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What must concern us now...
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ADVENT 2016
POINTING THE WAY

A Message from IPMN Moderator Jeff DeYoe

 

What Must Concern Us Now


One of the members of the church I serve, who went on both Keep Hope Alive trips I have led to plant olive trees (2014) and harvest olives (2015) in Palestine, is a retired civil rights lawyer for the Justice Department who litigated in Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960’s. Having visited the Arab Human Rights Organization office in Nazareth on both trips, and having asked very pointed legal questions, this lawyer's assessment is that what he saw in Israel regarding Palestinian citizens is Jim Crow, and what he saw in the West Bank is apartheid. 

I mention this because I am wondering if the language he uses to describe what he has seen will be considered out of bounds by the new Anti-Semitism Awareness Act making its way through Congress. The bill was proposed by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tim Scott (R-SC), passed by the Senate, and on December 2nd, referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

At this point we are not sure how specific the final bill will get when it comes to those who criticize Israeli policy because so far, the language is vague. It does seem, however, to be moving in the direction of conflating the state of Israel with Judaism and being Jewish. This opens the door to creating an American law in which criticism of a state for its human rights abuses and systematic injustice towards a particular people qualifies as anti-Semitic hate speech. According to Senator Casey’s website describing the bill, this would include “demonizing Israel by blaming it for all inter-religious or political tensions,” and “judging Israel by a double standard that one would not apply to any other democratic nation.” He also assures us that this bill would never violate our first amendment rights, but it seems quite the tightrope to walk. 

At the same time that this is happening, a December 5th Washington Post article points out that as a director of the Kushner Family Foundation, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, has been involved in decisions giving $58,500 either directly to West Bank settlements or organizations supporting them. This includes some of the most hard-line, ideological Jewish-only settlements in Palestine.

We already know that the GOP platform has rejected the “false notion” that Israel is occupying the West Bank. Now President-elect Trump’s transition team is questioning long-standing U.S. policy that West Bank settlements are illegal and counterproductive for peace. There are clear indications that the new administration will simply walk in lockstep with Mr. Netanyahu’s “the two-state solution no longer exists” policy. 

Although many of us who have spent time in Palestine know that two-states are virtually impossible today, and that apartheid does exist, the obsolete two-state language at least served a purpose in continually reminding the world that because we still do not have two states, there remains something terribly wrong that still needs to be set right. Even though the 222nd PC(USA) General Assembly did not change our denomination's official “two-state policy" as the desired solution, the GA-mandated report from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy on what is really happening on the ground accurately portrays how infeasible such a solution really is. 

Try as they might, the opponents of this report were unable to squelch it in Portland. If the new U.S. Administration now drops this two-state charade without giving Palestinians their rights, then indeed, my parishioner’s assessment of Jim Crow and apartheid becomes the permanent reality. This means that Kushner Family Foundation money - and all other financial support for Israeli colonization/settlements in Palestine - will simply be relabeled as resources committed to Israel existing "from the river to the sea". That would be the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which is what all Israeli maps say anyway.

Then finally, today’s news (December 6th) tells us that Dr. Isabel Phiri, Associate General Secretary of the World Council of Churches who is from Malawi and is a supporter of BDS, was just denied entry to Israel. It seems that the work she was going to do with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was the disqualifying factor, even after authorities determined that Dr. Phiri, a theologian, posed no threat.

We have heard other stories of Palestinian rights activists being denied entry not only to Israel, but also to Palestine, which Israel controls. Many of us wonder how far down the chain these denials-of-entry will go. I am once again leading the PC(USA) delegation to Palestine to plant olive trees this February. How long before Keep Hope Alive leaders and other groups are turned away? The National Council of Churches has denounced this deportation of a Christian leader from Israel, but is it possible that the Israeli government could cut off access to Palestine under severe apartheid conditions? The answer seems to be yes.

When I began as the chairperson of advocacy on the IPMN steering committee in 2006, I was naïve and didn’t know much. I believed that if we kept revealing the facts, good things would happen… that justice things would happen. Good justice things have happened: Presbyterian General Assemblies have called for boycott and sanctions, and called for divesting our church's funds from profiting from the occupation. Last June we fought back serious attempts to dismantle Presbyterian BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) work and relationships. With other important Presbyterian justice groups, we have become part of a large intersectionality movement in which we stand with other groups seeking justice.  

Our most recent IPMN annual meeting at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in October confirmed our GA mandate, and involved a lot of good discussion about how we move forward as a network in concert with all our partners and new leadership in Presbyterian World Mission. But the more we achieve the more work we have to do because the false narrative from those who are desperate to keep an unjust status quo becomes more intense.

What must concern us the most now is how we keep up with the changing landscape in our struggle for justice in Palestine. We know it didn't matter who the President-elect was going to be; we were going to have our work cut out for us. We still need to educate our denomination and advocate for justice in the right places. What we faced in the past isn't exactly what we face for the future. As it is often said, what got us here, won't get us there. So we also must now join other Presbyterian partners and larger movements, to make clear the message that justice in Palestine means having conversation with justice seekers everywhere, such as with those in the Movement for Black Lives, or The Water Protectors at Standing Rock, or anywhere else the Church is called to be. 

For we know that justice for one is justice for all, and in the next four years we must strive to create that voice for justice in new ways. We need you now more than ever.

Peace and Grace,
Jeff DeYoe, Moderator
 

UPCOMING TRAVEL OPPORTUNITY

We are excited to share this message from Rabbi Alissa Wise of Jewish Voice for Peace and the Interfaith Network for Justice in Palestine (INJIP).  We urge you to consider making a trip to Israel/ Palestine part of your plans for 2017.


Hello dear INJIP friends!
 
Hope this note finds you well in these impossible times.
 
I am writing now with an exciting opportunity. Building off our gathering in 2015, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, American Muslims for Palestine and JVP are partnering with Interfaith Peace Builders on an INJIP Delegation to Palestine July 22- August 4, 2017! You can apply here! Please share this opportunity with others in your faith communities!
 
What: An interfaith delegation to Palestine/Israel sponsored by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF). This trip is designed to provide direct experience for a multi-religious group of U.S. participants committed to direct advocacy and nonviolent direct action for peace and justice in Palestine/Israel. 
Who: Those interested in deepening their understanding of the realities of Palestinian life under occupation and inside of Israel as part of a multifaith delegation. The delegation will include people of spirit and conscience who are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, and people of other faiths. Delegates are not required to be a part of or actively engaged in a particular religious community. Priority will be given to Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color to ensure this delegation centers the experiences of those targeted by systemic racism, displacement and occupation.
Cost: $2700 Ground Fee includes 10 days on the ground: overnight  accommodations, breakfasts and dinners, local transportation, guides, speaker/event fees, basic tips and gratuities. The cost does not include domestic and international airfare. We work with a local travel agent in Jerusalem to secure the best group rates for the delegation to travel together to Palestine/Israel. (We expect the international airfare to be about $1300.) Delegates do not need to book their own international airfare. Scholarships for up to half of the amount of the trip, including international airfare, are available.
Goals: To create geographically centered multifaith teams of delegates who would, together upon their return, engage in education and advocacy by speaking to individuals, organizations and/or communities about their experiences; and lay groundwork for long-term partnerships between communities and/or grassroots organizations in the U. S. and in Palestine/Israel.
Apply  by January 15, 2017.

Rabbi Alissa Wise
Jewish Voice for Peace
 

Please share this message widely!
Your donation to IPMN supports continued advocacy, education, and partnership toward a just peace in Israel/Palestine.
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