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Peacemaking, Positive Investment, and Justice
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A MESSAGE FROM OUR MODERATOR, Rev. JEFFREY DeYOE

 
Greetings.
 
Nazareth is in Israel, and not in the West Bank or Gaza.
 
Last October, before heading to the West Bank to pick olives, our group went to Nazareth.  We went to sightsee, but to also meet with Palestinians to talk about human rights.  One night our group walked from the Galilee Hotel to the town square to watch a Palestinian protest rally against injustice and oppression. Young and old alike had gathered.  Chanting and singing, they left the square and walked the streets of Nazareth. We knew the rally was very serious, but it also felt festive. We followed for a little while and then turned back towards the hotel.  It was a powerful moment for people from my congregation and elsewhere who had never been to anything like it.
 
Nazareth is in Israel.  It is not surrounded by a wall.  There are no checkpoints through which anyone needs to pass going in or out of the city.  People have businesses and jobs and freely move about.  Palestinian residents of Nazareth are Israeli citizens.   They are not “nationals,” of course, which is a higher level of citizenship if you happen to be Jewish.  One of my church members, who litigated civil rights for the Justice Department in Alabama and Mississippi in the 60s said it felt like Jim Crow.
 
It is important to remember Nazareth is in Israel.  “Positive Investment” opportunities to help Palestinians create new realities in Nazareth and the surrounding region are good things and we support those efforts.  But we do not confuse that with where our group went next.
 
Bethlehem is in Palestine…in the occupied West Bank.
 
One day our group was coming back from a long day of picking olives and driving through Bethlehem on our way to the Sahara Hotel in Beit Sahour.   We stopped a couple blocks away from a Palestinian protest rally that looked much like the one we had witnessed in Nazareth days earlier.  But this time the military showed up very quickly.  Soldiers stepped out of their vehicles in battle gear.  Rubber bullets and tear gas canisters flew.  The wind was in our direction and we got a snoot-full.  Palestinians ran, and soldiers followed them.  We got out of there.
 
Bethlehem is in Palestine.  It is a city under Israeli occupation. It is surrounded by a wall.  You have to go through checkpoints to get in and out like we did at Checkpoint #300 one day.   People are largely unemployed because of Israeli restrictions on businesses.  Those fortunate enough to have work are subject to Israeli controls.  Those with farms can plant olive trees or pick olives only when approved by the Israeli military.  We saw many places where the settlers destroyed the trees so that olives could not be harvested.  Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have no citizenship.  They are not Israeli citizens like Palestinians in Israel, but they do have to contend with Israeli nationals who live on stolen land in illegal settlements.  My former Justice Department lawyer friend said that this was apartheid.
 
There is a reason we hear about “positive investment” initiatives in places like Nazareth, but not in Bethlehem.   And if those in Bethlehem and throughout the West Bank and Gaza want peaceful tools to resist their oppression, what do they have at their disposal?  Simply a request to those of good conscience to divest from non-peaceful profiteers and boycott products that support occupation and/or are manufactured with Palestinian natural resources on Palestinian land with Palestinian labor that has little to say about the business model.
 
Peacemaking requires the creativity and cooperation that comes in worthy positive investment programs, and we are glad they are being advanced where that is possible.   But Peacemaking also requires the speaking of hard truths about injustice, even when there are those who turn the blind eye or want to blame the victims for their own misery.  That requires us to make the difficult choices of divesting from non-peaceful pursuits, boycotting companies that contribute to illegal occupation and colonization, and calling for sanctions when a government blatantly violates human rights and international law. 
 
We have to be concerned about Nazareth and Bethlehem both and the work requires different tools.  This is an important thing for Presbyterians to remember as we head to Portland in June.
 
Your donations, which are vital to this work, are processed by the Littlefield Presbyterian Church of Dearborn, which is the IPMN Fiduciary agent.  You can mail your donations directly to Carol Hylkema at 22701 Wellington; Dearborn, MI 48124 —please mark them IPMN.  OR you may donate online on the IPMN website.
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