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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 that was launched on 1 July?

‘Mogoeng should apologise for Israel statements’ – CASAC
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Picture: Gallo Images

Issued jointly by Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice (the global movement of concerned internationals in response to Kairos Palestine) the authors of #Palestine_Cry4Hope in at least 11 languages 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.

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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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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:

PSC

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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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.

The segregation wall

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.

#Kairos30: Dare we remember?

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Now that I’m home from our global #Kairos30 conference (titled Kairos as a Dangerous Memory) the question remains: “What do we do with our memories?”

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You see mine are not those of taking a brave stand against apartheid like the theologians who wrote the 1985 Kairos document. Mine are memories of feeling scared, incapable and paralysed. They are memories of apathy and silence about something I clearly knew was wrong. For I was one of those white South Africans who did nothing to end the systemic, legalised injustices in my country.

Thirty years ago a group of South African theologians (listed below) asked the world for help in ending apartheid. Their appeal became known as the South African Kairos document. Since then the Kairos theology has found root in diverse places such as Germany, India, the USA, Swaziland, Palestine, India, Brazil and Nigeria. This week (17-20 August 2015) delegates from these and many other countries gathered in Johannesburg to reflect on what Kairos theology means to us now.

We asked: What can we learn from the Kairos of then? How should we critique it? Are we faced with new contexts that need interventions? How do we go forward? Dare we remember?

I cannot go forward without facing the truth of the past, and without being open, or for that matter public, about my neglect. I have failed to stand with my black sisters and brothers during South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. I have failed calling on my white sisters and brothers to be honest, just and loving. I have failed the Christian principles of love, justice and inclusivity. I have failed (and harmed) myself when I reduced my own happiness by not reaching out to others. For all of this, I am truly sorry. I know I cannot correct your pain and suffering.

Despite all this so many of you receive me with immense, gracious love and warmth. You treat me as if I am one of you despite my failures. You allow me to learn from you and you walk with me.

Often, when we come across so much resistance amongst Jewish and Christian Zionists and other supporters of Israel’s human rights abuses in respect of the Palestinians, I long to hold them tightly. I want to say to them “It’s okay to admit it. Just do it and release yourself from this terrible burden of justifying the modern state of Israel. We too shall welcome you and be there for you. It’s not a scary thing to support the human dignity of the Palestinians. In fact it may make you feel stronger and better!”

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Today Kairos Palestine’s evocative Kairos document A Moment of Truth: A word of Faith, Hope, and Love from the Heart of the Palestinian suffering, for example, challenges Christians worldwide (in 22 languages) to help them in their non-violent struggle.

11024714_10152916108011537_1010922261154685911_n(All four of the above photos on the #Kairos30 conference are by Sid Luckett)

Here is the full #Kairos30 statement as released on 20 August by the conference delegates:

Kairos 30th Anniversary Statement:
Dangerous Memory and Hope for the Future

We gathered in Johannesburg (near Cottesloe) from 17 to 20 August 2015, to celebrate how the 1985 South African Kairos document, “Challenge to the Church,” responded to a moment of truth in the most painful days of Apartheid. That Kairos document inspired three decades of Kairos movements in many different contexts. This 30th celebration has now re-inspired us toward a common humanity and a concern for human dignity and our environment.

The pain of Marikana and the reasons behind it (multinational profit before people and corporate greed) hovered over our conference.

The 2009 Kairos Palestine document, “A Moment of Truth,” a cry from the Palestinian Christian community, carries a disturbing echo of the dangerous memory of the South African story of Apartheid. Kairos Palestine has evoked a powerful global response from Kairos contexts around the world. The catalyzing power of Kairos Palestine was deeply felt in our gathering. We were inspired by this renewed energy. Palestine is the space where our sacred texts are contested.

There was much to celebrate in this gathering. Our Kairos conversations were intentionally multi-generational and broadly international. We were grateful to engage deeply with Muslim and Jewish perspectives. We found much joy in our solidarity and shared struggles. We were particularly encouraged by the inter-generational nature of this gathering and how that can be nurtured and encouraged. We are particularly inspired by the birth Zinzi Kairos Mbenenge during the conference. “… for unto us a child is given”!

A NEW KAIROS
We have reached a new moment of truth, a new Kairos. We recognize how the coming of Jesus and his teaching about a new kingdom and a new reign against the Roman empire of his day has completely passed us by. We lament that, by and large, the church of today has become distracted from this mission of preparing the way for God’s reign.

In our time, we find that various sites of pain and struggle are joined in a Global Kairos, a shared quest for justice. In our discussions, we named our shared struggle against the scourge of this global empire of our times. Empire is an all-encompassing global reality seeking to consolidate all forms of power while exploiting both Creation and Humanity. The empire we face is not restricted by geography, tribe, language or economy. Empire is an ideology of domination and subjugation, fueled by violence, fed by fear and deception. It manifests itself especially in racial, economic, cultural, patriarchal, sexual, and ecological oppression. Empire deceptively informs dominant, white supremacist, capitalist paradigms controlling global systems and structures. Global empire is sustained by weapons and military bases (hardware) along with ideologies and theologies (software).

We rejoice that resistance against empire is manifested in a plurality of struggles throughout the world. Struggles against ecological injustice, gender injustice and patriarchy, landlessness, abuse of people on the move, refugee vulnerability, political and religious persecution, social exclusion, denial of indigenous rights, neglecting children’s rights, harm to LGBTI persons, access for the differently abled, and racial supremacism represent only a portion of the struggles against empire. Since 1985, Kairos documents have expressed resistance to these and other realities in Central America, Europe, Malawi, India, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Palestine. In this conference, we were pleased to receive new Kairos documents from siblings in Swaziland, Nigeria, and the United States. The memory of unjust suffering in all contexts is dangerous to the purposes of empire.

In our listening to one another, we found that the context of suffering and pain created by Israel’s oppression of Palestine contains all aspects of empire. Palestine is therefore a microcosm of global empire, a critical site of reflection that can bring experiences in other locales into sharper focus. Palestine does not eclipse other situations around the globe but instead intensifies the need for greater interconnection and mutual engagement.

All Kairos movements emerge from sites of grave injustice and deep pain. Every Kairos document is a cry to God and to the world. We confess, however, that we have served two masters and preached a gospel that requires nothing of the rich young ruler, even as we build empire on the widow’s mite. We recognize that we and our church institutions have often closed our ears to our siblings’ cries and drowned them out. In many cases, very little action has followed. The church has often been ambiguous and cautious in its response to human suffering. Sometimes, the church has engaged in active opposition to the liberating work of God present in communities of resistance, increasing church complicity in structures of injustice. The church has often provided theologies of domination in the service of Empire. In our discussions, we found that the South African Kairos indictment of Church Theology is as relevant in our time as it was in 1985.

RESISTING IMPERIAL THEOLOGY
The dangerous memory of the South African Kairos document provided a prophetic critique of State Theology, theologies that validate and confirm forms of state terror. It identified as heresy theologies that justify Apartheid. In our time, we are called to expand this critique and rejection of state theology to address Imperial Theology, the ‘software’ that justifies imperial exploitation and oppression. We were encouraged to find that, although Empire seeks to divide communities from one another, peoples’ resistance can unite us across religious, ethnic and culture divides.

Imperial theology is at work in the continued oppression of Palestinians and the crisis now engulfing what is known as the Middle East. Analysis and rejection of the State Theology supporting Apartheid in South Africa was an essential element in exposing and resisting that sinful system. In its dominant forms, Zionism has been used to justify the dispossession, transfer, massacring, ghettoization and exploitation of the Palestinian people. Zionism has become an element within the dominant structures of empire. Politically, we call for an intensification of all economic and political pressures on the State of Israel, including the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). In our biblical interpretation, we strongly distinguish between biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel. Theologically, we declare to be heresy any Christian theologies that support the Zionism informing Israeli oppression.

We now therefore resolve

1) to act and pray, inspired by the dangerous memory of Jesus Christ, God’s siding with suffering and poor communities, aiming to do all we can to return the global and local church to the mission of Jesus to enact the reign of God, opening toward a new way of relating to humanity and the earth;

2) to encourage all Christians to respond to the Palestinian Christian call to “come and see” the living stones of the Holy Land, providing hope to all who suffer under the cross of illegal Israeli Occupation;

3) to advocate that international law must apply equally to all. We reject the imperial dictate that imposes sanctions on some regimes while vetoing and criminalizing popular calls for sanctions on egregious violations of international law;

4) to impress upon our churches, seminaries and theological institutes the need to deepen theological engagement with the pressing challenges of the world, including the global systems and structures of empire and to promote Kairos spirituality;

5) to reflect intentionally on the South African experience of the effectiveness of the BDS efforts and express our full support for an intensification of BDS as an effective, nonviolent strategy against global empire;

6) to create appropriate systems to ensure that young people will be nurtured and mentored in the Kairos understanding of faith, hope, and love and supported in their growth into leadership;

7) to express public support for those working against corruption in South Africa; while we rejoice that political apartheid has ceased in South Africa, we lament that economic apartheid continues; we commit to working toward Kairos Africa to ensure that the hopes of the next generation of the African continent are not dashed by Empire; and

8) to foster and nurture the Global Kairos for Justice movement; we are because you are.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4)

20 AUGUST 2015

FOR COMMENT:

Reverend Edwin Arrison: +27 (0) 847351835 / earrison78@telkomsa.net
Mark Braverman: +14439957882 / mbraverman@kairosusa.org
Ms. Marthie Momberg: +27 (0) 832907742 / momberg@sun.ac.za

Kairos Document: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos_Document
Kairos Palestine: http://www.kairospalestine.ps/content/kairos-document
Kairos USA: http://kairosusa.org

 

11180304_1449819825322050_2669416159281431213_nPreparing for the #Kairos30 conference with Mokesh Morar, Father Albert Nolan, Rev Edwin Arrison, Nonhlanhla Shezi and Vernon Weitz.

Signatories of the 1985 South African Kairos document against apartheid:

1. Dr JC Adonis
2. LA Appies
3. Ms Mary Armour
4. Dr JF Bill
5. Rev N Bixa
6. Rev A Bhiman
7. Rev N Botha
8. Rev A Boer
9. Rev A Booyse
10. Rev AS Brews
11. Rev J Carnow
12. Sis F Cassidy
13. Mr Tony Chetty
14. Rev F Chikane
15. Dr J Cochrane
16. Rev R Cochrane
17. Dr GD Cloete
18. Mr W Cloete
19. Mr Roy Crowder
20. Canon C Davids
21. Mr Mike Deeb
22. Mr S de Gruchy
23. Prof JW de Gruchy
24. Rev J de Waal
25. Dr W Domeris
26. Rev JH Dyers
27. Ms JW Engelbrecht
28. Mr PA Germond
29. Dr B Goba
30. Fr G Gobaiyer
31. Rev S Govender
32. Dr TSN Gqubule
33. Sis Aine Hardiman
34. Sis Clare Harkin
35. Rev A Hendricks
36. Fr Basil Hendricks
37. Rev B Hoorn
38. Rev R Jacobus
39. Dr Lizo Jafta
40. Ms Jave Joubert
41. Mr K Kiefer
42. Rev HM Koaho
43. Rev JNJ Kritzinger
44. Rev C Langeveld
45. Rev T Lester
46. Mr J Liddell
47. Ms L Liddell
48. Rev AM Lindhorst
49. Mr D Loff
50. Rev Wesley Mabuza
51. Archdeacon E MacKenzie
52. Prof SS Maimela
53. Rev JF Mahlaseala
54. Rev CJ Martin
55. Rev PN Mentoor
56. Rev Kenosi Mofokeng
57. Dr KE Mgojo
58. Fr S Mkhatshwa
59. Mr Peter Moll
60. Fr MSL Monjane
61. Dr M Mothlabi
62. Rev M Mpumwlana
63. Dr B Naude
64. Dr Margaret Nash
65. Sis B Ncube
66. Pastor Z Nertuch
67. Rev H Ngada
68. Fr S Ntwasa
69. Rev TW Ntongana
70. Dr A Nolan
71. Mr R Nunes
72. Rev M Nyawo
73. Fr R o’Rourke
74. Rev C Ontong
75. Rev T Pearce
76. Rev GB Peter
77. Ms Debora Patta
78. Mr RE Phillips
79. Rev Robin Peterson
80. Mr VP Peterson
81. Ms Heather Peterson
82. Canon G Quinlan
83. Rev C Sampson
84. Fr L Sebidi
85. Prof G Setiloane
86. Rev JN Silwanyana
87. Rev AL Smith
88. Rev Z Somana
89. Fr Thami Tana
90. Mr S Thaver
91. Mr B Theron
92. Rev M Tisani
93. Rev S Titus
94. Fr B Thlagale
95. Rev M Tsele
96. Rev J Thsawane
97. Rev van den Heever
98. Mr K Vermeulen
99. Dr C Villa Vicencio
100. Rev A Visagie
101. Rev H Visser
102. Rev MR Vithi
103. Dr CA Wanamaker
104. Rev MI Weeder
105. Rev D White
106. Ms J Williams
107. Rev B Witbooi
108. Fr A Winston
109. Mr RG Wortley
110. Rev BB Finca
111. Rev Z Mokhoebo
112. Ms S Britton
113. Rev DN Goga
114. Mr Paul Graham
115. Rev G Grosser
116. Rev B Habelgaarn
117. Rev Frans Kekana
118. Dr W Kistner
119. Rev CT Kokoali
120. Prof Charl le Roux
121. Rev CW Leeuw
122. Rev PT Letlala
123. Rev Gerrie Lubbe
124. Mrs M Mabaso
125. Rev Lucas Mubusela
126. Rev Maake Masango
127. Rev S Masemola
128. Rev TS Farisani
129. Rev O Mbangula
130. Rev GT Mcoceli
131. Rev M Mguni
132. Rev S Mogoba
133. Mr C Molebatsi
134. Rev Sol Jacobs
135. Vicar F Muller
136. Mrs M Mxadana
137. Mrs L Myeza
138. Rev SB Ngcobo
139. Rev D Nkwe
140. Rev PA Nordengen
141. Rev T Nyanela
142. Mrs A Rathebe
143. Prof W Saayman
144. Prof Nico Smith
145. Rev WT Soeldner
146. Rev MA Stofile
147. Fr F Synnott
148. Rev E Tema
149. Rev B Tshipa
150. Rev Stephen Warnes
151. Fr X Keteyi
152. Rev CZ Nevhutalo
153. Rev Lionel Louw
154. Ms V Zweigenthal
155. Rev Sol Jacobs
156. Dr T Kneiffel

Update: Dr. Clint Le Bruyns on the Gaza Flotilla, and why we hear nothing

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Dr. Clint Le Bruyns describes how Israel tries to prevent his team from boarding the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and why they have to limit their communication.

Click on the link below to read his blog:

Public Activism

I also received the following update this morning (29 June 2015):

“4 hours 49 min ago:
News: The Israeli military (IDF) announces on their blog that they have boarded the fishing vessel Marianne of Gothenburg on it’s way to Gaza. All passengers will be transported to the Israeli seaport Ashdod within 12 to 24 hours. The fishing trawler Marianne of Gothenburg, a rebuilt trawler loaded with medical equipment and solar panels, was boarded in international waters. Ship to Gaza had last contact with the crew onboard 00.57AM (GMT+2).”

and further:

“Statement by Ship to Gaza Sweden
Press release Created Today at 09:32

Ship to Gaza’s Swedish-flagged fishing trawler Marianne of Gothenburg has been boarded by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) about 100 nautical miles from Gaza. Last contact with Marianne took place 00:57 Swedish time. According to information from the IDF, who does not deny that the attack took place far out in international waters, is the hijacked ship in this moment, along with the captured crew and passengers, brought to the Israeli seaport Ashdod, which they expect to reach during the day. Also this time there were active MPs among participants of the flotilla, as well as Tunisia’s former president.

Ship to Gaza Sweden protest against this flagrant abuse of the freedom of navigation. Israel’s repeated acts of piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean.

We demand that Marianne be returned, and that her crew and passengers will be immediately released, so that they can continue their journey to their destination in Gaza.

We urge our government and the international community to take immediate action against daily violations of international law and human rights under Israeli blockade and occupation.

The three boats Rachel, Vittorio and Juliano II who followed Marianne has now according to plan turned back towards Greek ports.”

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

Why does someone like fellow activist Clint le Bruyns* risk his life by sailing to Gaza? Did Israel not kill nine unarmed activists in a similar attempt?

When reading the news of Israel’s horrific attack on the 2009 Gaza Freedom Flotilla I was sitting at a desk in Berlin where I studied at the time. Then I had no idea that I would become involved in the plight of the Palestinians and that six years later the very person who introduced me to the matter would be on his way to Gaza in another Flotilla.

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Dr Clint le Bruyns – theologian, scholar, Kairos colleague and human rights activist – is one of the more than 50 crew and passengers on his way to be part of yet another attempt to break the siege on Gaza and to provide much needed humanitarian aid. With him are a former Tunisian president, athletes, academics, parliamentarians, diplomats, journalists and a Catholic nun who want to reach the port of Gaza and call on the international community to open it:

delegates

According to the official website of Freedom Flotilla III their purpose is not to act against Israel, but against occupation:

Our actions would not be needed, if governments worldwide and international bodies like the EU and the UN would take steps to ensure accountability of Israeli governments for war crimes and collective punishment against the 1.8 million Palestinian population in Gaza Strip. We welcome voices from Israel who publicly state that the State of Israel is not threatened by the action against the blockade.

The international community should stop turning a blind eye on the blockade and occupation and take steps urgently towards the direction of ensuring the opening of the port in Gaza, the only port of Palestine to the rest of the world.

The Israeli-Arab Knesset member Basel Ghattas from the Arab Joint List, before boarding a converted fishing trawler the Marianne of Gothenburg, which is leading the convoy, said: “It is my right and moral obligation to tell the world, ‘Behold, look, in Gaza there is a closure and two million people are on the brink of explosion'”:

Knesset

Israel’s right-wing is now moving to penalize MK Ghattas for his participation in a legitimate political action of people from all around the world.

The activists are not alone. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of activists from all over the world, sail with them in spirit.

shipThe Marianne of Gothenburg, which is preparing to set sail for Gaza. Photo: Press TV.

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is a public cry for peace and a plea for justice. It is a demonstration of all that is good in humanity. It celebrates unity across religious traditions, cultures, gender and race.

A year ago I sat nailed before my TV screen as Israel bombarded Gaza:

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According to the UN Human Rights Council report, there were 6000 airstrikes on the Palestinian Gaza Strip including “targeted attacks on [Palestinian] residential and other buildings.” These Israeli attacks resulted in 142 Palestinians families having “three or more members killed in the same incident”. The report says that “in many of the cases examined…there is little or no information as to how [Palestinian] residential buildings, which are prima facie civilian objects immune from attack, came to be regarded as legitimate military objectives [by Israel].

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Justice Mary McGowan Davisto, chair of the UN investigation commission said that Israel’s killing of thousands of Gaza civilians and their destruction to the lives of many more in the summer of 2014 were ”unprecedented and will impact generations to come.”

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The Israel of today is more right-wing than on 30 May 2009 when the nine activists on the Mavi Marmara were killed, and even more right-wing than in the summer of 2014. The newly elected Netanyahu regime and its allies cling neurotically to an unjust system of discrimination and neglect. They tighten the desperation of their grip by instilling fear amongst Jewish Israeli civilians; by claiming that God gives them the right to dispossess and extinguish Palestinians; and by feeding the greed of power-hungry political and business players as fast as they can.

Meanwhile Israel has the highest poverty rate among countries in the developed world (see the findings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD). In other words the Israeli government, with the financial and political help of the USA, spends billions of dollars on illegal, unjust warfare and occupation instead of building a just, sustainable society. Israel denies its own Arab citizens, the Palestinians in diaspora and those trapped in Gaza, the West Bank and in East Jerusalem decent lives and basic human rights. Who benefits? The politicians who for ever want more power and the business elites who militarize the world for profit. It is a shame. Then there are of course those who are led by the nose, or who are too self-absorbed or too scared to confront the injustices, and those who believe in a God who favours some lives more than others. This too is a disgrace.

Humanity can do better!  Clint and the other activists on the Freedom Flotilla represent the moral voice of the global civil society. They can do with our support. They have had very good non-violent training, but of course we know what Israel is capable of. Let us take hands with these activists who want the siege of Gaza to end in a just, non-violent manner. We can do it with our energy – wherever we are.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA* Dr. Clint Le Bruyns (second from the left) is Director and Senior Lecturer: Theology and Development Programme at the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. Ismail Moola of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (SA) and others are providing logistical support for all activists on board the flotilla. (This photograph was taken at the Cape Town airport when comrades welcomed me home after Israel denied me entry without giving a reason.)

Some interesting findings from the newly released UN Gaza Report

…all rejected together with the rest of the report by Israel and its funder, the Obama Administration:

  • Paragraph 321 shockingly describes how Israel used Palestinians as human shields in the war of 2014.
  • Israeli supporters claimed that one of the reasons for the Israeli attacks was to destroy tunnels that were allegedly being used to conduct “terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians”. The report found that the Palestinian tunnels “were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”
  • According to the UN investigators Israel refused to respond to any requests for information and barred the UN investigators from traveling to the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel. Did Israel hide something?
  • In Israel six civilians and more than 60 soldiers died in fighting due to violations on the part of Palestinian resistance groups. Yet the scale and impact of Israeli violence dwarfs anything allegedly done by Palestinians.
Aside

UK Parliament votes by a landslide to recognise the State of Palestine

Well done UK!

An almost complete majority of MPs expressed recognised Palestine as a state whereas the UK government does not. The UK government will now have to clarify their position. While paying lip service to the notions of Palestinian statehood, the coalition government have contradicted this in actions, such as the decision to abstain on the 2012 UN vote.

A002Activists project Palestinian flag onto Westminster

 

David Hearst, Editor, Middle East Eye, comments as follows on the historic vote on Palestine in the British Parliament:

Israel is losing the battle for public opinion in Britain. Few are in a better position to chart the draining of support than the Israeli ambassador to Britain. Daniel Taub was born and educated here and has only to compare the benign views about Israel of his youth with the cold, unvarnished judgments of today.

Gone is the rose-tinted vision of Israel as an island of democracy in a sea of irrational and violent Arabs. Gone is the belief that Israel wants to negotiate, if only it could find a partner to talk to. Gone, too, is the notion that there is symmetry in this conflict, that this is a battle between equal forces.

This is not the effect of a larger Muslim community. All Britons today are more likely to be aware of the 14,000 settlements Israel approved during its nine month peace talks with the Palestinians; to wonder where a Palestinian state is going to go, with more than 600,000 settlers in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank; to acknowledge the insouciant racism of Israeli discourse about non-Jews; to recoil at the cost in Palestinian civilian lives of Israel’s definition of its own security.

The more Israel insists that its supporters choose between their liberalism and their Zionism, the weaker its case becomes that the two can co-exist. Britons are losing faith that a solution is just around the corner. The idea of Israel is changing in the minds of its allies. It is no longer a cause. It is becoming heavy baggage.

Monday’s vote in parliament to recognize Palestine as a state does not therefore come out of the blue. Neither did the largest ever demonstration seen in Britain on this conflict during the recent Gaza war. Nor did the resignation of the Foreign Office minister Lady Warsi, the highest placed British politician yet to resign over the UK’s “morally indefensible” stance over Gaza. Warsi was no George Galloway, a figure on the political fringe. She remains a mainstream politician who was courted by the two other political parties after her resignation.

Therefore her plea in the Observer on Sunday to recognise the state of Palestine carries political as well as moral force:

There is a lack of political will and our moral compass is missing,” the former Foreign Office minister told the Observer. “There are no negotiations, there is no show in town. Somehow we have to breathe new life into these negotiations, and one of the ways we can do that is by recognizing the state of Palestine.

The vote will be a symbolic one. A Palestinian state is a virtual concept, and it has already been recognized by 134 states, most recently by Sweden. But there is nothing symbolic or theoretical about the pressure applied by the Israel lobby on MPs of all parties to toe the line, but particularly a Labour Party led Ed Miliband. The vote in favor would amount to an historic act of defiance with an ally used to dictating the terms of the debate.

Israel and America’s argument that recognition and the reluctant, faltering moves by Mahmoud Abbas to join UN institutions like the International Criminal Court, would prejudice the outcome of meaningful talks is holed below the water line. There are no meaningful talks. What greater prejudice to the outcome of a negotiated solution could there be than the monthly announcements of settlements, which unlike moves in the UN, take immediate concrete shape, and for which Israel pays no cost? Who does more to de-legitimize the state of the Israel, than the state of Israel itself? As the former foreign secretary William Hague himself said, how long can this go on without the two state solution dying. It is by all appearances already dead. It will not take much before the coroner issues its death certificate.

Warsi revealed the support she got for her position from the “highest levels” of the Foreign Office after her resignation. She accurately described the vice like grip on policy by a small group of politicians “who are not allowing public opinion, ministerial views, parliamentary views and the views of the people who work in this system”
This is not a debate about outcomes, a one or a two state solution. It is about the ability of Israel to fashion and limit the international debate; to ensure that debate takes place only within narrowly defined parameters; to ensure that it continues to enjoy impunity for its actions; to nullify the international pressure on it to come to the table.

Occupation, as Abbas has himself said, is cost free to the occupiers. The strategy by all members of the international community has now got to be to start making the occupation more expensive. This debate and the vote will be an important start.

Extraordinary session of Russell Tribunal on Palestine: The crime of genocide in Gaza

For the first time ever regarding Israel, the crime of genocide, will be examined. On Wednesday September 24, 2014 judges, legal scholars, UN officials, journalists and cultural luminaries will gather in Brussels for an emergency session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. They will focus on Israel’s most recent military operation in Gaza – Operation Protective Edge.

jews against genocideJews against Genocide protested agains the killings of Palestinians by burning dolls in front of the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.

PRESS RELEASE

24-25 September 2014 – Brussels – Albert Hall, Brussels
www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/

The extraordinary session of the Russell Tribunal will examine Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity and for the first time regarding Israel, the crime of genocide. The Tribunal will also examine the legal consequences and third state responsibilities arising from the above.

The members of the jury are Michael Mansfield QC, Professor of International law and former judge John Dugard, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Richard Falk, President of the EJE Association (Les Enfants, le Jeu, l’Education) and wife of Tribunal patron Stephane Hessel Christiane Hessel, Founder of the Tunisan Association Against Torture Radhia Nasraoui, Film Director Ken Loach, Writer Paul Laverty, Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters, former African National Congress Minister Ronnie Kasrils, Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, and author Vandana Shiva.

The Jury will hear from the following witnesses: Genocide expert Dr Paul Behrens, Advocacy Units Coordinator of Defense for Children International Ivan Karakashian, Surgeons Mads Gilbert and Mohammed Abou-Arab, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Director Raji Sourani, munitions expert Colonel Desmond Travers, Advocacy Officer at Aprodev Agnes Bertrand, former Israeli soldier Eran Efrati,Coordinator in Europe with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) Michael Deas, Film-maker Ashraf Mashharawi and journalists Mohammed Omer, Martin Lejeune, David Sheen, Max Blumenthal and Paul Mason.

Guardian Cartoonist and author Martin Rowson will be the Tribunal’s illustrator.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was established under the patronage of the late Stephane Hessel, a former resistance fighter, concentration camp survivor and author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the recent multimillion selling ‘Time for Outrage!'(Indignez-vous!)

This is the fifth session of the peoples’ tribunal to take place in the past five years. Other have examined Third Party complicity regarding the UN, EU, and Corporate complicity as well as the Crime of Apartheid.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said of the Tribunal: “There is no military solution to the conflict in the Holy Land. Violence begets violence, which begets more hatred and violence. Nor have the world’s political and diplomatic leaders succeeded over many years to engineer a just and sustainable peace. Civil society must step into the breach, as it did in South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine is an important civil society initiative to hold Israel to account.”

The jury will give its findings at 10am on the 25thSeptember at an international press conference at the International Press Center (IPC, Brussels). In the afternoon, the Jury will be received at the European parliament and address a message to the UN General Assembly for its reopening.

CONTACT

Russell Tribunal Media Team:

Email: pressRTOP@gmail.com

Ewa Jasiewicz 0044 7754 360 030 (English, Polish and spoken Arabic)