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Message from IPMN, press release from new Episcopal Church group calling on divestment from Israeli Occupation, plus more...
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Message from the Moderator

When History Repeats Itself and Justice Happens


In the late 1970’s I was a young seminary student at Princeton Theological Seminary, freshly graduated from Kansas State University where I had no clue about social justice   So why I joined the Princeton Seminary student peace and justice group I will never know, but I did.   I was searching for something.   There was a disconnect between my Kansas Sunday school lessons and the discussions in various seminary classes about social justice and the gospel.  That chasm was personally unsettling, so I hit the problem head on and joined the group.   I was tested almost immediately when I realized that this organization was agitating for social justice in South Africa.   “Wait…”  I thought, “wasn’t S.A. a unique African nation in the sense that it had been the only one without indigenous people--that it was actually an empty land at the southern tip just waiting for Afrikaners to arrive and take possession in their own version of Manifest Destiny chosenness?”    That was the narrative I got in Kansas, anyway.  I was reminded of that when I returned to my first pastorate thirty miles from where I grew up and some of my new parishioners repeated that same narrative.
 
But by then I had heard about Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu.  I had met Alan Boesak when he came to Princeton, and in something of a low key event in the campus center told us he could be arrested the minute he deplaned in his home country for what he was saying to us.  I read, I researched, I plumbed the depths of my being, I prayed.   I decided to actively join the effort to call upon Princeton Seminary to divest of its assets in South African apartheid.  We got an audience with the seminary president as well as the president of the board of trustees. We said our piece and our peace. They were gracious and diplomatic and basically promised nothing. Later the seminary president was heard saying to the board president:  “Don’t worry…we’ll graduate the problem.”   They did.  Finally in the mid-eighties the PC(USA) divested, and at the time the rhetoric and behavior in church ranks was every bit as divisive as it is now about Israel/Palestine. Princeton Theological Seminary never did divest. My theological institution remained on the wrong side of history; thankfully, my church did not, just as it has not now.
 
Now Desmond Tutu has recently embraced A Call to the Episcopal Church to Recognize the New Political Landscape in Israel & Palestine by the Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine. (included in this email).  In his forward to this document Tutu begins by saying:  “I recall so joyously the witness and generosity of your Church in helping those of us caught in the shackles of apartheid during those dark days of our oppression…  In recent years, I have been increasingly dismayed at the deteriorating conditions of the Palestinian people living under occupation, which has now gone on for 47 years with no end in sight.  Even a decade or more ago when I was in the Holy Land I saw the marks of apartheid in the policies of the Israeli government.”
 
For those of us in the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PC(USA), these are not new words at all.   More than once since 2004, when the General Assembly first called for corporate engagement with companies profiting from occupation and non-peaceful pursuits in Palestine, Archbishop Tutu wrote statements to commissioners of PC(USA) General Assemblies essentially saying the same thing he now again says to the Episcopal Church. His witness has been unsettlingly consistent…again.
 
The call to the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church this June sounds like 2004 all over again.   It is a call for corporate engagement until 2016 with the end being disinvestment from companies that do not “withdraw from their business operations in Occupied Palestine until it is ended.”
 
In the wake of the decision of our 221st General Assembly in June 2014 to divest from three companies profiting from the occupation, we Presbyterians might be tempted to say “been there, done that;” but not really.   The Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine is shining a new light on our own Presbyterian debate about divestment vs. investment as the best way to bring peace.  In discussing what the committee has observed and learned in the recent past, it has made this critical observation:
 
“’Positive Investment’ was proposed where companies could contribute to economic development in the West Bank and Gaza strip as one means to create the institutions and infrastructure that would allow Palestine to be a viable state and partner for peace.  Ten years later, it’s time to assess the results of these policies… We are mindful that to first ‘build economic infrastructure’ among those under military occupation is a familiar tactic of immovable authority.  It is the means to spin out serious discussion of justice until the day that the dominant party believes some sort of appropriate economic conditions are flourishing.  And it was the approach long used by the South Africa of which Archbishop Tutu writes to rationalize black subjugation.”
 
The Israel Palestine Mission Network, much like the Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine, has long argued that divestment and positive investment are both important tools.  In fact, we have long considered it part of our mandate by the 216th General Assembly.  But the truth remains, investment does not work if the matrix of occupation and oppression is not dismantled, and that requires all the non-violent tools at our disposal: boycott, divestment and sanctions.  The Israeli government has made it absolutely clear, especially as of late, that it has no intentions of changing anything about the occupation.  Even as we hope and pray for substantive change as a result of our efforts, the reality we face as a faith community is that at the very least the Church of Jesus Christ in any conceivable form does not invest in oppression and human misery.  If we do, we are complicit.
 
At the same time that this monumental proposal to the Episcopal Church is going forward, I am aware of the fact that the United Church of Christ is doing the same with a similar proposal at its national gathering this summer.  In fact, the UCC Palestine Israel Network requested a letter of endorsement from me because of my role as moderator of the Israel Palestine Mission Network.  Its leaders have expressed to me their appreciation for the work that so many in our network and our denomination have accomplished in the pursuit of justice for Palestine.  They too have called for divestment in the context of embracing investment.  They too have responded to the Palestinian civil society, and then the Kairos Palestine call to boycott, divestment and sanctions as tools to end occupation without resorting to weapons of war.  In the struggle for justice and against oppression, as so well defined by Desmond Tutu’s life experience which we all laud and admire, we need all the non-violent tools that are at our disposal.  Unfortunately, opposition to using such tools is a reality we have faced before.  But as history repeats itself, with some of the same prophetic leaders bearing witness once again, we see yet another global movement for justice that will not be stopped. 
 
I have some friends who were on the wrong side of history at Princeton Theological Seminary in the late 70’s and early 80’s.   I pray that we all find the justice side of history once again, and this time together.
 
Peace and Grace,
 
Jeffrey DeYoe, Moderator
Israel Palestine Mission Network
of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


Israel Palestine
Ecumenical Forum

of World Council of Churches


PIEF POST

Dear members of the PIEF Core group and network partners,

Prisoners are a sticking point in the ongoing struggle for freedom and peace in Palestine Israel. Palestinians are unhappy with the "aggressive policies" against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, especially after the death of a Palestinian prisoner in custody. On the question of Palestinian minor prisoners held in Israeli Ofer prison, there are reports that Israeli military courts have imposed a total of NIS 120 thousand (just over $30,000) in fines on minor prisoners since the beginning of 2015. Since January alone, some 111 child prisoners have been held in custody.

In a serious indictment on Israeli atrocities during the Gaza war, Defense for Children International Palestine today released a report, detailing the high price paid by children during Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer. Operation Protective Edge, claimed the deaths of 547 Palestinian children, 535 of them as a direct result of Israeli attacks.

In other human rights violations,  Israeli naval boats Wednesday opened machine gunfire on Palestinian fishermen offshore the city of Gaza impinging on livelihood rights of fisherfolk. While a 74-PAGE Human Rights Watch report documents bad pay and unhealthy work conditions in Israeli agricultural settlements for children.

On a positive front, Venezuela hosts a first Latin American congress to coordinate the work of Palestinian solidarity activists around the world, with particular focus on the right of Palestinian refugees to return to lands taken over by Israel. “Venezuela is the focal point for the Palestinian cause in Latin America,” said Linda Sobeh Ali, the Palestinian ambassador to Venezuela.

More news to follow in our upcoming posts. Meanwhile please read and disseminate this post widely.
In solidarity,
 
Ranjan Solomon
Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network
of the World Council of Churches
ranjan.solomon@wcc-coe.org

 



Factions condemn Israeli jail conditions for Palestinian prisoners
Palestinian political factions on Thursday condemned "aggressive policies" against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, a week after the death of a prisoner. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Palestinian Prisoners' Society said in a joint statement that conditions within Israeli jails are growing increasingly difficult for Palestinian detainees.
See Mann news for report
 
Over $30,000 in fines imposed on minor detainees since 2015
Representative of Palestinian minor prisoners held in Israeli Ofer prison, Abd al-Fattah Dawla, reported  that the Israeli military courts have imposed a total of NIS 120 thousand (just over $30,000) in fines on minor prisoners since the beginning of 2015. According to WAFA Palestinian News & Info Agency, Dawla informed a lawyer of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) that the highest percentage in terms of minors’ arrests took place in January; where 34 minors were arrested and imprisoned in Ofer jail, whereas 29 minors were arrested in February, and 23 others in March and mid April. The number of sick minors currently detained in Ofer jail has reached 24.
See WAFA report
 
DCI report documents 547 targeted child deaths in Gaza war
Defense for Children International Palestine today released a report, Operation Protective Edge: A War Waged on Children, detailing the high price paid by children during Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer. Operation Protective Edge, which lasted 50 days, claimed the deaths of 547 Palestinian children among the killed in Gaza, 535 of them as a direct result of Israeli attacks. Nearly 68 percent of the children killed by Israeli forces were 12 years old or younger. Five Israeli civilians, including a child, and 67 Israeli soldiers also lost their lives. The total number killed was 2200 people.
Read full report
 
Israeli naval boats open gunfire on Palestinian fishermen offshore Gaza
In a grave violation of international law and signed agreements, Israeli naval boats Wednesday opened machine gunfire on Palestinian fishermen offshore the city of Gaza. According to WAFA reporter, sounds of explosions and gunfire were heard in the western part of the city. It said that Israeli naval boats fired at least two missiles and opened machine gunfire on fishing boats.
See WAFA News for more
 
Illegal pesticides in Israeli settlements farms cause illness among child workers
Bad pay, hard labor, nasty skin rashes, and poor sleep in constructions sites are just the tip of work conditions found in Israeli agricultural settlements, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report released Monday. The 74-page “Israel: Settlement Agriculture Harms Palestinian Children” is a devastating look into underage Palestinian laborers farming for Israeli companies.
Read more on Mondoweiss

Full report at Human Rights Watch site
 
Palestinian solidarity group holds first Latin American congress in Venezuela
Venezuela has been a strong defender of the Palestinians, both under the late President Hugo Chavez and current President Nicolas Maduro. The campaign was founded two years ago to coordinate the work of Palestinian solidarity activists around the world, with particular focus on the right of Palestinian refugees to return to lands taken over by Israel.
 
The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine is currently holding its first Latin American congress of the in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. “Venezuela is the focal point for the Palestinian cause in Latin America,” said Linda Sobeh Ali, the Palestinian ambassador to Venezuela.
See Palestine News Network for more

 



Compiled by Ranjan Solomon, Communications Consultant, Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum
 
Views expressed in linked sites do not necessarily reflect those of the World Council of Churches or the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum. The PIEF is an international, inter-church advocacy initiative for peace in Israel and Palestine

 

press release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 15, 2015

 A Call to the Episcopal Church to Recognize the New Political Landscape in Israel & Palestine:
New Church Group Calls for Divestment from Israeli Occupation

As the Episcopal Church approaches its 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City this June, a new group, the Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine, has been created to advocate for a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land. (See below for names of group members.)

To coincide with the announcement of its formation, the Committee has issued a statement and resolution, featuring a foreword by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, calling on the church to recognize the new political realities in Israel/Palestine and to adjust its policies accordingly to ensure that we are not profiting from human rights abuses and the suffering of our fellow human beings. Specifically, the Committee is calling on the church to investigate whether we are complicit in Israeli human rights abuses through investments in companies that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands, and to advance the process to divest from such companies if we are found to be doing so.

“As a church we have consistently opposed the occupation,’ said Reverend Canon Gary Commins, DDDeputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Los Angeles, past chair of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, former Chair of the Episcopal Service Corps, and one of the authors of the statement. “At the present time, we may be complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. The time has long passed when the Episcopal Church must recognize this. The time is now for us to truly respect the dignity of every human being, including Palestinians.”

Noting the changes that have occurred since the church’s Executive Council called for constructive engagement with such companies in 2005, including the collapse of the US-sponsored peace process last year due mainly to Israeli settlement construction, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent pledge never to allow the creation of a Palestinian state, the statement urges church members to take a moral stand, following in the footsteps of our brothers and sisters in other mainline churches such as the Presbyterians and United Methodists, who have adopted boycott and divestment initiatives targeting Israel’s nearly half-century-old occupation of Palestinian lands. The statement reads in part:

“At this juncture, in this new landscape, our purpose is to help end the occupation and to assure civil rights and equality for all the peoples of Israel and Palestine. The Church’s approach should be straightforward: boycott, divestment, and sanctions are tools of nonviolent peacemaking that put the weight of our corporate dollars behind our commitment to justice. The Church’s financial portfolio can again be used as an instrument of political change. And it can help to break the stalemate while illuminating the ways that America otherwise enables a brutal status quo.”

The statement also includes a resolution calling on the General Convention to institute a process for being socially responsible with its investments related to companies that undergird the infrastructure of Israel’s occupation. (See here for full text of statement and resolution.)

The Committee looks forward to a vigorous exchange of ideas at the upcoming General Convention concerning the best way for the church to put our beliefs and values into practice in Israel and Palestine. We are hopeful that upon consideration of all the facts, and of the new prevailing realities on the ground, that Bishops and Deputies will take steps to align our church's investments with the principles of our Faith and commitment to justice.



The Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine

The Very Reverend Walter Brownridge - Deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Hawaii and Dean, the Cathedral of St. Andrew, Honolulu.
The Reverend Canon Gary Commins, DD - Deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Los Angeles, past chair of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and former Chair of the Episcopal Service Corps.
Ms. Sarah Lawton - Deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of California and recipient in 2013 of the House of Deputies medal.
Dr. Derek Leebaert - Author of several prominent books on U.S. national security, including Magic and Mayhem: The Delusions of American Foreign Policy (2011), partner in the global consulting firm, MAP AG, and a founding editor of the Harvard-based periodical "International Security." He is a former adjunct professor at Georgetown University and is an Episcopal layman, the Diocese of Washington.
Mr. Newland Smith - Senior Deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Chicago and recipient of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s 2015 Nevin Sayre peace award.

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