Call To BDS
We write to you as Palestinian Christians to request that your congregation take action based on its own principles in support of peace, justice and human rights. This year will mark 64 years since the founding of the state of Israel on the ruins of 530 Palestinian villages and towns. The result of the ongioing process of ethnic cleansing created the largest post World War II refugee population. 7 million of the 11.5 million Palestinians in the world remain refugees or displaced people denied basic human rights. All International human rights organizations reported on the persistent violations of human rights amounting to apartheid, war crimes and crimes against humanity. We will not here review the evidence for this as it is voluminous and available in many books (suggested sources at end). We will instead go directly to explain the call for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions that Palestinians have made and that was picked up by hundreds of trade unions, hundreds of nongovernmental organizations, and by many churches and church-affiliated groups.
"Our word to the international community is to stop the principle of "double standards" and insist on the international resolutions regarding the Palestinian problem with regard to all parties. Selective application of international law threatens to leave us vulnerable to a law of the jungle. It legitimizes the claims by certain armed groups and states that the international community only understands the logic of force. Therefore, we call for a response to what the civil and religious institutions have proposed, as mentioned earlier: the beginning of a system of economic sanctions and boycott to be applied against Israel. We repeat once again that this is not revenge but rather a serious action in order to reach a just and definitive peace that will put an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories and will guarantee security and peace for all" From the Kairos Document launched 2009 by Christians in the Holy Land http://www.kairospalestine.ps
All major Palestinian Christian denominations and all influential Palestinian Christian individuals who spoke out supported targeted socially responsible investments including calls for BDS. The movement for BDS accelerated when hundreds of nongovernmental organizations adopted the Palestinian Civil Society Call to Action (http://www.bdsmovement.net/call#.T7e-xb9Kbbk). In 2008, the Palestinian BDS National Committee adopted the strategic position paper “United against Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation – Dignity and Justice for the Palestinian People” (http://www.bdsmovement.net/2008/palestinian-strategic-paper-222#.T7fAaL9Kbbk). Both documents called on people of good conscience around the world to join in nonviolent actions as was done to accelerate the end of apartheid in South Africa.
As Jesus taught us to be the salt of this earth and with Parables explained why we cannot stay silent (e.g. the parable of teh lamp), Palestinian Christians asked the International community to take a stand for peace with justice. Here are interesting relevant documents on this:
1) Kairos Palestine document (http://www.kairospalestine.ps)
2) “Faith Under Occupation” EAPPI Publication of Palestinian Christian Voices. http://eappi.org/resources/eappi-publications.html
3) Sabeel (the largest Ecumenical Liberation theology organization) statement http://www.sabeel.org/statements.php?eventid=15
4) Christ at the Checkpoint met in Bethlehem and issued a manifesto http://www.christatthecheckpoint.org/
See also Palestinian Christians do not tolerate life under occupation
The Problem with suggesting "Positive investments" to replace BDS
Some people suggested that Churches and civil society organizations should encourage "positive investment" in the Palestinian economy instead of BDS. However, this argument is flawed on a number of levels
1) it is virtually impossible to have an economic model of sustained development under occupation as demonstrated by a number of studies
Botta, A. and G. Vaggi, 2011. Palestine: a theoretical model of an Investment-Constrained Economy. Università degli Studi dell'Insubria
Via Monte Generoso, 71, 21100 Varese, Italy http://eco.uninsubria.it/dipeco/quaderni/files/QF2011_05.pdf
2) Israel benefits tremendously from all investments in the occupied territories and this has become the most profitable occupation in history.
(see Shir Hever, The Political Economy of Israel's Occupation
Repression Beyond Exploitation, PLuto Press, London, 2010)
Thus any attempt at pumping charity into the economy of the occupied areas only prolongs the occupation.
3) Israel controls natural resources and severely restricts their usage in the occupied territories rendering development virtually impossible under occupation
(see Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Sector Development. The World Bank, Report No. 47657-GZ 2009; Susan Koppelman & Zayneb Alshalalfe, The Human Right to Water in Palestine, LifeSource and Blue Planet; Amnesty International, “Troubled Waters: Palestinians Denied Fair Access to Water,” October 2010.)
4) Positive investment does not relieve the Corporations nor entities that invest in these corporations from legal liability under international law. (The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP). Corporate complicity in Israel’s Violations of International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, and War Crimes, 2010. available at http://www.bdsmovement.net/2010/london-session-rtop-5208#.T7fE8L9Kbbk)
There are also many examples of investments by Western governments and organizations into the situation which shows the futility of such efforts without changing the political situation:
1) EU aid to Palestinian projects destroyed by Israel
A catalogue of projects funded by the EU and destroyed by Israel is listed in this link. http://www.setyoufreenews.com/2012/04/07/when-europe-develops-and-israel-destroys
2) A Bedouin school in Khan Al Ahmar built with international aid endangered. http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/topics/jerusalem/4335-israel-to-relocate-area-c-bedouin-school-prior-to-demolition-.html
3) Demolition order on solar panels in South Hebron Hills
Is Israel a democracy?
Several books and reports from credible sources show that Israel is nota democracy but it has specific sets of discriminatory laws against nonJews. A selected compilation of some resources:
- United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), was "appalled" by Israel’s racial segregation policies and that an advanced version of an upcoming CERD report indicates that racial prejudice can be found in almost every facet of Israeli life.
- Amnesty International reported: "In Israel several laws are explicitly discriminatory. These can be traced back to Israel's foundation in 1948 which, driven primarily by the racist genocide suffered by Jews in Europe during the Second World War, was based on the notion of a Jewish state for Jewish people. Some of Israel's laws reflect this principle and as a result discriminate against non-Jews, particularly Palestinians who had lived on the lands for generations. Various areas of Israeli law discriminate against Palestinians. The Law of Return, for instance, provides automatic Israeli citizenship for Jewish immigrants, whereas Palestinian refugees who were born and raised in what is now Israel are denied even the right to return home. Other statutes explicitly grant preferential treatment to Jewish citizens in education, public housing, health, and employment." 'Racism and the Administration of Justice', Amnesty International (2001), also found at http://www.amnestyusa.org/stoptorture/racismreport.pdf
- Human Rights Watch on an aspect of Israel racist structures
"The state controls 93 percent of the land in Israel, and a government agency, the Israel Land Administration (ILA), manages and allocates this land. The ILA lacks any mandate to disburse land in a fair and just fashion, and members of the Jewish National Fund, which has an explicit mandate to develop land for Jewish use only, constitute almost half of the ILAâ€™s governing council, occupying all the seats not held by Israeli government ministries." http://hrw.org/reports/2008/iopt0308/
- U.S. State Department report on International Religious Freedom: "Arabs in Israel...are subject to various forms of discrimination…(the government) does not provide Israeli Arabs...with the same quality of education, housing, employment opportunities as Jews."
- Ronnie Kasrils, minister for intelligence in the South African government and of the Jewish faith: "The Palestinian minority in Israel has for decades been denied basic equality in health, education, housing and land possession, solely because it is not Jewish. The fact that this minority is allowed to vote hardly redresses the rampant injustice in all other basic human rights. They are excluded from the very definition of the 'Jewish state', and have virtually no influence on the laws, or political, social and economic policies. Hence, their similarity to the black South Africans under apartheid." (The Guardian, 25 May 2005)
- "The Committee (UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) notes with grave concern that the Status Law of 1952 authorizes the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency and its subsidiaries, including the Jewish National Fund, to control most of the land in Israel, since these institutions are chartered to benefit Jews exclusively. Despite the fact that the institutions are chartered under private law, the State of Israel nevertheless has a decisive influence on their policies and thus remains responsible for their activities. A State party cannot divest itself of its obligations under the Covenant by privatizing governmental functions. The Committee takes the view that large-scale and systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and property by the State and the transfer of that property to these agencies constitute an institutionalized form of discrimination because these agencies by definition would deny the use of these properties to non-Jews. Thus, these practices constitute a breach of Israel's obligations under the Covenant. http://www.unhchr.ch:80/tbs/doc.nsf/Symbol/df35bf5b5ee94d01802566d5003dd6cd?Opendocument
-The Knesset passed a law basically barring any party from running in the elections if it advocates transforming Israel intoa state of its citizens (a secular dfemocratic state). The law stipulates that "The following lists may not run in the elections: A list which acts directly or indirectly against the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people ...." http://www.knesset.gov.il/deSCRIPTion/eng/eng_mimshal_beh.htm#6
- Israel: Multiple patterns of internal displacement affect several ethnic and religious groups. Summary report in PDF: http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004BE3B1/(httpInfoFiles)/179CDBD849DB9626C125734700336ADC/$file/Israel_Overview_Aug 07.pdf
Full report in PDF: http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004BE3B1/(httpInfoFiles)/19DE321CE3CA6F50C125734700346BA5/$file/Israel+-August+2007.pdf
- See Qumsiyeh, MB. Chapter 7 on "Is Israel a Democracy?" in "Sharing the Land of Canaan" Pluto Press, 2004. Available here http://qumsiyeh.org/chapter7/
The continuing Nakba
The strongest arguments used to support BDS is the continuing Israeli disregard for International law and international humanitarian law.
The theft of land and attack on Palestinian lives continued unabated in violations of International law. When asked for an advistry opinions, the International Court of Justice for example ruled that the wall and settlements built on Palestinian land are illegal per International Law.
Just a few examples of Israeli policies of destruction and apartheid from credible nongovernmental organizations:
Al-Izzariyya, Abu Dis and At-Tur communities in east Jerusalem
On home demolitions: ICAHD statement to the UN Human Rights Council
When Israeli Journalist Amira Hass wrote in an article titled "Words instead of action" in the Israeli paper Haaretz that
"Every few weeks some international body issues a report directly linking the policy of restricted movement imposed by Israel on the occupied territories and the state of economic deterioration there.....The countries issuing the warnings continue to purchase Israeli manufactured arms and other security-related products. They host military officers who are directly responsible for the killing of hundreds of Palestinian citizens and fervently implement the siege policy. They invite Israeli ministers who are responsible for the economic and social de-development of a whole people."
(Words instead of actions By Amira Hass, Haaretz
This is reminiscent of the prescient letter from Birmingham Jail by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr:
"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
Aruri, Naseer: Dishonest Broker: America's Role in Israel and Palestine. South End Press, 2003.
Qumsiyeh, Mazin. Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian COnflict. Pluto Press, 2004
Qumsiyeh, Mazin. Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of hope and empowerment. Pluto Press 2010
Said, Edward. The Question of Palestine, Times Books, 1992.
The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism
Ben White, Christians of the Holy Land: Despite claims by Israeli government officials, Christian Palestinians regularly face discrimination
David Wildman, Why Divestment? Why now? The Link (Americans for Middle East Understanding), Aug.-Sept. 2006.