The Biblical Land: Given By God But Not Without Conditions

Posted on August 27, 2017

The presenter in the video above makes a good point. While according to the Old Testament, God issued a land grant to Abraham and his descendants, the biblical texts also tell us that the gift did not come without conditions. It was a contractbasically. And the Israelites failed to live up to it. This is what’s recorded in the biblical narrative. Sadly, many Christians today seem oblivious to the fact that the modern day state of Israel is following the same blind path. Hopefully the above video can make things a little clearer for them.

Back in June of this year, Palestinian Christians published an open letter to the World Council of Churches (WCC) asking that it recognize Israel as an apartheid state. I put up a post about it at the time, commenting that while the document makes no specific reference to Christian Zionism, it does nonetheless assert that Palestinians are suffering “because of one political declaration from a Western empire, based on a twisted theological premise.” And as I also remarked in the same post, the phrase “twisted theological premise” is an apt way of describing Christian Zionism. At any rate, I thought now would be a good time to re-post the open letter to the WCC, and so that’s what I have done below.

You’ll notice that among the signatories to the letter–the one at the very top of the list in fact–is the Arab Catholic Scouts Group. A bit earlier this month a group of Catholic Scouts were on a camp out near the West Bank village of Jibya when they found their campsite under attack by Israeli forces. Here is what a Catholic website reported at the time:

Israeli occupation forces yesterday raided a Catholic children’s scout camp, near the village of Jibya, organised by the Palestinian Holy Family Group from the Latin Monastery of Ramallah. They destroyed the tents and threw sound and gas bombs before they left.

Fortunately, the children were away from the camp attending a class in a hall close to the campsite. No one was injured, but the organisers say the children were very frightened.

The scout leader Samir Habash, said: “We practice our scouting right within the Palestinian natural environment, which is guaranteed by international and local scouting laws, but it appears that this right is forbidden to us because of oppressive occupation measures.”

He appealed to local and international scouting organisations around the world to publicise this barbaric attack, especially because it was targeting children.

The Scouts of the Palestinian Holy Family (for boy and girl scouts) were founded in 1996 and have about 180 members.

If you follow the link to the article you will see a picture of the destroyed tents.

Yes, the belief that “God gave the land to the Jews” has indeed contributed to a lot of suffering. This has been going on for a long time, and as the letter below points out, “the situation is still deteriorating.”

By the way, the letter makes reference to two other documents, one of them being the Amaan Call, issued by the WCC ten years ago following a meeting held in Amaan, Jordan. The other document mentioned is the Kairos Palestinedocument, a letter signed by Palestinian Christians and published in 2009. This latest letter urges Christians of conscience not to “hide behind the cover of political neutrality,” and also calls upon the WCC to support the BDS movement.

In June of this year, the WCC did in fact release a “Statement on 50 Years of Occupation.” The statement notes that “half a century after the 1967 war, there is still no peace and no justice among the inhabitants of the land of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection.” It also asserts that Israel’s “matrix of control – in particular through the ever growing web of illegal Israeli settlements – is increasing rather than diminishing” hopes for peace.

Sadly, however, the statement does not include the word “apartheid,” nor does it endorse the BDS movement.

***

Letter from Palestinian Christians to the World Council of Churches

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. (Isa. 1:17)

Background

As we meet this month in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, we are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unjust and unlawful Balfour declaration. The injustice was intensified through the Nakba and the influx of refugees, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza, the fragmentation of our people and land through policies of isolation and confiscation of property, and the building of Jewish-only settlements and the apartheid wall.

We are still suffering because of one political declaration from a Western empire, based on a twisted theological premise. Even some churches and Christian leaders supported the establishment of the colonial state in our land, and totally ignored—even dehumanized—the nation, our people who had already existed here for centuries and paid the price for atrocities committed in Europe.

Hundred years later, with thousands of lives lost, towns and villages razed from the face of the earth (though not our memory), millions of refugees, thousands of homes demolished, and continued incarceration of prisoners, our Nakba continues.

A hundred years later and there is still no justice in our land! Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression are the rule. Today, we stand in front of an impasse and we have reached a deadlock. Despite all the promises, endless summits, UN resolutions, religious and lay leaders’ callings, Palestinians are still yearning for their freedom and independence, and seeking justice and equality. Humanly speaking, we have reached the “moment of impossible,” as Emeritus Latin Patriarch Sabbah said recently.

Could it be that we have reached this “impossible moment” because things were built from the very beginning—a hundred years ago—on an unjust premise? Should we expect that such an unjust declaration will create anything but strife and destruction?

Today is also an opportunity to remember the 10-year-old Amman Call. We are thankful to those who stood with us back then in costly solidarity—those who stood for truth and justice. We are also concerned that 10 years later the situation is still deteriorating. Like other initiatives advocating end of occupation, the Amman Call did not achieve its goals in building and achieving just peace. We must ask ourselves today why that is.

We are also concerned by Israel’s systemic assault on Palestinian creative resistance, and on our partners worldwide who use this method to pressure Israel to end the occupation. Many new laws were issued in Israel and around the world to oppose this creative non-violent resistance unlawfully, and to stop all effort toward peace. Not only is this an attack on the freedom of conscience and speech but it is also an assault on our right and duty to resist evil with good. Israel is even now trying to prevent pilgrims from visiting Bethlehem, the city of Emmanuel!

While we are grateful for the ‘costly solidarity’ articulated in the Amman Call and exercised by many churches around the world, we are concerned that some churches have weakened their positions in the last 10 years as a result of Israeli pressure. Many still hide behind the cover of political neutrality, not wishing to offend their partners in religious dialogue.

Finally, we meet in an environment of religious wars and persecution in our region. Religious extremism is on the rise, and religious minorities have paid a painful price. We thank you for your efforts toward the refugees and toward ending the conflicts in our region. We also thank you for your support of persecuted Christians in places like Iraq and Syria.

Our Call

“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (Justice), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”. (Matthew 5:10-11)

As we stand in front of this “impossible moment,” it gives us no pleasure to say that “we told you so” eight years ago when we declared the moment as a Kairos moment! We stand facing the impossible, but we have not lost hope, since as followers of the Risen One, we are the people of hope. However, we need you and we need you now more than ever. We need your costly solidarity. We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians. We urge you to hear our call and adopt the following:

1. That you call things as they are: recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law and in agreement of what a person like Desmond Tutu said and as the UN ESCWA report said: “Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people.. We are disturbed by the fact that states and churches are dealing with Israel as if the situation were normal, ignoring the reality of occupation, discrimination, and daily death in the land. Just as churches united to end apartheid in South Africa and whereby the WCC played a courageous and pivotal prophetic and leadership role, we expect you to do the same!

2. That you unequivocally condemn the Balfour declaration as unjust, and that you demand from the UK that it asks forgiveness from the Palestinian people and compensates for the losses. We ask that churches and Christians support the Palestinians in their request for justice.

3. That you take the strongest theological stand against any theology or Christian group that justifies the occupation and privileges one nation over the other based on ethnicity or a covenant. We ask that you adopt and live the theology suggested by Kairos Palestine and that you organize conferences to bring awareness toward this end.

4. That you take a stand against religious extremism and against any attempt to create a religious state in our land or region. We ask that you support us in combating the foundations of extremism and that you seek our council when acting against religious extremism so that you do not jeopardize and harm our standing here.

5. That you revisit and challenge your religious dialogue partners, and that you are willing to even withdraw from the partnership if needed, if the occupation and injustices in Palestine and Israel are not challenged.

6. That you lead campaigns for church leaders and pilgrims to visit Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities on this side of the wall in cooperation with Palestinian tourist and pilgrimage agencies, in response to recent attempts by Israel. We ask that you publicly challenge any attempt by Israel or other Christians that discourage pilgrims from visiting Palestinian places.

7. That you defend our right and duty to resist the occupation creatively and non-violently. We ask that you speak in support of economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation and that you support atheltic, cultural, and academic measures against Israel until it complies with international law and UN resolutions urging the ending of its occupation, apartheid, and discrimination, and accepts refugees to return to their homeland. This is our last peaceful resort. In response to Israel’s war on BDS, we ask that you intensify that measure.

8. That you create lobby groups in defense of Palestinian Christians. We ask that you publicly and legally challenge Christian organizations that discredit our work and legitimacy.

9. We therefore propose as a matter of the greatest urgency that you create a strategic program within WCC similar to the program “To Combat Racism” to lead efforts to lobby, advocate, and develop active programs toward justice and peace in Palestine and Israel and maintain the presence of the Palestinian Christians through supporting their organizations, church work, and peaceful efforts.

As faithful witnesses, we acknowledge, affirm, and continue the long-standing prophetic tradition, especially the one started by the Amman Call and articulated in the Kairos Palestine document. We fully grasp the pressure church leaders are facing here and abroad not to speak the truth, and it is because of this that we are raising this call.

Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. The current status quo is unsustainable. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land. Our only hope as Christians comes from the fact that in Jerusalem, the city of God, and our city, there is an empty tomb, and Jesus Christ who triumphed over death and sin brought to us and to all humanity, new life.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

12 June 2017

Signed By:

Jerusalem
Arab Catholic Scouts Group
Arab Orthodox Society, Jerusalem
Caritas, Jerusalem
Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees—Middle East Council of Churches
Greek Catholic Sayedat AlBishara Association
International Christian Committee
Laity Committee in the Holy Land
National Christian Association
Pontifical Mission Palestine
Sabeel—Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Seeds of Better life
Union of Arab Orthodox Club, Jerusalem
Young Men’s Christian Association—YMCA
Young Women’s Christian Association—YWCA

 

Gaza
NECC office

 

Bethlehem (NCOB) Network of Christian Organizations in Bethlehem
The East Jerusalem YMCA—Beit Sahour Branch
The Arab Educational Institute
Holy Land Trust, Bethlehem
Wi’am Center, Bethlehem
Saint Afram Assyrian Society
Holy Land Christians Ecumenical Foundation, Bethlehem
Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI)
Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Sahour
Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Jala
Arab Orthodox Club, Bethlehem
The Arab Orthodox Charitable Society, Beit Sahour
Bethlehem Bible College
Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies
Alternative Tourism Group, ATG, Beit Sahour
Senior Citizen Charitable Society
Environmental educational Center, Beit Jala
Saint Vincent Charitable Society, Beit Jala
Shepherds’ Children Society, Beit Sahour
Kairos Palestine
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Al-Mosawara Neighborhood… in Numbers

Designed by: Nour Fakih

 

Al-Mosawara Neighborhood... in Numbers

15-08-2017 | 14:28

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The Longest Military Campaign inside Saudi Arabia Goes Largely Unnoticed By the World

For months, everything on the streets of Saudi Arabia’s northeastern town of Awamiyah has been indiscriminately and ruthlessly shot at – including women and children. Their only crime: demanding reforms from the monarchy in Riyadh.

Awamia

Their punishment is swift and brutal. They are violently huddled out of their homes, cleansed, erased, like they were never there to begin with. And as their blood is spilled, their heritage is eviscerated, their history trampled upon by shells and bulldozers.

In the town’s 400-year-old al-Musawara neighborhood, the wind is left howling through emptiness after entire blocks were flattened. But the regime in Riyadh tells the world there is no need for alarm – all of this is nothing more than a demolition project and the elimination of hideouts for ‘terrorists’ and ‘drug dealers’.

After all, the population of Awamiyah was given ample warning. As the siege intensified in late July, local residents reported that they were told to either ‘leave or die’.

Most chose the former. But even leaving did not guarantee anyone’s safety.

Three-year-old Sajaad Mohamed Abu Abdallah was in his family’s car when an armored vehicle randomly opened fire on a crowd of civilians on June 12. A bullet that entered the car through the left rear door, hit the toddler in the right hand, then travelled through his waist and exited his body. After suffering in the Dammam Maternity and Children’s Hospital for nearly two months, he finally succumbed to his wounds on August 8, becoming only one of dozens of victims.

Saudi Arabia’s Shiite majority Eastern Province – where Awamiyah is located – is no stranger to the loss of innocent lives. The region has witnessed a surge in anti-regime protests since 2011, which the ruling monarchy attempted to crush through the jailing and executions of dissidents, including the late Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

One of the Saudi dissidents and the head of the Gulf Institute For Human Rights, Dr. Ali Al-Ahmad, pointed out that the latest “attack on Awamiyah is the largest and longest military campaign inside the country since the establishment of Saudi Arabia in 1932.”

A former lecturer at the University of Bahrain, Colin Cavell, believes that the explanation for the recent spike in violence is simple.

“Simply put [Riyadh wants] to suppress the population and to intimidate the people within Awamiyah,” Cavell explained. “To try to let them know that there will be repercussions if they demand democracy, if they demand freedom of speech, if they demand freedom of association, if they demand freedom of religion.”

“The Saudi government does not tolerate any opposition to its dictatorial rule,” Cavell added.

And why should it? Riyadh enjoys the full support of its western partners, who are more often than not, complicit in the shooting.

Arms sales & international human rights law

Aside from the graphic pictures of Sajaad’s final days in hospital, activists have also posted countless images and online videos showing the transformation of Awamiyah from a tranquil town into a “war zone”.

Even leading western newspapers like the Independent reported on the unprecedented destruction after satellite imagery emerged, showing the contrast between Awamiyah in February and July.

But for much of the international community, this is proof of nothing. After all, Awamiyah is not Aleppo where images of death and destruction shared by Al Qaeda “activists” were more than enough to produce outrage and condemnation from just about every western official who could get a hold of a microphone.

Asked about the carnage in Awamiyah, the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General would only say that the world body was “not in a position to confirm … [the media reports] independently.”

When pressed by the reporter, Stephane Dujarric repeated the same old spiel about how everything that Riyadh does “should be in compliance with international human rights law”.

Of course, nothing that Riyadh does is ever in compliance with international human rights law, thanks in no small part to the political cover and military assistance that it receives from Washington and London.

“The United States or Canada or the UK; all of these countries have provided training, weaponry and assistance to the Saudi forces, to oppress their people,” Ali Al-Ahmad said. “In fact they tried to support the monarchy while maintaining the appearance of civility and democracy.”

The western contribution to the military operation in Awamiyah has not gone unnoticed either.

Armored vehicles like the one used to shoot three-year-old Sajaad may be draped with Saudi flags but the Gurkha RPVs are made in Canada’s Ontario.

The vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia by Canada were at the forefront of the deadly siege on Awamiyah. Countless online videos showed the Gurkha RPV in action.

The revelations threw the spotlight on Ottawa’s recent decision to sign off on a USD 13 billion arms deal with the kingdom, making Saudi Arabia Canada’s second biggest arms buyer.

Similarly, both the US and the UK have sold a record amount of arms to Saudi Arabia in recent months.

In May, US president Donald Trump signed his now infamous USD 110 billion package, which would eventually reach USD 350 billion over the next decade. The deal features everything from integrated air defense systems, Black Hawk helicopters and precision-guided munitions.

Meanwhile, the UK sold Riyadh nearly USD 4 billion worth of bombs and cluster munitions, which are extensively used against civilian areas in Yemen.

And as is the case with the atrocities in that country, western officials will continue to wait for ‘independent confirmation’ before launching futile ‘reviews’ and voicing their condemnation of “all parties to the conflict”.

Source: Al-Ahed 

12-08-2017 | 08:07

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Saudi Crackdown: Riyadh Court Sentences Shia Cleric to 13 Years in Prison

Local Editor

Amid the continuous crackdown against its Shia minority, the Saudi kingdom sentenced top Shia cleric Sheikh Hussein al-Radhi to 13 years in prison.

 

Saudi Crackdown: Riyadh Court Sentences Shia Cleric to 13 Years in Prison


Sheikh al-Radhi has been arrested on the hands of Saudi regime forces on March 21, 2016, from the Rmaile village in Ahsaa in Saudi Qatif eastern province.

The Saudi authorities banned Sheikh al-Radhi from leading prayers, which pushed him to raise his voice against the regime oppression.

Before the arrest, Saudi authorities banned Sheikh al-Radhi from leading prayers, due to his stances against oppressive policies of the Al Saud regime.

Earlier in February of 2016, the Saudi authorities shut down Rasoul al-Azam Mosque in al-Ahsaa, after preventing Sheikh Radhi from performing Friday prayers there.

The move came after Sheikh al-Radhi slammed the Saudi authorities for their crackdown on opposition activists. Before the closure of the mosque, Sheikh Radhi was summoned for questioning following his critical statements.

Sheikh al-Radhi has openly slammed the Saudi regime over the execution of prominent Islamic scholar Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, the war on Yemen as well as the Takfiri ideology which is widespread in the Saudi Kingdom.

Sheikh Nimr was a vocal supporter of the mass pro-democracy protests against Riyadh, which erupted in Eastern Province in 2011.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

09-08-2017 | 12:06

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SECRET SAUDI WAR IN AL-AWAMIYAH- Bulldozers Reduce Awamia to Rubble

South Front

06.08.2017 

Secret Saudi War In Al-Awamiyah

Source: observers.france24.com

The British newspaper “the Independent” revealed several new details about the situation in the Al-Awamiyah town in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia.

The town has been under full siege by the Saudi Security Forces for three months, according to the report. Saudi security forces even even cut off electricity and water lines to the town.

Saudi security forces had stormed Al-Awamiyah after the Saudi government decided on May 10 to evacuate the residents of the town and to demolish the old part of it – Al-Moussawara district – under the pretext of developing the town.

The Saudi decision is believed to be a punishment for the town’s residents, who belong to the Shiite sect. Al-Awamiya is home for 30,000 Saudi Shiites. Al-Awamiya is also a birthplace of Shiite Imam Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who had been leading widespread protests in Al-Awamiya town and the eastern region of Saudi Arabia against the Saudi government and called for reforms since 2011 before the Saudi authorities executed him on January 2, 2016.

The Saudi authorities have already demolished large parts of Al-Awamiyah. Only 3000-5000 civilians remain in the town. Some of them are anti-government armed activist, according to the Independent report.

25 people, including at least 12 civilians, have been killed since Saudi security forces began its attack on the town. Security forces have deployed snipers and armored vehicles in the town, which turned into a battlefield, according to the report.

“I was a peaceful protester, most of us in Awamiyah were, until the government decided to list us as wanted terrorists. All we did was maintain calls for reform. Because we were not afraid of the regime, they targeted the whole city,” an anti-government armed activist told the Independent.

“We will kill your father and throw his head between your legs,” Saudi forces allegedly told his daughter after raiding his home in Al-Awamiyah.

“We had no choice. Defending our lives and our women is a duty. Houses have been destroyed by bombs, heavy shooting, RPGs… everyone is a target,” the activist added.

The number of Shiites in Saudi Arabia is 2.25 million that makes up 15% of the Saudi population. Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Region is the heartland of the Saudi Shiites. The Saudi Shiites suffer from the Saudi government’s persecution because Saudi Arabia’s key ideology is Wahhabism which is considered an anti-Shiite ideology.

When the Arab Spring started, the Saudi Shiites began demanding their rights, and the Saudi authorities responded wiith tougher measures against the country’s minority. However, Saudi Shiites have little ties to Iran. Furthermore, they support Saudi Arabia’s position on the Syrian crisis.

The Independent report indicates that the Saudi security operation in Al-Awamiyah may be one of the results of the US President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia. The operation began after the Islamic-American summit in Riyadh.

It seems that the Saudi government may have got a green light from the United States, which certainly wants to keep the Saudi oil-rich areas under control and away from any Iranian influence.

Saudi Crackdown: Bulldozers Reduce Awamia to Rubble, Attacking Residents Continues

Local Editor

Saudi military bulldozers almost razed Awamia to the ground amid the deadly crackdown on the besieged Shia town, forcing hundreds of its residents to flee or hand over their personal property to the authorities.

Saudi Crackdown: Bulldozers Reduce Awamia to Rubble, Attacking Residents Continues


The Middle East Eye news portal cited activists as saying that Saudi authorities resorted to compulsory evictions in and around the historic al-Mosawara district of Awamia.

The residents, according to the activists, have been driven out of their homes, while their property has been confiscated by private development firms.

The report also published an image showing a requisition order pinned to a house in the district of al-Shweikah, close to al-Mosawara, which was issued by a private company with the authorization of the so-called National Joint Counterterrorism Command [NJCC].

Reports coming out of the town said Saudi military forces have been firing randomly at homes and cars in Awamia, destroying or setting fire to several houses and shops, an injuring people on their way out of the area.

Amateur videos circulating on the Internet shows the city has been reduced to rubble, with activists saying those left inside are suffering from a lack of electricity, water, rubbish collection or fire services.

“There is a plan for forced displacement,” said Ameen Nemer, a Saudi activist originally from Awamiya. “It doesn’t matter where these people will end up.”

Awamia, located in the eastern Qatif region, has been under military lockdown since May, when Saudi troops began destroying al-Mosawara.

The Riyadh regime claims al-Mosawara has become a hideout for “militants,” who are behind attacks on security forces in Eastern Province, but locals and the United Nations say the regime is after erasing cultural heritage in the Shia town and redeveloping the area.

The Saudi military have martyred at least eight people in the town over the past days.

On Wednesday, Saudi police opened fire on a bus transporting people who were trying to flee the town, claiming the life of a civilian.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

04-08-2017 | 09:46
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‘The Breath of God in Palestinian Children’–Christian Group Adopts Resolution on Israel

[ Ed. note – A very welcomed resolution has been adopted by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ. ]

By Anthony Mujaes

United Church of Christ | July 3, 2017

The General Synod of the United Church of Christ is calling for an end to what is being described as “traumatic” practices by Israeli military against Palestinian children.

A resolution, brought forward by 16 individual UCC churches, calls on the state of Israel to guarantee Palestinian children younger than age 18 their basic due process rights and to prohibit any use of torture or ill-treatment of detained juveniles in the occupied territories. Needing two-thirds of the votes from General Synod 2017 delegates, that resolution easily had the necessary support, with 79 percent of the votes in favor.

“The matter of this resolution hits home for me, when a 16-year-old Palestinian America from my home town (Tampa) was beaten unconscious and bloodied by Israeli police — who were never charged. His family has received no justice,” said Lorrin Sheppard, a delegate from the Florida Conference. “Unfortunately, his story is like many others.”

An estimated 500 to 700 Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli military personnel each year, charged with a crime and prosecuted in a military court system — instead of a civilian court system that is afforded to Israeli children.

“This resolution is about the breath of God in Palestinian children,” said Catherine Alder, a delegate of the Central Pacific Conference. “What is happening to them is against international law and against the law of love.”

This year is the 50th year of Israel’s occupation of the occupied territories — the West Bank (the land to the west of the Jordan River), Gaza (a strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea that borders Egypt and Israel) and East Jerusalem — that it captured in 1967.

Proponents of the resolution — including the UCC Palestine-Israel Network (UCC-PIN), a grassroots group of UCC ministers and lay leaders seeking a just peace between the two peoples — believe that the occupation has created two separate legal systems. Jewish children living in the occupied territories who are arrested are prosecuted through civil courts because they are citizens of Israel.

“These two legal systems treat children of the same age committing the same infraction quite differently,” said the Rev. Leslie Schenk, chair of the committee that reviewed the resolution and pastor of Plymouth Congregational UCC in Madison, Wis. “As a young person said eloquently said during our discussion, ‘It seems like this should have come out a long time ago. Why hasn’t this happened yet?’”

Among the resolution’s other calls: for the UCC General Minister and President to communicate the resolution with Israel’s Prime Minister and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and with U.S. government officials; for the U.S. government to hold aid given to Israel, about $3.1 billion annually, to determine if it complies with the Foreign Assistance Act and isn’t used for human rights abuses; for the U.S. to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which 194 other countries — including Israel in 1991 — have ratified; and for ecumenical engagement on the issue with Jews and Muslims.

The debate on the floor did include some dissent. Marisa Brown-Ludwig, a Massachusetts Conference delegate, said she “shares the heartbreak of everyone who has spoken [about the treatment of Palestinian children], but there are voices missing. This resolution targets the Israeli side of this tragedy in the Middle East.”

Just before the floor opened for debate, youth from the Central Atlantic Conference, participating in the Youth@General Synod program, were given a moment to present their perspective on the resolution — the first of their three presentations during the business sessions at General Synod.

Lucy Adkins, one of the three youth to speak, said, “I go to bed knowing I am safe and protected. Other children are not so fortunate.”

Palestinian Christians Send Open Letter to World Council of Churches

Posted on June 16, 2017

Palestinian Christians have published an open letter to the World Council of Churches asking that the international ecumenical body recognize Israel as an apartheid state.

“As we meet this month in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, we are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unjust and unlawful Balfour declaration,” the letter begins.

The document makes no specific reference to Christian Zionism, but it does assert that Palestinians are suffering “because of one political declaration from a Western empire, based on a twisted theological premise,” and calls upon the WCC to “take the strongest theological stand against any theology or Christian group that justifies the occupation and privileges one nation over the other based on ethnicity or a covenant.”

The phrase “twisted theological premise” is a pretty good way of characterizing Christian Zionism, and I probably couldn’t have come up with a better descriptor myself.

Additionally, the letter makes reference to two other documents, one of them being the Amaan Call, issued by the WCC ten years ago following a meeting held in Amaan, Jordan. The other document mentioned is the Kairos Palestine document, a letter signed by Palestinian Christians and published in 2009.

This latest letter urges Christians of conscience not to “hide behind the cover of political neutrality,” and also calls upon the WCC support the BDS movement.

The WCC is scheduled to hold a meeting next week in Bethlehem.

The Friends of Sabeel of North America is calling upon members of the public to sign onto the letter. I reproduce the letter in full below. You can go here to sign onto it.

***

 

Letter from Palestinian Christians to the World Council of Churches

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. (Isa. 1:17)

Background

As we meet this month in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, we are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unjust and unlawful Balfour declaration. The injustice was intensified through the Nakba and the influx of refugees, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza, the fragmentation of our people and land through policies of isolation and confiscation of property, and the building of Jewish-only settlements and the apartheid wall.

We are still suffering because of one political declaration from a Western empire, based on a twisted theological premise. Even some churches and Christian leaders supported the establishment of the colonial state in our land, and totally ignored—even dehumanized—the nation, our people who had already existed here for centuries and paid the price for atrocities committed in Europe.

Hundred years later, with thousands of lives lost, towns and villages razed from the face of the earth (though not our memory), millions of refugees, thousands of homes demolished, and continued incarceration of prisoners, our Nakba continues.

A hundred years later and there is still no justice in our land! Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression are the rule. Today, we stand in front of an impasse and we have reached a deadlock. Despite all the promises, endless summits, UN resolutions, religious and lay leaders’ callings, Palestinians are still yearning for their freedom and independence, and seeking justice and equality. Humanly speaking, we have reached the “moment of impossible,” as Emeritus Latin Patriarch Sabbah said recently.

Could it be that we have reached this “impossible moment” because things were built from the very beginning—a hundred years ago—on an unjust premise? Should we expect that such an unjust declaration will create anything but strife and destruction?

Today is also an opportunity to remember the 10-year-old Amman Call. We are thankful to those who stood with us back then in costly solidarity—those who stood for truth and justice. We are also concerned that 10 years later the situation is still deteriorating. Like other initiatives advocating end of occupation, the Amman Call did not achieve its goals in building and achieving just peace. We must ask ourselves today why that is.

We are also concerned by Israel’s systemic assault on Palestinian creative resistance, and on our partners worldwide who use this method to pressure Israel to end the occupation. Many new laws were issued in Israel and around the world to oppose this creative non-violent resistance unlawfully, and to stop all effort toward peace. Not only is this an attack on the freedom of conscience and speech but it is also an assault on our right and duty to resist evil with good. Israel is even now trying to prevent pilgrims from visiting Bethlehem, the city of Emmanuel!

While we are grateful for the ‘costly solidarity’ articulated in the Amman Call and exercised by many churches around the world, we are concerned that some churches have weakened their positions in the last 10 years as a result of Israeli pressure. Many still hide behind the cover of political neutrality, not wishing to offend their partners in religious dialogue.

Finally, we meet in an environment of religious wars and persecution in our region. Religious extremism is on the rise, and religious minorities have paid a painful price. We thank you for your efforts toward the refugees and toward ending the conflicts in our region. We also thank you for your support of persecuted Christians in places like Iraq and Syria.

Our Call

“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (Justice), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”. (Matthew 5:10-11)

As we stand in front of this “impossible moment,” it gives us no pleasure to say that “we told you so” eight years ago when we declared the moment as a Kairos moment! We stand facing the impossible, but we have not lost hope, since as followers of the Risen One, we are the people of hope. However, we need you and we need you now more than ever. We need your costly solidarity. We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians. We urge you to hear our call and adopt the following:

1. That you call things as they are: recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law and in agreement of what a person like Desmond Tutu said and as the UN ESCWA report said: “Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people.. We are disturbed by the fact that states and churches are dealing with Israel as if the situation were normal, ignoring the reality of occupation, discrimination, and daily death in the land. Just as churches united to end apartheid in South Africa and whereby the WCC played a courageous and pivotal prophetic and leadership role, we expect you to do the same!

2. That you unequivocally condemn the Balfour declaration as unjust, and that you demand from the UK that it asks forgiveness from the Palestinian people and compensates for the losses. We ask that churches and Christians support the Palestinians in their request for justice.

3. That you take the strongest theological stand against any theology or Christian group that justifies the occupation and privileges one nation over the other based on ethnicity or a covenant. We ask that you adopt and live the theology suggested by Kairos Palestine and that you organize conferences to bring awareness toward this end.

4. That you take a stand against religious extremism and against any attempt to create a religious state in our land or region. We ask that you support us in combating the foundations of extremism and that you seek our council when acting against religious extremism so that you do not jeopardize and harm our standing here.

5. That you revisit and challenge your religious dialogue partners, and that you are willing to even withdraw from the partnership if needed, if the occupation and injustices in Palestine and Israel are not challenged.

6. That you lead campaigns for church leaders and pilgrims to visit Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities on this side of the wall in cooperation with Palestinian tourist and pilgrimage agencies, in response to recent attempts by Israel. We ask that you publicly challenge any attempt by Israel or other Christians that discourage pilgrims from visiting Palestinian places.

7. That you defend our right and duty to resist the occupation creatively and non-violently. We ask that you speak in support of economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation and that you support atheltic, cultural, and academic measures against Israel until it complies with international law and UN resolutions urging the ending of its occupation, apartheid, and discrimination, and accepts refugees to return to their homeland. This is our last peaceful resort. In response to Israel’s war on BDS, we ask that you intensify that measure.

8. That you create lobby groups in defense of Palestinian Christians. We ask that you publicly and legally challenge Christian organizations that discredit our work and legitimacy.

9. We therefore propose as a matter of the greatest urgency that you create a strategic program within WCC similar to the program “To Combat Racism” to lead efforts to lobby, advocate, and develop active programs toward justice and peace in Palestine and Israel and maintain the presence of the Palestinian Christians through supporting their organizations, church work, and peaceful efforts.

As faithful witnesses, we acknowledge, affirm, and continue the long-standing prophetic tradition, especially the one started by the Amman Call and articulated in the Kairos Palestine document. We fully grasp the pressure church leaders are facing here and abroad not to speak the truth, and it is because of this that we are raising this call.

Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. The current status quo is unsustainable. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land. Our only hope as Christians comes from the fact that in Jerusalem, the city of God, and our city, there is an empty tomb, and Jesus Christ who triumphed over death and sin brought to us and to all humanity, new life.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

12 June 2017

Signed By:

Jerusalem
Arab Catholic Scouts Group
Arab Orthodox Society, Jerusalem
Caritas, Jerusalem
Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees—Middle East Council of Churches
Greek Catholic Sayedat AlBishara Association
International Christian Committee
Laity Committee in the Holy Land
National Christian Association
Pontifical Mission Palestine
Sabeel—Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Seeds of Better life
Union of Arab Orthodox Club, Jerusalem
Young Men’s Christian Association—YMCA
Young Women’s Christian Association—YWCA

 

Gaza
NECC office

 

Bethlehem (NCOB) Network of Christian Organizations in Bethlehem
The East Jerusalem YMCA—Beit Sahour Branch
The Arab Educational Institute
Holy Land Trust, Bethlehem
Wi’am Center, Bethlehem
Saint Afram Assyrian Society
Holy Land Christians Ecumenical Foundation, Bethlehem
Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI)
Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Sahour
Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Jala
Arab Orthodox Club, Bethlehem
The Arab Orthodox Charitable Society, Beit Sahour
Bethlehem Bible College
Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies
Alternative Tourism Group, ATG, Beit Sahour
Senior Citizen Charitable Society
Environmental educational Center, Beit Jala
Saint Vincent Charitable Society, Beit Jala
Shepherds’ Children Society, Beit Sahour
Kairos Palestine

 

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