Invest in peacemakers

On Israel-Palestine, we agree more than we don't

Jan 4, 2016 by

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Two recent MWR opinion pieces on the Israel-Palestine conflict show the need to focus on where we agree.

The first (“Resolution on Mideast Harms Efforts for Peace for All Faiths,” Oct. 26) linked the “Israel-Palestine Resolution” (tabled at the 2015 Mennonite Church USA convention) with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The writers said they “support the cause of peace and justice, but BDS is counterproductive to that end.” They point out that BDS could further disrupt the very people the movement intends to help.

The second (“Injustice in Israel: Divestment, Boycotts the Only Nonviolent Forms of Protest Left for Palestinians,” Dec. 21) argued that no other tactic — violent or not — has helped to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territory.

“There can be no true peace without justice, and sometimes justice needs to be demanded from those in power, for the sake of all parties,” the writers said.

Yet another resolution, “Statement of Support for Palestinian and Israeli Partners in Peacemaking,” was unanimously approved at the MC USA convention. This suggests there is more agreement than disagreement among us on the Israel-Palestine situation. The writers of the anti-BDS opinion piece expressed the most general point of agreement when they said they “find the injustices that happen there abhorrent.”

Both resolutions affirmed prayer and action.

“[W]e confess that we have much work to do. . . . We pledge to pray for peace and act for peace,” the second resolution reads.

Followers of Jesus will always sympathize with anyone suffering from oppression and violence. We can all agree that there are both Palestinians and Israelis in that category.

Some say BDS is nonviolent. Others contend BDS is coercive because it will make someone “feel the pinch,” even in the absence of a physical weapon. We should acknowledge our different definitions of what the word “violence” encompasses, but also not let that end the discussion.

We should ask who in Israel-Palestine is imitating Christ, and how we can help them. These include people like the Nassar family at the often-attacked Tent of Nations farm outside of Bethlehem, with the declaration, “We refuse to be enemies.” Or Jamal Shehade, who grew up living with released prisoners his parents took into their home and who now runs the House of Grace prisoner rehabilitation ministry in Haifa. There are many others.

Whether or not we support divestment, we need to focus on investment in the work of peacemakers, especially followers of Jesus. Fully invested in peace, we’ll have nothing left for oppression.

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