Christians and Muslims speak in one voice against occupation

Palestine Update  136

Christians and Muslims speak in one voice against occupation

One of the human species’ most admirable abilities is the capacity to drive social change. Throughout history, movements that promote change have been driven by passionate leaders. Whether it was women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, or resistance against apartheid, strength and dedication marked the efforts of these leaders.
Israel’s claim that it has the most moral army in the world is a claim that is bogus as bogus can get. It will kill innocents; celebrate when a Palestinian is killed, imprison people and charge them as their fancies suit them. It cannot put up with legitimate peaceful protest – as we have seen in Gaza in recent weeks. Even war has rules. According to the International Red Cross committee: “The rules of war, or international humanitarian law (as it is known formally) are a set of international rules that set out what can and cannot be done during an armed conflict. The main purpose of international humanitarian law (IHL) is to maintain some humanity in armed conflicts, saving lives and reducing suffering”. Israel ignores this and does what it pleases with impunity while the international community squeaks in protest. Harsh condemnations in the international arena have come to be an eye-wash. In the end, economics trumps diplomacy. Israel knows that the cacophony in the United Nations, the United Nation Committee on Human rights and other bodies don’t matter when it comes to the crux. Compromises will be struck and rich nations will buy off those whose votes can be purchased. Or, the resolutions will just accumulate more dust and occupy more space in some archives in the United Nations.

Does that mean hope is lost? Not by even a distant margin. Each of Israel’s desperate measures to approximate land, imprison and kill innocents, or illegitimately punish in any form or the other only weakens its moral fiber and lessens its humanness. The Wikipedia says: “In political science and jurisprudence, the act of dehumanization is the inferential alienation of human rights or denaturalization of natural rights, a definition contingent upon presiding international law rather than social norms limited by human geography”. Dehumanization is the psychological process of demonizing the enemy, making them seem less than human and hence not worthy of humane treatment. This can lead to increased violence, human rights violations, war crimes, and genocide and the world is witness to it.

It is not governments of the world that are going to usher in political transformation. Hard resistance will and that kind of resistance is growing. People of conscience around the world are uniting to isolate the apartheid regime in Israel. This unity of action is propelled by the gutsy actions of Palestinians and some counterparts in the Israeli Peace movement to challenge the politics of the occupation.

Power must be confronted with moral authority and the call for justice. We are reminded of how such confrontations yielded results only recently and in two instances. First, a Palestinian mass protest forced Israeli authorities to retreat from a decision to impose obtrusive “security measures” in the form of metal detectors at the entrances to the Muslim holy sites of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. And only a few months ago, Christian communities challenged the crude assault on their freedom to worship, in the form of devastating Israeli taxes on church properties. Both protests saw Israel climb down under pressure and under international gaze- not of governments but of masses of people who took to the streets. Image is everything to Israel because it packages itself as the only democracy region and as the most moral army in the world. In my college days, we would react to the kind of bizarre claims that Israel makes with the exclamation “My foot”!

The call to inter-religious unity for justice is the seed of moral outrage expressed in political terms that has its religious/theological foundations. It is in stark contrast to the Israeli claims which are supposedly religiously rooted but lack spiritual substance for the majority of its peoples. Nor does the Israeli regime (regardless of who leads it) itself possess political morality, ethics or political principles that will see it to consent to a just political surrender (solution).

This Open letter issued by Palestinian Christian Advocates for Justice and Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace breaks open a space for all people of religion and goodwill in the secular world to open up to wider solidarity and advance the end of the occupation. It is only the streets that can show numbers in terms of those who disapprove of the illegality and injustice that is Israel. The solidarity from many church and church-related bodies bode well for solidarity. But there is a missing link. The Global South which offers significantly by way of solidarity has been left out. It is a link that calls to be strengthened and the onus for that lies with the Palestinians who may just be overestimating western support and potential.
In solidarity
Ranjan Solomon
An Open letter from Palestinian Christians and Muslims calls on faith communities to help end Israeli occupation 
We the undersigned, a group of Palestinian-American Christians from several church traditions, call on all faith communities to:

  • Denounce the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Lift up, in your places of worship, the plight of Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike, recognizing that Israeli policies of occupation and apartheid are leading to the virtual extinction of the indigenous Christian population in Palestine.
  • Recognize the urgency of ending Israel’s genocidal siege and attacks on the entire Palestinian hostage population of the Gaza Strip.
  • Continue to use economic pressure as well as other nonviolent means to compel Israel to end its apartheid practices and policies against the Palestinian people.

We express deep concern at the increasingly hostile direction of Israeli policies and actions, emboldened by the equally aggressive foreign policy stance of the Trump administration toward the Palestinian people. President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is the final nail in the coffin of the so-called “peace process,” which has now been unmasked as a farce, exposing the United States not as an “honest broker” but as Israel’s unquestioning advocate. There is little doubt that the Trump administration’s Jerusalem decision, although condemned by the overwhelming majority of the international community, will encourage Israel to act with even greater impunity.

The Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, as well as the rest of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights, is now in its fifty-first year, the longest military occupation since the end of the nineteenth century. Palestinian Christians and Muslims are calling on the church to use its influence to end the occupation.

Since its occupation of Arab East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has consistently followed a policy aimed at confining the city’s Palestinian population to ghettos surrounded by a ring of expanding Jewish settlements. It annexed the city and its suburbs into a much-expanded “greater Jerusalem,” and isolated it from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. This separation of Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank has resulted in grave economic and social consequences for all Palestinians in the occupied territories, because East Jerusalem has been the economic and spiritual heart of the Palestinian territories. Even the U.S. State Department recognized in a 2009 report  that “many of [Israel’s] policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or diminish the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.” Palestinian Jerusalemites complain that conditions are far worse now.

Last year, a Palestinian mass protest forced Israeli authorities to retreat from a decision to impose obtrusive “security measures” in the form of metal detectors at the entrances to the Muslim holy sites of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Christians joined their Muslim brothers and sisters in peaceful protest, some praying shoulder-to-shoulder in the streets surrounding the mosques. More recently, it was the turn of the Christian communities to experience a serious attack on their freedom to worship, in the form of debilitating Israeli taxes on church properties. A protest letter signed by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem strongly condemned this decision as a departure from the centuries-old tradition of tax exemptions for places of worship, under both Muslim and Christian rule. Church leaders closed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for several days in protest, marking only the second time to close this sacred site.

Palestinian protests and international pressure have since compelled Israeli authorities to suspend the legislation in question. However, Palestinians are rightly concerned that Israel will continue to find ways to weaken Palestinians’ control of their land and property. Many are concerned about Jerusalem as the birthplace of Christianity: will it become a city with Christian shrines and cathedrals but devoid of the native Christian population?

On Friday, March 30th, Israel committed a massacre in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians were engaged in a demonstration on Land Day. This annual event commemorates the killing, in 1976, of six unarmed Palestinians in the Galilee who were protesting against the confiscation of their lands. The Gaza demonstrators were protesting against the genocidal conditions that Israel has imposed on the territory of two million inhabitants over the past eleven years; most importantly, they were expressing their right of return to their lands and villages from which the Israeli forces expelled them in 1948. The peaceful protest was interrupted by the Israeli army, which used tanks and militarized drones as well as over 100 well-hidden snipers. Violence began by the Israeli forces who shot a farmer working on his land. This served as incitement to a few protestors—out of a total of about 30,000 peaceful demonstrators, to engage in throwing stones from behind a large, barbed wire fence. The unarmed Palestinians’ actions did not come anywhere close to endangering the Israeli forces. Eighteen Palestinians were shot dead and hundreds of men, women, and children were wounded.

These events occurred on Good Friday, when the Christian world was mourning the crucifixion of Jesus. As the injustices and human rights violations keep piling up against the Palestinian people, we call on all churches and faith communities to take bold steps to end these grave injustices. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step up even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Palestinian Christian Advocates for Justice
Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace

  • American Muslims for Palestine
  • Israel-Palestine Mission Network, Presbyterian Church USA
  • Franciscan Action Network
  • Friends of Sabeel, North America
  • Mennonite Palestine-Israel Network
  • Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore
  • Pax Christi USA
  • Palestine-Israel Network of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Palestine-Israel Network of the  Episcopal Peace Fellowship
  • Palestine-Israel Network of the United Church of Christ
  • United Methodist Kairos Response- Steering Committee
  • Kairos USA


Don’t befriend me for a day, and leave me a month. Don’t get close to me if you’re going to leave. Don’t say what you don’t do. Be close or get away.
لا تصاحبني يوماً .. لتهجرني شهراً ولا تقربني .. لتبعدني .. لا تقل ما لا تفعل كُن قريباً .. أو ابتعد.
Mahmoud Darwish.