Israel’s Oppression of Palestinians is “Sin” and “Apartheid”

So Says the United Church of Christ; So Say We All

Indiana Center for Middle East Peace has been invited by the United Church of Christ Palestine-Israel Network (UCC-PIN) to partner with them to host a series of webinars for the church based upon the UCC’s 2021 General Synod Resolution, “Declaration For A Just Peace Between Palestine and Israel” - overwhelmingly passed with 85% of the vote.

 It is a landmark resolution among Christian denominations because it designates Israel’s oppression of Palestinians as “sin” and “apartheid,” which are the subjects of the first two webinars (Webinar One, “Sin,” and Webinar Two, “Apartheid”).

The remaining webinars will discuss the following topics: the need for a political solution based on a “human rights-based approach” (Webinar Three), and the pervasiveness of Christian Zionism, not only in evangelical churches but also in mainline churches and in American civil religion (Webinar Four).

The Declaration draws on over 50 years of UCC resolutions, and is informed by the witness the church’s ecumenical partners, and especially the witness of Palestinian Christian partners - in particular the 2009 Kairos Palestine: A Word of Faith, Hope, and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering and the 2020 Cry for Hope, A Call for Decisive Action.

The webinars’ panelists are experts in each of the subjects discussed. The second webinar, for example, “Israel’s Oppression of Palestinians: It Is Apartheid,” featured Rifat Kassis, Coordinator of Kairos Palestine, leader of the Global Kairos for Justice Coalition; Rabbi Brian Walt, South African-born, anti-apartheid activist, and founding member of Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council; and Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of B’Tselem, leading Israeli human rights organization. Each provided incisive and often very personal insights on the intersection of South African apartheid, systemic racism in the US Jim Crow South and today’s George Floyd America; and apartheid baked into Zionist ideology, according to the January 2021 B’Tselem Report, “an apartheid regime between the river to the sea,” most evident in the 2018 Israel’s Nation State Law.

I’ll have more to say about these webinars in the next number of weeks, but it is striking the confluence of the diagnosis and the prescription offered by both the Palestinian Christian community in their “Cry for Hope and from the Israeli B’Tselem, A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.

From Kairos Palestine’s 2020 Cry for Hope: A Call for Decisive Action:

The very being of the church, the integrity of the Christian faith, and the credibility of the Gospel is at stake. [From the] National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine wrote: "Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. This is no time for shallow diplomacy, Christians!” … We make this call out of concern for the future of both peoples. In the words of Kairos Palestine, our call is rooted in the logic of love that seeks to liberate both the oppressor and oppressed in order to create a new society for all the people of the land. We continue to hold firm to the hope articulated in the Kairos document that Palestinians and Israelis have a common future -- that “we can organize our political life, with all its complexity, according to the logic of love and its power, after ending the occupation and establishing justice. 

A similar analysis and call for resistance inspired by hope, from B’Tselem’s January 2021 “Apartheid Report”:

As painful as it may be to look reality in the eye, it is more painful to live under a boot. The harsh reality described here may deteriorate further if new practices are introduced – with or without accompanying legislation. Nevertheless, people created this regime and people can make it worse – or work to replace it.

And from B’Tselem’s Executive Director, Hagai El-Ad, in The Guardian when the Report was released globally: 

The past is one of traumas and injustices. In the present, yet more injustices are constantly reproduced. The future must be radically different – a rejection of supremacy, built on a commitment to justice and our shared humanity. Calling things by their proper name – apartheid – is not a moment of despair: rather, it is a moment of moral clarity, a step on a long walk inspired by hope. See the reality for what it is, name it without flinching – and help bring about the realisation of a just future.

Read both the Cry for Hope and B’Tselem’s “Apartheid Report” - one from Palestinian Christians, the other from Jewish Israelis - both incisive analyses, but even more, bold calls to action based in a deep belief in human dignity, and full political, civil, and human rights for all, and the power of small groups of committed individuals to make a difference. And while grounded in the harsh realities of the present, each one in their own way, inspires hope.

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