The voice of a highly respected Palestinian Christian, the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, joined the many others asking the Presiding Bishop and Executive Council endorse the October 15 Letter to Congress from 15 American religious leaders.
Feb. 19th 2013
Dear members of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church,
Greetings from Jerusalem!
The political and human rights situation in our country is becoming more dire and desperate. The government of Israel continues in its unjust policies that daily undermine Palestinian human and political rights.
Recently, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, presented her findings and recommendations to the twenty-second session of the UN Human Rights Council upon a mission conducted to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian State. The comprehensive report clearly states that Israel’s Settlements violate international law. It calls on Israel to stop immediately the construction of all settlements and outposts, to develop a strategy to reverse their effect, and to repeal all legislation that does not comply with the principle of non-discrimination. (Please see the attached conclusion and recommendations of the report.)
A few months ago, a letter was sent to members of the U.S. Congress which said, “we urge an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limit the use of U.S. weapons to “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.” The letter was signed by 15 heads of U.S. churches and church organizations Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic.
We were astounded and saddened at the absent signature of our Episcopal Church. We could not comprehend the reasons behind the hesitation to sign, since the letter was addressed to the Congress of the United States and what was requested was within the legitimate and legal expectations of Americans. In fact, the letter reflected the concern of fellow American citizens about the possible violation of U.S. law that could have moral and ethical implications.
Regardless of the reluctance of some of our Jerusalem church leaders, Palestinian Christians, among them Episcopalians, believe that it is important for the church to raise its prophetic voice and do whatever it can against the unjust and oppressive measures of the Israeli government.
In light of the continuing injustice of the occupation, I would like to urge the Executive Council to do what our baptismal vows require of us, as well as what God and our conscience demand for the sake of Palestinian brothers and sisters who are suffering dehumanization. The Human Rights Council report can be a guide in its recommendations.
Therefore, let me boldly request that you keep the voice of conscience alive, not only to recommend that the letter to Congress be signed, but also to take the matter a step further by, for example, holding a press conference on the Hill in order to challenge the silence and complicity of the people in power vis-à-vis the injustice against the Palestinians.
Let compassion and love move us to do justice to our brothers and sisters in Palestine.
The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, Director
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem.