Last week we lifted up the Ecumenical Statement on policy toward Israel and Palestine that was sent to members of Congress and the White House and we encouraged readers to take their own actions by also sending the statement to their representatives.
Today, we call readers’ attention to the unfortunate absence of the Episcopal Church from signatories of the statement. EPF PIN regrets the missed opportunity to add our collective voice to the call for justice. We concur with Michelle Alexander in her recent NY Times editorial that it is “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine”. Our own statement follows and we urge readers to share their concerns with church leaders as well as within their own congregations.
Having just passed another season to mark the nativity of our Lord, the members and supporters of the Palestine Israel Network of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF PIN) are especially mindful of our Church’s important actions recently at General Convention regarding Palestine/Israel, the land of Jesus’ life and ministry.
So it was with surprise and distress the EPF PIN noted the absence of the Episcopal Church from the signatories to the November 14 “Ecumenical Statement on Current U.S. Policy and Israel/Palestine”. Considering the concern shown by bishops and deputies in passing six resolutions at the Convention, as well as the mounting tragedies for the Palestinian people and the ever-deteriorating prospects for a just peace in the region, we would have expected our Church to join our many ecumenical partners in supporting this important message.
The Episcopal Church is on record in support of the issues raised in the Statement: the status of Jerusalem, the continuing displacement of refugees, and the problematic presence and growth of Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, so we are confused about our Church’s absence of support. The Statement also addressed US de-funding of humanitarian assistance programs for Palestinians. This withdrawal of financial support, which was addressed in one of the six resolutions passed at Convention, will further endanger millions of Palestinians.
As leaders of PIN, we are concerned about the Church’s failure to sign and support this important Statement, and we welcome the opportunity to better understand the decision. We have spent years of time cumulatively in the West Bank and Gaza. Some of us have lived there, most have visited many times over the course of decades, and we all have long standing personal relationships with both Palestinians and Israeli Jews. As a result, we are not naive about the situation; indeed, we believe our long engagement in and understanding of its many complexities is uniquely sophisticated.
Finally, we cannot fail to note with sadness and dismay the recent efforts to portray advocacy for Palestinian human rights as antisemitic, an egregious and cynical misrepresentation callously deployed in order to stifle honest debate. We hope that members of our Church, especially deputies and bishops, will not be misled by such specious rhetoric. We are reminded of the 1991 General Convention resolution D122 which notes “a distinction exists between the propriety of legitimate criticism of Israeli government policy and the impropriety of Anti-Jewish prejudice.”