Faith-based communities provide fertile ground for boycott movement

on 6 Comments
Martin Luther King Jr
Martin Luther King Jr

Last Saturday at the Penn BDS Conference, Susan Landau moderated a panel of religious speakers who are supporting boycott and divestment. Here are her opening and closing remarks.


The road to equality and justice is well lit by people of faith. Conversely, the world of oppression and injustice is well maintained by other people of faith. For the purpose of this panel discussion, the term faith-based communities will refer to the former.

Our various ethical traditions are concerned with how we live, how we treat other people, and how to promote a more just world. Communities of faith find common ground in their shared commitment to ethical action.

Religion speaks in the language of faith, hope, peace and love. The political equivalent is a framework of non-violence, universal human rights, international law, and social responsibility. This makes BDS is a sensible, tested, and unambiguous response for people of faith to Israeli apartheid, injustice, and occupation. 

The 2005 BDS Call is from Palestinian civil society to people of conscience in the international community. Of course faith-based communities answer the Call.

Analogous to the role of the church in the civil rights, anti-war, and anti-Apartheid movement, BDS provides an aspirational and actionable agenda for faith-based communities. As respected community structures, churches, synagogues, and mosques are positioned to help lead this movement by opening spaces to host conversations, schedule educational events, sponsor missions, and organize political actions. 

It’s helpful to ground today’s panel discussion by reflecting on past and present trailblazers of faith-based organizing:

• Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to civil rights through the tactic of non-violent resistance had a seismic impact that forever changed the landscape of American society.

• American Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel interpreted the teachings of the Hebrew prophets as a clarion call for social action. Advocating for civil rights and against the Vietnam War, Heschel described his experience supporting Reverend Martin Luther King by saying “When I marched in Selma, my legs were praying.”

• The Rev. Dr. Naim Stifan Ateek a Palestinian Christian, is founder and head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.

• Archbishop Elias Chacour teaches reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. He is a “Palestinian-Arab-Christian-Israeli, and vice president of the Sabeel Center.


• The bedrock of the moral universe for the BDS movement and uncontested champion for justice, Archbishop Desmund Tutu, who continues to bring the lessons from South Africa to the struggle against Israeli apartheid. 

Here in Philadelphia, local clergy move this work forward, including: Retired Episcopal Bishop Allen Bartlett, Rev. Cliff Cutler, Rev. Judith Beck, and longtime advocate for justice, Rev Isaac Miller. Pushing the envelope by courageously speaking out for justice in Israel-Palestine are Rabbis Brian Walt, Linda Holtzman and Alissa Wise. Yet successful faith-based organizing would not be possible without all of the ordinary and extraordinary people whose names we rarely know. 

Now to our panelists – -all of whom are trailblazers and co-travelers on this path. You honor us with your work and presence today. We welcome: Reverend Graylan Haglar, Rabbi Lynn Gottliieb, , Cyrus McGoldrik, and Natalia Cuadra-Saez.


From the jail in Birmingham, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. spelled out his theory of non-violence: “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” Let’s keep making it happen!

About Susan Landau

Susan Landau is a BDS activist who organizes and educates about justice in Palestine in secular and faith-based communities.

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6 Responses

  1. john h
    February 7, 2012, 3:09 pm

    Susan Landau has summed up well and given credit to key players, those who speak in the language of faith, hope, peace and love. To them I would add Mark Braverman and Rabbi Brant Rosen.

    She pointed out the sad schism within the faiths and cultures of Judaism/Jews and Christianity/Christians:

    The road to equality and justice is well lit by people of faith. Conversely, the world of oppression and injustice is well maintained by other people of faith.

    This is fact, and shows that in this wider sense, although Communities of faith find common ground in their shared commitment to ethical action, their recognition of what is ethical can be vastly different.

    Too many Jews, and too many Christians, betray their roots and their supposed ethical foundations by their support of Zionist morality over that of the prophets from Elijah to Jesus.

    For them Zionism and Israel and its land reign supreme over true ethical attitudes and actions.

  2. thetumta
    February 7, 2012, 10:37 pm

    No, it wasn’t the turning point, this speech was!

    He realized that at some point you have to step out and he paid with his life, weeks or months later. All the Democraps, said Martin don’t do it, but he did and they proceeded to do in Caesar, yet again.

    Obama and the National Democratic party should thank their lucky stars that Martin was removed or Obama would have a huge problem right now.

    If you bother with the speech, just substitute Iran or Iraq with Viet-Nam or the Viet Minh. It’s the exact same story, isn’t it? Corrupt Democrats and now mainstream Demo/Republicans are after the cash.
    Once it gets going, there won’t be much to comment on!

  3. thetumta
    February 7, 2012, 10:55 pm

    My, my? I’ve been thinking for some time that that these guys and their families should get a letter or a link to what their in the middle of? Don’t you think?
    P.S. Any combat veterans posting?

  4. mudder
    February 8, 2012, 1:07 pm

    This week the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been the target of a smear campaign by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). The IPMN response links the attack by the JCPA to its support of BDS

    This year the JCPA concern comes in trying to stem the unstoppable tide of a growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Presbyterians and Methodists are leading the way in the faith community, along with many other Christian, Jewish and secular grassroots organizations across the United States, to stop profiting from the Israeli Occupation. The BDS movement is saying the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is wearing no clothes; you can’t say you want a just peace and at the same time build settlements on Palestinian land at break-neck pace. With Archbishop Desmond Tutu publicly stating that the present state of affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is akin to what he vividly remembers as South African Apartheid, the pro-Israeli groups are desperately losing ground. Part of their tactics, as outlined by the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute, is to delegitimize any opposition to Israeli government policy by accusing those who disagree with it of engaging in anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic behavior. It is a campaign known as “delegitimizing the delegitimizers” and it has millions of dollars behind it.

    I am not affiliated with IPMN, but as a Presbyterian I support them.

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