As the issues it addresses are of deep concern to us, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network is hosting the following letter. It was, however, generated exclusively by those who are its signatories.
Episcopal Voices of Conscience
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 21, 2013
A Prophetic Challenge to the Executive Council
“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”- Martin Luther King , Jr. August 28, 1963 Washington, D.C.
Today as we celebrate the life and witness of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., we affirm once more that we will continue to build on his dream of a fully inclusive America, “where we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Today we also want to invoke Dr. King’s call for justice on the land where Jesus lived his earthly ministry, the holy land that is precious to all Jews, Christians, and Muslims – the people of Abraham. We affirm that God intends for Israeli Jews and Palestinians to live together in a just peace. Dr. King reminds us that justice must be the arbiter of this conflict, and we add that truth must be its accompanist. This is the justice Jesus called for when he said, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, … to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
Just as this church stood with South Africa and Namibia during the dark days of Apartheid, so we recognize that we need to be standing with our sister and brother Palestinians who have endured an Apartheid that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has described as worse than it was in South Africa. All peoples who have experienced oppression, including indigenous peoples who have known what it is to be dispossessed of their land, understand the Palestinian issue.
Israel must be held accountable for allowing an occupation for 45 years that suffocates the dreams of freedom that Palestinians hold every bit as much as African Americans sought on that day when Dr. King told the world that he had a dream. Occupation cannot be justified as a tool of security. Occupation is its own form of violence, a prescription for frustration and rage among those shackled under its harsh restraints.
We ask the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church to look carefully at the full body of our Church’s policy on Israel and Palestine, and to implement those policies whenever the opportunity arises. The Episcopal Church General Convention held in July, 2012, adopted resolution A015 which reads in part: “Resolved, That that the General Convention reaffirms Resolution 1991 – A149, “Urge a Full Accounting of the Use of Foreign Aid to the Middle East,” adopted by the 70th General Convention,” which reads in part: “require(s) the State of Israel to account to the Government of the United States for all aid to Israel…in compliance with the Foreign Assistance Act.”
As elected leaders of The Episcopal Church, we ask Executive Council to:
- Immediately send a message to Congress that the Episcopal Church supports our 15 ecumenical colleagues, who include the church leadership of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and United Church of Christ denominations, that wrote to Congress October 5, 2012, calling for accountability of Israel’s use of foreign aid from our government. The voice of The Episcopal Church is woefully missing in the request our colleagues made to Congress.
- Immediately move forward with our Church’s corporate engagement policy so that our financial resources are not being used to support the infrastructure of this suffocating occupation.
- We respectfully ask for a public accounting of the Executive Council’s work on these matters no later than the meeting of Council June 8-10, 2013.
The truth that is so readily seen worldwide, except among our nation’s leaders, is that Israel imposes a matrix of control over the occupied Palestinian territories, locating Jewish settlements on prime Palestinian land, building segregated roads forbidden to Palestinians to connect the settlers to Israel proper, erecting a wall that causes havoc in the daily lives of Palestinians and serves as another pretext to occupy yet more land. We see check points that are used to control the movements of people on their own land where tactics of bullying, intimidation, and detention are practiced; and where the demolition of homes and the uprooting of olive tree orchards are commonplace causing further humiliation and insult, along with the destruction of livelihoods. We see what was once Palestinian East Jerusalem being subsumed through Israel’s settlement policy. We see the teeming population of Gaza held under confinement on land, in the air, and at sea.
We ask today why is it that Congress and the White House are unable to see the injustice of the occupation, where Israel is the oppressor, and the Palestinians the oppressed? Why is it that our government could not recognize the rights of Palestinians to status as a non-member observer state at the United Nations? Why do our country’s leaders embarrass us as a nation by being on the short end of the UN vote, 138-9, and expose our irrational bias? We are mystified that Washington lives in a bubble of unreality in its blind support of an immense injustice perpetrated every day on the Palestinian people, and foments anger across the Middle East and the world.
Just as Dr. King spoke to the throngs on the Mall of our nation’s Capitol so, too, do his words ring true for Palestinians: “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”
We believe, as does our Church, in the right of the state of Israel to exist, and we are aware of the threats against it from multiple sources, which saddens and concerns us. We assure all Jews in Israel and everywhere that we too share a commitment to Israel’s security and peace even as we insist that the state of Israel end this miserable occupation, which diminishes both the oppressed and the oppressor. We affirm our commitment to non-violence and reject the use of violence from either side. We oppose the indiscriminate use of rockets fired into Israeli communities as we oppose bombs being dropped on Gaza by Israeli fighter jets. We affirm the right of Israel to be at peace with her neighbors, but insist it be through the prism of justice as we believe Dr. King would insist.
As our Church stated in 1991, we differentiate between anti-Semitism, which we abhor, and legitimate criticism of the state of Israel, especially as Israel imposes an unjust system of occupation upon another people. We affirm the right of Palestinians to non-violent resistance to the occupation just as African Americans resisted the inhumanity of Jim Crow and segregation.
And just as Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, we hear from Palestinians who have a dream. We hear from Israeli Jews of goodwill that share that dream. May both peoples dream as Martin Luther King, Jr. did: “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
We turn to our elected Church leaders, the Executive Council, to take up the mantle of justice and truth and undertake the long standing witness The Episcopal Church has made over these last three decades. We ask you, our elected leaders, to give voice to our long held policies, remembering that the arc of history bends towards justice.
Signed- Titles are for identification purposes only and do not imply organizational endorsement
Canon Bonnie Anderson, D.D., President of the Episcopal Church House of Deputies, 2006-2012
Owanah Anderson, citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
The Right Reverend Edmond L. Browning, former Presiding Bishop, 1986-1997, Current President of Sabeel, North America
Patti Browning , wife of Edmond Browning and long time activist for Palestinian justice
The Right Reverend Steven Charleston, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska, retired
The Right Reverend Leo Frade, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida
The Reverend Canon Brian J. Grieves, former Peace and Justice Officer, The Episcopal Church 1988-2009
The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean, Washington National Cathedral
Diane B. Pollard, Senior Deputy to General Convention, Diocese of New York, 1979 – 2012
The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, retired, current Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC
The Reverend Canon Edward Rodman, John Seeley Stone Professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry, Episcopal Divinity School
The Reverend Winnie Varghese, Rector, St. Mark’s in- the-Bowery, New York, Executive Council 2006-2012
Supported by Internationals endorsers:
Dr. Jenny Te Paa – Dean, Te Rau Kahikatea, St. Johns College, Auckland, New Zealand
The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu – Archbishop Emeritus, Cape Town, Patron of Sabeel, International