In late July, 2011, the Palestine Israel Network’s Steering Committee joined the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s National Executive Council in endorsing the International Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights. Network members are encouraged to study the origins and rationale for the campaign and to learn of the many levels at which it may be engaged. A BDS Primer is included on the PIN website with references to other organizations and websites for further study and opportunities for engagement.
The Palestine Israel Network’s beginnings lay in the recognition that on behalf of our Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters we, individually as Christians and corporately as a Church, are called to a more robust fulfillment of our baptismal covenant to …strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. We heard the call of the Palestinian Civil Society in 2005 and the call of Christians in the Kairos Palestine document of 2009, both asking us to embrace the non-violent strategy of BDS to help end the occupation and bring justice and peace to all the people in that troubled land. In order to fulfill our covenantal promise and respond to the earnest call of our Palestinian brothers and sisters, we commend the BDS campaign to all our members.
Underlying our baptismal covenant and the call from oppressed people is a holy imperative, articulated by the prophets of Israel and embodied in the person and ministry of Jesus to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God. In pursuing this strategy we recognize our motivation must be love, not retribution.
Christians have a long and distinguished history of engaging strategies of non-violent resistance in the form of boycotts, divestment and civil disobedience to help end injustice. They were employed in the Civil Rights Campaign in this country and were an effective tool in the campaign to press for fair wages and decent working conditions for farm workers in the American West and South. The boycott of international oil companies in support of the long and courageous struggle by so many to end apartheid in South Africa was endorsed by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 1988. And in 1991 it called upon the President and Congress to reinstate sanctions against South Africa until it was assured that the process for ending apartheid was irreversible. In relation to the Middle East conflict the Episcopal Church has consistently recognized the illegality of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Occupied Territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Through its policy of corporate engagement it petitioned Motorola in 1994 to end sales to Israeli settlements located in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. And at that year’s General Convention it called upon the United States government to withhold financial support of Israel to the extent it helps fuel the growth of illegal Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Many years have been spent engaging a strategy of supporting and encouraging initiatives toward justice and peace at the official level of the “peace process”. We were encouraged by the 1993 Oslo Accords and the prospects of movement toward a final status agreement. But Oslo has been an enormous disappointment for the Palestinian people and, effectively, a cover for Israel to extend its control of the West Bank through the growth and expansion of extensive new settlements. Current efforts to revive the “peace process” have revealed the degree to which United States foreign policy is held captive by the Israeli lobby. As things stand today, there is a fundamental flaw to the concept of a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians. At the negotiating table, Israel and the Palestinians are far from equal parties. One is the occupier; the other, the occupied. One has enormous military power; the other has none. If it had the will, the administration and the U.S. Congress could help equalize the power differential, but to this date, it has not chosen to.
As a rabbi recently asked, “Does anyone know of any colonial power that has voluntarily relinquished its power and control?” Sadly, the answer is no. We wish Israel were the exception, and our Jewish friends have particular reason to wish it, but it is not.
We engage the non-violent strategy of BDS to help correct the power differential. We engage BDS in the hope that it will help “persuade” Israel that ending the occupation and granting equal rights to its Palestinian citizens is in its own self interest. Boycotts seldom do serious economic damage to the boycotted, but the strategy has proven to be the most effective way to educate the world to an enormous injustice and mobilize efforts to move all parties to a just and peaceful solution.
As Martin King observed, “the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice”. And as President Obama added, it does not bend on its own. It needs each of us to do our part. We invite you to study the rationale and principles of the BDS movement and to join us and a growing international community in this non-violent strategy to end injustice and to launch us on that long path to peace.