Stand with Palestinian Christians

Apr 25, 2016 by

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J. Nelson Kraybill fails to mention (“Coercive economic actions are ineffective in Israel/Palestine conflict,” March 28) that the Palestinian church is advocating for BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) as one of the few remaining nonviolent ways to hold Israel accountable to international law and its own democratic ideals. Kraybill asks us to understand “Israeli Jews in the West Bank” — settlers whose illegal presence is facilitated by the Israeli government — but says nothing about understanding the plight of Christians who have lived there for centuries.

The Palestinian church’s call for economic pressure on Israel is included in the 2009 Kairos Palestine statement. Some of the statement’s endorsers have urged Mennonites in the West to support BDS. They continue to do so, even in the wake of the Mennonite Church USA assembly’s failure to pass the Israel-Palestine resolution last summer. In my own current experience of living and traveling in the West Bank and Israel, BDS is often one of the answers we hear when we ask how we can support the people of Palestine.

Christians in North America add to the sense of isolation and suffering among Palestinian Christians when they ignore, bypass or discount the voice of the Palestinian church — not to mention the secular voices, including many Jewish ones, advocating the same measures.

BDS is not anti-Israel or anti-Semitic; the fact that a small minority within the movement are does not disqualify it as a strategy. As Kraybill urges, we should decry the immense tragedy of the Holocaust, and we must walk with Jews in their historical journey of victimization. We can affirm Israel’s right to a secure homeland. We can affirm that God has a special plan for Israel in modern history. But none of that means ignoring or condoning Israel’s subjugation of the Palestinian people.

When Palestinians hear the international community condemn the BDS movement, they hear that community consign them to more years of empty peace rhetoric, while settlements expand, separation walls lengthen and hope for self-determination and dignity fades.

We should heed Kraybill’s suggestions for engagement — except investing in companies that benefit from the occupation. The most important thing is to hear what the Spirit may be saying through our fellow believers in the region. The Kai­ros document is a start. Learning tours that include Palestinian perspectives are also important.

Byron Rempel-Burkholder
Winnipeg, Man.

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  • David Kucik

    And if other Christians ask you to stay away from this? Would you follow their advice then?
    Nah, probably not. So go ahead, here are your new BDS friends, no matter how much Christian language you use to justify this bigotry:
    I’m sure they think the “Kairos document” is a great “start” as well. It downplays Palestinian violence so nicely.

    • Byron Rempel-Burkholder

      The problem is that the “other” Christians you mention tend to be people who have never been to Palestine, care not to hear how the world look from the point of view of Christians there, trust implicitly in the version of reality promulgated by evangelicals who have bought into the unbiblical eschatology of Christian Zionism, and refuse to acknowledge that the modern state of Israel can do anything wrong. Palestinian violence is not justified, but neither is the huge violence of the 49-year military occupation of Palestine, and all the ethnic cleansing it took to achieve it.

      • David Kucik

        Totally false! United Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, all have people who are not fundies, have been there, and disagree with you. And they are growing. This is a strawman. If you just want to keep your prejudice, just say so.

        • Bruce Leichty

          You are showing quite a bit of prejudice yourself, I observe. Trying to paint all BDS advocates with the brush of “bigotry” is particularly telling. Do you deny that some are moved by compassion for the marginalized Palestinians that they have met, even if (in your view) they are marginalized for legitimate reasons? I know Byron, but can you say something about your own pilgrimage? Do you understand that domination and oppression — even oppression that may not be overtly violent — invite violence?

          • Byron Rempel-Burkholder

            David, I’d be interested to know what non-violent alternatives you see for ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and for achieving a peace in which Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews live together securely and equally.

          • David Kucik

            What has BDS done to achieve these goals? Nothing. All they have done is p….. off and scare even MOST progressive and lefty Jews. And now countries are starting to pass anti-discrimination laws against it, so it wont last much longer anyways. Way to “achieve peace.” Ask the good Methodists who have been there done that for “alternatives.”

          • Bruce Leichty

            Why punt to the Methodists, let’s hear your own proposals; because you are certainly slamming those of us who are trying to implement our own best judgment. “Discrimination?” Everyone seems to cower when that slander (and a few others) are trotted out these days. You don’t have to look to other countries to find the forces of retaliatory speech suppression on the move — the state appropriations committee here in CA is weighing a bill to outlaw or punish BDS. Please tell me you are not positively gleeful about that.

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