail in silence! [6] Don’t let the other side steal the future of all of us! Don’t let the other side continue to endanger the security of our remaining children.

Thank you.

[1] Songs of the singing troupe of Nahal (a brigade in the Israeli army).
[2] From Moshe Dayan`s Eulogy for Roi Rutenberg (April 19, 1956).
[3] Israelis traditionally have barbeques on the eve of Independence Day.

[4] Martin Luther King.

[5] Ali Abu Awwad.

[6] Ze’ev Jabotinsky: Betar Song.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent. Original Hebrew: