Occupied Religion

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Well the more things change, the more they stay the same.


The Gaza war appears over – for now – but while Gazans are picking up body parts amid the rubble, the settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are expanding. There’s even a yeshiva set to open in East Jerusalem.

Just what the (un)Holy Land needs, more – occupied – religion. After all that’s where this invasion of Gaza ostensibly started. The kidnapped and murdered Israelis had been studying the Talmud day and night under an imperialist lamp in Hebron, the home of Baruch Goldstein of (un)blessed memory, another student of the Talmud.

Perhaps a better religious place to start is with the Southern Baptist, former US President, Jimmy Carter. He will be addressing the 51st annual meeting of the Islamic Society of North America on Saturday.  No doubt this will generate as much religious – and political – publicity or more than the new yeshiva.

Interesting, though Carter’s presentation is described by ISNA as follows – “Former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, will address the convention on the historic need for religious communities to mobilize against discrimination and violence that is directed toward girls and women throughout the world. President Carter has visited 145 countries with his wife, Rosalynn, building an interfaith coalition to alleviate unconscionable human suffering. Muslim leaders at the convention will be invited to sign a Declaration for Peaceful Communities to join President Carter’s movement for greater human rights” – his detractors are calling it a fundraiser for Hamas. Go figure.

Soon another conference will be hosted by another group of Christians, the YWCA, in Palestine. Like Carter, the conference invite doesn’t mince words:

The ceasefire is on and so is our international women’s conference. Come to Palestine and see for yourself what is happening here in the occupied State of Palestine. Be a witness to the ongoing colonization and dispossession process that is ongoing in the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Be a participant in our groundbreaking international conference where we will be exploring women’s participation in peace, protections and prevention from all forms of violence, including gender-based violence. Help us develop a National Action Plan.

There is no better time than now to talk about the relationship between violence and accountability. In only 51 days more than two thousand people were killed and ten thousand injured. Most were women and children. Political accountability at this time includes supporting a UN Human Rights Council to investigate violations of humanitarian and human rights. It also includes supporting Palestinians in going to the international criminal court for justice.

The international community of women have a unique role to play in this historic time in finally ending the occupation, and seeking equality and freedom for all. As we have mentioned in our last Action Alert this is a time of reckoning for all. For the international community, it is a time to assess what needs to be done to secure a lasting peace with justice not just for Gaza but all of Palestine.

The reading list for the conference attendants is top of the line. It includes such noteworthy figures Richard Falk, Rashid Khalidi, Gideon Levy and Ilan Pappe. First tier all the way.

Perhaps they will add to their suggested reading list President Carter’s address on the rights of girls and women at ISNA. Or, better yet, why not invite him to speak at their conference? Imagine Carter landing in the (un)Holy Land – after Gaza.

No doubt the conferences in the US and Palestine will fill in any blanks on the situation in Israel-Palestine those attending still have. The danger is that the conferences will repeat conferences held before, even as far back as the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s. Conference statements weren’t translated into political action.

Even veteran second tier types know more about Israel-Palestine now than we did then. But way back when, we knew enough. The problem was translating what we knew into efficacious political action. We have the same problem now. Because when conference attendees go home, the settlements continue expanding. More yeshiva students will be chanting their way through the streets of – occupied- Jerusalem.

Occupied religion. One type of religiosity. Liberating religion. Another type of religiosity.

The judges at The Hague and the liberating God. No doubt they’ll come to the same conclusion.

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I was happy to read that President Carter will be the keynote speaker at that conference. Happy to read of YWCA conference in Palestine and the reading list– I hope that it will be well attended. I very much appreciate this article, Professor Ellis. What we are getting here at MW are real testimonies from the victims of Israel’s war crimes, and calls to action as well. We cannot go back to the status quo,… Read more »

A very informative article. Although no surprise, I was happy to hear about President Carter’s participation at the Islamic Society of N.A on Saturday. The only President who has the courage to show understanding for the Palestinians and sympathize with their plight. The only President who had the guts to condemn Israel’s apartheid policies. The conference in Palestine is also a great idea. It will surely bring more attention to the occupation, the brutal war,… Read more »

Marc ellis says

The judges at The Hague and the liberating God. No doubt they’ll come to the same conclusion.

Strange you should write that sentence……..this past month the hebrew words “berachmav shenit” have become lodged in my brain and i keep saying them out aloud.i heard them during the service and that was that

i asked the rabbi on friday night what they meant and in what context

I was quite surprised at the meaning

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