We share a homily prepared for Friends of Sabeel North America’s Keep Awake! campaign to send us through Advent. Check this link for Boyd Evans’s homily. Boyd is an EPF PIN member and part of its Education work group.
We share a homily prepared for Friends of Sabeel North America’s Keep Awake! campaign to send us through Advent. Check this link for Boyd Evans’s homily. Boyd is an EPF PIN member and part of its Education work group.
EPF-PIN Commends CCSR on 50 Years of Service
The Episcopal Church’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility will celebrate 50 years of advocacy in 2021. The committee was created by Executive Council in 1971 and oversaw the filing of the first ever shareholder resolution by a faith based organization. The resolution asked General Motors to withdraw from apartheid South Africa. Presiding Bishop John Hines personally spoke to the resolution at GM’s annual meeting. A video is being prepared that will chronicle the faithful behind-the-scenes work of corporate engagement and action for responsible investing over the last 50 years. This is a video that EPF PIN members won’t want to miss! It will be an educational opportunity to learn about the quiet, persistent work of volunteer CCSR members supported by staff and consultants, who, working with interdenominational allies, bring Gospel values to the “worldly” process of investment.
Since General Convention 2018, CCSR has worked to implement PIN-supported Resolution B016: calling for a Human Rights Investment Screen for Israel/Palestine thus establishing a No-Buy List for church investments, and divestment from companies already in the portfolio. B016 was adopted by the 2018 General Convention in Austin, Texas. According to the Episcopal News Service: Bishop Dan Edwards of Nevada spoke in favor of B016 before the vote, saying it balances targeted divestment from companies when appropriate with shareholder activism when that might produce greater results. “There is a time to disinvest, and there is a time to do shareholder activism,” Edwards said. “This resolution provides for both of those. To do one without the other is to limp badly.”
Subsequently CCSR prepared and Council adopted the screen in October 2019. As a result, Council approved divestment from Caterpillar, Motorola and the Israel Discount Bank. Last month, CCSR recommended and the Executive Committee of Council added Leumi Bank and DXC (formerly part of Hewlett-Packard), bringing to five the companies from which TEC has divested since General Convention 2018 on the basis of human rights violations. Corporate engagement with several companies, including Trip Advisor and Booking will be on-going in the coming year. These companies advertise in the illegal West Bank Settlements. Engagement involves an interdenominational presence at shareholder meetings, advocating for corporate compliance with international human rights.
The screen was made to apply to human rights issues globally, with specific criteria for Israel/Palestine. Thus CCSR is challenging companies to observe human rights wherever they operate, including Myanmar (on behalf of the Rohingya) and China (on behalf of the Uighur). Environmental justice and human rights issues often overlap. Currently, a new effort vis a vis Chevron has emerged. Chevron has purchased Noble Energy, leader in gas drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, including off the coast of Gaza. Correspondence has been sent by interdenominational advocates to Chevron’s corporate headquarters requesting further information on its corporate human rights policy.
The work of CCSR demonstrates that the way we deal with our money and investments witnesses to our grounding in the spiritual gifts which are ours in Baptism. Among the many gifts given for spiritual discernment, such as teaching, prophecy, and healing, is administration or oversight. Those charged with oversight are called to be exemplary in love. This means that God’s love for Creation must shine forth in all of our decision-making, including the ways we invest our treasure to further our mission. Therefore, attention must be paid to social responsibility in investments. The ultimate question faces us: does this investment promote abundant life for all Creation or does it underwrite death-dealing forces that prey on the human community and the natural world? EPF PIN believes that justice is love in action. We are thankful for the dedicated work of CCSR, putting love in action over 50 years. We look forward to celebrating that witness in 2021.
Antisemitism in Real Time
Antisemitism is lived in real time. It unfolds in a matrix of Judaism, Zionism, Christian Zionism, Israel, white supremacy, the Palestinian narrative and its censorship. Because of this it is extremely important to know what antisemitism is, and what it is not. We are seeing how difficult it is to define antisemitism as an objective legal construct. As such it tends toward the silencing of speech. What is needed is more dialogue about what is being lived out in real time.
President Donald Trump debated his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden on September 29. When asked about white supremacy and the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group, the President told that group to “stand back and stand by.” They took this as an affirmation and command to stand ready to act. The next day Israel’s Jerusalem Post, a centrist, English language paper, asked “Are the Proud Boys anti-Semitic?” (sic) According to the article, the founder of the Proud Boys, Gavin McInnes, “went on an anti-Semitic (sic) rant in 2017, in which he defended Holocaust denial and repeated anti-Semitic (sic) stereotypes. The rant came in a video he originally titled ’10 things I hate about the Jews.’” 1. (See the note on spelling of antisemitism) Antisemitism, as McInnes makes clear, is hatred of and violence toward Jews because they are Jews, part of which is Holocaust denial. But it is not so simple.
White Supremacy and Antisemitism
Reaction to the debate linked antisemitism and white supremacy. White supremacy, racism, and antisemitism exist on common ground where race-based binaries are the rule – White over Black, Gentile over Jew, Israeli over Palestinian, and so on. Supremacy is about the privileged keeping out the other. It builds walls whether along the Mexican border or in Israel keeping out those who “don’t belong.” One message on the Palestinian side of the Israeli barrier says: “Walls don’t work here, and they won’t work in America.” Standing up for Black Lives Matter is like standing up for Jews in Charlottesville is like standing up for Palestinians in the occupied territories. One can imagine an anti-racist world, but it won’t happen on its own. It will take action. Every good work no matter how small is essential. It adds its own momentum or intention toward every other in creating a place of inclusion and equality.
“How to fight antisemitism”
On November 11, 2019 Senator Bernie Sanders published an article in Jewish Currents entitled: “How to Fight Antisemitism.” 2. He spoke of himself as a “proud Jewish American.” Antisemitism, he said, is “a conspiracy theory that a secretly powerful minority exercises control over society.” Hence the white nationalist slogan against Jews in Charlottesville, “You will not replace us;” and the shooter at the Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018 blaming Jews for a supposed non-white invasion of immigrants from Latin America that would “replace” the white race. The day after this killing of eleven synagogue worshipers Christian-Jewish Allies for a Just Peace for Israel/Palestine met in Philadelphia. Among the gathered Jews and Christians that day were broken hearts, shared empathy, and the strength that comes from closeness. Susan Landau with Noushin Framke in a paper “On Antisemitism” 3. “conclude that the best way to stand against antisemitism is to stand in solidarity with all struggles for justice against all racism, bigotry, oppression and injustice.”
Indeed Sanders in his paper added that “while antisemitism is a threat to Jews everywhere, it is also a threat to democratic governance itself.” Antisemites “hate the idea of multiracial democracy… of political equality.” He states unequivocally, “We should be very clear that it is not anti-Semitic (sic) to criticize the policies of the Israeli government.”
Antisemitism is attributing to Jews the fantastical power to replace a majority segment of the population. Ironically it is also the inverse. It attributes to Jews such inferiority that justifies their domination. “To consider Jews as better than or worse than other people is antisemitic,” say Landau and Framke.
Antisemitism and criticism of Israel
On the same day that Sanders published his article, I was in the West Bank village of Taybeh. The television ran news reports on the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death. The next morning, Mondoweiss reported that during a commemorative march in the Al-Arroub refugee camp Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man.4. The soldiers fired live ammunition, tear gas, and stun grenades into the camp that is one of the most crowded areas in the world. A tear gas canister exploded next to the house of Omar al-Badawi, causing a small fire. When al-Badawi went out with a bottle of water to douse it, a soldier fired hitting him in the abdomen and killing him. It is not inherently antisemitic to criticize Israeli policy that de facto permits the shooting of unarmed Palestinians.
It is not antisemitic to criticize Israel’s wall that has been ruled illegal by the International Court for annexing 10% of occupied land. Israel’s 2018 Jewish Nation State Law passed in 2018 declared that Israel is the national home of Jews only, establishing racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens. It is not in itself antisemitic to challenge Israel’s racism, and lack of equal rights for all its residents.
Antisemitism and Zionism
It is not inherently antisemitic to criticize Zionism, or even to be anti-Zionist. Zionism is a political ideology that aligns itself “with the goals of the modern state of Israel, some through cultural, economic and political means, some through military and other violent strategies.” (https://www.palestineportal.org/learn-teach/israelpalestine-the-basics/glossary/) Not all Jews support the policies of the State of Israel. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Jews outside of Israel believe they are in exile. Political scientist Dov Waxman in Trouble in the Tribe writes: “the vast majority of American Jews reject the basic elements of classical Zionism – that Diaspora Jews live in exile, that Jewish life in Israel is superior to life in the Diaspora, and that Diaspora Jewish life is doomed to eventually disappear. American Jews do not think they live in exile and they do not regard Israel as their homeland.”5. Clearly, anti-Zionist critique of discriminatory practices in Israel and valuing of life in “diaspora” is not antisemitic.
Antisemitism and Christian Zionism
Christian Zionists believe that the covenant with Abraham is still in effect. They point to Genesis 12: 1-3 where God sends Abram to a land revealed to him. Christian Zionism is a public theology that supports Israel in all its actions. To do so is an act of blessing. In verse 3 of chapter 12, God says: I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (NRSV) Christian Zionism fuses religion with politics, rather than places them in dialogue or in prophetic challenge. The removal of Israeli settlers for them is not blessed by God. Any criticism of the State of Israel for them is not only antisemitic but also against God’s will.
For Christian Zionists the promise of the land is permanent and unconditional. They will not accept any peace that would weaken Israel’s hold on the land. The settler colonists of Israel came to stay. Settler colonialism asserts state sovereignty over occupied lands and typically seeks to cleanse as far as possible the indigenous population. Settler colonists foster the falsehood that the land was without people before their arrival while also ironically setting up defenses (think “wall”) against the people whose land had been colonized. It is not anti-Semitic to be critical of Christian Zionism. In fact I believe that it is the responsibility of mainstream Christians to stand against Christian Zionism that misuses scripture to fan the flames of separation, inequality, and injustice.
The Challenge of Codifying Antisemitism
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism was originally composed to help police in their identification of hate crimes. It was meant as a guide. Its current political usage has caused confusion and silenced Israel-critical speech. The IHRA holds that: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” The content of the definition can be interpreted as overly broad. But of the eleven examples that follow (not meant to be part of the definition) some imply that criticism of Israel is antisemitic. Even the Palestinian narrative itself can be interpreted as antisemitic. Rebecca Ruth Gould in an article 6. worries that the use of this definition for antisemitism erases Palestinians. She writes: “In the US, Donald Trump’s executive order directing government agencies to consider the IHRA definition, signed on December 2019, immediately resulted in three complaints filed with the Department of Education targeting Palestine advocacy on university campuses.”
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions
An example of Palestine advocacy that is being silenced is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. “By then end of November 2018, twenty-six states had taken official action to discourage, punish, or prevent participation in boycotts targeting Israel.” 7. The BDS movement was begun in 2005 by Palestinian activists to place non-violent, international and economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation, grant equal rights to all residents of Israel, and to assure a right of return for Palestinian refugees. Today the movement is made up of unions, academic associations, churches, and grassroots organizations across the world. Ian Lustick, professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania in his book Paradigm Lost explains that BDS focuses “on realizing Palestinian rights to equality and nondiscrimination under international law and the laws of the state that governs them.” 8. Lest there be any misunderstanding, he adds: “There is today one and only one state ruling the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and its name is Israel.” 9.
Antisemitism is not a definition that is imposed on a situation from outside that can be used to carry out a political agenda such as shutting down a boycott, a people’s story, or a demand for equal rights. Rather it is lived in real time. We see it in the intersectional territory of white supremacy where hatred and violence are carried out upon Jews because they are Jews, where race-based binaries exist: Black over White, Gentile over Jew. Antisemitic beliefs encompass the irony that Jews have fantastic, hidden power to control society and that Jewish inferiority begs their control and domination.
Antisemitism is not criticizing Israeli government policy. It is not denouncing military shooting of unarmed Palestinians or the detaining of their children. It is not inherently antisemitic to challenge Israel’s racism. It is not antisemitic to criticize Zionism, or Christian Zionism.
What is necessary is for all people of goodwill to stand in solidarity, to draw strength from one another, in order to oppose hatred, oppression, and injustice. Every action, even if all we can do is something small, makes a difference. It adds heft to the larger world effort to create places of inclusion and equality.
A note on the spelling of antisemitism. Although The Jerusalem Post uses the spelling anti-Semitism, this article will follow the policy of Jewish Voice for Peace who choose not to use the European-created racial category “Semite.” Nell Irvin Painter observes that today “biologists and geneticists (not to mention literary critics) no longer believe in the physical existence of races – though they recognize the continuing power of racism…” (and one might add antisemitism) (Painter, Nell Irvin; The History of White People; New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010; p. 12). The statement of Jewish Voice for Peace is as follows: “We have chosen to use the spelling ‘antisemitism,’ following the advice of scholars in Jewish Studies who have made a compelling case for this spelling. The category ‘Semite’ was developed as part of European pseudo-scientific theories of race in the 19th century. We want to be clear that the spelling of ‘antisemitism’ should not be used to further the separation of ‘Arabs’ and ‘Jews.’” (Framke, Noushin and Landau, Susan; “On Antisemitism;” The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); September 2, 2020; http://new.israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org/80-home/407-on-antisemitism). Further, Jewish Voice for Peace explains, “the use of the hyphen and upper case, as in ‘anti-Semitism,’ legitimates the pseudo-scientific category of Semitism, which sorts humans into different races, justifies racial hierarchies, and argues for discrimination, supremacist policies, and worse.” (Framke, Noushin and Landau, Susan, editors; Why Palestine Matters: The Struggle to End Colonialism; Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2018; p.10n.)
Last week, the Steering Committee for EPF PIN voted unanimously to endorse the Palestinian Letter to Congress issued by the Invest in Justice for All Coalition. The letter, signed by dozens of Palestinian leaders in the work for justice, is meant to send a message from the Palestinian American community to the members of Congress demanding an end to US military funding for Israel and to support the struggle for Palestinian rights.
Those leaders then asked their own and other Palestinian-led organizations to endorse the letter. Nearly 50 organizations have done so by the time of this writing. With Palestinian voices representing both the authorship and endorsement of the letter, your EPF PIN and nearly 40 other allied organizations raising consciousness about, and support for, justice and human rights for Palestinians also agreed to endorse the letter. EPF PIN is excited to lend its support and encouragement to these US-based Palestinian leaders.
We agree with the letters’ authors that our elected officials have “excluded Palestinians from policy conversations,” continue to “sideline and dehumanize the Palestinian people” and are increasing efforts in this country to “criminalize any resistance to Israel’s ongoing military occupation and dispossession” of Palestinian lands. The result of this undemocratic exclusion of Palestinian voices has lead our government to support a foreign policy which “perpetuates violence and prevents a just resolution for all.”
EPF PIN encourages its members and friends to support this effort to raise the voices of Palestinian-Americans concerned for justice. The letter, we note, was signed by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American elected to Congress. It builds on grassroots efforts supported by EPF PIN earlier this year to oppose Israeli threats of de jure annexation of additional Palestinian land, for legislators to end US military funding to Israel, and to reinvest in local community needs. The letter also follows efforts by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, leading lawmakers in committing to introduce legislation to reduce Israeli military funding, as well as Rep. Betty McCollum’s recent bill to prevent US funding of further Israeli land theft in Palestine.
The Invest in Justice for All Coalition including the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), the Adalah Justice Project, Eyewitness Palestine, MPower Change, Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), and the Democratic Socialists of America Palestine Working Group. The link to sign on can be found here.
On Wednesday, September 23rd, the internet meeting platform company Zoom refused to allow San Francisco State University professors Rabab Abdulhadi and Tomomi Kinukawa from airing their scheduled classroom presentation entitled Whose Narratives?: Gender, Justice, and Resistance. Zionist and pro-Israel critics had objected to the planned participation of Leila Khaled, a leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Attempts to move the presentation to other platforms, including Facebook Live and YouTube were either rejected or blocked. In response to these actions, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network (EPF PIN) has issued the following statement:
EPF PIN calls attention to recent action by the popular media platforms YouTube, Zoom, and Facebook that resulted in the censoring and suppression of voices for justice. The Steering Committee of EPF PIN
The circumstances, explained in detail in the JVP statement, silenced important voices in the Palestinian struggle for liberation and justice while also denying listeners the opportunity to be exposed to dissenting views. The importance and terrible cost of this action extend far beyond concerns about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Censorship and the attempted control of discourse exemplified by the action weaken the framework of a healthy republic and undermine its most precious freedoms. In a time when our national conversations openly tout voter suppression, refusal to guarantee peaceful transition of power, and divisive affirmations that only some lives matter, actions like that of YouTube, Zoom, and Facebook add momentum to a dangerous trend toward authoritarianism in our country. They cannot be ignored and must be opposed.
In recent years, EPF PIN has stood with JVP and many other human rights organizations, as well as with a growing number of national and international leaders, in opposing legislation that criminalizes criticism of the state of Israel. Such criticism is neither antisemitic or unwarranted. Indeed, the difficult and uncomfortable truth is that many policies, laws and practices of the state of Israel demand criticism; for example,
EPF PIN joins the JVP call for corrective action from San Francisco State University and demands an end to the censoring of Palestinian voices.”
13 August 2020
We invited EPF PIN member Cliff Cutler to follow up on FOSNA’s #CounterCUFI: Invest in Justice campaign which EPF PIN endorsed. He reviews the tenets of Christian Zionism and sets out how we might take next steps in countering CUFI.
Domination or Liberation: Christian Zionism or the Jesus Movement?
I met liberation theologian Naim Ateek at Saint George’s Cathedral in East Jerusalem in 1996. The worship was in Arabic, but he translated his homily for the several of us who were visiting from the U.S. Afterwards he graciously invited us to join a small base community Bible Study. There he shared his fear of the evangelical influence of the Christian right. This struck me as odd. The Moral Majority had disbanded in 1989, some seven years before! The Christian right to my mind was in decline. I was wrong: a year later in 1997 Bibi Netanyahu keynoted a massive rally organized by Jerry Falwell protesting then-President Bill Clinton’s attempt to pressure Israel into withdrawing from settlements on the West Bank. Ten years after my first meeting with Naim Ateek, Texas mega-church televangelist John Hagee founded the Christian Zionist “Christians United for Israel” . An earlier organization, perhaps not as well known in the U.S., is the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem founded in 1980 as a world-wide arm of Christian Zionism.
While Christians United for Israel (CUFI) has sought to distinguish itself from the theology of dispensationalism, it has not quite managed to shake the connection. Senior Editor at Breitbart News, Joel Pollak, wrote an exclusive four days after President Trump relocated the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He quoted John Hagee who explained, “Christians believe that Jerusalem will be the capital city in the Eternal Kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ.” As if to make this clear, Pollak adds in parenthesis, “Religious sources tell Breitbart News that this belief is a tenant of dispensational theology…”
Many Christian Zionists are dispensational evangelicals who adopted a Christian version of Zionism in the 20th century following the wars of 1948, 1967, and 1973. They believe that the final dispensation, or era in God’s plan (the Millennial Reign of Christ), began with Israel returning to the land (1948) and capture of Jerusalem by the State of Israel (1967), as a result of the pre-emptive Israeli strike known as the Six-Day War. According to the pre-millennial view, Christ will return at the height of a climactic battle called Armageddon, to begin a 1000 year rule from the capital city Jerusalem. For these Christian Zionists, this second coming is the apex of God’s plan. With Israel’s return to the land and the unification of Jerusalem the stage is set. Nothing should stand in the way even if the Middle East be thrown into war. Jesus’ second coming is contingent upon the fulfillment of God’s promise to bless Israel with land, security, and prosperity. This second coming is that of a “Deus gloriosus” a victorious God whose rule resembles empire. The awaiting of an imperialistic Christ has distorted the ethics of Christian Zionists and eclipsed any concern for Palestinian justice. The fact that 4 million Palestinians living under occupation, and at least that many living as refugees or in exile (some of whom are Christian) are suffering losses is inconsequential to the Eternal Kingdom about to be won.
Christian Zionists see the 1948 war establishing Israel and the 1967 pre-emptive war, returning to Jerusalem, as literal fulfillments of Zechariah 8: 3 “3 Thus says the Lord: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts shall be called the holy mountain.” (NRSV) For Christian Zionists this was a theologically ordained event worthy of Christian awe.
Christian Zionism is a public theology that supports Israel in all its actions. To do so is an act of blessing. Christian Zionists refer to Genesis 12: 1-3, “12 Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (NRSV)
For Christian Zionists the promise of the land is permanent and unconditional. They will not accept any peace that would weaken Israel’s hold on the land. The settler colonists of Israel came to stay. Settler colonialism asserts state sovereignty over occupied lands and typically seeks to cleanse as far as possible the indigenous population. Settler colonists foster the falsehood that the land was without people before their arrival while also ironically setting up defenses against the people whose land had been colonized (Both the United States and Israel among other countries are settler colonial states.). Christian Zionists believe they have a divine mandate to support the modern state of Israel, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.” Christian Zionism fuses religion with politics, rather than places them in dialogue or in prophetic challenge. The removal of settlers for them is not blessed by God. Any criticism of the State of Israel is not only anti-Semitic but also against God’s will. Christian Zionists hold to a theological exceptionalism that sets Israel apart from the requirements of behavior expected of other nations.
Is the land a commodity for annexation or conquest? In a highly significant verse from the Book of Leviticus, God gave the land to Moses and his followers clearly not as a commodity. “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants” (Lev. 25: 23). There seems little warrant in the Bible for the modern State of Israel to claim a deed to ownership of the land.
Christian Zionists believe that the covenant with Abraham is still in effect. The “new covenant” of Christ exists concurrently. To criticize the modern State of Israel and its covenant with God is to engage in “replacement theology,” they would argue, a loaded term that suggests Gentiles replace the Jews. Clearly, God does not replace one race with another. But what if instead of replacement or concurrence, the covenant with God and God’s people is ongoing? One’s understanding of the covenant continues broadening and becoming more inclusive.
As a Christian one needs to ask who is this God with whom we make covenant? How has God revealed God’s self? Christian Theologian John R. Franke sought to answer this in a book Manifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth (2009). The significance of Christ, he argues, is the Trinity that reveals the plurality that has always been at the heart of God. He quotes approvingly Lamin Sanneh of Yale, “For all of us pluralism can be a rock of stumbling, but for God it is the cornerstone of the universal design.” (p. 88) “As finite creatures,” Franke goes on, “we must surrender the pretensions of a universal and timeless theology. And where we are unwilling to do this, we propagate forms of cultural, ethnic, and racial imperialism under the guise of theology and the Word of God.” (p. 99) This, I believe, is the error of Christian Zionism.
The inclusive love that is at the heart of God is not an assimilating love. God’s covenant is one that embraces diversity. Franke writes, “The Father, Son, and Spirit are one by virtue of their independent relationality, but this unity does not make them the same. They are one in the very midst of their difference.” (p. 61) As a Christian I believe this is the God with whom we are in covenantal relationship. This covenant seeks a harmonious relationship with the other. More than that, it is open to the voice of the other. Again in Leviticus one reads, “you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Lev. 19: 34).
Next Steps You Might Wish to Take
Know the Lord your God. Jesus does not come again as an imperial ruler who seeks to dominate God’s subjects as dispensational Christian Zionists would have us believe. Serving such a God sets us on the path of dominating and oppressing others. By contrast, as Episcopalians, we “center our lives on Jesus and following him into loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, each other and creation… In all things, we seek to be loving, liberating and life-giving—just like the God who formed all things in love; liberates us all from prisons of mind, body and spirit; and gives life so we can participate in the resurrection and healing of God’s world. TRY THIS: Begin your day by asking: How could my words, actions and heart reflect the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus? Ask God to help you, especially at decision points. At day’s end, with genuine curiosity and zero judgment, ask: When did I see myself or others being loving, liberating or life-giving today? Where do I wish I’d seen or practiced Jesus’ Way?” For more on the Jesus Movement, check out this link.
Intersectionality. Because both the United States and Israel are settler colonial states that have commoditized the land so that it could be annexed, look for intersectionality. Intersectionality seeks to understand how connected systems and structures of power interact. Notice for instance how Black Lives Matter connects with Palestinian aspirations; or how Israeli control over Palestinian water resources mirrors the imposition of the Dakota Access oil pipeline through unceded lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe bringing potential harm to their drinking water and sacred sites.
Value Diversity while Letting Go of Unearned Privilege. God’s covenant is not tribal but inclusive. Paul wrote to the Galatians saying, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3: 28). The Prophet Ezekiel delivered God’s message of diversity in the land, “You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who reside among you and have begotten children among you. They shall be to you as citizens of Israel… says the Lord God” Ez. 47: 21-23).
For further information critical of Christian Zionism, you may wish to explore this website. To turn your knowledge of Christian Zionism to action there Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) offers “Confronting Christian Zionism: A Toolkit for Activists and Local Leaders”. There you will find resources for education, non-violent direct action, how to reach out to Representatives in Congress, worship materials, how to hold a Counter-CUFI event and much more. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights offers resources around intersectionality here.
DEFEND FREE SPEECH & THE RIGHT TO BOYCOTT
PLEASE JOIN THE MAY 19 WEBINAR OFFERED BY THE PEACE & JUSTICE COMMITTEE OF THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF CHICAGO
On November 23, 2019 at the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, delegates approved by unanimous voice vote Resolution G-182, Freedom of Speech and the Right to Boycott. This resolution calls upon federal and state legislators to oppose bills that penalize or criminalize support for nonviolent boycotts on behalf of Palestinian human rights. Such legislation undermines First Amendment protections and paves the way for other attacks on our Constitutional rights.
In February the Secretary of Convention communicated the text of G-182 to legislators representing Episcopalians resident within the Diocese.
On Tuesday, May 19 from 6-7:30 pm, join the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago Peace & Justice Committee for an informational webinar on Resolution G-182 and its implementation. Learn how you can be involved in defending the First Amendment.
Your participation in the webinar will be much enhanced if you read Resolution G-182 and its explanation in advance, and scroll down to G-182.
Register for the webinar here.
15 May is Nakba Day. It’s been 72 years and there is still no justice in the land. Many say the two-state solution is long dead. Others say to move ahead with annexation and then there will be one apartheid state and workers for justice can move towards a one-state solution EPF PIN member Steve France reports on a program where the founders of the One Democratic State Campaign reflect on next steps.
Activists and others who long for real change in the Israel-Palestine horror show generally agree that BDS is by far the most effective available strategy to press the issue. The proof, of course, is the rage and ferocity of Israel and the discomfort it causes even the most liberal of Zionists.
The sad part is that BDS reigns supreme because everything else seems almost useless. Israel is running the table on the ground and in its rhetoric and happily defying all diplomatic critics. It must seem like 1948 and 1967 all over again, in many Zionists’ minds.
From the Palestinian perspective, the situation “has returned to its existential roots,” before 1948, when all Palestinians faced the same threat of exile or subjugation. Those were the words in February of more than 80 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza polled by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.
From the perspective of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who have 70 years of experience living inside the Jewish State as a despised non-Jewish minority, the original existential moment has been their daily reality. “We show that Israel has not been normal ever. We expose the inherent Apartheid nature of Israel,” Awad Abdelfattah says. He is the coordinator of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC).
But Abdelfattah has a bigger, far more important message. Along with his ODSC colleague Jeff Halper, an Israeli Jew who founded the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, he believes this moment will see ’48 Palestinians take a leading role. They plan to spark a mobilization of all Palestinians worldwide – along with what they call “global freedom partners” and civil society – to press for “One Democratic State” (ODS) for all the people from the River to the Sea.
The two veteran opponents of Israel were interviewed online in April by Mike Spath, director of the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Green Line Palestinians never had much hope for Oslo, Abdelfattah said. The “Marxist Nationalist” group of which he was deputy secretary-general from 1986 to 96, Abnaa Albalad, “always wanted one democratic state.” It helped form the National Democratic Party (Balad) in 1995, of which he was secretary-general from 1997 to 2016. “We always viewed Oslo’s two-state program as a catastrophe.” Aside from being “a big illusion,” it left out “internally colonized Palestinians inside the Green Line,” like himself, and it marginalized refugees in camps outside Palestine. “Every family inside the Green Line, including mine, has relatives who are refugees and cannot come home,” he said. His point is that ’48 Palestinians connect intimately to all segments of the Palestinian people.
Sadly, “the ’48 Palestinians have always been considered an internal domestic issue for Israel to deal with,” he told Spath. “We have been marginalized three ways, first, by the Israelis; then, by other Palestinians, who have seen us as forgetting our Palestinian identity; and finally, by the larger Arab world. But we never forgot our identity.”
Halper believes, “It’s natural for those Palestinians to take the lead. Plus, they have more space to move around and organize. They don’t get interference from the Palestinian Authority,” not to mention Hamas. Other Palestinians seem inclined to agree, Abdelfattah emphasized. Recently, he heard from groups in Gaza and Ramallah that his group inside the Green Line should lead the ODS Campaign.
“Things are changing. The mindset is changing,” Abdelfattah said. “If Hamas and Fatah can’t work together, we should start from below at the grassroots for mass mobilization.” Moreover, united support for the democratic vision “can capture the imagination of certain sections of Israeli society – and also freedom partners and civil society around the world.”
“Our whole [ODS] plan … is based on a settler-colonial analysis,” Halper said. In that analysis, “the Palestinians never really were a side.” In that sense “this really isn’t a conflict with two sides arguing over something they could compromise about. … With settler-colonialism there’s really only one side and that’s the way Israel has always seen it … this country belongs to the Jews exclusively.” The upshot is that “conflict resolution doesn’t get to the problem. The only way you can resolve this is through decolonization.”
In light of Israel’s reveal of its sweeping ultimate goals, along with the manifest impotence of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as well as of the surrounding Arab nations, ODS supporters see the potential for a massive reorientation of the Palestinian struggle in their direction.
“We can’t just stay on BDS and protests all the time,” Halper said, though, like other ODS leaders, he strongly supports BDS. Abdelfattah noted that BDS pulled its three key points from the Balad Party platform. In fact, the ODS leaders are eager for the BDS leadership to formally endorse One Democratic State. “We’ve got to have a political program,” Halper said. “And the Palestinians have to lead.”
EPf PIN member Kathy Christison wrote this Holy Week reflection. This first appeared in the EPF email sent on Good Friday 10 April 2020.
We Are the Body of Christ
On a Sunday in Gaza at the start of Lent, Israeli snipers on the other side of the border fence shot a young Palestinian man named Mohammed al-Naem. Initially, there seems nothing especially significant about the shooting or its occurrence during Lent. The special somberness of Lent means little to Gaza’s overwhelmingly Muslim inhabitants, who live in somber circumstances the year ‘round. The fact of a shooting in Gaza is also not unusual, Israel having shot thousands of Gaza Palestinians and killed hundreds in the last two years of Palestinian protests over being imprisoned and blockaded inside this small territory.
What was unusual on this day was that, as several other Palestinians ran to al-Naem and began carrying him to safety (it is unclear whether he was still alive at this point), an Israeli tank and a bulldozer entered the territory and chased the rescuers, shooting at them until they dropped the body. Then, in a grotesque scene captured on amateur video, the bulldozer attempted repeatedly to scoop up al-Naem’s body but kept missing, until finally the bulldozer blades caught him by the shirt and drove away with his now-mangled body hanging limply by his clothing.
No one in the western world paid attention to this atrocity, but Palestinians grieved and, on websites and social media, they raged. And suddenly out of nowhere, almost as if in a mystical vision, an image appeared on Facebook that takes one’s breath away.
We are the Body of Christ.
It is unclear who created this image, or whether the creator quite understood its power. But the parallels are striking: Jesus was a Palestinian Jew tortured and crucified by Roman imperial occupiers; al-Naem was a Palestinian Muslim tortured and crucified by Israeli imperial occupiers. Jesus lived under oppressive Roman rule; Palestinians of all faiths live under oppressive Israeli rule.
The agony of Jesus on Good Friday (which in Arabic translates as Sorrowful Friday) was strikingly corporeal—in the garden, where he sweated blood; in Pilate’s chambers, where he was brutalized with beatings and a crown of thorns; on the way to Golgotha, where he bled under the burden of the cross; and on the cross. Al-Naem’s agony was also notably corporeal. Jesus hung, stripped of all human dignity, from a gross instrument of torture; al-Naem hung, also stripped of human dignity, from a gross instrument of torture. In Palestine, the bulldozer has become a symbol of suffering, just as the cross is a symbol of suffering. The bulldozer is the preeminent symbol of Israeli destruction, used to demolish Palestinian homes, to raze Palestinian agricultural land, to pave over the traces of Palestinian existence, to kill. In 2003, a bulldozer ran over and killed a young American solidarity activist, Rachel Corrie.
It matters not at all that this image showing Jesus in agony was created to symbolize the agony and death of a young Muslim. For Jesus is in each of us, Jesus Christ as God is in each of us. The divine is in all of us, no matter our faith. Jesus enters into and shares our suffering, as we share his. He died on the cross in order to save all of us.
Tarek Abuata, the Palestinian Christian executive director of Friends of Sabeel North America, has said that in Palestine divinity is being revealed in the midst of destruction; like the moon against the darkness of night, we can see divinity more clearly against the darkness of destruction. The image of Jesus hanging on a bulldozer is a glimpse of that divinity in the midst of destruction.
EPF PIN member Tom Foster traveled to Gaza in early March. One can extrapolate from his report what might be the effects of COVID-19 so long as the blockade stays in place.
In early March, I was privileged to join a ten-person medical delegation to Gaza organized by the Washington state chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Several among our group have long histories and deep personal ties with Gaza, which has been subjected to a harsh Israeli blockade for fourteen years. The staff of our host organization, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, worked tirelessly to tailor our daily schedules to our specialties and interests. We were provided with personal interpreters and transportation. In my capacity as a medical physicist, I visited six hospitals, where I left behind textbooks and electronic files of my medical imaging teaching materials. I met and spoke with hospital administrators, medical directors, radiologists, radiology technologists, and other medical professionals.
Dr. Mahu Ayyad is Medical Director of the Ahli Arab hospital, which is supported by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. He explained: the five-year survival for a newly-diagnosed breast cancer patient in Gaza is 50%. In Israel, just a few miles away, the five-year survival is 85%. There is no radiotherapy in Gaza. Chemotherapy is in short supply, creating conditions in which a patient is often unable to complete a full course of treatment. Appeals to cross the blockade to receive care in Israel or the West Bank are routinely delayed or simply denied. These patients suffer and die.
I wonder, Israel, how is this anything other than depraved indifference to human life? What possible security do you realize by denying a breast cancer patient the standard of care for her disease?
Radiologists at the Nasser Hospital described the many difficulties they face. There are no radiation dosimeters in Gaza and thus no means to measure radiation exposure of patients and radiology personnel. There is no nuclear medicine in Gaza and no tests based on radioactive tracers. Israel, you would not allow even one of your technologists to participate in a fluoroscopy procedure without wearing a proper, calibrated dosimeter. Of course, you know that the isotopes used in nuclear medicine cannot be fabricated into weapons. With no scientific rationale to support your blockade of these medical necessities, what sense are we to make of it? At the Al Awda Hospital, a fluoroscopy system sits dormant awaiting a $3,000 circuit board, the delivery of which Israel has blocked for months. This is common in Gaza. At the Al Quds Red Crescent Hospital, a new CT scanner has been delivered, but the workstation that enables its advanced cardiac applications has been held up at the blockade.
Israel, you are well aware that the fluoroscopy board is specific for that imaging system and could not be used for anything else. And the workstation is specific to that Philips CT scanner. Your blockade is capricious; it is malicious. When applied to medical devices and supplies, to isolation of physicians and support staff from their international professional networks, and to technical support from equipment providers, your blockade serves no military or security purpose.
The consequences of the Israeli blockade of Gaza go far beyond these stories and touch every aspect of life. The UN has declared that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020. The water is unsafe to drink, sewage is untreated, food supplies are inadequate. The Israeli organization Gisha reports that unemployment in Gaza is roughly 50%. Gazan teenagers have endured three wars; the psychological effects of sustained trauma are widespread.
In your collective soul, Israel, do you recognize in the suffering and trauma created by your violent blockade something of your own people’s history of persecution? Will you allow those elements of shared history to open a path to compassion?
EPF PIN member The Rev’d E. Clifford (Cliff) Cutler traveled in Israel/Palestine last year and wrote this reflection of his time on the ground.
I retired in May 2019 and took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from Sunday, November 3 to the 16, 2019. It was a time to reflect on “retirement” which is a word that nobody likes to use. I have decided to say with only a trace of humor that I am now a “Freelance Journeyman” in the Episcopal Church. After an apprenticeship of 43 years in ordained parish ministry, I am now qualified to freely pursue the spiritual path of the Master Carpenter from Nazareth. So why not follow in the Carpenter’s steps?
I realize that this pilgrimage is an exercise in unearned privilege. Peggy McIntosh in a classic paper “White Privilege and Male Privilege” (1988) observed that in the United States whiteness is like having an invisible knapsack provisioned with presumptions that one is articulate, possesses leadership, has access to places one wishes to go, and options that one may choose from without considering whether one’s own race would be accepted. As I begin this pilgrimage I enter Israel/Palestine provisioned with the unearned privilege of not being Palestinian. Those of us like me who are white are less aware of this invisible knapsack than those among us who are African-American and our knapsacks are fuller with more presumptions. We are unfairly advantaged. Because of settlements, restricted roads, checkpoints, and the wall, Palestinians have little freedom of movement. Their leadership is questioned (The State of Israel complains, “We have no partner with whom to negotiate.”). All options are freighted with the consideration of race.
Luke’s version of the Beatitudes concludes with four ‘Woe’s. It is as though Jesus wants us to unpack our invisible knapsack of unearned privilege. Woe to those who carry the presumptions to unearned power and unfair advantage yielding riches, fullness, laughter, and acclaim. The way race impacts each of us in the Holy Land and at home, and continues to do so, needs to be unpacked. In the space that is opened up by this unpacking there is emptiness for God to fill. That is why Jesus declares, bereft of unearned privilege, we are surprisingly blessed.
Blessed are you who are poor (with an empty “knapsack”). Why? Because God will mend you with unearned, overflowing grace; and God will use you to be agents of one another’s mending. Blessed are you who hunger, and recognize the hunger of others. God will fill you with the passion to care for those who are in need. Blessed are those who weep. This is the conversion of tears. We see suffering and cannot sit still. We find in God’s power of renewal and healing the energy to hope and laugh. Finally, blessed are you when you are excluded. Why? Because you then discover compassion for the other.
As I begin this pilgrimage, Jesus wants me to shine a spotlight on the invisible knapsack of privilege that I as a non-Palestinian carry in this place so that it is no longer invisible and can be unpacked.
On Monday, my first full day in East Jerusalem, Yumna Patel, the Palestinian correspondent for Mondoweiss, reported that over the weekend a video had leaked from the year prior showing an “Israeli border police officer shooting a Palestinian in the back as the man walked away from the officers, his hands raised in the air.” Stationed at a checkpoint, the officers told the man to turn around and walk away hands still raised before shooting him in the back. It reminded me of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO on August 9, 2014 who according to witnesses put his hands in the air before being shot and killed by a police officer. My friend Susan Landau and Rachael Kamel write “threads of connection exist across issues and geography” (Why Palestine Matters, p. 20). David Brooks in the New York Times wrote on August 14, “As the protests in Ferguson have escalated over the past week, the international community has increasingly turned its attention to the demonstrations stemming from the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black man. Surprisingly, the images and videos of the police crackdown on protesters have resulted in shows of sympathy and support coming all the way from Palestinians in Gaza” (quoted in Why Palestine Matters, p. 26). Discovering these threads of connection is called intersectionality that seeks to understand the interaction between connected systems and structures of power. How do we unpack the shooting of an unarmed black man and a Palestinian both of whose hands were raised? A verse from the Daily Office for that day reads: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful, for I have taken refuge in you; in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge until this time of trouble has gone by” (Psalm 57: 1).
Black rooftop containers throughout Palestine are used to store water when Israel cuts off the supply. “…Ramallah has more annual rainfall than London. At the same time Israel has denied Palestinians control over their own water resources and successfully controlled all water aquifers in the region, both in Israel and the Palestinian territory…. While the UN’s World Health Organization recommends a daily allotment of 100 liters/day/person, Palestinians are limited to 70 liters/day/person. However, Israelis are given access to 300 liters/day/person” (Why Palestine Matters, p. 18). Three years prior, I participated in a witness with over 500 clergy at Cannon Ball, ND to support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The tribe argued the oil pipeline could harm drinking water and damage sacred sites. In September, 2016 over 90 signatories of Palestinians from around the world including Tarek Abuata, executive director, Friends of Sabeel North America, sent a statement of solidarity to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In part, the statement read: “We hereby declare our unqualified and heartfelt solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their epic struggle to protect what remains of their ancestral lands, waters, and sacred sites.” Here in the right to control one’s water resources is another instance of intersectionality.
A college classmate of mine, a Jew, has Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). I told him I would pray for him and tuck the prayer into the Western Wall. He replied that would be a blessing. He would die a month later. After praying, young Jews singing preceded me up to the Temple Mount. They went to what Muslims call Elharam Esh Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) not to pray but to make a statement of dominance. Rather than power over others, I was reminded of a line from Willa Cather’s novel My Antoniá, “The prayers of all good people are good.”
It is Saturday, November 9. This is the anniversary of Kristallnacht that took place in Germany on the night of November 9-10 in 1938, 81 years ago. At www.yadvashem.org, Kristallnacht is described as a “Pogrom (massacre or riot against Jews)… The name Kristallnacht refers to the glass of the shop windows smashed by the rioters…. The Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, told the other participants that the time had come to strike at the Jews…. Some 30,000 Jews, many of them wealthy and prominent members of their communities, were arrested and deported to the concentration camps at Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Buchenwald, where they were subjected to inhumane and brutal treatment and many died. During the Pogrom itself, some 90 Jews were murdered.” In Nazareth on the night of November 9, 2019 I joined a Rosary Procession that began at the Church of the Annunciation.
Earlier that day I passed Hanthala, a cartoon creation of Naji al-Ali. He is standing as usual, turned away, hands clasped behind his back. What he is looking at are the results of what Palestinians call the Nakba (Catastrophe). The sign before him reads, on May 15, 1948 more than 780,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes and land. More than 500 villages were destroyed by Zionist forces. More than 50 civilian massacres were committed, more than 15,000 martyrs.” Cartoonist Al-Ali at the age of 11 was among the 780,000 who were forced from their homes in 1948. Hanthala, the cartoon figure, was never allowed to grow older than 11. Hanthala in hundreds of cartoons is always seen from the back as though we must join the ugly, poor child with spikey hair and patched shirt looking upon some cruelty or hypocrisy. With a child’s eyes, we cannot understand; we can only rage, judge, and in silence know that what we are looking at is broken and wrong.
How is it possible to hold together in one’s heart, at the same time, Kristallnacht and the Nakba ten years later? Perhaps as Christians we can only gather where the deep and embracing compassion of God was embodied among humankind at the Annunciation, and conclude with Mary, God “has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly” (Luke 2:51-52).
Also November 9 is the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Three days later I would be at the Israeli wall in Bethlehem, begun in 2002. In 2004 the International Court ruled that the wall on occupied lands was illegal. The wall when it is finished will extend 435 miles, 85% of which will wander through the West Bank. Part of the strategy of the wall has been to enclose West Bank settlements thus annexing 10% of the occupied land. There is more than a thread of connection between the proposed U.S. wall separating Mexico, and that of Israel. Netanyahu supports Trump’s Mexican Wall, and Trump uses Israeli assurances to push this agenda. One finds a high degree on intersectionality in reliance upon walls. One message painted on the Israeli Wall reads: “Walls don’t work here, and they won’t work in America.”
The day before during lunch I watched video remembering Yasser Arafat’s life on the 15th anniversary of his death. The next morning I learned that Israeli forces had killed a Palestinian man during a yearly West Bank march commemorating Yasser Arafat in the Al-Arroub refugee camp. Entering the camp and reacting to the march, soldiers fired live ammunition, tear gas, and sound or stun grenades. One of the tear gas canisters exploded next to the house of Omar al-Badawi, 22, causing a small fire. When Omar went out with a bottle of water to douse it, a soldier fired hitting him in the abdomen and killing him. I visited the al-Arroub refugee camp in 2008. The Camp was built in 1948 for 40 separate villages whose inhabitants were displaced. The camp covers 1 square kilometer with a population of 10,000. It is one of the most crowded areas in the world. Since the closure of Israel, unemployment here stands at 51%. A high percentage of the population is incarcerated in Israeli prisons, especially among youth 18 to 26 years old.
Also at Bethlehem I visited the Peace Center. Located in Manger Square, it is Bethlehem’s first cultural center whose aim is to promote and enhance the Palestinian yearning for peace. In the Peace Center there was a display of crèches from all over the world. One that caught my eye was a miniature, blue collar, African-American Holy Family from the United States. There was a heart on Jesus’ diaper! While at the Peace Center Israeli forces killed a top Islamic Jihad commander in an air raid on his home in Gaza City. Shortly after the attack, salvos of rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel.
The Oslo Accord in 1995 divided the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C. Area A comprises about 18% of the land in the West Bank. A red warning sign declares this area is under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The road into Area “A” is forbidden to Israeli Citizens and Dangerous to Their Lives, the sign implausibly warns. Area B comprises about 22% of the West Bank encompassing mostly rural regions. Israel retains security control of this area with civil matters handled by the PA. Area C covers 60% of the West Bank. Israel has nearly complete control of this area. “The division into areas was to have been temporary and meant to enable an incremental transfer of authority to the Palestinian Authority.” (Why Palestine Matters, p. 58). Since the Oslo Accord in 1995 however the number of settlers in the West Bank has tripled from 200,000 to 600,000.
The pilgrimage over, I walked along the jet way to our plane at Ben Gurion airport. Signs on either side advertised the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ). While perhaps not strictly a Christian Zionist group they certainly make common cause with them. Of Yechiel Eckstein the organization’s founder, Christian Zionist John Hagee said: “His impact on the state of Israel and on bringing Jews and Christians together will be felt for generations.” Christian Zionists will not accept any peace that would weaken Israel’s hold on the land. They believe there is a divine mandate to support the modern state of Israel, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.” Christian Zionism fuses religion with politics, rather than places them in dialogue or in prophetic challenge. The removal of settlers, they argue, is not blessed by God. Any criticism of the State of Israel is not only anti-Semitic but also against God’s will. The fact that 4 million Palestinians under occupation (some of whom are Christian) are suffering losses is inconsequential to Christian Zionism.
EPF PIN member Steve France reports on a program featuring Rashid Khalidi discussing his new book. A version of this article appeared on Mondoweiss earlier this week.
There was an urgency about Rashid Khalidi when the dean of Palestinian-American historians addressed a jam-packed crowd at the prestigious Politics & Prose bookstore in DC, Feb. 10. He told us he was taking off the academic gloves in his new book, “The Hundred-Years’ War on Palestine.” “This book is more personal,” he said. It draws on his illustrious family’s more than hundred years’ experience witnessing and directly confronting the “colonial invasion” of his country, continuing to this day in his own work as an academic truth-teller.
A questioner challenged Khalidi as to whether he was faithful to the historian’s duty of “objectivity.” He replied, “The fact is there is a hegemonic narrative about Israel and Palestine, which takes the Western, pro-Zionist perspective. Eighty percent of what is said about the issue in the U.S. sticks to the hegemonic narrative. It’s not my job to repeat that narrative. Besides, historians, in fact, usually advance an argument or thesis. They don’t just say, ‘On the one hand or on the other hand.’ ”
Khalidi said the book deliberately aims at “general American readers,” who often know next to nothing about Palestine-Israel and, at best, see the conflict as a tragedy of two peoples struggling for their rightful national destiny. But, he argues, the real story is of a “colonial conquest” by the West of the small land of Palestine – and a subsequent endless crushing of Palestinian resistance. “The Palestinians are David; Israel is Goliath, with its external supporters.” Since 1917, supporters have always included the world’s hegemons: Great Britain, the U.S., the U.S.S.R. (in the run up to statehood), and France (in the 1950s). Just as essential has been the material and political support of vast ethnic and religious networks of Zionists (think Christian Zionist).
People need to understand that Israel is a settler-colonial state, Khalidi said, but a unique one. The European Jewish colonists — who literally called themselves colonial before colonialism fell into disrepute after World War II — did not come from a “mother country” and were not part of another nation, such as Great Britain. Rather, they came from many countries and were members of a “totally modern national movement.” The history of the Jews began in Palestine in Biblical times, but “establishing a national state was not what Jews ever wanted” before the late 1800s invention of Zionism.
In 1899, Khalidi’s great-great-great uncle, Yusuf Diya al-Din Pasha al-Khalidi, understood the motives and aims of the early Zionist settlers. A former mayor of Jerusalem, fluent in Turkish, German, French and English, he knew about European anti-semitism and the writings of Zionism’s founder, Theodor Herzl, calling for a Jewish State. He sent a long letter in French to the French chief rabbi to be passed on to Herzl, who had long lived in Paris. He expressed sympathy and understanding for Zionist aspirations. But he warned it would be “folly” to try to impose a Jewish State on the Palestinians, who fully inhabited Palestine. He beseeched Herzl to abandon any such intentions. He pointed out such a move would undermine the extensive Jewish communities that long had existed throughout the Middle East. Herzl’s reply was polite, Khalidi told his audience, but it “simply ignored” Yusuf Diya’s basic point that Palestine was already inhabited by people unwilling to be supplanted.
And so began the continuing pattern of Zionists and their state sponsors dismissing Palestinians as insignificant, if not nonexistent. On that point, Khalidi cited as landmarks the 1917 Balfour Declaration; the League of Nations Mandate for the U.K. to rule Palestine; the 1947 UN Partition Resolution, which was “bulldozed through the General Assembly by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R”; the U.S. greenlight given to Israel in 1967 to conquer the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights from neighboring Arab states; the UN response to that aggression in Resolution 242; all the way to President Trump’s just-released “peace plan.”
In closing, Khalidi asserted that “all nationalisms fabricate a history to justify themselves.” But the “particular and peculiar” thing in the case of Israel is that the “trauma and ideas that generated Jewish settler-colonialism all happened in Europe, but were moved to Palestine.” In other words, for more than 100 years the Palestinian people have had a Jewish nationalist dream working itself out in their land, taking their property and destroying their rights and dignity and their very lives.
In the beginning, there was Palestine. Transforming it into the “The Land of Israel” has meant looking past the Palestinians who live there, “disappearing” them physically when possible, and all the while delegitimizing their story. Khalidi, the scion of an ancient and honored family, breaks the spell of the nationalist dream by exposing us to the existence of the Palestinian people, then and now, and telling their bittersweet story.