Ibrahim ElKhatib endorsed 2023-10-11 16:01:51 -0700
East Jerusalem, Palestine - October 2023
Terrible violence continues between Israeli forces and armed Palestinian resistance groups, resulting in thousands of dead and injured on each side, including scores of civilian men, women, and children. This devastating escalation comes in the wake of a surprise attack on Israel by Hamas, with Israeli leadership threatening long-term violence and destruction.
At Sabeel, we envision a future where every life holds intrinsic value, and every individual enjoys freedom and safety, irrespective of their background or identity. Sabeel condemns and mourns the tragic loss of all life and human suffering. We categorically reject all forms of violence. And, we recognize that the only way forward for us is non-violence.
It has been 75 years since the Nakba, 57 years of brutal military occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and 16 years since the suffocating military blockade of Gaza began. In light of this seemingly endless march of dispossession and death, armed Palestinian resistance groups initiated an unprecedented assault, including the tragic massacre of Israeli civilians. Responding, the Israeli government has engaged in airstrikes, indiscriminate bombing campaigns, and responsive actions that amount to war crimes—accompanied by genocidal rhetoric—against the civilian population in Gaza. Recent events have witnessed the tragic deaths and injuries of numerous Israelis and Palestinians, along with the abduction of civilians.
As we experience and attentively keep track of events as they unfold, it is pivotal to remember:
- Palestinians have been under attack, suffering dispossession and dehumanization from Zionism, for over 75 years.
- The continuation of Israel's policies related to displacement, apartheid, and occupation has been facilitated by the backing of several dominant global powers, notably the U.S., which remains deeply involved in this conflict.
- In the past year, an extreme shift to the far-right in the Israeli government has seen an intensified and ruthless military occupation. The Palestinian people face violent expulsions, house demolitions, mass killings, sieges, and daily indignities.
- There are recurring, oftentimes violent, incidents where Jewish extremists and Israeli forces disrupt the right to freedom of worship, storming the Muslim Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, attempting to lay claim to the site, and intimidating peaceful devotees.
- The Israeli authorities have imposed exceptional restrictions on Palestinian Christians and churches, particularly during their religious festivities. Attacks by radical Jewish groups on Palestinian Christian communities and properties persist, with little to no action in response from the Israeli authorities.
- Over the years, the people of Gaza have felt the chokehold of a strict Israeli blockade by air, sea, and land, effectively trapping over two million individuals and depriving them of fundamental human rights. In recent days, Israel has prohibited all food, fuel, electricity, or water from entering Gaza.
- Palestinian prisoners, including children, are routinely assaulted, bound, blindfolded, and dragged from their residences in the early hours by Israeli occupation forces, often detained without formal charges or trial in military prisons for months or years. Peaceful protests against these policies, even in the form of hunger strikes, are met with harsh repercussions.
- Many Palestinian residences across various villages and towns are either set ablaze by Israeli settlers or demolished by military operations.
- Whole Palestinian communities have been forced to vacate their ancestral homes and lands, at times to facilitate Israeli military drills.
For 75 years, Israeli policies have revolved around displacement, military occupation, and the maintenance of an apartheid regime. The suffering over these years is significantly tied to the role of the international community in this turmoil, most especially the United States alongside global powers like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and others. By consistently supporting Israel, the U.S. and other powers indirectly further the ongoing violence. The unchecked military aid, diplomatic shielding, and enormous financial support from the U.S. play a part in bolstering Israel's existing policies. Unwavering backing for the Israeli military only perpetuates the cycle of violence.
In light of these challenges, we, the undersigned, pledge our commitment to nonviolence, influenced by the following convictions:
- The might of the Israeli Army and its affiliates is unparalleled; violence will not bring victory.
- Nonviolence is a potent force. It enables collective participation from Palestinians, Israelis, and the international community. The path of nonviolence is the most impactful.
- Our ultimate struggle is not against individuals; it is against evil. Violence harms individuals, but our true adversary is the inherent evil of occupation and racist ideologies, which can be vanquished with good, for God is the embodiment of goodness.
- We champion nonviolence because it resonates with the divine principles set by the Creator. As rain is impartial, showering both the oppressed and oppressors, we uphold God's ways.
To all those who believe in and exercise violence, we want to say:
- Reject violence; it's not the solution. Don't be governed by wrath or vengeance.
- To those still gripping their weapons, we beg you to adhere to the principles of the Geneva Conventions and the laws of armed conflict. Upholding the sanctity of civilian lives is a shared tenet across religions and human morality. Let all combatants refrain from the wanton destruction of human life and adhere, at the very minimum, to the principles of distinction, proportionality, military necessity, fair treatment of prisoners, and no means malum en se (inherently evil methods).
- We do acknowledge those who have chosen to observe international humanitarian law even in the midst of so much devastation.
We extend an invitation to our friends, partners, and everyone devoted to justice, peace, and reconciliation to support our nonviolent mission. The longstanding policies of displacement, military occupation, and apartheid by the Israeli government must be dismantled, but not at the cost of our values and humanity. The elimination of the other is not a viable option. Stand with us in our nonviolent endeavors.
The international community must understand that lasting peace and the cessation of violence are intertwined with the pursuit of genuine justice based on international law. Palestinians call for a fair resolution to the injustice of the Nakba, an end to the 1967 military occupation, and an end to the apartheid system. The tenacity and spirit of the Palestinian people stand unwavering, with sumud ("steadfast perseverance") consistently evident. The nonviolent majority of Palestinians, along with our Israeli and international friends, should continue to harness creativity and courage as their primary tools, and it is imperative for all who seek liberation, justice, and peace in Palestine and Israel to uplift and support each other.
Consider supporting our essential work for authentic peace built upon a foundation of justice with a contribution to Sabeel at https://www.fosna.org/donatesabeel.Endorse
Ibrahim ElKhatib endorsed 2022-05-26 12:46:39 -0700
President Biden is on his way to the Holy Land. In response, FOSNA is seeking organizational endorsements for the letter below asking the US administration to address the concerns of local Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem. Please read the letter and complete the form below to endorse, by midday Friday. Time is of the essence.
President Joseph R. Biden
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden,
In your forthcoming visit to the Holy Land, it is our hope that you take time to address the concerns of local Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem. We hope that you would meet with local church leaders as well as representatives of local Christian organizations to hear of their desire for a shared Jerusalem, open and accessible to all and not the exclusive domain of Jewish Israelis.
Christian clergy in Jerusalem have complained for years about an ongoing series of assaults, attacks, insults, and harassment by Jewish extremists in the Old City, as well as the defacement of their churches, property, and graveyards. They have also experienced what seems to be a determined campaign by Jewish Israeli groups to take over church properties in and around Jerusalem, relying on harassment, pressure, secret deals with corrupt officials, and forgeries. The response by the Israeli authorities used to be that such activities constituted individual acts by a fringe group of Jewish extremists who hated Christians, and who were as much of a headache to the authorities as they were to the Christian Churches.
With spurious excuses, Israel also restricts Muslims and Christians access to Jerusalem and its holy places. Having illegally annexed East Jerusalem, it treats Palestinians from nearby Bethlehem, Ramallah, and the rest of the West Bank and Gaza as foreigners who cannot come into the Holy City without permission from Israel. The apartheid nature of the state of Israel leaves all power in the hands of a government dedicated only to Jewish interests, rather than the interests of all the peoples of the land. In the city of Jerusalem, such a policy only leads to hatred, conflict, and bloodshed. Jerusalem is important to Jews, but it is also vitally important to Christians and Muslims.
This year witnessed an escalation of settler encroachment and attacks by Jewish extremists, as well as increased evidence of direct Israeli government involvement. This Easter, and for the first time ever, Israeli police announced that they would restrict the number of worshippers at the Church of the Resurrection (Holy Sepulcher) for the Ceremony of the Holy Fire to 1000 (the church holds about 11,000) and would limit the number of Christians coming into the Old City on Easter to a mere 500. At the same time, a group of settlers who were escorted by Israeli police forcibly broke into and occupied church property near the Jaffa Gate (claiming that they had purchased these rights, in a shady deal that is being contested in the courts.)
The Israeli extremists behind these attacks are no longer a fringe group in Israel, but are now openly represented in the Knesset and even within the ruling government coalition. These religious fanatics are now framing their plans as being integral to the Zionist goal of exclusive Jewish control over Jerusalem, which they claim must be a Jewish city under the sole control of Israel. Meanwhile, secular Zionists who have no interest in a religious war with Muslims or Christians are nonetheless happy to assert exclusive Jewish claims to Jerusalem as a national, political goal.
Christian Zionists, who were close to the previous administration, also use religious arguments (if spurious) to support their political positions, claiming that support for Zionist goals in Jerusalem is somehow part of God’s plan for the End Times. It is shameful that such groups not only support Jewish religious extremists but evidence a clear hostility towards both Muslims and local Palestinian Christians. They would be delighted to see a bloody, catastrophic religious war that in their thinking will bring about Armageddon and hasten the Second Coming.
The assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American Christian journalist from Jerusalem, and the disgraceful behaviour of the Israeli police at her funeral highlight the need for an end to the Occupation, in accordance with international law. It likewise highlights the need that Palestinians living under Israeli rule have for international protection and the need to safeguard freedom of religion, free access to the holy places, and a peaceful sharing of the Holy City within the terms of the historic Status Quo arrangements, in existence prior to Israel’s assertion of total control over the city.
President Biden, we implore you to uphold your stated commitment to human rights and international law, supporting arrangements that uphold human dignity and freedom of religion for all the peoples of the land. We desire free access to the Holy Places for believers seeking to worship God “in spirit and in truth,” as opposed to those who would abuse God’s name by using it to assert exclusive political claims. The delicate balance enshrined in the historic Status Quo agreements should be meticulously observed, and exclusivist claims on behalf of any one of the three monotheistic religions must be resisted as a formula for disaster for all concerned. Jerusalem is too important to be the sole domain of any one group, and it must be shared by all.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the safety and prosperity of all who hold it dear (Psalm 122:6).
Executive Director, Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA)