Have you heard the news? In the last several weeks alone, more than 35 local, regional, national, and international church bodies have taken bold actions in support of Palestinian rights!
A flurry of churches — 17 and counting — have declared themselves HP-free across the country in denominations including American Baptist, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Presbyterian, Church of the Brethren, Quaker, Catholics, and others, as Friends of Sabeel – North America announced this week. The global Boycott HP Campaign campaign continues to escalate pressure on HP until it responds to these key questions and commits to ending its role in Israel’s abuses of Palestinian rights. Are you part of a church? Learn how your congregation can become HP-free. It’s easier than you think!
These principled churches have brought local congregations into the larger snowball of regional, national, and international churches taking action. Brace yourselves… there are a lot of them!
- July 10 – The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada affirmed the rights of Palestinian children and called for withholding U.S. military aid to Israel with a nearly unanimous vote!
- July 7 – The World Communion of Reformed Churches, with a membership of 80 million Christians worldwide called for solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and rejected any use of the Bible to legitimize injustice.
- July 6 – The Mennonite Church voted by approximately 98% to institute a policy against investment in Israel’s military occupation!
- July 2 – The United Church of Christ (UCC) General Synod (national) passed with 79% a resolution in defense of Palestinian children, having already passed divestment in 2015.
- June 10 – The Minnesota Conference of the UCC voted 144 – 5 to divest its $8 million in investments from companies involved in the occupation.
- May/June – Fifteen United Methodist Annual Conferences — representing thousands of congregations — adopted a total of 23 resolutions this year supporting the HP boycott, excluding investment in occupation, opposing anti-BDS legislation, and more.
The Palestinian Christian community has long — through the Kairos Document — called on churches to support their struggle for collective liberation, a sentiment recently echoed by the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine’s letter to the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement. Learn more on the Palestine Portal.
At a time when Palestinian rights advocacy is under severe repression, churches are not backing down. We know that those defending Israel’s occupation malign boycotts, divestment, and sanctions as tools for social change for one simple reason: they work.
This week, Ha’aretz reported “Foreign Companies Wary of Operating Jerusalem’s Light Rail Because It Traverses ’67 Border.” Following billions of losses in contracts following boycott and divestment campaigns, the multinational Veolia divested of its contracts with Israel in 2015, and other companies are shying away from the same contracts precisely because of the political and economic cost. Together, our work is taking the profit out of occupation.
P.S. The US Campaign has supported one church win after another, year after year. But we still have so much work to do. We need you by our side to keep taking the profit out of occupation and changing hearts and minds across the country. Please invest in more wins with a donation to the US Campaign today.
April 21, 2017
WORT 89.9 FM
A Public Affair: Juan Cole On The Middle East
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Listen to the program
Professor Juan Cole will be Esty Dinur’s guest on A Public Affair, WORT’s daily hour-long talk program, for a wide-ranging discussion of issues, wars and prospects in the Middle East.
April 24, 2017
“Paganism and Muslim Peace-Building in the Mecca Period”
206 Ingraham Hall
12:00 to 1:00 pm
UW Middle East Studies Program presents Juan Cole (Professor of History at the University of Michigan) speaking on “Paganism and Muslim Peace-Building in the Mecca Period (610-622): What does the Qur’an Say?”
Later Muslim accounts posit an essential enmity between Muslims and pagans in the Hejaz, leading to the wars of the 620s. These Umayyad and Abbasid accounts have influenced the interpretations of contemporary scholars. A close examination of Qur’anic texts from the Meccan period, however, reveals a consistent and strongly held option for peace. It will be argued that the sanctuary status of Mecca as a holy city made this experiment in peace theology possible.
April 24, 2017
“ISIL/Daesh and the Fate of Iraq in the Age of Trump”
Elvehjem Building L150
7:00 pm [Map]
In his second talk of the Day, Juan Cole will address the future of Iraq with a focus on the policies and approaches the new Trump administration may take in combating ISIL.
For more info please contact: Névine El Nossery, Director of the Middle East Studies Program, elnossery at wisc.edu
Juan Ricardo Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger and essayist, and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He writes Informed Comment, Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion, which includes “The Map: The Story of Palestinian Nationhood Thwarted”. In 1973, Juan gifted his extensive comic book collection to Northwestern University; Stan Lee of Marvel Comics attended the opening.
Wednesday, March 29th, 2017
7:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Location: Wisconsin Union Theater
Reza Aslan is an internationally renowned writer, commentator, professor, producer, and scholar of religions. His books, including his #1 New York Times Bestseller, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, have been translated into dozens of languages around the world. He is also a recipient of the prestigious James Joyce Award.
In addition to his role as a Consulting Producer on the acclaimed HBO series The Leftovers, Aslan is also the host and Executive Producer of two other original television programs: Rough Draft with Reza Aslan (premiered on Ovation), and CNN’s new documentary series, Believer. He also served as an Executive Producer on the ABC drama, Of Kings and Prophets. His book Zealot has been optioned by Lionsgate and producer David Heyman with a script penned by Oscar nominated screenwriter, James Schamus.
In 2006, Aslan co-founded BoomGen Studios—the premiere entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Middle East—which has provided an array of targeted services ranging from strategic messaging to grassroots marketing to publicity and social media outreach, to producers, studios, and filmmakers—including Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Netflix’s The Square, Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Weinstein Company’s Miral, Discovery and TLC’s All American Muslim, and National Geographic’s Amreeka.
Aslan’s first book, International Bestseller No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, has been translated into seventeen languages, and was named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade by Blackwell Publishers. He is also the author of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age (originally titled How to Win a Cosmic War), as well as editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities.
Aslan’s degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University (Major focus: New Testament; Minor: Greek), a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University (Major focus: History of Religions), a PhD in the Sociology of Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. An Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a member of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues; Narrative Four, which connects people through the exchange of stories; PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world; the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.
Aslan is a tenured Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside and serves on the board of trustees for the Chicago Theological Seminary and The Yale Humanist Community, which supports atheists, agnostics, and humanists at home and abroad. A member of the American Academy of Religions, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the International Qur’anic Studies Association, Aslan’s previous academic positions include the Wallerstein Distinguished Professor of Religion, Community and Conflict at Drew University in New Jersey (2012-2013), and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Iowa (2000-2003).
Born in Iran, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, author and entrepreneur, Jessica Jackley, and their three sons.
By fuming over a U.N. resolution against Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land, Israeli leaders reveal their final solution for the Palestinians – to deny them property rights and displace them.
Daniel C. Maguire, Consortiumnews.com, December 27, 2016
Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, let the theological cat out of the bag. When the Security Council rebuked Israel for their land thefts (euphemized as “settlements,”) Mr. Danon replied with pious indignation: “Would you ban the French from building in Paris?”
There, in all of it effrontery, is the imperial theology that birthed Zionism. David Ben Gurion said of Palestine “God promised it to us.” Yitzhak Baer wrote in 1947: “God gave to every nation its place, and to the Jews he gave Palestine.”
So in this hallucinatory theology, just as God gave Paris to France the Zionist deity gave Palestine to Jews including the right to build whatever they want wherever they want it. If the Zionist god posted a “Jews only” sign on Palestine, the presence of non-Jews is a sacrilege and their land claims are specious. If nothing is intelligible outside its history, as the Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin put it, Ambassador Danon’s French allusion can only be understood against this theological backdrop.
Yigal Allon, a commander of the Palmach, the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the paramilitary force that fought to drive the British from Palestine, did not eschew the language of “cleansing,” a term now used to describe a “crime against humanity.” He boasted that the Zionists were “cleansing” Palestine of Arabs.
The religious goal of Zionism Ben Gurion said is to “secure … that the whole of Palestine will be Jewish, and not only a part of it.” Joseph Weitz, the administrator responsible for the colonization of Palestine, stated the creed bluntly: “Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both people together in this country. … The only solution is a Palestine … without Arabs.”
In 1919, a fact-finding mission appointed by President Woodrow Wilson reported that in meetings with Zionists it was clear that the Zionists looked forward to a “complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.”
Zionist ersatz theology imagines a capricious god who is into real estate distribution, a god who hands out eternal deeds to people of his choosing. It is the will of the Creator that all others be cleansed and their property rights be negated.
Misunderstanding the Bible
Zionist theology depends on a fallacious exegesis of the Hebrew Bible. The two key words for properly understanding the Bible are descriptive and prescriptive. Many of the texts of the Bible describe the horrors of a barbaric time. They are not normative or in any sense admirable. The Bible is revered for its prescriptive texts which imagined with classical excellence a whole new social order where “there shall be no poor among you,” (Deut 15::4) and where swords will gradually be melted down into plowshares as violent power is subdued. In the prescriptive texts we see the beauty of Judaism which Zionism violates.
The Zionists don’t know the distinction between descriptive and prescriptive. They take ugly biblical descriptive texts and use them to make imperial policy. Texts such as this from Deuteronomy: “When Yahweh your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you – the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canannites, the Perizzites, the Hivites … and when Yahweh your God gives them over to you … you must utterly destroy them. … Show them no mercy.” (7:1-11, 91-5, 11:8-9)
Following the “logic” of such texts, the Palestinians are now the new Hittites, Girgashites and Canaanites to whom no mercy is to be shown or property rights to be honored. Zionist theology dishonors Judaism.
The worst of mad men, said the poet Alexander Pope, is a saint gone mad. Ironically Jews should know the horrors that religiously motivated people can wreak. Nothing so animates the will for good or for ill like the tincture of the sacred. Christian animus against Jews unleashed slaughters, pogroms, segregation and influenced the anti-Jewish venom that Nazism mechanized with genocidal force.
The survival of Israel living in accord with international law, alongside a Palestinian state, is the goal that has no need of obstructive faux theology. Mr. Netanyahu like the High Priest is rending his garments in outrage, threatening to smite all nations that would challenge Israel’s manifest destiny to build in Palestine like the French can build in Paris. A bit of curative theology is needed to correct this brutal and ignorant madness. The Security Council gave the cure a jump start.
Ryan Rodrick Beiler, The Electronic Intifada, 17 August 2016
Lutheran church wants US to halt aid to Israel until settlement construction and human rights abuses end. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has become the latest US denomination to take economic action against the Israeli occupation.
At its triennial assembly last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the four million-member church, one of the largest in the US, voted on two separate resolutions targeting Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses, passing each by a landslide.
The first resolution calls for the end of US aid to Israel until it ceases violations of international human rights norms, specifically the ongoing construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
It passed by a 751-162 vote, or 82 percent, on 12 August.
The US gives Israel more than $3 billion every year, despite laws that prohibit aid to countries with persistent records of human rights violations. The Obama administration has vowed to increase that sum over the coming decade in what would be the largest military aid package the US has ever given any country.
The second resolution, adopted by a 90 percent margin on Saturday, calls for the creation of a “human rights social criteria investment screen,” specifically citing concerns raised in the church’s Middle East policy.
The Lutheran church has deep ties to Palestinian churches which are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Reverend Mitri Raheb, whose Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem is one such congregation, was one of the authors of the Kairos Palestine Document which calls on churches around the world to use “boycott and disinvestment as tools of nonviolence for justice, peace and security for all.”
“By adopting this investment screen, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is taking an important step to ensure that we are not profiting from, or complicit in, injustice in the Holy Land and elsewhere,” said church member Jan Miller in a press release from the grassroots group Isaiah 58. The group describes itself as Lutherans advocating “for an end to Israel’s occupation and a just peace for both Israel and Palestine.”
According to Tim Fries, an Isaiah 58 activist, much of the assembly was focused on getting the church to move toward taking responsibility for the ways it has been complicit in systemic privilege, “namely, white, European colonial privilege.”
Fries cited huge majority support for resolutions also put to vote at the assembly about supporting refugees and immigrants (by an 842-48 vote), and expressing solidarity with Black Lives Matter (846-73).
Resolutions on fossil fuel divestment and opposition to US military spending also passed with overwhelming support.
Still, the votes on the Israeli occupation marked a notable shift in position.
Dale Loepp, an Isaiah 58 leader, noted that at the previous church assembly in 2013, there was visible and organized opposition from the Zionist activist group Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East.
At that time, Loepp told The Electronic Intifada, the main strategy to defeat such measures was to introduce amendments that removed any economic consequences, allowing such “toothless” resolutions to pass easily.
Similar tactics were used to effectively deflect divestment actions targeting occupation-linked firms during the United Methodist Church convention earlier this year.
At the 2013 Lutheran gathering, the only amendment that introduced an investment screen targeting the occupation failed by a 70 percent margin.
“The surprising story here is that there has been a massive shift in the stance of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on the occupation in only three short years – 70 percent opposed to economic tools to end the occupation, versus 90 percent in favor today,” Loepp said. “Though these are three years that I’m sure seem like two eternities to Palestinians.”
Abuse of privilege exposed
At this year’s assembly, Loepp observed no such visible organized opposition.
At the same time, grassroots organizers from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation joined Isaiah 58 and allies from the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), American Friends Service Committee, Friends of Sabeel North America, New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace to support the resolutions.