Katherine Cunningham endorsed 2022-05-26 07:20:21 -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)
Laws that target Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a powerful tool for standing with the oppressed, threaten our constitutional rights.
"As Christian leaders we have long used the non-violent instruments of boycott and divestment in our work for justice and peace. These economic measures have proven to be powerful tools for social change, from strengthening labor rights for farmworkers to ending apartheid in South Africa.1 Observing the success of these efforts, Palestinian civil society issued a call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in 2005 to advance Palestinians’ long-denied rights to freedom, justice, equality, and self-determination.2 In 2009, Palestinian Christians included a call for boycott and divestment in their landmark document, “Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth.” Christian denominations around the world have responded by divesting from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation and its persistent settlement expansion—both of which are illegal under international and U.S. law.3
In January 2016, the pension board of the United Methodist Church decided to divest from Israeli banks and a real estate company due to their financing of settlement construction in Palestinian territory.4 In 2015, the United Church of Christ overwhelmingly approved a resolution divesting from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands along with, a boycott of products from Israeli settlements.5 In 2014 the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted at its general assembly to divest from three companies that profit from the occupation and in 2012 they implemented a boycott of Israeli settlement products. 6 Friends Fiduciary Corporation, the socially responsible investment firm serving over 300 Quaker meetings, as well as the American Friends Service Committee, also divested from companies benefitting from the occupation.7
Israeli governmental policy proponents, fearing the growing BDS movement, have launched a well-funded campaign 8 to suppress BDS. During the last two years, “anti-BDS” bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress and several state legislatures.9 Legislation introduced in New York, California, Florida, Iowa and other states would prohibit investing in or contracting with organizations that boycott Israel and “its territories.” These laws may threaten public funding for social services such as soup kitchens and homeless shelters provided by churches that have passed BDS resolutions.
These bills attack a non-violent, time-tested, and constitutionally protected approach to achieving peace. The First Amendment protects more than “speech”: the Supreme Court has long recognized that it also protects expressive conduct. In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., the Supreme Court found that “the boycott clearly involved constitutionally protected activity” through which the NAACP “sought to bring about political, social, and economic change.”10
We people of faith, representing various Christian traditions, are deeply concerned about this wave of state and national legislation: It threatens our constitutional right to engage in economic advocacy to end the Israeli occupation and uphold fundamental Palestinian rights. We urge our representatives to exercise their considerable political power to halt these misguided legislative efforts and to uphold the First Amendment rights of their constituencies.11"489 signatures
1. Historically, faith communities have used boycotts and divestment to change policies that are morally wrong or in violation of universally accepted human rights standards.
a. Gandhi employed a boycott of British-made goods during the nonviolent struggle for Indian independence.
b. The U.S. civil rights movement made heavy use of boycotts, including the Montgomery bus boycott and boycotts of segregated stores during the 1963 Birmingham campaign, which played a major role in the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Churches and other faith communities played a key role in these efforts.
c. During the Vietnam War, faith communities took part in a boycott of products, such as Dow Chemical’s Saran Wrap, made by napalm producers.
d. Churches played a key role in the grape boycott organized by the United Farm Workers of America under the leadership of Cesar Chavez.
e. Many faith groups continue their participation in the boycott of Nestle products due to the company’s questionable marketing of baby formula in developing countries.
f. Faith communities participated in the boycotts, divestment and sanctions to end apartheid in South Africa.
g. Several churches have resolved to divest from companies doing business in Sudan and Burma/Myanmar.
h. Faith communities, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church, the United Church ofChrist, the Disciples of Christ, the American Friends Service Committee, the National Council of Churches, and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, supported the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in its successful boycott of Taco Bell to win a wage increase for tomato pickers in South Florida.
i. Many faith communities embrace boycotts to oppose oppressive or violent labor practices, such as sweat shops, and to promote fair trade products as ethical alternatives. http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=2702#sthash.LJMFcoaq.dpuf
2. “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS.” The BDS National Committee. http://bdsmovement.net/call
3. “Kairos Document.” Kairos Palestine. http://www.kairospalestine.ps/content/kairos-document
4. “United Methodist Kairos Response Welcomes Pension Fund Exclusion and Divestment of Israeli Banks.” https://www.kairosresponse.org/pr_umc_divests_israeli_banks_jan2016.html
5. “UCC votes for divestment, boycott of companies that profit from occupation of Palestinian territories.” http://www.ucc.org/news_general_synod_israel_palestine_resolution_06302015
6. “221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Votes to Endorse Selective Divestment from Israeli Occupation.” http://www.israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org/main/component/content/article/18/278-divestment-vote-press-release
7. “Quakers Divest from Hewlett Packard and Veolia Environment” http://quakerpiag.blogspot.com/2012/09/quakers-divest-from-hewlett-packard-and.html
9. “Lawmakers take aim at your #Right2BDS” http://palestinelegal.org/news/2016/2/17/lawmakers-take-aim-right2bds
10. 458 U.S. 886 (1982)
11. “Boycott and Divestment, Frequently Asked Legal Questions” http://static1.squarespace.com/static/548748b1e4b083fc03ebf70e/t/55a006a3e4b01f5eb3cfd32e/1436550819443/Legal+FAQ+BDS+March+2015.pdf