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 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.
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.
Should we be loyal, above all else, to the State of Israel? This is the view of South Africa’s current Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Yet Christian leaders from South Africa and virtually all continents made it clear that they “cannot serve God and the oppression of the Palestinians”
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.
They call upon fellow 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 they argue:
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 current 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, political science, geography and international borders.
His assumption that the biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel are one and the same entity is one made by many Christians who conflate the two terms or read the Bible in a literal manner and not contextually. (For an excellent analysis of this matter, see Critical reflections on Israel’s claim to land in Palestine by Spangenberg and Van der Westhuizen).
The Chief Justice’s uncritical loyalty to Israel together with his omission to mention Israel’s well documented systemic human rights violations imply a view that Israel is exempt from international laws on occupation, land theft, exploitation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. He is right that we have to love Jews. But will he disagree that when a murderer is on trial we do not stop loving that person when we acknowledge the crime and serve justice?
Mogoeng’s public opposition to his democratic government’s official position on Palestine and Israel on an international platform is shocking.
His apparent ignorance of the existence of Palestinian Christians, their suffering under the Israeli regime and their call for help, underscores his fallacious and misguided position.
The Chief Justice said that he spoke as a Christian and that he will never take back his words. This logic implies that people who embrace values of equality, justice and compassion in respect of all people and therefore support the Palestinian struggle will be cursed by God. It is a logic that crucifies Christ’s message of inclusive compassion and human dignity. God does not side with a country. God can be found in the midst of the oppressed.
In March 2021 South Africa’s Judicial Conduct Committee asked Mogoeng Mogoeng to apologise unconditionally for the political controversy he caused through his statements in the webinar with The Jerusalem Post in June 2020, but the Chief Justice chose to appeal against the court ruling. Moreover, he declined offers from South African Christian leaders to learn more about the situation in Palestine and how the Bible is abused to mask Israel’s crimes. Why does he refuse to meet Palestinian and fellow South African Christians? To me the answer is that he chooses to side with a country and not with God’s inclusive compassion and justice. The longer people support the Israeli state uncritically, the longer the suffering of the Palestinians.
Does Mogoeng Mogoeng’s conduct puts him in the company of people who do not care about all human lives, international law, the contributions of science, the importance of honesty and the rejection of racism and all forms of discrimination? The devastating impact of narcissistic, power-hungry, uninformed leadership has become all the more clear since 2020.
Southern African Church leaders
When Bishop Purity Malinga, the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (the church of the late President Mandela) endorsed #Palestine_Cry4Hope, she connected the matter both with the Trump administration 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 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. In noting the intersectional nature of the matter, Bishop Luke Pato, the Anglican Bishop of Namibia, on behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), calls forth the disturbing image of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign:
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), in turn, makes the connection with international law and the definition of apartheid in the Rome Statute. His statement reaffirm that it is time for the international community to recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law,
… 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.
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 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.
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. Whether the discrimination takes the shape of antisemitism or apartheid they use a “theology of Empire” “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 Jews and Palestinians,
…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. It 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.
[i] Other South African clergy who 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
South African citizens (and many in the UK and in Canada) are – to say the least – shocked.
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?
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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?
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.
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.
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,
(Prayer of Confession as read in 2003 at a service at Cheltenham Races, GreenBelt, UK)
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 email@example.com.
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?”
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!”
(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)
Preparing 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
Brands and share value are, to a large extent, based on sentiment and perceptions.
In this case, whether the issue is about a few pretzels and pomegranates as some argue, or about people who are killed, robbed, tortured and oppressed as others argue, is not the only issue. The Woolworths arrogance is now pushing the #BoycottWoolworths campaign to the main stream media – a disaster for the Woolworths brand.
Listen here what happened at the Woolworths Annual General Meeting:
Woolworths declined SABC’s invitation to participate in this and in other media discussions.
It is alarming that Woolworths refused to meet with BDS before a court ordered them to do so. Moreover, their arrogant refusal to talk about their ethical stance at the AGM for shareholders express their disregard of consumer and shareholder needs.
Simon Susman, Chair of the WHL Board
As shareholders we thought the Woolworths campaign is about a just freedom for Palestinians. But now it seems as if the matter is also about corporate governance!
All shareholders, those who fight for pretzels and pomegranates from Israel as well as those fighting for Palestinian rights should expect Woolworths to resolve the matter with BDS and to uphold the kind of ethos they say they stand for.
“Our eggs are best enjoyed on a slice of ethics” says Woolworths.
When shareholders challenged the Woolworths Board on their ethics in respect of Israeli trade relations, the board members avoided clear answers. When I asked Simon Susman, Non-executive Director and Chairman to explain the Woolworths difference between ethics and the law, he refused to comment. Instead Tom Boardman, another director, used a lot of words without answering the question.
This picture is from the Woolworths Holdings Limited/ 2014 Integrated Report prepared for their annual general meeting with shareholders.
When we asked Chris Nissen, Chairman of the Social and Ethics Committee to explain the Woolworths ethics, he said an external company screened their service providers and he refused any further comment. We posed questions to Zarina Bassa and Sam Ngumeni from the risk and compliance committee, they too refused to answer.
Non-executive Director and Chairman Simon Susman acknowledged that the Woolworths brand is in question. At the start of the meeting, when he announced the agenda, he mentioned that they received a statement on the boycott from a shareholder. From that point onwards, the concern with trade relations with Israeli companies dominated the meeting. Lots of pertinent questions were asked and not answered. When shareholders insisted that the points should at least be minuted the Chair first consulted with his legal team to hear if it is in order to do so. They confirmed that it is in order. We hope the points were taken down.
Shortly before the Chair stopped the discussion I asked him how Woolworths engages with any shareholder statements they received. He assured me that there is a process in place and that they have already engaged with all those who sent statements. Mr Susman was not telling the truth when he said this. As you will see from the e-mails below, despite several requests to do so, no one has engaged with me on the statement I sent a week before the Annual General Meeting on 26 November 2014:
From: (name of official from my stock broker’s office) Sent: 19 November 2014 02:34 PM To: firstname.lastname@example.org Cc: Momberg, Marthie Subject: Woolworths AGM
As per our telecom, please see our client’s letter attached. I have also attached the client’s email with her concerns.
Could you please revert to Mrs Momberg, she is copied in this email.
(name of official from my stock broker’s office)
From: Momberg, Marthie Sent: 21 November 2014 02:10 PM To: (name of official from my stock broker’s office); email@example.com Cc: (name of stock broker) Subject: RE: Woolworths AGM
Dear (name of official from my stockbroker’s office),
It is now four days since I asked:
1. Information on how the boycott against WW impact on their sales.
2. What the correct procedure is to raise an issue at the AGM.
You also forwarded them my statement as a shareholder.
Thank you for your help, but unfortunately I have not yet had any kind of response from Woolworths. Can you please follow up with them?
With kind regards,
From: (name of official from my stock broker’s office) Sent: Monday, 24 November 2014 09:21 To: Evelyn Baiden – Amissah Cc: Subject: RE: Woolworths AGM
I tried calling and left a message.
Can you please urgently advise with regard to Mrs Momberg’s concern’s, please see an article that was placed in the newspaper.
(name of official from my stockbroker’s office)
From: Evelyn Baiden – Amissah [mailto:EvelynBaiden-Amissah@woolworths.co.za] Sent: 24 November 2014 05:13 PM To: (name of official from my stockbroker’s office) Cc: Subject: RE: Woolworths AGM
Dear (name of official in my stockbroker’s office)
I confirm that I have received your email below as well as the voicemail you left in this regard.
I have forwarded the email on to the relevant people within our Company Secretarial department who will determine the appropriate action in line with protocols of engagement with shareholders.
The AGM will be held on Wednesday, 26 November from 10:00 – 12:00 at Woolworths House in Cape Town.
I don’t buy my eggs at Woolworths, and I don’t swallow their ethics.
Click here for a short YouTube clip on what happened outside the Woolworths headquarters while the shareholder meeting was underway. Note the excellent comment by Dr Clint le Bruyns.
I feel as if I owe an explanation to many people about why I have decided to boycott Woolworths. This is a personal decision and is not something I can enforce on any other person, but I need to explain my decision and others can and must make their own decisions. If I have not convinced others through my arguments, then the responsibility lies with me and not with the other person.
What follows is a personal account from Rev Edwin Arrison who also serves as chairperson of South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P). He speaks from his heart and with the many years’ experience during the apartheid struggle years:
Rev. Arrison featured with South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council’s Secretary General Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie (left) and the Ambassador of Palestine (right).
One thing that I hope all humanity wishes for AND works for, is to have a as-non-violent-as-possible resolution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I do not think wishing for it is enough, and neither do I believe that non-violence is something only to be talked about: no, it is something ordinary citizens must DO. If there is no non-violent ACTION, then I believe we are simply complicit in the violence happening.
As a South African, I am the beneficiary of a sustained boycott campaign against Apartheid South Africa by ordinary citizens across the globe. The freedom I enjoy today is partly because women and men across the world refused to buy Apartheid South Africa’s goods, EVEN if their governments allowed those goods to be imported into their countries. Sometimes groups of people protested with placards in front of stores and Embassies – at other times a lone individual did that, and for all of them I am extremely grateful. I also know that boycotts and sanctions do have a positive effect even if it is experienced as negative.
Today, Israel practices Apartheid 2.0 : Supporters of Israel will vehemently try and argue and deny this, but the experience of Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and of many observers, is that Israel practices a very sophisticated form of apartheid. Besides these daily experiences and observations, there are research documents to prove that Israel practices Apartheid 2.0, one done by South Africa’s own Human Science Research Council (HSRC) and by the work of the Russell Tribunal. This information is widely available on the internet. Israel also continued to support Apartheid South Africa even after the USA decided to implement sanctions against South Africa.
There are also thousands of newspaper articles and videos that describe this. Supporters of Israel will want to argue that this happens in other countries as well, but in their case (and one of the key reasons why I feel so strongly about this) it is being done on the basis of some selected Biblical texts, the same Bible that I read every day. And I definitely do not agree that the current state of Israel complies to the basic tenets of the Biblical text, which is love, equality and justice.
My own view is that Israel makes life as difficult as possible for ordinary Palestinian people in order to force them out and get them to emigrate so that Israel can win a “demographic war”, in other words, for Israelis to be in the majority. This strategy has worked well with tens of thousands of Palestinian Christians who are economically strong: most of them have emigrated and now live in different parts of the world. The ones who remain are being steadfast, but I know how difficult it is for them there. I therefore find the “Christian” support for Israel completely weird and unacceptable: here is a country who has, through big and small actions, driven out Christians from the Holy Land and yet other Christians find reasons, most of it completely illogical, to support them. Right now, Israel is trying to make Jerusalem a Jewish-only city through various actions. It is time we all wake up to what Israel is doing and how it continues to steal more and more land.
Coming from a country that practiced apartheid in all sorts of ways (and using the Bible to justify it), I CANNOT condone the same situation happening in another part of the world and be quiet about it. President Mandela had a very deep intuition when he said that “South Africans will not be free until the people of Palestine are free”. He was completely right, and people such as Archbishop Tutu and many others support the struggle of the Palestinian people despite the worst kind of criticisms they face.
Woolworths chooses to trade with Apartheid Israel I described above : It must be said that Woolworths is not the only company that trades with Apartheid Israel, and that the South African government enables this trade to happen. For that reason, 200 000 people marched to Parliament on August 9 to call on our government to stop this but they have still not done so. But we will not leave it there and we will continue to expose our government’s double standards. That is a discussion for another article….
Woolworths has now been approached (through letters that I and others have written to their CEO) to stop trade with Israel and they have deliberately CHOSEN to ignore these calls. Having made this clear and deliberate choice against stopping trade with Israel, it places Woolworths in a category where they are now deliberately culpable in the continued oppression of the Palestinian people.
Woolworths’ claim to be ethical , if not THE most ethical company: Those who make claims about their high ethical standards must be challenged to live by it. This is part of the reason why I support the #Boycott Woolworths campaign
The need to focus on one retailer (from a strategic and practical point of view) : Sometimes people speak about other companies who also have ties with Israel, and of course this is true. If others feel they should boycott a few companies, they should go ahead and do that. But to be effective AS A CAMPAIGN, I strongly believe in the need to focus on one target and deal with that. You will simply dilute your energy, resources and capacities if you try to do too many things at the same time. At another time, when more people have joined and there are more resources, the campaign can be broadened to the other retailers who also have links with Israel, but I strongly believe in the need to focus on one…it is the only way that the campaign will succeed.
These are some of my most important reasons why I boycott Woolworths. People are free to challenge me but I hope that at the very least you will try to understand why I feel so strongly about this. The moment when Woolworths stop its trade with Israel, I will probably support it again. But not while it trades with a country that practices Apartheid 2.0 daily, and that on the basis of a few selected Biblical texts.
If you wish to join the boycott, here are some ways to participate :
1. The simplest way is obviously to just stop buying at Woolworths, and do nothing more than that, and that will be enough for some people.
2. Some clients can also write to Woolworths to ask them to take them off their address lists.
3. Some clients can close their accounts if they feel this is what they are able to do.
4. Use Social media to mention that you support the #Boycott Woolworths campaign.
5. Write letters to the Editors of newspaper if they mischaracterise the campaign.
6. Some people can demonstrate in front of Woolworths stores from time to time.
7. Some people can demonstrate inside Woolworths stores by, for example, filling up trollies and refusing to pay until that particular branch manager of Woolworths gives an undertaking to not stock Israeli goods.
8. Some people can write to the PIC, that has almost 20% shares in Woolworths.