ISRAEL & PALESTINE:
and WHY IT MATTERS TO US
Our decision to host FOSNA’s “Justice for Palestine” conference has already drawn criticism from some quarters, even from cherished friends. As peacemakers, we are especially committed to dialogue and conversation with those who disagree with stands we take and initiatives we pursue. We will continue to imagine the broadest and most generous kind of peace, a peace that provides security for Israelis and Palestinians, for Jews, Christians and Muslims and all others. And we will resist any temptation to be drawn into angry blaming or shaming of one side or the other. The point in our work—and in the prophetic witness of our United Church of Christ—is to follow in the steps of Jesus and work humbly and bravely for real change and real peace and real justice.
In this light, we are clear that the health and well-being of Israel and the Israeli people is every bit as dear to us as the health and well-being of Palestine and the Palestinian people. Indeed, we honor the vitality and wisdom of Israeli culture. A good many of us have traveled in Israel and experienced, first-hand, the deep and inspired spirit of the land and its people. Many of us would say that the particular nonviolent campaign promoted among peacemakers in Palestine and Israel is directed at the liberation of Israel (from fear, terror, perpetual conflict) even as it looks toward Palestinian automony. The goal, fleeting though it may be, is still a thriving Palestinian state in neighborly partnership with a thriving Israeli state. The spiritual orientation of our work--at Peace United Church--is inclusive and universal. One God invites all peoples into communion. And sometimes that means hard work, prophetic work, and taking a stand.
From the Palestinian Churches we have heard a resonant call: Help us! Join us in solidarity and nonviolence! In the 2009 KAIROS PALESTINE letter, Palestinian clergy urged Western churches to participate in a campaign of boycott and divestment, aimed at pressuring the Israeli economy and government to cease illegal settlements in the West Bank and negotiate in good faith toward statehood for the Palestinian people. These same clergy resist any suggestion that violence or hatred is a moral or useful strategy. Instead, they turn to the ways of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Desmond Tutu and others: the ways of economic nonviolence in the pursuit of justice.
Some in the boycott movement have sadly lost hope in the 'two-state' possibility. But it's easy to see why. The occupation of the West Bank--accelerated every month it seems by another illegal settlement--makes a viable and healthy Palestinian state problematic. It seems wise and reasonable, we think, for proponents of nonviolence and democracy (wherever they stand on the two-state/one-state issue) to talk to one another, to collaborate, to be in communication. These, we hope, will be the partners for nation-building that Israel so dearly wants and needs. There's a whole lot of negotiation to be done. The point of the boycott movement is to bring the two sides (as imbalanced as they are at present) to a fair and meaningful negotiaton.
It’s certainly possible that Peace United Church will face criticism in the press and beyond in the weeks leading up to the “Justice for Palestine” conference. We state here, as clearly as we can, our love and respect for all peoples involved, all traditions involved, all the hopeful leaders who seek peace and justice through nonviolence and love. We hope and pray for the day a thriving Palestinian state--representing a resilient and brilliant people--dwells in the Holy Land side by side with a thriving Israeli state--representing a resilient and brilliant people. In the meantime, we pledge to play our small part in working toward that vision with peoples of courage and good will.