Hope 4 All Interfaith Community endorsed 2023-10-11 12:22:06 -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
Hope 4 All Interfaith Community endorsed 2021-11-20 09:27:18 -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