Nancy Graber endorsed 2023-12-29 21:31:50 -0800I echo what Naim Ateek has written so well.
A Prophetic Vision for Justice
to President Joe Biden by the Reverend Dr Canon Naim Stifan Ateek
and Released by Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA)
I stand in utter shock and dismay as I look upon the crushed, broken, and burnt children of Gaza and southern Israel and as I observe the horrifying death toll, comprised primarily of women and children, climb ever higher as a result of a vengeful and relentless bombing campaign undertaken against the tiny parcel of land known as the Gaza Strip. Home to over two million Palestinians, half of them children, most residents of Gaza are refugees or the descendants of refugees, longing to breathe free as all human beings do. The appalling atrocities we are witnessing will never bring an end to this 75-year-plus conflict. Instead, they will lead inevitably to an increase in violence and loss of innocent life.
Mr. President, context matters. Hamas started the present war. But Hamas did not start the occupation and the subjugation of the Palestinian people. Nor was it they who desecrated the sanctity of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a major provocation undertaken by extremist Israeli settlers. The failure of the Israeli government to stop these extremists did not start with Hamas. The miserable, debilitating life of those in Gaza since 2007 is the result of Israel’s merciless blockade, not Hamas. Although I stand morally and ethically opposed to the violent ideology and actions of Hamas, as an Anglican/Episcopal priest, I am dedicated to the truth. As such, context matters.
What is needed now is not the killing of more innocent people. What we need is compassion and mercy for the other, built upon a foundation of justice as defined in international law.
President Biden, you have declared the outcome of this latest and most violent conflict must result in the implementation of the Two-State Solution. Let that be your mantra! People are seeking leadership that will help transform this largely empty slogan into concrete steps towards the realization of a peaceful solution. Without such practical steps, your words will be nothing more than an exercise in hypocrisy.
In the name of ending the suffering of the thousands of innocent men, women, and children in the Israel-Gaza war, I offer a Vision rooted in the spirit of United Nations Security Council resolution 242, from 1967, based on the formula of land for peace for the two peoples that must live together on the land. The United States, successive Israeli governments, and the Palestinian Authority have each publicly supported this formula for many years, and now it is time to put it into action.
What does this vision entail? How is it to be implemented?
Mr. President, let us imagine together the future and let us take bold steps and concrete actions that will actually transform our words into a just peace for all.
The day after a permanent ceasefire is declared, the US needs to introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council recognizing Palestine as a member state within the 1967 borders. After 56 years, and in light of the current war, the Israeli occupation must be brought to a conclusive end. Then, the UN can assume temporary responsibility for the Gaza Strip.
Led by the United Kingdom, the USA, and Israel, these countries and others must pay for the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip. Ever since the Balfour Declaration was proclaimed by Britain in 1917, these countries have caused immense pain and suffering for our Palestinian people. Justice requires that they be found liable and held accountable.
The Palestinians bear no responsibility for the horrors of the Holocaust. But the Palestinian people must now be prepared to live in peace with their Israeli Jewish neighbors. Both peoples may help one another heal from the wounds of the Holocaust, the pain and suffering of the Nakba, and the horrors of the current catastrophe.
In order to help facilitate the rebuilding of Gaza, I humbly suggest that the UN invite the governments and people of South Africa and Ireland, who carry no colonial baggage in the region and would be acceptable to the Palestinians, to temporarily take charge of peacekeeping and peacemaking responsibilities. They would oversee, manage, and coordinate with the UN and the Palestinians the rebuilding of Gaza, with the goal being a free, globally recognized territory possessing a seaport and airport open to the world. Meanwhile, they would guarantee that no security threat to Israel arises.
After a period of no more than six months from the end of the war, the United Nations must take over administrative responsibilities for the West Bank. Under a temporary UN mandate, the Israel Defense Forces must withdraw entirely from the occupied territories while the Palestinian Authority steps aside.
During this period of UN administered stability, elections must be prepared for Palestinians and Israelis to choose their next leaders. Both must preserve the dignity of one person, one vote under democratic rule and guarantee civil rights and protections for all minority communities. Palestinians and Israelis must demonstrate, through the election of responsible leadership, that they are committed to a peaceful, nonviolent resolution of the conflict. Israelis can be confident that this process will result in long-term security while Palestinians will enjoy the freedom to build their new democratic sovereign state. Support from the international community should be conditioned upon each elected government’s acceptance of a peaceful two-state solution. This applies both to Israelis and the Palestinian people.
Negotiations must then proceed unceasingly, with Israeli and Palestinian leadership supported by the United Nations, USA, Britain, the EU, and the Arab League, until all borders of a sovereign Palestinian state have been established and ensure the sovereignty and security of both peoples in Israel and Palestine.
The following confidence building measures must be undertaken before negotiations conclude, in order to ensure the establishment of a viable Palestinian state:
1- Urgently, an elevated highway and rail system needs to be built between Gaza and the West Bank, under the control of the UN, so that the Palestinian people can enjoy unimpeded freedom to travel back and forth freely and directly. All this must be financed by Israel, the US, Britain, and their friends;
2 - Israel must start building appropriate infrastructure within the green line to accommodate the return of settlers now living on occupied Palestinian land of the West Bank. (Some provision can be made for those Israeli Jews who want to stay and become Palestinian citizens living under Palestinian rule);
3 - The right of return of refugees must be resolved within UN guidelines and in accordance with international law. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon must be given the priority to return to Palestine, replacing the Israeli settlers in the West Bank;
4 - Jerusalem must become a city shared by both Palestine and Israel and governed equitably by a special UN commission that includes Palestinians, Israelis, and representatives of the UN and the international community;
5 - All holy places must be protected and their integrity secured, especially the Aqsa Mosque for Muslims, the Church of the Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre) for Christians, and the Western Wall for Jews;
6 - After a set number of years and a period of economic prosperity, peace education, and healing, Palestine and Israel can decide, if they wish, to join together as a single state, the one-state solution, or as a confederation/federation of states whereby Jerusalem would become the federal capital of the states.
Mr. President, we ask you to lead us as one who embraces those who have visions of justice and peace. Let the engineers, the architects, the lawyers, the social workers, the psychologists, the politicians, the Imams, the Rabbis, and the Christian Clergy start imagining, working, and praying for the fulfillment of this vision. Failure to take such concrete steps transforms the language of “two states” into little more than a hypocritical alibi for the continuation of a status quo long proven unsustainable.
I believe that the One loving, compassionate, and merciful God of the three Abrahamic faiths would be praised, worshiped, and honored by such a vision of peace that can move us all into the work of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Mr. President, this vision includes my heartfelt belief that you, as a fellow Christian, is capable of empathizing as much with my beleaguered Palestinian people as you have done so publicly for the Jewish people these many decades.
It was our beloved Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the International Patron of Sabeel, who said, “We are prisoners of Hope.” And so, it is with much hope and anticipation that you will join me in seeing this vision become a reality, one that requires bold actions and a passion for justice, and only justice!
Assis Naim Ateek is a Palestinian Episcopal priest who has lived through decades of dispossession of the Palestinians from their ancestral land. His recent memoir chronicles his life as a young boy exiled from his hometown at the age of 11 to his seminal work on a theology of liberation for his people.Endorse
Nancy Graber endorsed 2022-12-22 22:08:49 -0800
As religious leaders and scholars, please join us in endorsing the declaration below.
Include your title and your religious, denominational, or organizational affiliation. For additional information:
- "Detained Bodies" (FOSNA)
- "Israeli High Court Greenlights Holding Palestinian Bodies as Bargaining Chips" (B'Tselem)
We, the undersigned faith leaders of the three primary monotheistic religions native to the Holy Land, declare in no uncertain terms that the bodies of fallen combatants, including enemies, should be treated with respect and afforded a proper burial. They must not be held as bargaining chips or used to collectively punish and torment their families. This is a moral and ethical requirement of all three religious traditions, applying to all parties involved, and is not simply a position based on political expediency. It is likewise required by secular international law and the provisions of Article 17 of the Geneva Convention. The practice of withholding the bodies of one’s enemies as bargaining chips, by Israel or Hamas, as well as the current Israeli policy of withholding the bodies of Palestinian combatants to punish families—in the name of both deterrence and collective punishment—is particularly abhorrent and unacceptable.
In Judaism, says Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, refusing to return bodies to their families absolutely contradicts the core Jewish value of upholding human dignity in all circumstances. Furthermore, according to Jewish law, the burial of corpses requires same day burial (Deuteronomy 21:23) and was interpreted by sages like Nachmanides to include the bodies of enemy combatants. Ultimately, refusing to return the bodies of the deceased to family members for burial destroys the possibility of peacemaking between combatant societies, because disrespecting the dead is a deeply traumatic event that prevents reconciliation.
In Christianity, says Rev. Naim Ateek, we believe that God, our Creator, has endowed every human being with dignity and self-worth. God breathes life into all humans. We believe that God created us in His image and has given us the breath of life. Therefore, our faith inspires us to respect the dignity which God has given to all humans, whether living or dead. Any act that dehumanizes and degrades any person must be totally rejected and resisted.
Rev. Alex Awad elaborates further that we are taught to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and do to others what we wish others to do to us. This applies not only to the living but also to the captured corpses of our enemies. We need to handle the corpses of enemy fighters with respect because we are taught that each of us is created in the image of God. Even if a human is dead, he or she continues to reflect that image. Finally, a corpse cannot fight back or pose a threat. Hence, why retaliate or show contempt towards a lifeless body that can neither feel your retaliation nor cause you any further harm?
Islam, says Imam Zafer Bangash, accords great value to human dignity. God grants rights to all human beings—referred to in the Qur’ān as “God’s representatives on earth” (Al-Baqarah 30)—from before one is born, throughout their life, and even after death. Dead or alive, the human body—created by God in perfect shape—must be given dignity and respect. The importance of this is illustrated in the Qur’ān (Al-Ma'idah 31). There, it is narrated that when Cain was unsure of how to deal with the body of his brother Abel—whom he had murdered—God sent a message in the form of a raven. God used the raven to dig into the ground to bury another raven, thus indirectly showing Cain how to bury his brother’s body.
Chief Sunni Court Judge, Shiekh Muhammad Abu Zeid, elaborates further: In addition to prohibiting harm done to non-combatants (Al-Baqarah 190), promoting peaceful solutions to conflict (Al-Anfal 61), and demanding the proper treatment of prisoners (Muhammad 4), the Quran specifically prohibits the desecration of the bodies of enemies (Al-Nahal 126) or leaving the bodies of enemies in the open and unburied. This was precisely the example of the Prophet Mohammad himself after the battle of Bader (Bukhari 3976; Muslim 2875). Islamic teachings confirm the necessity of preventing unjustified wars and the necessity of preventing savage acts, which affect the souls of the living and the bodies of the dead alike.
In each religion, therefore, the dignity of the bodies of fallen combatants must be respected for deep ethical, scriptural, and theological reasons. The corpses of our enemies should not be allowed to become pawns in a political struggle, causing anguish to families and festering hatred between peoples.
We therefore call on all parties to respect these principles. And, we particularly call on Israel to discontinue this inhumane practice and return the dead bodies of its enemies to their families to receive a proper, dignified burial.Endorse