Palestinian Christians, Israeli Allies, and Nonviolent Resistance

By Ryan Rodrick Beiler 02-23-2010

100216_090527-1503-palestine National Catholic Reporter has an important article about the Kairos Palestine Document endorsed last month by the leaders of 13 Christian communities in the Palestinian territories. The article raises several key realities that subvert common misconceptions about the Middle East conflict:

1) Palestinian Christians exist, and have much to teach the global church -- especially the U.S. church.

2) There is an active movement within Palestinian society that advocates nonviolence.

3) These movements have support from Israeli and American Jewish activists who also oppose policies of the Israeli government which they see as counterproductive to the cause of lasting peace and security for Israel.

The Kairos Document declares that:

[T]he Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God. It distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier just as it distorts this image in the Palestinian living under occupation. We declare that any theology, seemingly based on the Bible or on faith or on history, that legitimizes the occupation, is far from Christian teachings, because it calls for violence and holy war in the name of God Almighty, subordinating God to temporary human interests, and distorting the divine image in the human beings living under both political and theological injustice.

It is important to listen to such voices, even if we do not agree with every nuance of the 16-page document, such as the assertion that "Yes, there is Palestinian resistance to the occupation. However, if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity."

Injustice does indeed fuel violence. But even without the occupation, I have little doubt that extremists from both sides would likely continue to commit sporadic acts of violence against the other, however diminished in frequency or popular support -- just as splinter groups have struck as recently as last year in spite of the overall peace in Northern Ireland, followed by massive protests by both sides against the violence.

While I had hoped for a more direct and prophetic denouncement of terrorist violence, the document does so indirectly by strongly and repeatedly advocating the opposite:

[W]e bear the strength of love rather than that of revenge, a culture of life rather than a culture of death.

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