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Israel/Palestine: interfaith pilgrimage is not enough

Israel/Palestine: interfaith pilgrimage is not enough

Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network argues that there needs to be more than interfaith pilgrimages if peace is to come to the Holy Land.

EPF PIN offers an alternate vision to the interfaith pilgrimage model of General Convention 2012’s Resolution B019: “Standing against Injustice”

…when we have come home from our time in Palestine and Israel and sought to share our understanding and experiences we realized that our understanding often differs from commonly held perceptions and misinformation about the region. Moreover, we have been too often rebuffed, put off, patronized, and scolded by our Church for our efforts. We perceive that the Church is reluctant to hear us because the truth we bring home from Palestine/Israel is an inconvenient one. It is not in line with the dominant narrative and it forces confrontation with a troubling reality: that the occupying power over Palestinians is a state of Israel that does not comport with their myth of Israel. This truth about the occupation disturbs the ecumenical expediency that some have chosen.

We write this today to widely share what we have learned in our time in Palestine/Israel, and to call people of the Church to rebuff what is merely convenient and stand with us against injustice.

We have learned that the occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza were imposed by military force without provocation from Palestinians. We know that the occupation and blockade are strangleholds on Palestinian lives maintained by massive military might over powerless and disenfranchised people. We understand that the occupation and blockade are not intended to establish either Israeli security or Palestinian independence, but are ruthlessly constructed to gain land and authority by disrupting and degrading Palestinian life and society. Our witness on the ground over many years and from many perspectives has shown us the tools of occupation and blockade:

  • Relentless daily violence causing thousands of deaths and injuries, including thousands of children.
  • Three invasions of Gaza since 2009 leaving thousands dead, mostly women and children, tens of thousands injured, thousands of homes destroyed, and almost complete obliteration of infrastructure. The United Nations predicts that without remedy Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Yet no remedy is permitted.
  • Thousands of people imprisoned, many without charges or legal access, including the 15% of prisoners who are children or adolescents.
  • More than 25,000 Palestinian homes destroyed.
  • Control of every aspect of life: entry and exit of all persons or objects; control of movement and access including health care access; control of all borders, air and sea space; control of water and land resources; prohibition of free press and assembly; frequent military invasions of home and village; and theft of homes, land and residency rights for Jerusalemites.
  • Illegal establishment and promotion of hundreds of Jewish settlements with about 500,000 inhabitants disrupting Palestinian territorial integrity. Increasing violence by some settlers against Palestinians that includes murder and assault, theft of resources, vandalism of mosques and churches, poisoning of wells, and killing of animals – enough violence to now require monitoring by the United Nations, yet not prosecuted by Israeli authorities.
  • Control of the economy including control of tax revenues that are frequently withheld – another example of collective punishment – imposing further hardship on an existence that barely holds on.

We have learned that “negotiations” and “the peace process” are cynical charades intended to perpetuate the status quo. The only process going on is a rapacious diplomatic abuse of Palestinian integrity by powerful Israeli and US governments who pursue geopolitical gains at the cost of human life and dignity. The fine print of “generous offers” to Palestinians so touted in western media reveals that such offers are in fact attempts to institutionalize the occupation by creating a Palestinian state with no control of its air, sea or land borders, no control of its electronic telecommunications system, continued Israeli military presence on the borders and within the state, maintenance of settlements, and no sovereignty in its rightful capital Jerusalem. No responsible or right-thinking person would accept such a “generous” offer.

We have also seen that some Palestinians resist these crimes and atrocities with violence. We are unafraid to acknowledge that this episodic violence of resistance pales beside the brutal, relentless violence of the occupation -violence that is without limits and does not demure to slaughter hundreds of children in Gaza.

We call on people of the Church to recover the authentic Jesus – the Jesus who decried injustice, whose faith was action and not words, who spoke the truth as he knew it and stood boldly by it in the face of discomfort or displeasure of listeners.

We call on baptized people of the Church to recall that their covenant to strive for justice and respect dignity is for all people whether they are familiar to us or not. We will not participate in dismembering the body of Christ and we call on people of the Church to join us.

We call on deacons, priests, bishops and national leaders to prayerfully reflect on whether a community that stifles some voices and privileges others is truly a life-giving and fruitful community.

We call on people of the Church to honor our Jewish foundation and to affirm the great wrong of the Holocaust, but to also acknowledge that for Israel to carry that tragedy to punish Palestinians is maladaptive and destructive. Let those who yearn for “balance” come to terms with the hard truth that there is no balance in the face of injustice. Who would call for balance regarding slavery, segregation, or pogrom? In Palestine and Israel the injustice flows in only one direction.

We call on people to deplore violence but to refute the biased view that violent acts by Israelis are isolated bad-apple incidents but violence by Palestinians is typical and systemic.

We call on people to resist religious bullying that extorts silence against injustice for the sake of an ecumenical deal. We call on people of the church to deflect the unfounded and empty innuendo of anti-Semitism with resolute pursuit of the justice imperative. We call on people to face the truth that the goal of Zionism is to seek hegemony over the land and is not according to Judaic ideals.

We call on people of the Church to read, reflect, and study the Kairos Palestine Document supported by patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem in 2009 and the Call to Action: US Response to the Kairos Palestine Document.

Read more and see the petition here.


Posted by Ann Fontaine


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Whit Johnstone

” We have learned these things from time spent in Bethlehem and Palestine, from contact and friendships with Palestinians, from shared meals and the hospitalities of their homes, churches, mosques and shops. We have wept with them and railed with them against the injustice.”

I’m not saying that the EPF shouldn’t have lived with and learned from Palestinians. But it seems like they did not live with and learn from Israelis as well. I think if they had volunteered with and lived on a traditional kibbutz, had mourned with the survivors of a suicide attack, attended an Israeli gay pride parade, and spoken to the young men and women of the IDF they would have come away with a much more balanced view of the situation. There are wrongs on both sides of the Palestine/Israel conflict. Christians have served and have died on both sides of the conflict. Resolution B019 acknowledged that. I hope that as a church we will continue to pray for peace without taking sides.

Donna Hicks

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

Desmond Tutu

Whit Johnstone

In the Holy Land the oppression and injustice is not all on one side. Suicide bombings are never a legitimate tactic. Ever. Under any circumstances. Period. Nor are indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilian targets, though Americans can’t say that without hypocrisy considering what we did to Germany and Japan in WWII.

William Gilders

“We call on people to face the truth that the goal of Zionism is to seek hegemony over the land and is not according to Judaic ideals.” ~ A group of Christians have no business making declaration about what is or is not “according to Judaic ideals.” (Never mind this slanderous, anti-Semitic claim about Zionism, the movement of Jewish national liberation. SHAME on the “Episcopal Peace Fellowship”!)

JC Fisher

“Moreover, we have been too often rebuffed, put off, patronized, and scolded by our Church for our efforts. We perceive that the Church is reluctant to hear us because the truth we bring home from Palestine/Israel is an inconvenient one.”


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