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PB criticized for postion on Israel, Palestine and divestment

PB criticized for postion on Israel, Palestine and divestment

Sabeel, leading organization for justice, peace and reconciliation in Palestine-Israel has posted an open letter to the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church:

An Open Letter to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

3 April 2012

Dear Bishop Jefferts Schori,

Greetings from Jerusalem on this holy week in which we remember the passion and suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your words at the March 25th Los Angeles luncheon in which you emphatically said, invest in Palestine don’t divest from Israel reached us on Monday of Holy Week. Those words shocked and hurt us. They felt like nails hammered into our bodies and the truth of our reality, as though we Palestinians are living a lie — only imagining things, and if we only eat, talk, and share our stories, everything will be alright. For twenty years now, that is exactly what we have been doing – eating, drinking, telling each other our stories, not to mention hugging and embracing, meanwhile Israel was feasting on our land. Your words sounded as someone who never came and never saw. As we go through holy week, we feel the ongoing agony, pain, and oppression of our people — our homes demolished, our land confiscated, our olive trees uprooted, our human and political rights denied and our dignity trampled. After over 40 years of misery we only hear “the Episcopal Church does not endorse divestment or boycott.”

Economists’ reports, including the World Bank’s, have emphasized the futility of investment under occupation since all key aspects of a true economy are directly in the hands of Israel the occupier. Israel alone holds control of the area’s water, movement and access, every border, air-space, electricity, electromagnetic spectrum, and trade relations. Moreover, the Palestinians have recognized Israel (1988) and its right to exist (1993). They have renounced and denounced “terrorism” and accepted a Palestinian state on 22% of historic Palestine.

Yet, the occupation is not over. The settlements are expanding, our suffering continues, and the international community is unable to halt the injustice. Consequently, we see boycott, divestment, and sanctions as nonviolent direct action for the common good.

We thank God for those people – Christians, Muslims, and Jews who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Thank God for people of conscience who are lifting up their prophetic voice! Thank God for all those, religious and secular people that are standing with us in our nonviolent struggle.

By the mercy of God we will not allow the prophetic voice to die. Thank God for the prophetic voices of people who wrote comments after your words. Thank God for Bishop Desmond Tutu who was not afraid to speak the truth to the powers when he saw the oppression of the Palestinians and declared that it was worse than Apartheid in South Africa!

It is appropriate to recall Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to silence the disciples and the crowd who were shouting “Hosanna!” The word hosanna means save us now. It was the cry of oppressed people who were living under Roman occupation. They were looking for liberation from the yoke of the Romans. The powers were embarrassed and afraid of what the Roman soldiers might do as they were watching on. They turned to Jesus and said, “order them to stop.” Jesus’ response was, “if these were silent, the stones will shout out” (Luke 19:40).

If the church is afraid to cry out against injustice and oppression, the living stones, the common people will cry out. It is the cry of the widow to the unjust judge, “give me justice!” Ultimately, the future is for truth and justice because God is a God of truth and justice. It is only on such foundations that genuine peace can be built. It is not money that Palestinians need most, it is justice and liberation. Everything else will be added to us.

Next Sunday we will proclaim the victory of life over death, of justice over injustice, light over darkness, liberation over enslavement. We will continue to struggle for a just peace for all the people of our land.

Christ is Risen.

Naim Ateek

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem

cc. Bishop Suhail Dawani

Bishop J. Jon Bruno

International Friends of Sabeel Coordinators

Sabeel Board and General Assembly

Christian Century contributer, James M. Wall, writes that he is appalled by the statements by the Presiding BIshop Katharine Jefferts Schori and other churches opposing divestment in Israel:

Episcopalians, United Methodists and Presbyterians are actually debating how they should deal with the Israeli Occupation

Martin Luther King, sitting in that Birmingham city jail, would most certainly inform these prelates that there is no debating evil. A brutal military occupation is not open to debate.

It is a disturbing spectacle. The collective ignorance displayed by many of the men and women—though, thank God, not all—who govern these denominations, boggles the mind.

The issue, my dear Christian friends, is justice, pure and simple. And yet, there they are, these robed religiosos, dripping with interfaith piety, proclaiming that the simple act of divestment of church funds is too harsh a tactic to use against Israel’s settlement obsessed, right-wing government.

What do they teach in seminary these days? Have those Old Testament professors who lead their Israeli-sanctioned “study groups” to the Holy Land removed the prophets from their syllabi?


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I don’t believe in “dictating to Jews” (or anyone).

I don’t believe in blank-checking the Israeli military, either.

I DO believe in non-violence. For Israeli and Palestinian alike. Which ought to be modeled by those seeking to play “fair negotiator”. Yes, as I alluded, I’m not interested in RealPolitik.

JC Fisher

Michael Russell

@JC The is a much greater chance of ending things on the playing field of the rules of war as opposed to the field of the blood fued. In intractable situations it is often useful to move the turf rather than endlessly perpetuating an intractable dynamic.

Israel’s military forces can and should be held accountable for whatever war crimes they have committed. As I said, I expect war crimes trials. That said there is an onus on those who celebrate and perpetuate terrorism against civilian populations while hiding among civilian populations. Those civilians would be wise, if they want a cessation, to drive the terrorists out of their communities. But to say to a stronger force that they must be nice while elements of your community continue to target civilians is so unrealistic as to border on insanity.

Jews have been targeted, persecuted and exterminated for milennia by nearly everyone (an exception being their treatment under earlier more cosmopolitan Islamic regimes). For Christians, the main body of their persecutors, to opine about how they should conduct themselves is disingenuous if not laughable.

I wish the violence to cease, I wish the people of the Middle East could find a path to peace, but it will not come by Christians once again seeking to dictate to Jews how they must respond to what they have good reason to believe is an ongoing effort to exterminate them.

Ann Fontaine

Dear Bill — I am also a critic of the US – I don’t get to decide policies but I oppose our oppressive policies and actions as well as Israel’s. I am ashamed of what goes on in my name.

Ann (no e)

Bill Dilworth

Anne, while I’m for a Palestinian state, it seems richly ironic for an American to talk about other countries as not being civilized because of their oppressive policies and actions.


As hard as this is to swallow, the loser of a war has to surrender and lay down arms before the victor does.

Good Lord, Michael, what does this RealPolitik have to do w/ the Gospel???

Because if we’re playing THAT game, let me react 100% in kind:

IF Israel wants peace—

The last person to die must be an Israeli.

The last 100 people to die must be Israeli.

The last 1000 people to die will, probably, have to be Israeli.

Only by then, maybe, will the Palestinian existential sense of rage&grief&resentment burn itself out, and Palestinian voices DISGUSTED with killing overwhelm the Revenge-Addicts.

Brutal, no? Hard to swallow?

But that’s RealPolitik.

Jesus (and Gandhi and King) offered—offer—us a Better Way.

JC Fisher

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