An American Christian committee has called on Christians to stop being cowed by fears of being labelled anti-Semites and speak out about human rights violations in Palestine. “Enough!” the report says. “The time has come for us to do some shouting.”
The US Kairos committee issued its report last week. It is a response to the famous Kairos Palestine document of 2009 that was called, “Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine.”
This new report slams the Israel lobby and the “special relationship,” rejects Christian Zionism “in all its forms”, says Jesus would be troubled by Palestinian conditions, and describes BDS as a “legitimate… legal, ethical and time-tested way of influencing the political process and corporate behavior.”
And in a landmark of the interfaith dialogue, it urges Christians to get over the fear of being called anti-Semites for criticizing Israel. Yes you feel guilty about the Holocaust, Christians, the report says, but this guilt is causing you to excuse serious human rights violations. You must be willing to court “discomfort and conflict” in your dialogue with Jews and be willing to “pay the price” of the anti-Semitism charge so as to condemn the occupation.
The US Kairos committee is made up of prominent progressive theologians, mainline and even evangelical preachers and writers, among them Serge Duss, whom I’ve seen at J Street.
Not surprisingly, the American Jewish Committee has already attacked the document:
“The tragedy is the single-mindedness of a small cadre of Christians attempting to change American understanding of the history and complexity of the Middle East. No pseudo-apologetics or claims to atone for anti-Semitism can disguise their true goal, which is not peace, but the undoing of Israel,” said Marans.
Let me break out a number of significant passages in the report.
On the sham peace process and the U.S. protection of Israel:
As U.S. Christians we bear responsibility for failing to say “Enough!” when our nation’s ally, the State of Israel, violates international law. Our government has financed Israel’s unjust policies and has shielded its government from criticism by the international community. At the outset of the current U.S. administration, our government led Palestinians to believe that at last we would pursue a political solution based on justice. But the “peace process” has continued to be no more than a means for the continuing colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the imprisonment of Gaza and the intensification of the structures of oppression..
The charge of anti-Semitism is unfair, but Christians must be willing “to pay this price” in order to speak out:
We know that raising questions about our churches’ and our government’s support for the State of Israel’s policies exposes us to the charge of anti-Semitism—and for many of us the risk of the loss of hard-won bonds of friendship with Jewish colleagues, friends, and the Jewish community at large. We believe that the charge of anti-Semitism is unfair and in error. Too often, however, unwilling to pay this price, we have failed to speak the truth as we see it and in this way follow Jesus’ path of love and forgiveness…
Here is a good description of the occupation’s destructive impact on both societies:
We have witnessed the daily, grinding humiliation of women and men, young and old; the deaths of civilians; the demolition of homes; the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem; the destruction of hundreds of thousands of olive trees; the unlawful and brutal practice of administrative detention; the relentless land taking and construction of illegal colonies that have made a contiguous and viable Palestinian state impossible. None of these actions has brought the State of Israel the security it seeks. Israel is pursuing a course that is fruitless and corrupting, both morally and politically. We have also observed with deep sadness the damage inflicted on Israeli society, particularly its young people…
WWJD? He’d be appalled by the situation:
The tragic realities of Israel and Palestine today would deeply trouble Jesus and the prophets. The land in which Jesus lived and was crucified by the Roman imperial rulers is again a place of violence, inequality and suffering. Palestinians and Israelis are trapped in a spiral of violence that is destroying their humanity, squandering their resources and killing their children. Palestinians are prisoners in their own land, powerless as Israel’s program of dispossession and annexation continues…
The Holocaust has created a self-defeating strategy in the Jewish community:
We recognize that it was this history of oppression that gave rise to the modern project of the Jewish people to establish a national homeland. We support the right of the Jewish people to live in security and to build a society free of the scourge of anti-Semitism. But the State of Israel’s present course will not bring it the security it seeks nor grant the Jewish people freedom from fear. The still vivid memories and long shadow of the Nazi Holocaust have fueled self-defeating strategies of self-protection among sectors of Israeli society and the Jewish community at large….
More on the paying the price issue: We’ve been afraid to offend Jews, so we’ve deferred to the false “security” narrative:
We have allowed to go unchallenged theological and political ideas that have made us complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. Instead of speaking and acting boldly, we have chosen to offer careful statements designed to avoid controversy and leave cherished relationships undisturbed.
We have accepted the narrative of a vulnerable State of Israel beset by powerful, implacable enemies, thereby excusing the state’s actions that violate international law, isolate Israel in the community of nations and virtually eliminate the possibility of a sustainable peace…
We have accepted a notion of justice that is defined by the powerful and is equated with “security” and “law and order.”…
Here’s the lobby bit:
We have acceded to the reality of a powerful political lobby and an array of advocacy organizations, Jewish and Christian, committed to silencing or suppressing conversation about and inquiry into the human rights practices of the State of Israel while blocking legitimate direct action to bring pressure on Israel…
We reject Christian Zionism in all its forms:
We maintain that it is theologically, historically and politically incorrect to equate biblical Israel with the modern State of Israel. We reject Christian Zionism in all its forms because it supplants God’s gracious presence in all the world with a territorial theology and with the promise of land to one particular people…
We’ve been too busy atoning for anti-Semitism:
Shocked and traumatized by the confrontation with the consequences of their anti-Jewish history, after World War II Christians began a determined process to atone for anti-Semitism and to reconcile with the Jewish people…
This has led to widespread support for the State of Israel among Christian clergy, academics, lay leaders and church establishments…
because of the powerful impulse on the part of Christians to atone for their sins against the Jewish people, vigilance against anti-Semitism today has come to trump working for justice in Palestine and Israel. The Christian need to rectify centuries of anti-Jewish doctrine and actions and to avoid even the perception of anti-Jewish feeling has served to silence criticism of Israel’s policies and any questioning of the consequences of U.S. government support for Israel. Differences between anti-Semitism and legitimate opposition to Israeli actions are avoided or explained away. Responsible discourse about Zionism is often denounced as hostility toward Israel and its citizens or branded as anti-Semitism. We believe that in our dialogue with our Jewish friends, family members and colleagues and in our relationships with the Jewish community on institutional levels, we must confront this pattern of avoiding, denying or suppressing discussion of issues that may cause conflict or discomfort. The fact that anti-Semitism still exists makes it all the more important to differentiate between actual anti-Jewish feelings and criticism of the actions of a nation state. Uncomfortable though it may be, we cannot be afraid to address the urgent issue of justice and human rights in Israel and Palestine with our Jewish sisters and brothers here in the United States. And, increasingly, these conversations must include Muslims….
Here’s the acknowledgment that anti-Semitism has largely vanished in American public life:
In our time, in the aftermath of the most horrific episode of anti-Jewish violence in history, the Jewish people have achieved an unprecedented degree of liberation from anti-Semitism…
The politicians can’t be trusted. Note the reference to Nazi Germany:
The favorable time is now—and the churches are called. It is clear that the political process has failed to bring about the changes that will result in a just and lasting peace in Israel and Palestine. We know that when politics fail to bring about the necessary changes in our laws, political systems and policies at home and abroad, social movements arise from the grassroots to inform and drive the process of change. We believe firmly that the churches are capable of leading the movement to bring peace to Israel and Palestine. The churches have done this before. We recall the pastors and theologians of the German Confessing Church who opposed Nazism with the publication of the Barmen Declaration of 1934…
We’ve allowed ourselves to be muzzled:
Unwritten “red lines” block any challenge—in the classroom, from the pulpit, in the press and in the halls of our government—to the theological and political assumptions that underlie our unquestioning support for the State of Israel. This captivity of theology is an intolerable and frankly dangerous situation. If there is ever to be peace in Israel and Palestine, it is essential that there be open discussion and active theological inquiry—in our churches, communities and institutions of higher learning. We look forward to the production of books, articles and features in scholarly journals, popular media and church publications, church and community education and Bible study and the vigorous treatment of this topic in conferences and symposia across a wide range of disciplines..
Stirring explanation of why the time is now. Note the Martin Luther King quote:
the desperate situation of the Palestinians—Christians and Muslims—living under occupation, and to the enormity of loss and dispossession suffered by Palestinians as the result of the establishment of the State of Israel. We are also aware of the irrefutable mandates of international law and human rights that call to us to action, as well as the biblically and theologically-based principles that summon us to witness and to act…
We call to mind Dr. King’s charge to our society in his historic speech on the Vietnam War at Riverside Church in 1967. “These are the times,” Dr. King told us, “for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly..
the time has come for us to do some shouting.