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The people of Khan Al Ahmar have lived as refugees for 50 years. Although the village is located 10 minutes from Jerusalem, its households have no running water and no electricity. Now Khan Al Ahmar, situated in an area earmarked for future expansion of the Israeli settlement Ma’ale Adumim, is targeted for demolition and its people for forcible transfer.
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On 26 February, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas formally received the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit for a meeting to discuss just peace in Palestine and Israel. Abbas is scheduled for a speech at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, in the beginning of the week.
The Palestinian president expressed to the WCC general secretary the importance of the activities of the WCC in the Holy Land in accompanying Christians and local churches. Abbas said he calls upon local and foreign churches to pay attention to the message of Palestinian Christians and to encourage all nonviolent acts to bring peace and justice to Palestine.
15 Christian churches and organizations call for peace, justice, and equality in Israel and Palestine
By MIDDLE EAST & EUROPE - GLOBAL MINISTRIES on February 15, 2017
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ, and Global Ministries are among 15 Christian organizations that sent a briefing paper to all members of Congress and to the Trump Administration this morning, calling for U.S. policies that promote peace, justice, and equality between Israelis and Palestinians.
The paper states, “2017 marks 50 years since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza and 24 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords. Over the last 50 years, but particularly since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, there have been significant changes on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories that have a negative impact on efforts to achieve peace with justice.”
Citing changes including the amount of West Bank land now controlled by Israeli settlements, the increased number of settlers, and the demolition of Palestinians homes, the paper states, “These changes, among others, have caused analysts, scholars, diplomats, and politicians to assert that the window of opportunity for a viable two-state solution is closing or may have closed. As that reexamination is occurring, the underlying need for equality of rights remains.”
Dr. Peter Makari, executive for the Middle East and Europe of Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) said, “Israel/Palestine is an issue of high priority and urgency, that begs for honest and vigorous engagement. There is much our Congress and Administration can do to promote peace, justice, and equality with and for the people there, just as there are significant ways to undermine such efforts. In sending this paper to our elected officials, our hope is to ensure that members of Congress and the new Administration hear our voices and concerns as they take up this issue, which is urgent for Israelis and Palestinians, and has implications for our own country’s national security. We look forward to follow-up conversations with them as well.”
The signing organizations call for U.S policymakers to “make clear their commitment to ensuring fundamental human rights,” highlighting several approaches including “Urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to uphold the values of peace, justice, and equal rights for all peoples; and urging both to refrain from actions that lead to violence while encouraging efforts to work for peace, justice, and reconciliation.”
Signatories to the briefing paper are the American Friends Service Committee; Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness; Conference of Major Superiors of Men; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Mennonite Central Committee U.S.; National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA; Pax Christi International; Presbyterian Church (USA); Reformed Church in America; United Church of Christ; United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.
(A related story is posted on UCC News.)
The full text is available as a pdf here, and is below:
Independent Jewish Voices shared the results of a survey on Canadian attitudes on Israel-Palestine that CJPME co-sponsored with Independent Jewish Voices Canada, Dimitri Lascaris, and Murray Dobbin. Basically, the survey results show the following (click for chart view):
Religion, Divestment, Shareholder Engagement, the United Church and the Way of Jesus
Religion is not rational. It is about relationships and symbols that speak to our lives and to our connections with what is within us and beyond us. It helps us connect to other people and to the creation as a whole. Religious beliefs ground our ethics. Theology helps us to see and hear the sacred in a disordered and flawed world.
Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple as a sign of God’s outrage with those who were taking advantage of the poor and powerless. After the incident, the money changers cleaned up the mess, complained to the authorities and went back to business as usual. Meanwhile, because Jesus had the audacity to react to immorality - he was arrested, beaten and executed.
Divestment from companies that support or profit from the occupation of Palestine may not be the same as overturning the money changers’ tables but it is a theological choice. Primarily, it says to our partners, “We will stand in solidarity with you in your hour of need.” It is a way for us to be “salt and light” in the world.
Human suffering may not trigger a change in corporations but it should elicit a response from Christians. Divestment clearly says we refuse to support corporations that make people suffer. It puts our relationship with our brothers and sisters who “cry out in anguish” ahead of any commercial enterprise.
In some cases, shareholder engagement is an effective tool to bring about change. Unfortunately, in Palestine and Israel it has failed. Larger churches in the US have worked with Hewlett Packard, Caterpillar and others for years with no success. Dr. Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine and Harvard Law Professor, has clearly stated that attempts by the UN failed with most corporations.
A year ago, the General Council (GC) of the United Church of Canada, the highest decision making body of the denomination, a group we believe is guided by God’s Spirit, requested the United Church, our foundation and pension fund divest from companies supporting or profiting from the occupation. Four years ago, GC directed, “the Executive of the General Council to explore the wisdom of divesting in companies that are profiting from or supporting the occupation.”
In response, a committee was formed to develop a policy regarding what euphemistically has been called responsible investment. No actions and/or recommendations on divestment in support of our partners in Palestine and Israel and our other partners in Guatemala who have ongoing concerns with Canadian mining interests have been forthcoming from this group. This leads to the question, what is our priority, developing a policy or supporting those who have been and who are suffering?
The will of the General Council is clear – divest. So why not divest, as requested and then develop a policy for future guidance? After all, there is no legislation that prevents the United Church or any other body from investing in or divesting from any one corporation. The wisdom of the General Council is clear. The stories from our partners are compelling. The groundwork done by other churches is faithful. Finally, the overwhelming evidence from independent NGO’s, sister churches, the UN and other agencies in Palestine and Israel calls us to act!
The evidence in relation to the brutality of the occupation is abundantly clear. The firsthand accounts of our partners and the 20+ Ecumenical Accompaniers appointed by the denomination attest to daily violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian laws. Credible international groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Defence for Children International, the World Council of Churches, B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights and Addameer have clearly documented the reality of the occupation. Additionally, the last report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian territories is tantamount to an indictment for apartheid. So why not do the right thing, the just thing and act!
Religion and theology help to guide us in a disordered and tragic world. The prophet Micah wrote, “God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” The General Council has decided for justice and support for human rights and the rule of international law. It would serve us well as a denomination to listening to the cries of our partners and humbly respond by divesting from corporations that benefit from the occupation and then create a guide to responsible investing. After all, we do have a theological obligation to stand in solidarity with those who have suffered for 49 long years.
When we divest there will be criticism. There always is when we decide to stand for justice. I remember entering theological college in 1988 just after the GC decided that sexual orientation was not a barrier to ordination. There was a lot of criticism. Still, we trusted in the Holy Spirit guidance then and we did not delay implementation. Our church is richer for that decision.
Divestment is a sign and symbol of solidarity with those who are suffering. It is not a reasonable shareholder reaction – it is saying, “Here I stand I can do no other”. It may not be as dramatic as overturning the tables of the money changers but it is faithful to the one who calls us to be salt and light in the world.
August 5, 2016
Comments by Steve Berube to Louise Martin at CBC regarding her report on Elizabeth May.
Dear Ms. Martin,
By way of background, I have served as a human rights observer in Bethlehem for the World Council of Churches and I co-chair the United Church network seeking a just peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI - United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel).
You characterized BDS as a movement against Israel - it is not. This idea plays into the narrative constructed by the Israeli government and pro-Netanyahu groups. BDS is pro international human rights and humanitarian laws. It is non-violent and seeks a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike through an end to the 49 year long illegal occupation as defined by the 4th Geneva Convention and as determined by the International Court of Justice in two separate cases. The illegal occupation has further been condemned by the UN Security Council and General Assembly.
Certainly, you and the CBC are interested in accurate reporting. Unfortunately, there is a strong campaign by those who benefit from the illegal occupation who control the narrative.
Independent Jewish Voices, a Canadian group, actually supports BDS. The Jewish community is not monolithic in it's view of the situation as Netanyahu would want people to believe.
I trust CBC to report accurately. Your report was an attempt to be faithful but showed a basic misunderstanding of BDS.
I would be happy to speak/correspond further with you on this subject. I would be happy to provide you with background material which could actually improve your understanding on this subject.
Rev. Steve Berube
St. Paul's United
404 Cleveland Ave.
The United Church has issued a call to "Say “No” to the Forced Transfer of the People of Susiya".
This small village in the South Hebron Hills of Palestine is once again being threatened with demolition by the Israeli government.
On August 1, Israel’s High Court gave the new Minister of Defense two weeks to decide whether to continue negotiations. This decision is expected soon. In the absence of dialogue, it will be up to the Israeli High Court to decide if it will accept the state's request to demolish 40 percent of the village.
We are urged to Take Action by writing to The Hon. Stephan Dion and our MP's to ask that Canada issue a public statement calling directly on the Israeli government to immediately freeze all settlement activity and demolition orders, as well as cancel all transfer plans. A sample letter is available on the Take Action page of the UCC website.
The take Action page also has a link to a video in which residents of Susiya speak out against the demolitions and takeover of their community.
Please go to the UCC website for more information. Share this appeal with your network.
On Sunday, [August 7, 2016] the Green Party took a courageous stand in supporting the BDS movement. It is vitally important for those of us who support an end to the illegal military occupation in Palestine to thank the Greens.
Currently, the leadership of the Green Party is under tremendous pressure. A reliable source has told me the Green’s have received over 1,000 letters from those who oppose BDS since the vote on Sunday. The pro-Netanyahu government forces in Canada are extremely well funded, highly resourced and vicious when anyone or any group with a public profile offers any support to Palestinians and Israelis who long for a just peace. Subsequently, the Greens need to know there are many Canadians who support BDS and appreciate the decision of he Green Party.
I urge you and plead with you to take five minutes and write the Green Party to thank them for their decision to support the nonviolent BDS movement. The email address is: www.greenparty.ca/en/contact
The letter can be as simple as:
As a supporter of human rights and the rule of international law I wish to thank the Green Party
for its support of the non-violent BDS movement.
Peace, Salaam, Shalom, Paix,
Steve Berube, Co-Chair
United Methodist General Conference Calls on Israel to End Unjust Practices Toward Palestinians
download this press release »
May 20, 2016 – Despite fierce opposition, which included calls to delegates from Israeli ambassadors and consulates, the United Methodist General Conference passed strong measures calling for an end to Israel’s unjust practices toward Palestinians.
UNJPPI co-chairs have sent the following letter to PM Trudeau and other party leaders on behalf of UNJPPI, calling on the Government to issue statements in recognition of both Yom Ha'Atzmaut and Nakba Day.
May 12, 2016
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
We write to you on behalf of United Network for a Just Peace for Palestine and Israel. We are a national network of United Church of Canada members and friends dedicated to a just and lasting peace for the people of Palestine and Israel in the Holy Land.
The Liberal Party and the Canadian government have issued public statements celebrating Israel's independence day, Yom Ha'Aztmaut. We wonder why there is no recognition of Nakba Day for Palestinians?
Israel declared statehood on May 15, 1948 based on United Nations Resolution 181, which proposed that British Mandatory Palestine be partitioned into a Jewish and an Arab state, with Jerusalem under international jurisdiction. The proposed Jewish state represented 56% of British Mandatory Palestine, despite the fact that Jews constituted one third of the population, and owned only 6% of the land.
The indigenous Arab population, which was never consulted, found this proposal unjust. Prior to Israel's declaration of statehood, more than 300,000 native Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Zionist military forces. In the war that followed Israel's declaration of statehood an additional 450,000 other Palestinians were forcibly displaced. By the end of the hostilities, more than 750,000 indigenous Palestinians had become refugees. Also, during this conflict, Zionist forces eradicated over 500 Palestinian communities and engaged in more than 33 massacres.
As you are aware the right of return of refugees is clearly protected under the 4th Geneva Convention. Also, the right of return for native Palestinians was a precondition for Israel’s admittance into the United Nations. Yet, even today, Israel denies responsibility for this refugee crisis and still refuses to allow indigenous Palestinians to return to their homes.
Zionists—both Jewish and Christian—celebrate Israel's statehood each year. Meanwhile, Palestinians regard May 15, 1948 as a catastrophe (nakba in Arabic), and annually commemorate this episode in their nation's history as Nakba Day.
You have stated you want Canada to play the role of "honest broker" in the Middle East. Therefore, it seems just and fair that our government acknowledge Nakba Day as well as Yom Ha'Atzmaut, thus sending a balanced and principled message to Canadians and the international community regarding Palestine and Israel.
We respectfully request your government treat Palestinians with the same dignity and respect which you provide for Israel by acknowledging the historic reality. In so doing, the Government will clearly indicate that it will play the role of "honest broker" in the Middle East through a balanced treatment of Palestinians and Israelis alike. We look forward to our government`s statements action in recognition of both Yom Ha'Atzmaut and Nakba Day.
Rev. Steve Berube and Rev. Marianna Harris
Co-chairs: United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel
Cc: Hon. Stephan Dion
Hon. Rona Ambrose
Hon. Thomas Mulcair
Hon. Rhéal Fortin
Hon. Elizabeth May
Said Hamad: Chief Representative of the Palestinian Delegation in Canada
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