South Africa on a failing Quartet

Outside the SA representative office in Ramallah with fellow South African ecumenical accompaniers Mpumi Nkosi and Zodwa Nsibande

When South Africa stated that the Quartet’s peace process comes to nothing, the Israeli response was one that will buy them more time to do what they do (expand their illegal settlements, grab more land, displace civilians and generally creating havoc) in their attempt to confiscate all Palestinian resources – but without the indigenous people.

If the Quartet makes no progress, it suits the Israeli agenda.
The world’s political leaders in turn seem to be too numbed and exasperated with the issue to come up with anything (like, for example, insisting that Israel too should adhere to international human rights laws).

What will bring the necessary change?  My hope is on the mobilisation of civilians….and there are indeed a growing awareness and actions from such groups worldwide.

Here’s an article on South Africa’s questioning of the credibility of the Middle-East Quartet:

South Africa has questioned the value and credibility of the Middle East Quartet that is tasked with mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even suggesting that it should be disbanded.

In a monthly United Nations Security Council debate on the region, South Africa pointed to the lack of progress in moving parties closer to direct negotiations by the group comprising the United States, European Union, Russia and the UN  – arguing that the prospects for peace were quickly diminishing.

There was tough talk in the Council on an issue where patience is clearly wearing thin.

Ambassador Doc Mashabane, South Africa’s number two at the UN says: “In the absence of any substantive progress, the peace process, we once again question the value and the credibility of the Quartet to which the UN has outsourced its responsibility. In our assessment, it has not proven its strategic worth. Therefore, let us urgently review this mechanism and either bolster, adjust or disband it.”

South Africa’s Charge de Affaires slammed Israel’s continued blockade of Gaza, criticised the indiscriminate firing of rockets from the territory into Israel, rejected continued Israeli settlement construction in disputed areas and again expressed support for Palestinian statehood at the UN.

“There is an urgent need to focus on the plight of the Palestinians, they expect a lot from us. They deserve better and we need not fail them. Political and economic events elsewhere in the world should not be allowed to derail the peace process, which is by far the best solution rather than ongoing confrontation and violence,” adds Mashabane.

There is an urgent need to focus on the plight of the Palestinians, they expect a lot from us

The UN’s head of political affairs Jeffrey Feltman warned that the door for a negotiated two state solution may be closing. “While the world’s gaze of concern points elsewhere in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict drifts dangerously in a direction that must be avoided.

Both sides maintain their rhetorical commitment to a negotiated peace, however the creeping realities on the ground and the stalemated diplomacy portray a more worrying reality. Stated intentions to adhere to a two state solution are not translating into meaningful steps to renewed dialogue on the core issues to be resolved,” says Feltman.

Israel’s ambassador, Ron Prosor rejected continued Palestinian efforts for statehood. “Instead of sitting with Israel in direct negotiations, the Palestinian leadership is pursuing the path of unilateralism at the UN. This is no road to real statehood. It is a march of folly. Peace must be negotiated. It cannot be imposed from the outside. There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions,” says Prosor.

Palestine’s Representative Riyad Mansour took issue with Israel’s lack of adherence to various international laws and resolutions that have for example called into question the legality of continued settlement activity. “Serious efforts must be made to overcome the paralysis in the international community, including the Security Council, especially with regard to ending Israel’s impunity and compelling its compliance with international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and with the relevant UN resolutions,” says Mansour.

There was a sense of exasperation from many countries who addressed the matter in Council, at the lack of progress and the entrenched views on either side that refuse to move parties closer to direct negotiations. The UN has warned that the situation is drifting dangerously in a direction that must be avoided.

Both sides maintain their rhetorical commitment to a negotiated peace, however the creeping realities on the ground and the stalemated diplomacy portray a more worrying reality. Stated intentions to adhere to a two state solution are not translating into meaningful steps to renewed dialogue on the core issues to be resolved,” says Feltman.

Israel’s ambassador, Ron Prosor rejected continued Palestinian efforts for statehood. “Instead of sitting with Israel in direct negotiations, the Palestinian leadership is pursuing the path of unilateralism at the UN. This is no road to real statehood. It is a march of folly. Peace must be negotiated. It cannot be imposed from the outside. There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions,”says Prosor.

Palestine’s Representative Riyad Mansour took issue with Israel’s lack of adherence to various international laws and resolutions that have for example called into question the legality of continued settlement activity. “Serious efforts must be made to overcome the paralysis in the international community, including the Security Council, especially with regard to ending Israel’s impunity and compelling its compliance with international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and with the relevant UN resolutions,” says Mansour.

There was a sense of exasperation from many countries who addressed the matter in Council, at the lack of progress and the entrenched views on either side that refuse to move parties closer to direct negotiations. The UN has warned that the situation is drifting dangerously in a direction that must be avoided.

by Sherwin Bryce-Pease, SABC-news, Tuesday 16 October 2012 06:53

South African EAPPI members from Group 41 (Mpumi Nkosi, Zodwa Nsibande and Alicia Lawrence) in conversation with Machiel van Niekerk at the South African representative office in Ramallah.

South Africa steps up support for Palestine

At the 2012 ANC Policy Conference the ruling party of South Africa undertook to “increase” their support for the plight of the Palestinian people and the boycott of Israel.  This position is supported by the former Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Alon Liel and by Avrum Burg, the former Speaker of Israel’s parliament.  But not all South Africans agree with this step.

STATEMENT: BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT & SANCTIONS  (BDS) SOUTH AFRICA

Member of the ANC’s International Relations Commission (and special adviser to President Jacob Zuma) Lindiwe Zulu, reported at a media briefing that: “[T]he ANC would continue to support Palestine and [has] called for an increased boycott on Israeli products”.

The ANC’s long-standing position on Palestine is part of its broader progressive internationalism. It is increasingly clear that the ANC is not simply offering “generalized” support to the oppressed but chose to support specific things that will lend concrete solidarity and contribute toward peace:

  • With Swaziland, the ANC insisted that the Swazi government sign an MOU on “democratisation and unbanning of political parties”.
  • On Palestine, the ANC took measures that will ensure sufficient pressure is brought for a just and negotiated resolution – similar to the pressure, negotiations and solution in South Africa.

The complete ANC Policy Conference proposals will be released in due course by ANC’s Luthuli House. We look forward to the ANC strengthening its resolution on Palestine even further during the Mangaung conference in December.

In taking this position, together with the recent announcement by the Department of Trade & Industry to prevent the mislabelling of Israeli goods, the ANC is not acting alone, with support coming from surprising quarters:

  • The former Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Alon Liel, backed the boycott of Israeli products terming it a “wake-up call” as “such a non-violent wake-up call is needed” in Israel. Also, subsequent to Israel accusing the ANC and South Africa of racism due to SA’s position on Israel, Liel bravely broke ranks and defended South Africa: “The ANC, which toppled apartheid, is still ruling the country [and] to use that term, racism, for the government that toppled apartheid is very counterproductive.” 
  • Avrum Burg, the former Speaker of Israel’s parliament, recently wrote in the UK’s Independent Newspaper: “Even I – an Israeli – think Israeli settlement goods are not kosher…we need intervention from the outside…to tell Israel that it is impossible to be treated as ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’, while it is also the last colonial occupier in the Western world. It is not anti-Semitic.. to convey these messages.”
  • Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, personally thanked South Africa and also called on other countries to follow SA’s lead and boycott Israeli products.
  • Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the Palestinian BDS movement wrote in South Africa’s Mail&Guardian newspaper describing how other countries are closely following the ANC and South Africa. He explained how the Irish foreign minister, Eamon Gilmore, told a media briefing after a recent European Union (EU) foreign ministers’ meeting that Dublin might very soon be proposing a Europe-wide ban on Israeli products during its EU presidency in early 2013.
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu together with Zapiro, Zackie Achmat and several others endorsed a public petition supporting the South African government.

On the other spectrum, reactionary but marginal groups, like the SA Zionist Federation (SAZF) together with the ACDP and IFP came out attacking the ANC and South African government. But this is back-firing with various South African bodies publicly challenging the right-wing groups’ “blind support for Israel”. For example, South African Christians slammed the ACDP’s “misguided” support for Israel (click here);  the South African Communist Party criticized the IFP’s support for Israel as “baseless” (click here); and, COSATU exposed how the SAZF is luring people by promising “free t-shirts and refreshments” to anyone that would attend their pro-Israel protest (click here).

Cape Town, 28 June 2012: A joint press conference supporting the correct labeling of products from the oPt, and speaking up against xenophobia in Israel. From left to right:
Sarah Boesak (BDS SA), Braam Hanekom (PASSOP), Marthie Momberg (Kairos SA), Terry Crawford-Browne (Palestinian Solidarity Group).

Cape Town, 28 June 2012; In front of the provincial legislative offices, handing our joint request to an ACDP representative.

The ACDP representative listening to our request.

Meanwhile, there are some major international divestments from Israel:

  • The global retirement fund, TIAA-CREF, dumped 72 million dollars of Caterpillar shares from its TISCX investment portfolio. Caterpillar is notorious for its supply of military bulldozers, amongst other equipment, to the Israeli regime.
  • Norway’s government-run pension fund, the largest pension fund in Europe, announced that it will divest all its shares from the Israeli real estate firm, Shikun Binui, that profits from Israel’s illegal activities. The Norwegian fund is worth $587 billion dollars, and this divestment decision will affect over one million dollars worth of Israeli shares.
  • The world renown African-American author, Alice Walker, refused the Israeli company, Yediot Books, from publishing her award-winning novel, ‘The Color Purple’. We salute Alice Walker’s moral consistency, for having opposed apartheid in South Africa and now also in Israel.

BDS SOUTH AFRICA

Support the South African government by signing the Avaaz petition  here.

Like-mindedness – but it cuts both ways

When does learning take place? When behaviour changes.
BUT – which way do we choose?
I am inspired by the USA Christians’ recent Kairos statement and their confession of their country’s role in the oppression of both the Palestinian and the Jewish people:

We begin with a confession of sin to Palestinians in the State of Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the diaspora and in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. As U.S. Christians we bear responsibility for failing to say “Enough!” when our nation’s ally, the State of Israel, violates international law. Our government has financed Israel’s unjust policies and has shielded its government from criticism by the international community. At the outset of the current U.S. administration, our government led Palestinians to believe that at last we would pursue a political solution based on justice. But the “peace process” has continued to be no more than a means for the continuing colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the imprisonment of Gaza and the intensification of the structures of oppression.

As Christians addressing the Palestinian cause we must also acknowledge our shameful role in the historic persecution of the Jewish people. We recognize the dehumanizing and destructive power of doctrines and theologies that denigrated Judaism. Our predecessors perpetuated anti-Semitic stereotypes, practiced scapegoating and cloaked prejudice, hostility and murder itself in the robes of our religion. We confess that our churches failed to resist, and sometimes even aided and abetted pogroms, mass dislocations of Jews, and the calamity of the Nazi Holocaust itself. In so doing, they betrayed the teaching and example of the one we claim to follow…

In light of these tragic failures, we must repent. We must work and even suffer for peace, filled with a heart of love for both Israelis and Palestinians. We must work and even suffer for peace, filled with a heart of love for both Israelis and Palestinians.

They continue by asking USA Christians to overcome their prejudices and myths, to engage with Palestinians, to listen to their stories, to examine their biblical interpretations, to actively participate in non-violent action as a means to end the illegal occupation and to advocate.

Read their full statement and list of actions (and why acting NOW is important).

More and more I start to think that my “tribe” does not only consist of my family, my friends and my nation. I feel connected to, and draw inspiration from the actions and support of like-minded people all over the world which include people from different religious backgrounds.

When I look at the list of people who already pledged their support for the USA Kairos statement, it doesn’t matter all that much that I don’t know most of them. I still sense a warmth of recognition since we all want a better life on this planet through non-violent means.

In fact only three names on the current (19 June 2012) list who support the USA Kairos statement sounds familiar to me –

  • the well known theologian Walter Brueggemann (Professor emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary),
  • my EAPPI colleague from Team 41 Rev. Andrew E. Larsen (Evangelical Covenant Church in Seattle, Washington) and
  • Tom Getman whom I met through Kairos for Global Justice.

What matters, is that we stand, and work, together.  (We at Kairos Southern Africa wrote a letter of support for this new initiative.)

The people from Goa, India also enthuse me through their letter to the Christians in Palestine:

We acknowledge our own indifference and inaction in the past and deeply regret this. Three years ago, for the first time, we sprung into action when we decided to study the issue of Israelis who had completed their term in the IDF and who turned up on the shores of Goa to overlook and disregard their actions while on military duty. Our study revealed how dehumanized these young people had become and how, because of an oppressive and cruel system of illegal military occupation, even the victimizers had turned casualties and victims of their own cruelties.

Read the full letter here: Letter_of_Solidarity_Goa

But many kinds of people are like-minded.
It saddens me immensely to read about fellow South Africans, in fact the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) who under its leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe came out strongly against the South African government’s planned relabeling law (Government Gazette Notice 379/12). The ACDP criticised Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies for (what they call) “singling out” Israel for censure.

From cii broadcasting:

Meshoe claimed that there is no such state as the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories” and therefore holds no ground within the law:

Section 24 of the consumer protection act says the importer of any goods must disclose the country of origin. I am disputing that the Palestinian territories are not legally and officially recognized in the world

he said.

Backing up its words with action, the ACDP organised a protest march, from the Union Buildings in Pretoria to the offices of the Department of Trade and Industry for Thursday morning 28 June 2012 and another protest in Cape Town on Friday 29 June in front of the Parliament Buildings.  So we at Kairos SA responded again – with an urgent and a passionate plea in an open letter to Rev Meshoe to reconsider his position.

Don’t march, we asked. Don’t fall prey to Israeli propaganda. Don’t use the name of God to justify a crime against humanity. Allow South African consumers to know that “Produce of Israel” often actually means “Produced in the occupied territories of Palestine”. Do you know the pain and injustices, we asked:

Do you know, Rev Meshoe, that Jerusalem Christians are being displaced, that their homes are being taken over by settlers and that many Jerusalem Christians
and other Jerusalemites have had their citizenship taken away from them through a mere administrative act?

Do you know the pain of families whose land is confiscated for the illegal wall or an Israeli-only road? Have you looked into the eyes of a scared child who is held captive or searched by soldiers? Have you seen the faces of farmers whose water wells or
cisterns were destroyed by bulldozers, or a woman who wanted to save her furniture before her house was leveled to the ground? Do you know what the weariness of workmen who queue up from 2:00 at a check point to get to work on time look like?
Have you seen fields of Palestinian olive trees destroyed at the hands of Israeli settlers? Do you know the fear of rural people who were held at gunpoint and instructed to flee from their village? Do you know that whole Palestinian towns are threatened with demolition and how your words of support for the present state of Israel provide oxygen to the fire of violence?

Do you not know, Rev Meshoe, how hope is being sucked from young Palestinian Christians by the illegal Occupation and how they rather choose to emigrate with their young families than live in Palestine, thereby robbing Palestine of one of its
most important natural resources?

Why do you not support the right to own property, the right to equality, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to freedom of movement, to self-determination and the right to live free of harassment and violence for all in Israel and Palestine? Are you not aware of these illegalities and many other inhuman abuses by the state of Israel? If you are genuinely not aware of the things we write in this letter, we are more than willing to supply you and your party with all these facts.

On the same day that we sent the open letter to Rev Meshoe (21 June 2012), I also got an e-mail from Jewish voice for Peace who, unlike our Christian brother, work for a just peace:

We learned that retirement giant TIAA-CREF has dropped all 73 million dollars in Caterpillar stocks from their socially responsible investment fund.

This is a watershed victory: we’ve been campaigning for this change because Caterpillar bulldozers have been used to destroy thousands of Palestinian homes and orchards.

But we can’t stop here. The movement to pressure Israel to be accountable to international law is now on the verge of a historic breakthrough at the Presbyterian General Assembly in Pittsburgh next week.

The Presbyterian Church (USA), one of the largest Protestant denominations in the US, will be meeting to decide whether to divest from Caterpillar and a few other companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. This is by far the most contested divestment vote in the US, and our pro-occupation opponents will be out in full force.

There is a very good chance we’ll win, but we’re not taking any chances. We need your help to send a large delegation of Jewish activists—including myself, Rabbi Alissa Wise, and many of our Young, Jewish and Proud leaders— to Pittsburgh.

We don’t have the hundreds of thousands of dollars for paid ads or celebrity speakers that our opponents have—but we do have committed, knowledgeable and dedicated Jews who can walk the aisles side by side with our Palestinian allies and tell Presbyterian voters face to face to go with their conscience and vote on behalf of justice for all people.

Let us live, and act, in Light and in Love, no matter what our culture or religion is.

Read what happened in Pittsburgh

Gallery

A visit by three Zionists to Stellenbosch

The other night someone started to talk to me at an art exhibition.  After asking all the obvious questions over glasses of wine (his) and mineral water (mine) and learning of my studies in religion and culture, he asked: “So what do you think of Islam?” I almost choked.  Ok, so now he had my attention.

I mentioned my travels to Indonesia and that I recently spent three months in Palestine. “These people opened their hearts and their houses to me” I told him.  “And I witnessed gross human rights abuses in Palestine….”

Someone else started to talk to the man and I wandered away to look at the young artist’s first solo exhibition. The extraordinary colourful paintings featured a South African fishing community – salt of the earth, weathered faces. They are not rich in earthly belongings, but they have such joy that they made me smile too.

happiness by Wilko Roon

The man and I eventually ended up having a late supper in town where I listened to his myths on Islam and Palestinians.

“There are two sides to the story” he said (But why do you think that these two sides are equal? Ever heard of systemic injustice? Like in apartheid – in our country – remember?)

“It’s a complex situation” he tried to ease it up (Well it would help if Israel starts to adhere to international law…. that’s not complicated, it’s pretty much black and white).

And so it went on.  I did not move him one inch (or centimetre). “You can say what you want,” he concluded “but the Israelis are damn good with water.”  (Yeah….they also steal Palestinian water.)

But we did part on a nice foot and when he called about two weeks later to say that some Israelis were visiting Stellenbosch to talk about their country I thought I should better check it out.

The Israelis turned out to be an ex-Christian South African couple, previously from Klerksdorp.  White Afrikaans speaking people like me, but probably about ten or fifteen years younger.  Their conversion to Judaism a few years earlier was prompted by their realisation that Christmas trees are part of a pagan tradition. They burnt their tree, started to study their Bible and eventually felt that it was their destiny to “return” to Israel. They now live in Be’er Sheva just off the southern border of the West Bank.

This is also the home of the Ben Gurion University (the University of Johannesburg severed ties with UBG in 2011).

Accompanying this couple was another Jew, a man who also used to be Christian. He emigrated from Dortrecht in the Netherlands to Israel.

To them their lives as new-born Jews in Israel have real purpose.  During the first part of their presentation they told us about their religious task to take back all that “belongs” to them.

“Fifty to sixty years ago” they said, “the West Bank and the area where we live was a wilderness and nobody wanted to live there.” (Thoughts of the thriving Palestinian agriculture and trade before the Nakba – the Catastrophe of 1948 when over 700 000 Palestinians became refugees and Israel took possession of 530 Palestinian villages in addition to the land allotted to them by the UN – crossed my mind).  He showed us beautiful pictures of fields in bloom – exactly the way Yanoun (where I used to stay whilst I worked in the West Bank) looks like in spring…. green fields dotted with red poppies….all natural.  “No-one succeeded before to let the Negev blossom” he said. “Each year our crop increases and this is God’s blessing to us.” I kept my silence to listen him out.

The Dutch Jew quoted from the Bible (Gen 22:19, Ex 3:31, 1 Kings 5:1, 1 Kings 19:1-3, Num 21:1, 1 1 Sam 25:1, Lev 26:20,32, Ps 126, Ezekiel 36:8, and so forth) to demonstrate that God promised all of the current Israel plus the occupied territories of Palestine (the West Bank, Gaza and East-Jerusalem) to the modern state of Israel and to anybody else in the world who chooses to be Jewish.

“There is only one thing in the Middle East that matters” he told us, “and that is the truth.  We can now see how the things that our prophets mentioned are coming true.” (Thank goodness my Bible talks about an inclusive love and respect for all.)

It was as if he repeated the Netanyahu rhetoric of “truth – more truth – and the truth only.”   But even Netanyahu’s truth sometimes shifts…like when he realised that the illegal expropriation of Palestinian homes and lands could actually implicate Israeli officials in war crimes litigation as one can read by clicking on the following link:

Netanyahu ordered evacuation of Hebron home over fears of war crimes suits

“God’s will”, they explained, “is to bring the people of Israel back to Israel.” (Will the land always be enough no matter how many people from all over the world convert to Judaism and move there? What about the many Jews who do not agree with the Israeli government’s policy to take someone else’s land and resources by force….those who say that the Torah speaks of respect for others and human dignity without a political and nationalistic agenda?)

“Each nation needs to be in its own place where they belong and this only will bring peace” the presentation continued. (Therefore Dutch and South African Jews are… what…Israelis? What is a nation and what is a religion – is there perhaps a difference between the two?)

“The Arabs belong in Jordan.” (In other words those Palestinians whose families date back to the times of the Old Testament, many of them Christians, should move to Jordan? What about the millions of Palestinian refugees worldwide – all of them too? I am a South African whose ancestors came from the Netherlands, France and Italy a mere three hundred years ago…where is my “place”?)

The man from the art exhibition and I were the only people who attended the talk by the three people from the Beit Moriah organisation. It turned out they came to ask money for their community which they said had been falling apart lately. They need the money to integrate immigrants from Ethiopia and the USSR, to feed those living below the poverty line, to run schools, to train leaders, to turn neighbours into friends, to instil Jewish and Israeli knowledge and pride. (The money that Israel receives from the USA each year is more than what the USA gives to the entire developing world.)

We had a long discussion and I felt like a lone voice between three Zionists and one person with an un-nuanced admiration for Israel.  I tried to talk to my fellow (albeit ex-)South Africans with warmth and love and asked them if they really, honestly, in their inner-most beings as members of a post-apartheid society think that the solution lies in separation. They answered quickly and surely – they don’t – and therefore all of the land must belong to Israel. I actually referred to separation between people.

The woman told me how she once took her child to a Palestinian hospital and how well she and her child were treated. There she realised that she and the Palestinian women are both mothers. The couple acknowledged that settlers live illegally in the West Bank (this unsettled the guy I went with) and that they are deemed the “baddies”. They know this. But they deny settler violence and regard the United Nations, the Red Cross, the Quartet and Save the Children as leftish organisations – “Don’t talk to us about them” they told me.

They felt the IDF discriminates as much against them as they do against Palestinians. Yet when I told them some of the things I witnessed in the West Bank they asked if I am sure that the transgressors were indeed settlers.  They didn’t know about the demolitions, the personal harassments, the damage to property, the confiscation of water, the denial of basic human rights and all the double standards. These things are not true they asserted, in fact, they heard rumours and when they checked it out the army told them that none of this is true and therefore none of this is true.

Despite my very best intentions and much discipline to restrain myself, my many questions and my counter information clearly irritated them. Or perhaps not? Did I give them something to reflect on? I’m not sure of this. The gentleman whom I accompanied assured me afterwards that I launched an attack on the three guests from Israel who just wanted to tell us their story.

I arrived home feeling very emotional…but I also remembered the grace and dignity of the Palestinians in the midst of their humiliation, pain and loss. I owe it to them to engage with those who do not yet see Israel’s systemic injustices so that even though they do not hear me, they can still feel my longing for harmony and perhaps, maybe on a level outside their minds and beyond their emotions and religious convictions, something may start to shift.

Over centuries, the truth has always shifted. We know only in part. Therefore we should be modest about our claims on truth or a single right way. In fact, we start to recognise a plasticity in the nature of reality as Richard Tarnas explains in his book on the ideas that shape(d) Western worldviews (1993:406).

If this is indeed the case, it has immense implications for the human situation as it actually implies that you and I can participate in the creation of reality.  It means we can influence our own reality through our actions, and even through our attitudes, our thoughts and our prayers. As we are all inter-connected, we can also influence the reality beyond our own bodies. All of this means that what we do really matters (in the literal sense of the word). We actually have an impact on what happens.

This is (one of the reasons) why I don’t give up, and why a situation as the one I described here actually energises me in my quest for living a message of non-violence.  I’ll keep on trying.

Read also the profoundly moving testimony of Rabbi Brian Walt (who grew up in South Africa) on Affirming a Judaism and Jewish identity without Zionism.

Tarnas, Richard. 1993.  The Passion of he Western Mind. New York.

A march, a checkpoint & Bethlehem Call in Stellenbosch, SA

It happened during lunch hour in Ryneveld Street past Stellenbosch University’s old main building…

Stellenbosch, Monday 5 March 2012, a march for justice in Palestine

On a tranquil autumn day, Muslims, Christians, and a Jew with white, brown and black faces, young and old, walked through the heart of the town and the campus, in silence, connected by a clear statement…

  • 13:00: March, from Arts Building (corner Merriman and Ryneveld Street) to the Faculty of Theology (Dorp Street 171).
  • 13:00 – 13:40: Simulated Israeli checkpoint at the main gate of the Faculty of Theology.
  • 13:40: Opening of gate for all, handing over of Bethlehem Call, and the Afrikaans Die Bethlehem Oproep to the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology.

Everyone who supports a free and just Palestine were welcome to join us and ab0ut 50 people walked with us.  The group walked to the main building of the Faculty of Theology . 

At “Checkpoint 171” (actually the main entrance to the Faculty of Theology in 171 Dorp Street) we wanted people to experience what it feels like to not be able to enter your own university in your own land,  or rather, to not have the access to education, etc. [I’ll load our video here asap.]

(photo by EA Carol Martin)

After a few staged “incidences” such as the one here where one Christian and a few Muslims wanted to respectively visit holy sites and their mosque but were refused entry, we opened the gates well in time for classes, but we also did so for another reason….

Inside the premises, on the steps to the front door, we presented The Bethlehem Call/ Die Bethlehem Oproep to the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology to  Prof. Julian Smith (Vice-Rector, Community Interaction, SU) and Prof. Nico Koopman (Dean of the Faculty and Director of the Centre).  We chose this Centre for its commitment to the honouring of the legacy of Beyers Naudé who was a champion for justice.  Both of them applauded everyone walking through the town to the faculty.  Prof Smith said that all of the 28 000 students of the University should in fact stand up for human rights.  We are very grateful for this response by our university and the Beyers Naudé Centre.

From left to right: Rev. Edwin Arrison (Kairos SA), Prof Nico Koopman (Dean, Faculty of Theology and Director of the BNC), Prof Julian Smith (Vice Rector Stellenbosch University), Christel Erasmus and Deon Scharneck (Kairos SA, theological students and organisers), MM (EA, Kairos SA) with fellow EAs Terry Crawford Browne (also from Kairos SA) and Carol Martin on whose camera this picture was taken.

The Bethlehem Call was composed in December 2011 by 60 people from 15 countries in Bethlehem, Palestine, as an urgent appeal to take a stand with the Palestinian Christians against the illegalities of the Israeli Occupation.  (See also an Islam response to the Kairos Palestine document.)

As I translated The Bethlehem Call into Afrikaans, I realised something I’m supposed to know –  just how powerful it is to read something in one’s own language. I have read The Call many, many times since December 2011, but now the words in my mother tongue made me experience the contents in a more immediate, a more intimate, manner. Suddenly I understood the urgency, the lament, and the appeal so much better. 

I am a post-apartheid South African and for the life of me I just cannot allow another apartheid system in another part of the world.  I have to stand with the oppressed.  No, I have to do more.  I have to spread the message and advocate for a just peace in Palestine.

Die Bethlehem Oproep:

Hier staan ons – Staan by ons

Hoe lank nog, o God, sal hulle ons lewensonderhoud steel? Ons mense onderdruk, gevange hou en verneder? Ons kinders van hulle jeug ontneem?  Inderdaad, vir hoe lank nog, Here, sal die talle Christene in die wêreld die lewensangs van ons Palestynse susters en broers en al die onderdruktes verontagsaam?

“Kom en kyk” het die Christene van Palestina gesê. “Kom kyk na die olyfboorde, die stootskrapers, die antieke terrasse, die verdeelde stede.  Die situasie word al hoe erger.”

Vandag neem die onregmatige regime en die onwettige vorms van Israel se besetting van Palestina dimensies aan van sistemiese onreg waardeur die ondenkbare en die onvoorstelbare internasionaal aanvaar, ondersteun en genormaliseer word. Dis ‘n voorbeeld van empire (globale dominansie) in aksie. Dit gebeur in Palestina soos ook in baie ander kontekste in die wêreld. Terselfdertyd is Palestina duidelik ook ‘n internasionale kwessie.  Die Israelse regering maak aanspraak op, en geniet inderdaad ‘n status van uitsonderlikheid in die internasionale gemeenskap.  Israel beskou haarself as verhewe bo die reg en word gehanteer asof vrygeskeld van die internasionale reg.  Hierdie status gee Israel se regering die vryheid om Palestina sonder enige straf te beset.Soos ons met ons eie oë gesien het, het die verraderlike toestande afgedwing deur Israel se besetting van die Palestyne en hulle land ‘n vlak van feitlik onvoorstelbare, gesofistikeerde kriminaliteit bereik.  Dit sluit die gestadigde, dog doelbewuste, en sistematiese etniese suiwering en landsmoord van Palestyne en Palestina in, en daarby ook nog die verwurging van die Palestynse ekonomie.  Die brutaliteit in die internasionale “geweld van stilswye” gee Israel se regering ‘n byna ondeurdringbare skild om haar bose plan uit te voer met ‘n blatante minagting vir menseregte en die internasionale reg.  Stilte is ‘n opinie. Passiwiteit is ‘n aksie.  Ons aanskou wêreldwyd ‘n besliste ruggraatlose lafhartigheid en swye wat faal om weerstand teen Israel te bied.  Ons sien dit in regerings, politieke partye, mediahuise, besighede en die meeste van georganiseerde geloof – insluitend die Christendom – en in die stilte van profete.  Dit maak ons aandadig aan misdade teen die mensdom, soos dié van apartheid en vervolging soos beskryf in die internasionale reg.[1]

Ons merk ook die vasbeslotenheid en veerkragtigheid van Palestyne waarmee hulle die wanbalans van politieke, ekonomiese and militêre mag met ‘n onbuigbare standvastigheid vir hul vryheid en ‘n regverdige vrede ewenaar.

‘n Onstuitbare momentum om Israel se regering en haar plaaslike en internasionale steun te delegitimeer en te kriminaliseer, is aan die opbou.  Dat internasionale boikot, disinvestering en sanksie (BDS) veldtogte en ander vorme van nie-gewelddadige weerstand bestaan, is ‘n voldonge feit.  Die regering en staat van Israel word tans beskou as ‘n apartheidsregime volgens die internasionale reg, met spesifieke verwysing na die VN konvensie oor die onderdrukking en strafbaarheid van apartheid as ‘n misdaad en die Rome Statute van die Internasionale Kriminele Hof.  Die wreedheid van die Palestynse situasie maak vergelykings met apartheid in Suid Afrika oorbodig en byna irrelevant.  Die maatstaf is die internasionale reg, nie Suid-Afrika nie…

Vir die volledige dokument: Die Bethlehem Oproep


[1]  Relevante internasionale wette sluit in die International Convention on the Suppresion and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (aanvaar in 1973 en geaktiveer in 1976); en die Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Artikel 7(1)(h) & (j), en artikel 2 (g) & (h) van 1988.

Aside

One million signature campaign launched by Kairos SA

MEDIA RELEASE

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town

PRESENTATION OF Kairos Southern Africa’s “A Word to the ANC, at this time”, THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL REFLECTIONS ON THE 2012 CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS OF THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS

Today Kairos Southern Africa and the African National Congress met to discuss the letter that Kairos SA offered to the ruling party at the occasion of the launch of its centenary celebrations. We are thankful for the opportunity of this engagement and believe that it helps nurture a necessary national conversation.

The Centenary celebration of any organization will elicit reflections on that organization. So it is with the ANC. Accordingly Kairos Southern Africa has offered this reflection with the hope that it will add to a necessary national conversation about the kind of future we wish to have.

The Church has historically played a significant role in the birth and life of the ANC. During the darkest days of our history and especially when the broad democratic movement was stifled and banned, it was the Churches that often stepped in and kept the dream of a non-racial, just, democratic and united South Africa alive.

The statement we handed to the ANC contains words of congratulations and gratitude as well as words of concern. These concerns are also disappointments since we expected more of a movement that fought for the best values of humanity and for liberation.

But we are also disappointed in ourselves and in the way we have disengaged with this new dispensation and how we have often not exuded hope. The message is therefore directed as much to us as it is to the ANC.

This letter we have handed over to the ANC therefore addresses both the Church and the ANC.  It asks if the South African dream of unity and dignity based on justice, peace and righteousness is unfolding in the country.  The letter confesses to instances where there have been shortcomings by  churches to live according to the values of a just, democratic culture.  It expresses concerns with several issues in the country; including among others the challenges of deepening inequality, service delivery and corruption.

The choice for us as South Africans is stark: either we choose life or we choose death. Either we choose reconciliation, justice and friendship or we choose conflict that will engulf us all. Either we choose greed or we choose to share.

We do not regard this letter as complete or perfect, but we hope that it conveys an ethos of constructive self-critique that will help us to refocus our energies on what we really want.  We believe that as in 1985 when some South African churches spoke up against apartheid, this moment too is a Kairos opportunity, one that may pass us by if we do not act now. It is a decisive moment that asks for our participation.  We pray for courage and transformation.

We welcome today’s meeting. We hope that it contributes to a widening of debate among all South Africans, especially the Churches, who have largely withdrawn from engagement with our unfolding democracy.

Accordingly, we launch the million signature campaign today to get the conversation going particularly amongst those who have been disconnected from the democracy. We think this will be one small, but not insignificant way that we can help to build social cohesion and to mobilize particularly the churches to take our responsibility for this society much more seriously than we have done up to now.

Kairos Southern Africa is committed to the values of justice, peace and righteousness.

 

ISSUED BY KAIROS SOUTHERN AFRICA

CONTACTS:

Rev. Moss Nthla      +27 (0) 828098533,       nthlaro@icon.co.za

Rev. Edwin Arrison: +27(0) 847351835,     earrison78@telkomsa.net

MORE INFORMATION:

http://kairossouthernafrica.wordpress.com/

Nearly 1000 citizens have already signed the letter.  All South Africans who can associate themselves with this message may endorse the letter with their signatures.

Also on 8 February and immediately before this press release, we met with the ANC and gave them our letter.

The Kairos SA delegation consisted of: Moss Ntlha, Edwin Arrison,  Joe Seoloane, Lunga Ka Siboto, Michael Weeder, Mike Deeb, Nkosikhulule Nyembezi, Denise Ackerman and myself.

The ANC delegation consisted of: Gwede Mantashe, Mathole Motshekga, Songezo Mjongile and Moferefere Lekoro Tsoana.  We were told that Baleka Mbete was one of the key people who insisted that this meeting should happen.

If you want to sign the Kairos SA letter to the ANC, simply send an e-mail to Edwin Arrison at earrison78@telkomsa.net.
Please indicate if you are not a South African citizen (but you may still sign).

To read our letter, choose one of these links:

The complete letter: THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL REFLECTIONS ON THE 2012 ANC CENTENARY CELEBRATION

The shortened version: KAIROS SA WORD TO THE ANC_shortened version

About what led up to the media release and meeting.

SA Council of Churches condemns violence as a solution

Israel confiscated the family land of these two siblings to build the illegal Apartheid Wall in the West Bank. I watched as it happened.

At its Central Committee in June 2011, the SACC took the following resolution to further stress its commitment to the resolve of the Palestinian question.  This is good news 🙂

1.      The SACC Central Committee

  • Re-affirms the work of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel at their Justice, Reconciliation and Healing department addressing the human rights violation suffered by Palestinian people through repeated attacks by the Israeli army and the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory by Israel.
  • Acknowledges with appreciation the initiative of reconciliation between Hamas and FATAH and call on them to work together in finding peaceful resolutions.
  • Deplores all round use of violence as a solution in addressing these problems.
  • Affirms the work of the SA-EAPPI Program and recommends that it be used as a vehicle for convening the Church Leaders visit.

2.      In implementing this resolution the meeting agreed to:-

  •  Send a delegation of NEC and Church Leaders from the Council  on a solidarity visit to Palestine around Lent season in 2012, and on return commit to
  • Raise with our government the issue of declaring Israel an apartheid state.
  • Join other cultural and religious campaigns in support of BDS against Israel.
  • Design an Educational Awareness Programme for churches on the struggle of the Palestinians.
  • Mobilise Christians to include Palestine during pilgrimages to the Holy Lands stop touring Israel only.
Aside

A word to the ANC, in these times

“We are the  ones we have been waiting for”
(Alice Walker, Nobel prize winner)

It is time for us, the ordinary people, to speak up.
By doing so, we influence our reality.

I share this text with you as I have signed it.
If you are South African and 16 years or older, you may sign too.  All you need to do is email my colleague Rev Edwin Arrison earrison78@telkomsa.net

We know that the document has many flaws, but this is our starting point.
We hope you share in the ethos it conveys and we would love to have your feedback.



THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL REFLECTIONS
ON THE 2012 CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS OF THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS

A WORD TO THE ANC, IN THESE TIMES

As we continue to celebrate the coming of the Word into the world (John 1: 1) and God made human, we, fellow South Africans and Christian theologians, now wish to pass these words on to the African National Congress, as it prepares to celebrate its centenary during 2012…

We do so in a spirit of appreciation and gratitude for you and in a spirit of true friendship, where we can both congratulate you and raise some concerns as friends, and pray that these celebrations will be appropriate and not lavish, especially given the levels of poverty and inequality in our country.

We do so, knowing that many members of the ANC are also part of the Christian community, and this document is therefore written for our collective reflection.

We also do so, knowing that many Christian leaders were involved in the formation and nurturing of the ANC over the years, and we therefore continue to feel a sense of responsibility for its existence and what it does. In 1912, the founders of the African National Congress dreamed of a different future for all the people of South Africa, where there would be no more coloniser and colonised, but where we would all be one: One people, one nation, one country!

They dreamed that the injustice that was being meted out to black South Africans by the colonisers would come to an end. We thank God that the colonial and apartheid systems have come to an end and a great effort has been made to better the lives of all South Africans, especially the poor.

Although there has been much progress in this regard, certain tensions and contradictions continue to militate against us fully achieving this dream. The effect of the 1913 Land Act, is largely still with us; the economic disparities are stuck with us; deep levels of poverty are staring at us.

In this year, we once again dream of a future of being one, united in our diversity. This unity needs to be based on justice, peace and righteousness. Let us use this year to once again dream this dream together.

To continue reading, click HERE

To read about the One Million Signature Campaign, click HERE.