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Churches' uprising against Israel

January 25, 2014 at 3:20 am

While Arabs are busy with revolutions and internal wars, and are largely absent from what is happening in Palestine and Jerusalem with Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the local population, American and European civil society is taking action against the Israeli occupation. One particular sector which has become very active and started to play an effective role addressing Israeli crimes is the Christian community. Churches are causing such a headache to the Israeli government that their activities have risen to a level described by some media as the “churches’ uprising against Israel”.

For example, in recent weeks, the Committee for the Presbyterian Church in America moved to demand the withdrawal of investments in companies supporting the Israeli occupation. Haaretz newspaper published a report last week on the committee’s move to draw attention to the continuing Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. According to the report, “After a long and hot debate, Commission 15 of the Protestant Presbyterian Church in the United States approved a resolution demanding the withdrawal of investments by three companies which deal with Israel. The question of whether the BDS (Boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement is gaining influence, is one of the hottest issues being discussed among the most politically active members in the Jewish community, at a time when many people take this issue seriously.”

In like manner, the World Council of Churches called on the Israeli government to freeze the construction or expansion of settlements without restriction, as a first step towards dismantling them all over the Palestinian territories. The Council clarified “that the presence of some 200 Israeli settlements, with more than 450,000 settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory, is incompatible with peace.” Furthermore, the WCC said that Israeli settlements and the separation wall have a direct impact on the lives and dignity of the Palestinian people, as they prevent their access to land and water resources, limit freedom of movement, and their right to life, education and access to health care, and work to destroy the Palestinian economy.

Commenting on the Council’s decision in the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi in 2009, Dr. Anis Mustafa Qasim pointed out that, “The continuous settlement in the territories outside the internationally recognised borders of Israel (the Green Line of 1949) is rejected by almost all the world, and finds a widespread non-recognition because it is illegal, unfair, contrary to peace and contrary to the legitimate interests of the State of Israel.” The World Council of Churches, he wrote, is demanding “that the Israeli government freezes, in good faith and as a matter of urgency, all work on settlement construction and expansion, as a first step in the direction of the removal of all settlements”. Such words, said Dr. Qasim, “are not for an Arab or a Palestinian official, and are not part of an Arab or Palestinian formal statement or decision, although we hear similar statements from time to time for domestic consumption. It is part of a statement issued by the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches in its session in the Council’s headquarters in Geneva in the period between August 26 and September 2, 2009, and it was announced in a six-page statement in English all dedicated to the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and the abolition of church investments and the imposition of a boycott.”

The Council of Ecumenical Churches, based in Geneva, called “its members and the public to take action to confront Israel’s decision to approve the construction of 900,000 new homes” in East Jerusalem. The Secretary-General of the CEC, Father Samuel Kobia, called upon member organisations “to act in coordination with each other to push the Israeli government to reverse its decision” on the new settlements Father Kobia expressed “great disappointment” and said that his organisation” strongly condemns Israel’s decision to expand the illegal settlement of Gilo”.

Similarly, a report from the General Assembly of the American Presbyterian Church at its 217th annual conference, which was attended by 500 delegates from all over the United States, refers to discussions about the question of withdrawing church investments from companies operating in Israel and the Occupied Territories, which help in one way or another to consolidate the Israeli occupation or provide the tools for violence and destruction to Israel. The report noted “an Israeli and Jewish concern to open the debate on the withdrawal of investments and that the Israeli Embassy hosted a group of eminent personalities from Christian leaders in the United States, and the Jewish American Council also condemned this anti-Israel activity.”

The United Church of Christ has “approved the divestment of companies that help in building the apartheid wall or settlements or support the occupation.”

Thus, while some Arabs move away from the Palestinian cause, we have to appreciate the solidarity moves by the churches, and stand in respect to all those who stand with the utmost courage and defiance side by side with Palestine. They, and we, condemn Israel’s crimes and Washington’s support for them, and call for their political and military leaders to be brought before international tribunals on war crimes charges.

The author is Palestinian writer who specialises in Israeli affairs. This article was translated from the Arabic which appeared on on 11 August

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.