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Mourning Clint Le Bruyns: What do we do?

How do we cope with the enormous shock and loss of someone so inspiring, so generous in spirit?

Dr. Clint le Bruyns, the widely loved and respected South African theologian, intellectual and activist was 48 years old on the morning of 7 January 2021 when his body succumbed to Covid-19 related complications.

What do we do?

In his tribute, Rev. Moss Nthla (Chair: Kairos South Africa and General Secretary: The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa) responded as follows:

What do you do when a brave soldier falls in the middle of a fierce battle?
When the foe is not merely another tribe from across the river, but an empire arrogantly straddling the globe?
Corrupting the mind with theologies of death.
Enslaving the soul with the values of darkness.
Subjecting the majority of the peoples of the world to the falsehood that evil can trump good.
You celebrate.
You celebrate a life well lived, though painfully short.
Consumed in a struggle for justice, both at home and for people in lands beyond the seas.
You celebrate his passion and fierce conviction in the God who inspired him.
You celebrate his inspiration and invitation to many to join the struggle for the common good.
You ready yourself to pick up from where he left off.
To continue his noble charge.
To anticipate the future today.
To live as though another way to live exists.

A tribute by Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice confirmed that Clint’s gift to life went far beyond self-interest:

While Clint’s identity and work were firmly rooted in his own country’s ongoing struggles for justice, equality and human dignity, his vision and his scholar-activism transcended the barriers of religion, the academy, culture, continents and nationalities.

In solidarity with people from other faiths who advocate for justice and equality for all in Palestine-Israel

Known for his optimistic, inspiring, warm, creative and life-embracing energy, Clint embodied public and liberation theology. He loved milk shakes, pancakes, working late into night and he always created space for others to develop and thrive.

Seeking integration, healing and justice

His focus on ecumenical and public theology, prophetic solidarity and theological ethics gave birth to many contributions on tricky topics such as South Africa’s #Fees-must-fall campaign, political and state relations, economic and gender justice and land reform in peer-reviewed academic publications. He was an integral part of the South African Kairos movement and the broader movement, Global Kairos for Justice. For Prof. John de Gruchy, Clint Le Bruyns “will long be remembered for his tenacious witness to truth, especially in support of the Palestinian cause.”

Pondering thoughts on a book project, 2012.

I knew him best in the context of our shared passion for justice and dignity in the world through the lens of the Palestinian struggle. When I first walked into his office at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Theology in 2008 for an oral exam, I knew nothing about Clint other than that Prof. Dirk Smit spoke of him as “very talented”. Clint stood in for another lecturer who was out of town on that day. Piles of books covered most of the floor in his office. After my examination I enquired about the stacks of books and we continued to talk. That day was the start of a very special bond.

As a lecturer in theology Dr. Le Bruyns had a formative influence on how students who trained as theologians learned to understand contextual prophetic theology. We started to work together when he introduced me to the Palestinian cause. His photos following a visit to the West Bank showed people queuing up like cattle in the predawn hours in a cage-like corridor to cross an Israeli checkpoint on their way to work, to the hospital or to churches and mosques. The pictures and his account shocked me out of my nostalgic images of a town lit up by the Star of Bethlehem. Clint continued to hold several talks at the faculty and on other platforms and he kickstarted the initiative to educate Christians in and around Stellenbosch on the Palestinian struggle. Clint understood that Palestine has become the litmus test for the integrity of the Christian faith and for what it means to be a decent human being, remarked Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak.

In recent years Dr. Clint Le Bruyns served as Director of the postgraduate Theology & Development Programme, and Senior Lecturer in Theology & Development within the School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics at UKZN. He studied at Cornerstone Christian College, the University of South Africa, the University of the Western Cape, Fuller Theological Seminary and at Stellenbosch University. These positions followed on serving at institutions such as Pat Kelly Bible College, Cornerstone Christian College, Stellenbosch University and Eastern University. He was an active member within various professional theological and ethics societies and editorial boards, and with his creative flair he became also a radio presenter and initiator of the Underground Academy for Lifelong Learning.

How do we go forward?

Dr. Mark Braverman (Director of Kairos USA and research fellow at Stellenbosch University’s Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology) highlighted a line in Jewish liturgy that says, “‘May his soul be forever intertwined with the weave of life.’” “To me”, Mark noted, “this has always seemed not so much a prayer as a simple statement of the way things are. The liturgy continues: ‘May you be comforted in the midst of the community of all who mourn.’ Clint was part of a strong community of scholars and activists and he did not separate the two endeavours.”


There is no shortcut through the pain of letting go of a loved one. So many suffer from Covid-19 and other diseases. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his daughter, his mother, the rest of his family and all his friends, colleagues, students and fellow activists who will miss a human being who stood in service of humanity. We thank the medical staff for their compassionate care. Let us embrace this pain by celebrating his life and contribution. He left us an enormous legacy. It is now up to us.

See also:

Clint’s own account of his experience on the Gaza Flotilla in 2015 

The 2015 Gaza Flotilla: A Cry for Peace, a Plea for Justice – marthiemombergblog

Christianity in Crisis: South Africa’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and #Palestine_Cry4Hope

We cannot serve God and the oppression of the Palestinians” proclaim hundreds of Christian leaders. Yet in my country the Chief Justice says his Bible tells him to be loyal, above all else, to the State of Israel.

Which of these two options uphold Christian values: the views expressed by South Africa’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in the live webinar with the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday 23 June, or the views in the global call and signature campaign, #Palestine_Cry4Hope?

Issued jointly by Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice the authors of #Palestine_Cry4Hope ask Christians for decisive action to work for the freedom and human rights of Palestinians.

The authors call upon Christians to reflect critically on how the Bible is used from the pulpit, in Sunday school classes, in policies and in interfaith relations to deprive the humanity of Palestinians. The matter demands a concerted effort, since

The very being of the church, the integrity of the Christian faith, and the credibility of the Gospel is at stake. We declare that support for the oppression of the Palestinian people, whether passive or active, through silence, word or deed, is a sin. We assert that Christian support for Zionism as a theology and an ideology that legitimize the right of one people to deny the human rights of another is incompatible with the Christian faith and a grave misuse of the Bible.

Israel’s Zionist ideology uses political and military might, racist discrimination and sacred texts to dispossess, transfer, massacre and exploit Palestinians. Numerous resolutions by the United Nations and reports by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other reputable bodies condemn Israel’s unlawful conduct. Hundreds of religious leaders, civil society and advocacy organizations from all over the world have already endorsed #Palestine_Cry4Hope. Yet the Chief Justice made glaring errors when he expressed his views in the webinar. According to Mogoeng, his Bible tells him to “pray for Jerusalem” and therefore he must “pray for Israel”. He added that those who “curse Israel” will themselves “be cursed”. These two points contain fundamental errors:

  • His assumption that all of Jerusalem is part of the Israeli state revealed his inadequate knowledge of history, geography and international borders.
  • His confusion between the biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel is one made by many Christians who are not aware of research in theology, political science, sociology, history and law. I too used to conflate the biblical Israel with the modern state.
  • His loyalty to the oppressor (Israel) at the cost of the oppressed (the Palestinians) implies that Israel is exempt from international laws on occupation, land theft, exploitation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid.
  • Given his stature and role, his public opposition in an international forum to his democratic government’s official position on Palestine and Israel is shocking.  
  • His apparent ignorance of the existence of Palestinian Christians and their suffering under the Israeli regime underscores his fallacious and misguided position.
  • His logic, that people who embrace values of equality, justice and compassion in supporting the Palestinian justice struggle will be cursed by God, crucifies Christ’s message of inclusive compassion and human dignity.

Many may argue that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s views put him in the company of other leaders of our time who do not care about human lives, international law, the contributions of science and the importance of honesty and integrity. The devastating impact of narcissistic, power-hungry, uninformed leadership has become all the more clear in 2020. When Bishop Purity Malinga, the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (the church of the late President Mandela) endorsed #Palestine_Cry4Hope on behalf of her church, she connected the matter both with the corrupting influence of the U.S.A. and with the heart of the Christian faith. She wrote as follows:

In the situation of the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli Government which is intensifying every day due to the support from the United States Government, Christians’ silence and inaction give support to injustice and contribute to the dehumanization and death of the Palestinians. It is for freedom and full life of all – including the Palestinians that Jesus came to the world, died and resurrected! Faith in Christ therefore demands that Christians everywhere preach, work and demand full and free life for all. I cannot then be a follower of Christ and support the oppression of Palestinians or of any other people. All human beings are created in God’s image and deserve to be treated with dignity. It is for that reason that I endorse the call to decisive action![i]

Unlike Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, the authors and the endorsers of #Palestine_Cry4Hope do not ignore documented facts, democratic values, international law, common decency and the universal value of compassion for all. In noting the intersectional nature of the matter, Bishop Luke Pato, the Anglican Bishop of Namibia who represents the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) calls forth the disturbing image of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign when he writes,

Palestinians have been held neckdown for decades. We cannot allow them to suffocate any further. Silence is complicit with suffocation.

Bishop Thami Ngcana from the Council of African Independent Churches (CAIC) makes the connection with international law and the definition of apartheid in the Rome Statute. Their aim is

to honour and defend the rights of the Palestinian people to dignity, self-determination, and the fundamental human rights guaranteed under international law, including the right of return for Palestinian refugees. We, CAIC, reaffirm that it is time for the international community to recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law.

If the words of these Christian leaders and the hundreds of other endorsers do not stir the conscience of the Chief Justice, I ask myself how he will respond to the following words of the South African Jews for a Free Palestine:  

We endorse this call because in the same way that we, as Jewish South Africans committed to universal ethical values, condemn Hitler’s Germany for having implemented the segregation of Jews and Gypsies via racist laws and the implementation of similar racist and murderous codes and structures by Apartheid South Africa vis-à-vis Black people, we condemn the  racism and segregation applied by Jewish Israelis with respect to Palestinian Arabs. We need to condemn what happened to the Palestinian people during 1948 when they were threatened, killed and thrown out of their homes. We need to condemn what happens to them on a daily basis under military rule and in the ‘open air’ prisons that are the West Bank and Gaza. We need to condemn the ongoing theft of land and the administrative detention of Palestinian activists as well as the arrest and incarceration of children. We need to condemn human atrocities, and any justification for atrocities of one person or one nation of another, wherever and whenever they occur.

This is a particularly poignant time, during the SARS Covid 2 pandemic, when the Israeli Government threatens to annex 30% of the West Bank thereby creating a permanent jail for those on the West Bank with even less freedom than the little enjoyed by the residents of Gaza. We call on all those with any moral fibre to act against this looming annexation and join with activists of every culture, ethnicity and religious persuasion to stop it from happening.

Decisive action is necessary. Indeed, #Palestine_Cry4Hope lists seven actions, including theological discernment and pressure on governments and world bodies employ political, diplomatic and economic means to stop Israel’s violations of human rights and international law. Last week the South African Council of Churches erected a huge billboard on a highway in Johannesburg:   

The SACC billboard near the OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg

On 25 June 2020 the office of the South African Council of Churches’ General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana called “on the international community to consider comprehensive sanctions against Israel should they continue with the illegal annexation of Palestinian land.” The SACC statement objects in the strongest terms to Israel’s intended breach of international law and the way Israel considers itself

as an exception in terms of international law. The international community must be required to treat Israel like all other members of the international community and compel it to respect international law and the rights of all of humanity.  A Christian leader in Ramallah has cried out: “Now everyone is bleeding; we Palestinians are bleeding physically. Israel is bleeding morally.” A careful reading of Jesus as Lord of history leaves no doubt that He would be the first to say an emphatic NO to the atrocities of the State of Israel.

The issue of the Palestinians and Israel deserves the attention of every person on this planet. Our choice is not one between Jews and Arabs or between Israel and Palestine. The choice we have is between justice and injustice, between equality or inequality, between the spread of false information or integrity, and between the use or abuse of sacred texts. The call opposes also anti-Semitism and any “theology of Empire” which manifests as “a global order of domination manifesting in racial, economic, cultural, and ecological oppression that threatens humanity and all of creation”. From this intersectional perspective #Palestine_Cry4Hope is concerned with the future of both peoples and it

… is rooted in the logic of love that seeks to liberate both the oppressor and oppressed in order to create a new society for all the people of the land. We continue to hold firm to the hope articulated in the Kairos document that Palestinians and Israelis have a common future — that “we can organize our political life, with all its complexity, according to the logic of love and its power, after ending the occupation and establishing justice.” As followers of Jesus, our response to ideologies of exclusivity and apartheid is to uphold a vision of inclusivity and equality for all peoples of the land and to persistently struggle to bring this about.

To read and sign the call, click on #Palestine_Cry4Hope.


[i] Other South African clergy who have endorsed the call include Allan Boesak (Professor of Black Liberation Theology and Ethics, University of Pretoria);  Frank Chikane (Moderator of the World Council of Churches’ Commission of the Churches on International Affairs), John de Gruchy (Emeritus Professor of Christian Studies, University of Cape Town and Extraordinary Professor of Theology, Stellenbosch University); Thulani Ndlazi (South African Synod Secretary of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa); Moss Nthla (General Secretary of The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, TEASA); Mautji Pataki (Chairman of the Ethical Foundation for Leadership Excellence and Former Secretary General of the South African Council of Churches); Edwin Arrison (General Secretary of Kairos South Africa) and Farid Esack (Professor of Religion Studies, University of Johannesburg and a Muslim liberation theologian). The full list with hundreds of endorsers is available on #Palestine_Cry4Hope.

Gaza Peace Protests: Moment of Truth

Thousands of unarmed Gaza protestors are exposing Israel’s fear of peace to the whole world.

New York Times

(Photo by New York Times)

Israel is frightened of real peace.

By today 34 Palestinians in the Gaza strip were killed by Israeli forces, with more than 2,000 injured since the protests began on March 30, 2018.

What do I mean with “real peace”? Real peace is just and fair. Real peace is based on honesty and integrity. Real peace will acknowledge that Israel and the Palestinians are NOT equal partners in a “conflict”. Real peace means that not only Jewish lives, but also Palestinian lives will matter. It will end Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It will give full human rights to all Palestinians and all Israeli citizens in accordance with international law. Real peace provides space for healing and the chance to have safe, happy communities. Real peace means the end to double standards.

A collection of Palestinian groups call for real peace. They speak to Palestinian leaders, Israel, the USA, the Arab states, the international community and to you and me. Peace is “an effective weapon”, they say. Israel tries to “transform the peaceful protests of Gazans into a violent confrontation by killing unarmed civilians and injuring thousands”, they say.

Read the Palestinians’ commitment to non-violent peace and freedom here: Kairos & civil society Gaza Statement

 Israel kills real peace.

Israel does not know how to live in peace or how to create a reality of peace. In an ironic twist, Israel’s entrenched fear and siege ethos is self-destructive and limiting. It leaves the Israeli society in a terrible state of mind. A Jewish Israeli activist who advocate for Palestinian rights (whom I interviewed for my PhD research) described the Israeli state of mind as follows:

The suffering begins with Israeli Palestinian citizens. Then it goes to the Ethiopian citizens and then to the poor. People don’t see the connection. Democracy and occupation don’t go together. If you are used to pushing around and screaming at Palestinians, then you sometimes scream at your children, at your workers, at your wife. There is much more violence in Israeli society. People are racist, not only towards Palestinians, but towards everybody. We see a world where everybody hates us. We [think we] are the victims of the whole world. That’s not very democratic and healthy to still see us as a victim, right? There is also a kind of a distortion of the world-view, because you have to protect yourself as an occupier.

Real peace will destroy Israel’s imperial aims to grab more and more Palestinian land. Real peace will destroy Israel’s strategy of one, Zionist Jewish state that will continue to oppress Arab citizens. Another Jewish Israeli activist whom I interviewed warned as follows:

We’re preparing for a one state solution, but a one state solution that is completely Zionist dominated. And the world will celebrate the end of the occupation, but in truth Palestinians will not have regained the land, will not have control over the education curriculums, will not even be able to choose their own flag.

Israel is scared of real peace because it means the many Zionist lies and its crimes against humanity will be exposed. It will destroy the myth of Israel as ‘the underdog’ that came into its own through a ‘miracle’ complemented by the sheer bravery of ‘courageous Jews’ who are ‘up against all these Arab terrorists’. It will no longer keep Israel’s mass displacement and killings of the Palestinians out of history books. It will expose Israel’s so-called ‘greening of the Holy Land’ as a cover up to erase the memories of hundreds of destroyed Palestinian villages.

“Our only weapon is peace and your peaceful response is the only source of security for you”

The Palestinians’ actively embody their commitment in their protests on the border of Gaza  since Land Day on Friday, 30 March 2018. Their statement speaks to the heart of the matter.  It deserves our support: Kairos & civil society Gaza Statement

Make your support public by reading, distributing and talking about their commitment and their call.

 

 

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World Reformed Churches on Palestine: Christianity’s integrity is at stake!

To support the Palestinian oppression goes against Christianity’s understanding of justice. In a bold vote for clear actions, the General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) made it clear that such theology goes against the heart of the Bible.

This global body, representing over 80 million Christians, held its 26th General Council from 29 June – 7 July in Leipzig, Germany. As the WCRC’s highest decision-making body the General Council issued a resolution with meaningful, action-driven solidarity and not only words of support.

The 2017 WCRC General Council in session

Although many Christians in the world still believe Israel’s lies and/or uphold Zionist theology, the tide is turning. The WCRC General Council stated unequivocally that “the integrity of Christian faith and praxis is at stake” since the Christian faith has been used to justify the oppression of the Palestinians. It rejected any use of the Bible “to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice, imposed by one person on another, or by one people on another” as it strips the Word of God of its ”holiness, universality and truth”. The General Council agreed to initiate a programme of study and discernment on the theology used to legitimate the oppression of the Palestinian people, recognizing that such a study might result in the need for “prophetic action”.

Leipzig, Germany

Over 30 members from more than 10 countries drafted the proposal that served before the WCRC’s Public Witness Committee. Their proposal was debated and refined by the Committee in several sessions before it served before the delegates in the plenary asking their permission to submit the proposal to a decision making process. This decision was granted and in a next step hundreds of delegates from Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, the Pacific, the Middle East, North America and Europe debated the resolution with its action points in discernment groups before casting their votes in a subsequent plenary session. It was most encouraging that the voting was in favour of all six action points in the resolution. Although there was a fair amount of abstentions, no-one voted against any of the points! This means that no-one raised dissent in public.

 Delegates voted through a show of cards at the 2017 General Council of the WCRC. Orange cards meant “in favour of” and blue cards signified “not in favour of”, or “uncertain”

The General Council has urged its 230 member churches in 109 countries to examine their mission, education and investment relationships with Israel and to disseminate to members educational materials on the Palestinian situation. Moreover, they encourage and support delegations to visit the region to connect with the Christian community in Israel and in Palestine, to witness their oppression and to express support for their desire for freedom and self-determination. The WCRC General Council argued that the continuing denial of Palestinian rights does not only jeopardize the dignity of Palestinians, but it has also “cast a shadow over generations of Jewish Israelis who have borne the social, psychological and spiritual burdens of the role of the occupier.”

German theologian Jürgen Moltmann,
speaking at the recent global assembly of Reformed churches in Leipzig

Among other measures, the General Council instructed the WCRC Executive Committee to respond to the letter of 21 June 2017 from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine (NCCOP) indicating what actions can be taken in response to the NCCOP cry for “costly solidarity” (see also Robert Cohen’s brilliant blog on “costly solidarity”). In their open letter to the ecumenical movement, the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine has called the situation “on the verge of catastrophic collapse” declaring that this the “last chance to achieve a just peace… and to save the Christian presence in this land.” They asked for honesty about Israel’s widespread abuse of international law. “We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy.” The General Council committed to respond to this letter indicating what actions can be taken in response to the Palestinian cry.

A South African, Rev. Dr Jerry Pillay, from the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa served as president of the WCRC at the time of the 2017 General Council. Hearty congratulations to Rev. Najla Kassab, a minister in the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) who is the newly elected president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).

Rev. Dr. Jerry Pillay

Rev. Najla Kassab

South African churches who sent delegates to the 2017 WCRC General Council include the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa/Verenigende Gereformeerde Kerk in Suider-Afrika, United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, Dutch Reformed Church (DRC)/Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK), Evangelical Presbyterian Church in South Africa, Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika/ Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA)/(NGKA), Maranatha Reformed Church of Christ.

The WCRC decision follows a recent call from South African and Canadian Churches at the World Council of Churches’ Jubilee conference in Bethlehem on 20-22 June 2017. At this meeting they publically recognised Israel’s practices of apartheid and colonialism in respect of Palestine.

Bishop Zipho Siwa, President of the South African Council of Churches adding his signature to the South African and the Canadian posters at the WCC Jubilee Conference in Bethlehem

It also follows former prophetic actions by Reformed Churches in response to anti-Semitism, racism, and economic injustice. At the General Council in 1982 in Ottawa, Canada, the then World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) declared a status confessionis, declaring South African Apartheid a heresy, an action with global and ecumenical reverberations for ending that racist system. This led directly to the 1986 Belhar Confession of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa, declaring that individual, racial and social segregation is sin and incompatible with Christian belief. Belhar has been subsequently adopted by churches in the Reformed tradition in the North. In 1997 in Debrecen, Hungary, the WARC called for the initiation of a processus confessionis with respect to the question of global economic injustice. In 2004, the WARC issued the Accra Confession, which called for “a committed process of recognition, education and confession (processus confessionis) regarding economic injustice and ecological destruction.”

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb from Bethlehem in occupied Palestine addressing the
2017 General Council in Leipzig

The resolution of the WCRC’s General Council:

PALESTINE – AN URGENT ISSUE OF FAITH FOR THE WORLD COMMUNION

This year marks 69 years since the creation of the State of Israel, and the General Council can reaffirm its commitment to justice, peace and security for the Israeli people and state. The creation of the State of Israel had a significant consequence: the loss of homeland for the Palestinian people, and the creation of 750,000 Palestinian refugees. It is also 50 years since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. It is time for Israelis and Palestinians to live alongside each other in peace, security and justice.

In an open letter to the ecumenical movement published on June 21, 2017, the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine has called the situation “on the verge of catastrophic collapse” declaring that this is the “last chance to achieve a just peace… and to save the Christian presence in this land.” They have appealed to the world church for costly solidarity with them to end their oppression and gain their freedom, through solidarity visits, reviewing theology, economic actions, and support for their freedom to exercise their religious, social and political rights.

Many of us have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears the painful realities of life for Palestinians. We have been witness to the daily, grinding humiliation of women, men and children; the deaths of civilians; the demolition of homes; the confiscation of water resources; the isolation and ongoing diminution of the Palestinian population of Jerusalem; severe restrictions on freedom of movement, education, commerce, electricity, healthcare, and access to holy places; the unlawful practice of administrative detention, including of children; and the taking of land through the construction of illegal settlements and a separation wall built on Palestinian land. Palestinians who live in the State of Israel, while citizens with the obligations of citizenship, also suffer injustice through discriminatory policies in housing, employment, and more. The re-configuration of Jerusalem in particular jeopardizes the historical place and shared identity of Jerusalem, which is part of its holiness.

We acknowledge and confess that the Christian faith has been used to justify the injustice against the Palestinian people.  Any use of the Bible to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice, imposed by one person on another, or by one people on another, strip the Word of God of its holiness, its universality and truth. All who suffer share in the groaning of the Holy Spirit for the liberation of all peoples and their joining in one spiritual communion. The ongoing condition of occupation, and the continuing denial of Palestinian rights has cast a shadow over generations of Jewish Israelis who have borne the social, psychological and spiritual burdens of the role of occupier.

The General Council:

  1. Affirms that with respect to the situation of injustice and suffering that exists in Palestine, and the cry of the Palestinian Christian community, that the integrity of Christian faith and praxis is at stake.
  2. Instructs the General Secretary to initiate a programme to
    – Collect studies and materials that speak to the cry of the Palestinian people, and to make them available to member churches.
    ­- Undertake study and discernment, using the resources available from member churches and the ecumenical movement, regarding theology that has been employed to legitimate the oppression of the Palestinian people, recognizing that such a study might result in the need for prophetic action.
  3. Instructs the Executive Committee, with the Secretariat, to respond (before the end of 2017) to the letter of June 21, 2017 from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine indicating what actions can be taken in response to their cry for costly solidarity.
  4. Encourages member churches to examine their mission, education, and investment relationships with Israel and Palestine in light of the witness of Palestinian Christians and to respond as they understand the Reformed communion’s commitments to human rights and the protections of international law.
  5. Instructs the Executive Committee to encourage and support (with practical help from member churches) delegations to visit the region to connect with the present day Christian community – the “living stones”- of the Holy Land, to witness their situation and express support for their desires for freedom and self-determination.
  6. Encourages the Executive Committee to seek to strengthen initiatives for dialogues, civil peace services, mediation, conflict prevention and transformation.
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Why advocate for Palestinian rights?

Why do civilians campaign publicly on the relentless matter of Israeli oppression of all Palestinians? Is it not a waste of time, an “irresolvable deadlock”, and a “disastrously confused situation”? Why willingly expose oneself to violence in its many forms? Why be involved in this struggle rather than in any of the many other causes in the world? Why focus on the exploitation of Palestinians and not on Israel, which also suffers violent attacks?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As part of my recent doctoral study at Stellenbosch University, I interviewed 21 grassroots activists from South Africa and Israel who explained why they campaign for Palestinian rights. This study was one of the first to address a general shortage of scientific data on the ethical orientation of transnational activists in the Palestinian struggle and, more specifically, the first on South African and Jewish Israeli activism.

Views on Palestine-Israel and the Palestinians are often positioned as though there is “conflict” between two equal entities. As a result, people argue for a “balanced” or a “neutral” approach. Such logic masks the real dynamics of the situation and it denies the ethical challenges of Israel’s large-scale, institutionalised oppression. Any attempt to consider the arguments of the oppressor and the oppressed on an equal level is fundamentally flawed. The activists regard dialogue groups that are not structured, in form and in content, to reflect the power asymmetry between the Palestinians and Israel honestly as inappropriate and harmful. As one of the Jewish Israeli respondents, for example, explained:

It’s inappropriate to bring an oppressor and an oppressed in the same room to speak as equals. The one group is clearly, actively oppressing the other. I also think that it was inappropriate during South African apartheid to bring Blacks and Whites together in a room as though they were peers, for they were not peers. Some were ruling the others. In retrospect, I think what on earth, what must it have been like for the Palestinians to come in and hear us? There was yelling in the group and there were accusations thrown across the room. For a Palestinian who was living under our occupation, to hear us complaining or accusing them of things, how inappropriate. I feel very ashamed of our behaviour.

According to the activists the nature and the dynamics of the Palestinians’ oppression represent a microcosm of moral challenges also found in other struggles in the world such as militarism, imperialism, paternalism and neo-liberalism. They view their concern for Palestinian rights, for problems in their local South African and Israeli contexts and for other issues, all as part of the same matrix. The Palestinian struggle does not duplicate these other causes, but it brings them into sharper focus and it increases the relevance of finding a just peace in Palestine-Israel.

To the activists all human lives matter equally and therefore the same yardstick – based on a shared humanity – applies to all. Just as compassion and altruistic love need to be applied with integrity and consistency, equality, justice, honesty and openness are seen as values that are required at all levels of interaction – within Jewish Israeli and South African societies, in their governments, media, religious structures, schools, between activists, in laws, state policies, the economy, in religious freedom and in urban reality.

Equality is regarded a basic framework from which to approach life and justice is understood as a means to restore. In light of their inclusive understanding, the respondents mentioned Israeli apartheid, all of Israel’s double standards and its embedded ways of oppressing the Palestinians as unacceptable disturbances that need to be solved. They have taken up the task of correcting the plethora of widespread, deliberately constructed and well-communicated Zionist lies that are used to cover up historical facts, reduce Palestinians to troublemakers and terrorists, and ratify and promote the oppression of Christian Palestinians through Christian Zionism.

For the activists, the Palestinian struggle is not too complex, too long-standing or too hopeless. There are many choices, such as for or against injustice, equality and transparency; for or against standing up for the marginalised; and choosing between violence and non-violent resistance through the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign.

Their commitments were not informed by nationalist ideals and/or by religious exclusivism. No matter what their personal religious convictions are, all shared the same value commitments. In fact, they utterly reject the claim that the Palestinian project is a religious clash, and instead highlight the detrimental roles of political Zionism and Israel’s militarist ethos of domination and power abuse under the guise of “protection” that co-exists within a self-destructive ethos.

For most their activism is underscored by a deep spirituality and an interconnectedness. They talk of liberating expansive identities that cross over to the “other”. One Jewish respondent compared it to sharing chocolate. “There are beautiful, generous people everywhere who want to help others”, he said, but their reach “depends on the length of their hands that hold the choc that feeds the circle around them”. He also remarked that some feed only their family, their neighbours, their community, their religious group, or those who look like them. He summarised his own inner change as “the expansion of your identity to something that is including other human beings that previously were the other for you and now the me and them became one thing in some way”.

 Mass public action is necessary and urgent. There is very real, extensive daily suffering – decades of it. The global public, governments, regulatory bodies, businesses, religious institutions and media mostly stand by without stopping the carnage. Global support for Israel maintains vested interests of power. The task is huge and the obstacles greater than those under South African apartheid. However, none of these activists shies away from the flood of outright criticism that call them “terror-loving, Hamas-supporting anti-Semites”, “traitors” or “self-hating Jews”; hides behind societal complacency or regards themselves as courageous. Their integrity and desire for moral consistency outweigh their need for personal comfort.

This piece was published in the South African newspaper City Press on 14 May 2017.

The complete study is available on Stellenbosch University’s website.

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First South African Church to commit to BDS

In a historic step the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) issued a clear statement in support of the non-violent Palestinian struggle. The church’s national conference approved the resolution on 10 July 2016.

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Rev. Thulani Ndlazi, Synod Secretary of UCCSA, speaking at the conference

The declaration names the danger of Christian Zionism and its literal reading of the Bible which confuses the Old Testament’s Israelites with Jewish Israelis. ‘We hear the Palestinian Christians’ appeal for help,’ they say, and we commit our support to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign.

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The statement is the first of its kind by a South African church.

Earlier South African Methodists also urged their circuits to “study the Palestinian Kairos Document that calls for divestment of Israel to end the occupation by Israeli in Palestine” (2013 Yearbook, 3.4:93-95). They also encourage those who undertake “Holy Land Pilgrimages” to have meaningful engagements with the Palestinian community. Yet the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) does not ask people to consider the requests of the Palestinian Kairos Document. UCCSA acknowledges their requests, it affirms the call for creative, non-violent resistance and it commits publically.

What makes it even more historic is the fact that UCCSA was the only South African church who publicly supported the now historic South African Kairos call of 1985.  In it South African theologians asked the world to help end apartheid. The world listened and it helped. In recent years the churches of the world have started to speak up about fundamentalist, Zionist readings of the Bible that support Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

The statement by UCCSA on Palestine is a welcome prophetic step. It reads as follows:

We pledge our support to the Palestinian people as follows at this 8th South African Synod Conference of UCCSA in George, South Africa:
  • We recognize that the Palestinian struggle is not simply a conflict, but an asymmetric struggle between an oppressor and the oppressed. The oppression entails a decades’ long institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied territories of Palestine and also against those within Israel and those in the diaspora who are not allowed by Israel to return.
  • We hear the call of our sisters and brothers from Kairos Palestine who asked the world and in particular Christians to take a public stand against injustice in ‘A Moment of Truth – a Word of Faith, Hope and Love.’
  • We do not take an anti-Semitism position. However we are extremely concerned about fundamentalist and progressive Christian Zionism which conflate the Biblical Israel with the modern state of Israel. We call on all Christians to read the Bible responsibly so as to not trample on the human rights and the dignity of the Palestinians.  We ask Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land to meet with and to listen to the Palestinians in Bethlehem, East Jerusalem and other cities in the occupied Palestinian territory.
  • We acknowledge with gratitude the support of our Palestinian sisters and brothers in South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle.
  • With this resolution we join other churches in the world such as the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ in the United States of America as well as the United Church of Canada. With them we stand in public solidarity with the Kairos Palestine’s appeal for help and the Palestinian civil society’s call for creative non-violent resistance.
  • We pledge our support to the international Boycott Divestments Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

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The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa is one church in five countries –Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The UCCSA was formed in 1967 but traces its origins back more than 200 years to the arrival of the first missionaries sent by the London Missionary Society to Southern Africa. Today over 500,000 members worship in over one thousand local churches across the five countries.

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Shocked South Africans call for public protest against the UK and Canadian stance on BDS

South African citizens (and many in the UK and in Canada) are – to say the least – shocked.

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Why did the Canadian and Brittish goverments pass motions to repress BDS? They must be under severe pressure from Israel and the Zionist lobby. For those who want the good things in life only for themselves and are willing to diminish a whole people in the process are really scared of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign, because it is winning rapid ground. Besides putting pressure on Israel, BDS also unmasks Israel’s lies about its longstanding, illegal oppression of the Palestinians in the name of religion and greed.

How can the UK and the Canadian goverments say that economic pressure as a way to achieve full civil and human rights for all in Israel and Palestine is illegal? The very same strategy played a huge role in ending apartheid in South Africa. Do the same countries not also have sanctions in respect of many other countries?

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In 2014 over a hundred thousand people from all walks of life took to the streets in Cape Town to raise awareness of Israel’s war on Gaza as can be seen in these photos. Now Cape Town’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign calls for a clear, public response against these goverments who supress free speech and non-violent, economic pressure on Israel through BDS:

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PRESS RELEASE:

29 February 2015

BRITISH GOVERNMENT RESORTS TO REPRESSION TO COUNTER BDS CAMPAIGN AGAINST ISRAEL

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT stated last week that it is will be illegal for “local [city] councils, public bodies, and even some university student unions … to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products, or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

Thus, any entities that support or participate in the global boycott of Israel or even products and companies that operate in illegal settlements will face “severe penalties.”(via “The Intercept).

It is with outrage and disappointment that we, in the South African Palestine solidarity movement, note the British government’s ban on free speech and political expression relating to public sector boycotts of Israel and its illegal settlement goods. This means that workers in British parastatal companies like British Telecom or Rail-Track or any arm of government such as the Department of Welfare, the Airports Authority, Customs & Excise, the NHS etc. could be dismissed for promoting such boycotts in the workplace and managers could be sacked for committing their branches to such actions.

Recent successful actions by pro-Palestinian groups in Britain against companies such as G4S, the notorious British security company, which operates in some Israeli prisons and illegal settlements (and shamefully, operates also in South African airports, a prison and numerous public enterprises) would be stopped in their tracks by this bill. We also note the almost immediate removal of anti -Israel Apartheid Week posters in London’s Underground this week by the London authorities following Netanyahu’s recent demands to the UK government to do so, as a sign of closer collusion between the racist Israeli government and their British counterparts.

The enormity of such a draconian crackdown in Britain on behalf of Netanyahu’s racist and increasingly fascist Apartheid Israeli government could best be judged by imagining if a similar ban had been put in place in the UK during the Apartheid years to prevent boycotts of South Africa by the British state, its organs and thousands of public sector workers. The backlash then from public sector workers would have been instant and extremely difficult to control. Sadly, the public sector in Britain is so diminished in size and the unions so cowed into subservience by decades of Thatcherite neo-liberal bludgeoning, that not much of an uproar has been heard – even from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party which is pre-occupied with internecine strife within its ranks.

No doubt, David Cameron, who is a self-confessed Zionist stalwart, calculated that his US patron and its compliant Canadian neighbour, would be right behind him. In fact Canada’s new “Liberal” government under Trudeau, almost immediately pushed a similar motion through his US-hired and bribed parliament. The US Congress, controlled now by rabid Zionist Republicans, is also pushing for blanket bans on any anti-Israeli boycotts in the US and even for the outlawing of demonstrations and media calls for such actions. These are the same governments of the West who have invaded sovereign states in the Middle East in order to achieve “regime change” and install “democracy”.

As things stand, the BDS campaign is the only meaningful and peaceful means of pressuring Israel and its Western allies to end its brutal and murderous occupation of Palestine and institute one democratic state where everyone will enjoy equal rights.

South Africans must not underestimate the implications of these Orwellian moves by the USA and its British, European client states. Their governments will use their massive economic and military influence to blackmail smaller, independent countries such as ours, to turn away from supporting the Palestinian struggle against the colonial Israeli regime and their systematic, incremental genocide.

As the stalwart anti-surveillance and freedom of speech activist, Glen Greenwald, living in exile in South America, stated in response to this British move:
“There is a very coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters literally to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the particular fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment, or BDS — modeled after the 1980s campaign that brought down the Israel-allied apartheid regime in South Africa — is succeeding”.

WE THEREFORE URGE THE ANC GOVERNMENT TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE BRITISH/AMERICAN CRACKDOWN ON FREE SPEECH AND TO REAFFIRM ITS SUPPORT FOR THE PALESTINIAN CIVIL SOCIETY’S CALL ON ALL PEOPLE TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL.

WE CALL ON BRITISH PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY WORKERS IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR, TO VIGOROUSLY CAMPAIGN AGAINST THEIR GOVERNMENT’S ATTACK ON BASIC DEMOCRATIC FREEDOMS OF SPEECH AND THEIR RIGHT TO PROTEST.

WE ALSO CALL UPON ALL PALESTINIAN SOLIDARITY ACTIVISTS AND SOUTH AFRICAN CITIZENS CONCERNED ABOUT THE BRITISH CRACKDOWN ON POLITICAL FREEDOMS TO SHOW THEIR OPPOSITION IN FRONT OF THE BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION IN CAPE TOWN ON FRIDAY 18 MARCH BETWEEN 13.30 AND 14.30.

Contacts: Mike Makin 0845039156 Martin Jansen 0828702025

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Israel asked to stop its abuse of Christianity, Judaism and Islam

We all need to face the stark truth: We must choose for humanity, or against it.

In a strongly worded article, Rev Edwin Arrison, general secretary of Kairos Southern Africa and also Chair of South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P) asks Israel to not abuse religion in their colonial project of oppressing the Palestinians. Accept the Palestinians as your equals, he asks, for we are all human.

He also says that we should not count on politicians to bring about positive change.

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Rev Arrison is pictured here (on the left) with Nobel Laureate, retired Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu and others #March4Gaza on 9 August 2014.

Here is Arrison’s article as published in the Sunday Tribune, 15 November 2015:

Since 2009, when Christians gathered in Bethlehem to launch the Palestine Kairos document, there has been a great deal of reflection going on in the Church, from small congregations to global Church bodies, to consider what the best way is to respond to the injustices meted out by the State of Israel to all our Palestinian sisters and brothers – including those in refugee camps and in the Diaspora. A great injustice has been, and continues to be perpetrated against them, making them effectively stateless, and Christians can never be silent about injustice, even if we take our time to reflect and make decisions.

There was a time when Israel could depend on support from most Christians across the world, but that time has passed. The Vatican – representing more than a billion Christians – has taken the small step to recognize the State of Palestine. The recent proclamation of two Arab Palestinians as saints is also a profound way of expressing respect for the dignity and humanity of the Palestinian people.

Many Christians within the Evangelical and Pentecostal arms of the Church, have begun to express grave doubt about their support for the Zionist project called Israel. They are beginning to distinguish between Biblical Israel and Zionist Israel.

Even German Christians, who have lived with the guilt of the Holocaust over them, are even beginning to rethink their support for the Zionist State of Israel and for Zionist Christianity. Christians everywhere are thinking very carefully about whether they will continue to buy into a narrative of some exceptional tribe of God or whether they will continue to stand firm in their faith, rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures, that ALL human beings have been created in the image of God and that God is not a tribal God, but God of ALL people. These are quite fundamental choices against the abuse of faith that, once made, can never be reversed, not even by millions of dollars of Israeli propaganda.

We know that there is much injustice in all parts of the world today, but there is only one that gets justified from a misuse of the Bible, and that is the current State of Israel. Serious students and teachers of the Bible have begun to say that the Zionist State of Israel cannot possibly justify its occupation of Palestinian land, leading to oppression of Palestinian people, from the Biblical text.

This old apartheid myth that one group is apparently more important in the eyes of God than another group is today again playing itself out in Palestine and the Zionist State of Israel. Only this time it is worse. In the 1980s the “Communist Threat” was used as justification, this time the “Muslim” is used as a substitute for “terrorist’ and thereby a whole religion and its adherents are being demonized and abused. If parts of the Christian Church were drawn to this for a while, it has now begun to see this tactic for what it is – an evil wedge that is being used to create permanent war to feed a military industrial complex.

Unfortunately for the Zionists, the truth is like the Holy Spirit: it finds a way of seeping through and setting people free from all evil and deception.

The Christian and Muslim faith should not be abused for Zionist colonial propaganda, and neither should the Jewish faith be abused in this way. Many Jews are saying that Judaism and Zionism should not be equated. By equating these two things, anti-Semitism gets fed and for the sake of all humanity, this link must be broken. This can only happen if today we declare Zionist Israel to be a pariah and use every non-violent means to call on Israeli’s to come to their senses. They will not, of course, do this without economic and social pressure from the outside world.

We should not believe that politicians will bring change as we will either be forgetting our own history, or we are being completely naïve or use this belief as a way to either do nothing or to delay things as long as possible. In the 1980s, when South Africans realised that Thatcher, Reagan and Kohl and also some church bodies were not prepared to take a clear stand against apartheid, we appealed to the humanity of citizens worldwide. German church women then took a stand to boycott South African goods despite the fact that their Bishops cut their budget. Across the world, men, women and children not only affirmed the humanity of black South Africans but also gave the Dutch Reformed Church an ultimatum: either you accept that all people are created in the image of God or we will no longer accept you at the Communion Table.

The time has now come for a similar message to go directly to the citizens of the State of Israel and all its supporters across the world: either you stop your abuse of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, and accept that Palestinians are your equals or you will no longer be welcome at the table of humanity.

The choice has to be as simple and stark as that.

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Jews from around the world: STOP THE KILLING — END THE OCCUPATION

Members of Jewish communities around the world are horrified by the violence that sweep the streets of Palestine and Israel. And so they call on Israel to end its occupation of Palestine. Justice and equality will bring true peace to the people of Palestine and Israel, they say.

We call on our Jewish communities, and our broader communities, to publicly insist on an end to the violence, occupation, siege and military response and instead demand equality and freedom for the Palestinian people and justice for all.

I signed their petition, and so can you by clicking here.

Why is it so important to endorse this kind of statement in public?

In doing so, you side not with a nationality or with a religion at the cost of others, but with the values of justice, equality and a common humanity. It gives us the chance to transcend boundaries and to strengthen the good. Your signature inspires others who still hesitate. It is really a small step for each individual, but the collective value is enormous.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took these photos on 9 August 2014 when Muslims, Christians, Jews and many others marched through the streets of Cape Town to protest against the War on Gaza.

Here is the full statement that asks for our public endorsement:

STOP THE KILLING – END THE OCCUPATION

As members of Jewish communities around the world, we are horrified by the violence that is sweeping the streets of Palestine/Israel, costing the lives of over 30 people, both Palestinians and Israelis in the past two weeks alone.

A two year old girl in Gaza was the youngest of four Palestinian children who were killed in the past two weeks. A 13 year-old Israeli boy is in critical condition after being stabbed nearly a dozen times. Over a thousand people were injured in the same period.

Fear has completely taken over the streets of Jerusalem, the center of this violence. Israelis shooting Palestinian protesters in and around East Jerusalem. Palestinians stabbing and shooting Israeli civilians and policemen in the middle of the streets. Israeli forces killing Palestinian suspects when they are clearly not a threat and without trial. Palestinians throwing stones at passing cars. Israeli mobs beating up Palestinians or calling on police to shoot them. Humiliating strip searches of Palestinians in the streets – all of these have become a daily occurrence in the city in which we are raised to pray for peace, as well as other places in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

While violence is visible on the streets, it is also occupying people’s minds and hearts. Fear is bringing out the worst of people, and the demand for more blood to be shed, as if this will repair the damage done. Fear and racist rhetoric are escalating the situation.

The Israeli government is once again responding in a militarised way: there have been hundreds of arrests; Palestinian access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound has been limited; parts of the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem have been closed to Palestinians; open-fire regulations have been changed to allow the use of sniper fire against children; a minimum sentence for stone throwing has been introduced, including for over 150 children arrested in East Jerusalem alone in the past few weeks; and now there are talks of enforcing a curfew, or even a closure, of East Jerusalem.

All these constitute collective punishment on the entire population of East Jerusalem with over 300,000 people. In the past, these measures have proven themselves ineffective at ending violence. Decades of dispossession, occupation and discrimination are the main reasons for Palestinian resistance. Further Israeli military repression and ongoing occupation and siege will never end the Palestinian desire for freedom nor will it address the root causes of violence. Indeed, the current actions by the Israeli government and army are likely to create further violence, destruction, and the entrenchment of division. Only justice and equality for all will bring peace and quiet to the residents of Israel and Palestine.

As a group of Jews from around the world we believe that immediate change needs to come from the Israeli government and Israeli people. It is incumbent on all Jews around the world to pressure the Israeli government – and those who follow and support its words and deeds – to change its approach. The military crackdown must cease immediately, Palestinians must be allowed complete freedom of movement. It is also a responsibility of Jewish people worldwide to obligate the countries in which we live to immediately cease the economic and military support of the ongoing Israeli occupation in Palestine and siege of Gaza.

We call on our Jewish communities, and our broader communities, to publicly insist on an end to the violence, occupation, siege and military response and instead demand equality and freedom for the Palestinian people and justice for all.

Sign the petition to send a strong message to Israel to end the occupation of Palestine.

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#WallWillFall: Breaking down the Walls of a Conflict or a Rape?

What do we ask for when praying for Palestine Israel? Do we ask God to end the conflict? Do we ask for reconciliation and strive for a balanced approach? The answer is a definite ‘NO’ to all of these.

I raise these points as we are preparing for the annual World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel (20 – 26 September 2015)

To talk about ‘balance’ or a ‘conflict’ in the context of Palestine Israel presupposes equal sides. Nothing can be further from the truth. David Wildman (Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church) writes as follows:

Too many churches rushed to embrace interpersonal reconciliation projects without any examination of the inequalities in power between the Israeli state and Palestinians. Churches stressed the need for balance when there was nothing balanced about the situation. This is a key value of “church theology” that must be challenged. […] Israel has had a state since 1948 while Palestinians were largely refugees and civilian populations living under military occupation and unending dispossession from their land.

(Click here for Wildman’s full paper: BDS_and_Churches_now_ David Wildman.)

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In this year’s World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel the World Council of Churches asks us to pray, to educate and to advocate around the theme of “God has broken down the dividing walls” (Ephesians 2.14).

My experience in South Africa is that many people do not know what these dividing walls are. They only know of the suffering of Israelis. They do not realise that the analogy is closer to a ‘rape’ than to a ‘conflict’.

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Israel – a military superpower funded by the USA – denies Palestinians basic human rights, they injure and kill Palestinians and their resources in a grand sweep of land theft, displacement and mass destruction. Israel denies six million refugees to return to their homes and have more than 50 laws that discriminate against Arab Palestinian Israeli citizens. The Palestinians scream for help, throw stones and fire some rockets in response to these large scale systemic injustices by Israel. But the rapist wants the sympathy of the world and it gets it! Can we blame a rape victim who scratches her rapist?

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How do we know what to pray for and what to do?

Do we say it has nothing to do with us or is too complex to grasp? Do we question the focus on Israel?

Once more, the answer is NO. More and more people are starting to see the links between global empire systems of greed, power and militarism that are crystallised in Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. Likewise people are starting to realise how we are led by the nose by what Dr Mitri Raheb calls the “software” – the stuff that enables us to think that Israel is untouchable and above international law.

No, we don’t give up. It is wrong to think it has nothing to do with us.

A world system that allows the USA to consistently veto all UN decisions to enforce international law on Israel is a sick society. Does it not warrant our attention? Is it not in our own interest to educate ourselves? When we benefit from Israeli produce and services (think Dead Sea cosmetics, G4S, retailers like Woolworths that claim ethical business but do not apply it to Israel, etc.) then our money support the oppression of the Palestinians. If we ignore the public plea of the Palestinian civil society for non-violent resistance through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) we are complicit in entrenching the Palestinians’ suffering.

If we lie to ourselves about it or blame others, we fool ourselves. We cannot deny it – we are involved in this matter. Yes, there are many other issues in the world, but you are reading this post and therefore right now this matter is knocking on your door.

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Have courage

To embark on a road in the pursuit of love and a just peace is most fulfilling and deeply enriching. The important thing is to START by taking the FIRST STEP.

If you have not yet done so, start by reading the urgent, deeply inspiring appeal (‘A Moment of Truth’) of the Palestinian Christians. It is available in 22 languages (also available in Afrikaans). You’ll find it by clicking here. It addresses not only Christians. It also asks for several practical actions. For facts and figures, go to the United Nations website by clicking here http://www.ochaopt.org

Let us pray for a world where international law, human dignity and equality apply to all. Let us pray for a shift in consciousness and a spirituality that fosters human and all other forms of life on this planet. Let us practice our belief in equality and pray for both the oppressed and the oppressor. Let us educate ourselves and our circles. Let us work with those Jews, Muslims, Christians and the people of other faiths or none who share our values to create a better world.

God,

You ask for our courage to protect the powerless
but we prefer to remain safe, preserving ourselves for future challenges.

You ask us to speak out for justice
but we whisper, in case we are heard.
You ask us to stand up for what is right,
but we would rather blend in to the crowd
You ask us to have faith,
when doubting seems so much easier.

Lord forgive our calculated efforts to follow you,
only when it is convenient to do so,
only in those places where it is safe to do so,
only with those who make it easy to do so.

Together we pray
God forgive us and renew us;
Inspire us and challenge us
So that we might risk the journey, to your kingdom with you,

Amen
(Prayer of Confession as read in 2003 at a service at Cheltenham Races, GreenBelt, UK)

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More about the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel 2015:

Why a theme on walls? In the figurative sense it is of course about walls that separate classes, ethnic groups, religions and the transcendence thereof. But it is also about the ongoing construction of the illegal, Apartheid Israeli Wall that grabs more and more fertile Palestinian land. Click here to watch a short, shocking video on Israel’s theft of land from the Catholic Church in the West Bank, and here for yet another story of land confiscation – one of thousands of similar tales.

The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches invites churches, faith-based communities, and civil society organizations to join in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. For full details go to their website. You can also write to Ranjan Solomon, Consultant for the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum at ranjan.solomon@wcc-cor.org.