Palestine

United Methodists Reject Calls for Divestment from Israel-Related Companies

RNS photo by Mike DuBose/courtesy United Methodist News Service
Group calling on the UMC to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. RNS photo

United Methodists twice rejected measures on Wednesday (May 2) that called for the denomination to divest from companies accused of contributing to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Neither vote was particularly close, with about two-thirds of the 1,000 delegates gathered in Tampa, Fla., through May 4 rejecting the calls for divestment.

The UMC rejected similar measures at its last General Conference in 2008. 

Israel and Palestine: There is Hope

I was asked recently, is there really any hope for Israel? The answer is yes, there is.

First, the state of Israel has lived its entire existence in the foxhole of the war paradigm. It is time to come out of the foxhole. It is time for Israel to exercise profound concern, not only for its own security and its own peace, but also for the security and peace of its neighbors—the Palestinians.

Second, It is time for Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to be secure. Israeli mothers should never have to worry if their daughters and sons will return from a walk to the market. Every Israeli should not have to live in extreme fear and the ever present threat of war.

 

The Power of Attention in East Jerusalem

Photo of Mohammed and Zvi, Courtesy of Just Vision
Photo of Mohammed and Zvi, Courtesy of Just Vision

The problem with peaceful protests is that they lack all the headline-grabbing horror of wars and terrorist attacks. They lack the “power of attention” as filmmaker Julia Bacha likes to say, and that is part of what compelled her and others to produce the documentary, “My Neighborhood,” premiering this week at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Bacha and her team from Just Vision are best known for their award-winning film “Budrus,” the story of a peaceful protest by Palestinians against the Israeli “security wall” that was planned to bi-sect their village.  The film, shown in theatres, churches and on campuses, has helped create a dialogue not only about peaceful Palestinian protests, but also about the Israeli activists who have allied with them.  

Palestinian Christians React to Israeli Ambassador’s Claims about Holy Land Churches

Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler, http://bit.ly/H8JG9C
Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler, http://bit.ly/H8JG9C

Two weeks ago, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, claimed in an article in The Wall Street Journal that the exodus of Palestinian Christians from the West Bank and Gaza is the fault of Palestinian Muslims. The article was full of inaccuracies and even lies, and Palestinian Christians responded with anger and disgust. The Wall Street Journal then featured some of these responses.

This is a serious issue for Palestinian Christians. We are not saying that radical Islam is not a threat. We are not denying that there are some struggles that we face as a minority. We are not denying that there are some incidences in which Christians were attacked by radical Muslims, like in the death of Rami Ayyad in Gaza.

What we are saying, is that for us, the real issue and the core of our struggles is the Israeli occupation.

President Obama's AIPAC Speech and Reaction

http://youtu.be/A0rFbP6KvxY

In a speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, President Obama urged Israeli leaders to refrain from "loose talk of war" related to escalating tensions with Iran. Quoting his predecessor President Theodore Roosevelt, Obama said when it comes to the Iran situation, both the United States and Israel would do well to, "Speak softly... and carry a big stick."

Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu today at the White House.  Netanyahu, who is scheduled to speak to the AIPAC conference this evening, issued a short statement repsonding to Obama's speech Sunday, saying in part, "I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat."

The Top 10 News Stories of 2011: What Would Your List Include?

In mid-December, the Religion Newswriters Association released its top 10 religion stories of the year.  

The Associated Press now has its annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors and their choices for the top news stories of 2011.

Since this exercise is certainly a subjective one, your list might also be different from mine or the AP's.  What would you add or delete from these lists?

Christians Fighting Over Holy Places (Physically and Figuratively)

The disturbing footage of the monks fighting in Bethlehem’s Nativity Church has been seen around the world. This is not the first time such a fight has erupted. The natural reaction any Christians should have upon seeing this footage is shame. It is difficult to even describe in words what one feels when he sees Christian clerics involved in such violence and rage!

This incident reflects at least two major deficiencies within the Palestinian Christian community. The first is the status of the church and how it is still controlled by foreign powers. Palestine and the "holy sites" have always attracted Christians who want to control these places. Everyone wants a share of the place. This is the story of the church in Palestine in a nutshell. Though we have called this place home for centuries, we have never in reality governed ourselves, as a people or as a church. Wars have emerged over control of the sites, from the crusaders, through the Crimean War,  to our modern era, where a fragile "status quo" from the days of the Ottoman Empire governs the relationship between the different church families and who controls what in the holy sites.

Heeding the Bethlehem Call: Freedom Comes from Tenacity

Graffiti on the "security wall" that runs through Bethlehem. Via http://commons.
Graffiti on the "security wall" that runs through Bethlehem. Via http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wall_in_Bethlehem6.jpg

A hegemonic power that separates and excludes is not of Jesus. I came away from the deep darkness settling on the land of the Holy One to declare along with my fellow Kairos delegates that, to paraphrase Bishop Marianne, “the fate of the free world depends on a civil society committed to Christ and a persistent, all-encompassing faithful non-violent tenacity pursuing creative and compassionate resistance.“

We must respond to those faithful ones behind both sides of the walls who are saying to us, “Come and See and Be with the people.” We must feel what Jesus felt as he witnessed tyranny and empire – the principalities and powers that oppress and dispossess and kill the poor for whom He had a heart. Please listen to the cries of the oppressed and act today in doing at least one small thing to bring a just peace…make a personal and if possible corporate choice in this critical moment of God’s Kairos.  

If all who hear the “Bethlehem Call” respond then momentum will build for the liberation of all God’s children in the Holy Land.

Newt Gingrich’s Middle East Blunder (Expect More)

Ridiculous. Ignorant. Racist. Dangerous. 

These are just a few of the terms that flew out of the Middle East this weekend following Newt Gingrich’s unwelcome remarks about Israel and the Palestinians on Friday.

As the Republican front-runner, Gingrich was speaking to the cable TV Jewish Channel and hoping to curry favor with its conservative pro-Israel constituency. 

What did he do? He described the Palestinians as an “invented people” and lumped every Palestinian under the terrorist umbrella. There is no difference between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, he said.

On Saturday night during the ABC Republican debate, Gingrich doubled-down: “They [the Palestinians] are all terrorists.”

A few of the other candidates looked, well, alarmed.

 

How Evangelicals Are Learning to Be Pro-Palestine, Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Pro-Justice and Always Pro-Jesus

A Palestinian man is questioned at an Israeli military checkpoint.
A Palestinian man is questioned at an Israeli military checkpoint in the West Bank. By Ryan Roderick Beiler http://bit.ly/sf1Pgt

A change is taking place in how evangelicals are looking at the Middle East.

Many evangelicals, who were discouraged by the failed prophecies and the “mood of doom” that dominated the evangelical church in the second half of the 20th century, are rediscovering that the gospel also speaks powerfully to issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation.

Books about the end times, such as those written by Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsey, no longer dominate the bookshops, and people are being challenged by writings that focuses on the here and now, instead of the there and then!

In particular, the evangelical church typically has looked at the Middle East through the eyes of prophecy, leaning towards an unconditional support for Israel. Evangelicals in the West cheered the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent wars, believing them to be signs of the second coming of Christ—all the while neglecting the impact these events had on real people in the Middle East, specifically on Palestinians, and especially on the Palestinian Church.

The irony for Palestinian Christians is that evangelicals, with their over-emphasis on prophecy, have lost the capacity of being prophetic!

 

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