Resolution 7: A Just Peace in the Holy Land

Resolved, That, in light of the Diocese’s 2014 advocacy of economic pressure as a means of ending Israel’s now fifty-year occupation of Palestinian lands and fostering a just peace in the Holy Land, the 168th Convention of the Diocese of California submits the following resolution to the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church:

Resolved, The House of ________ concurring, That the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church direct the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee to identify by July 1, 2019 those companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands or whose products or actions support the infrastructure of the occupation and to place such companies so identified on its “no-buy” list; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention direct the Investment Committee to divest from any investments it might have in such companies and urge the Church Pension Group (CPG) to take similar action; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention direct Executive Council to disseminate to Episcopalians a list of products manufactured in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and marketed in the United States; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention encourage Episcopalians to avoid investing in such companies or buying such products.

 

Explanation:  This resolution is predicated on grounds that are moral and legal.

Joining our voice to those of other Christian denominations against the oppression and apartheid endured by Palestinians on a daily basis would add greatly to the growing moral pressure on Israel and, not incidentally, enhance the reputation of the Episcopal Church. In doing so, we would respond to the pleas for economic pressure contained in the 2005 “Call from Palestinian Civic Society” and in the 2009 “Kairos Palestine Document” of Palestinian Christians. Most importantly, we would fulfill our baptismal vow to “seek justice and respect the dignity of every human being.”

The main obstacles to such action have been the justified feelings of guilt within the Christian community with regard to the Holocaust, the efforts by the Israeli Government and some American Jewish groups to equate economic pressure on the Israeli Government with anti-Semitism, and threats by some American Jewish groups to cut off the ecumenical dialogue, if we take such action. We in the Christian West must atone for the sin of the Holocaust, but, in vowing “Never Again,” insist that its memory not blind us to injustices in the Middle East or elsewhere. We must, as we did in our 2014 resolution, also reject the sin of anti-Semitism and affirm Israel’s right to live in peace within secure borders. We must, moreover, strive to maintain a lively, honest dialogue with our Jewish neighbors, celebrating our shared Judeo-Christian heritage, but ever mindful that friends do not seek to silence one another nor enable bad behavior by remaining silent. Breaking the silence sometimes demands courage. In seeking ours, we honor the courage of the growing number of Jews in both Israel and the United States critical of the policies of the Israeli government, opposed to the occupation, and supportive of economic pressure as a legitimate non-violent means to promote an end to the occupation and a just peace.

In terms of law and policy, the occupation and settlements are considered illegal by the international community and our own government. Nonetheless, in fifty years of occupation, the Israeli settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased by five percent per year and, in the last decade, from 350,000 to 600,000. These “facts on the ground” have eroded the prospects for a two-state solution preferred by the Episcopal Church and the United States Government, diminished the hopes for peace, and demonstrated that “corporate engagement” and “positive investment” have failed. It is time to try new methods to persuade Israel to do what is in its own best interest.

One such method, which has proven its efficacy in combatting apartheid in South Africa and racial segregation and anti-LGBT legislation in our own country, is economic pressure in the long tradition of non-violent resistance to injustice. With regard to Israel/Palestine, various forms of such pressure have already been adopted by the World Council of Churches; the Methodist, Presbyterian, Mennonite, and Lutheran Churches; the United Church of Christ; and secular organizations such as the European Union.

Concerning the occupation, United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967 emphasizes “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and “affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles: withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent [1967] conflict; and termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

Concerning the settlements, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention says: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Article 85 of the First Protocol to said Convention further stipulates that “the transfer by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory, in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Convention” shall be regarded as one of the “grave breaches of this Protocol” that “shall be regarded as war crimes.”

Investigation and consultation with appropriate TEC officials have shown there are no budgetary implications to the resolution. Accordingly, the resolution contains no budgetary resolve.

Submitted by: The Rev. Vicki Gray, Deacon, Christ the Lord, Pinole and member, East Bay Chapter of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship (vgray54951@aol.com or (707) 554-0672).

Endorsed by: The Rev. Susan Champion, Rector, Christ the Lord, Pinole; the Rev. Katherine Salinaro, Christ the Lord, Pinole; the Rev. Kathleen Van Sickle, Deacon, St. Alban’s Albany; Janet Chisholm, All Souls, Berkeley; the Rev. Daniel Prechtel, Assisting Priest, All Souls, Berkeley; Barbara D. Metcalf, St. Alban's, Albany; the Rev. Davidson Bidwell-Waite, Deacon.

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Comments

We need to consider a more balanced approach to the conflict in the Holy Land. The only effect of the these continued resolutions is to drive good people from our church. At Diocesan Convention we have listened year after year to the harsh, vitriolic speeches given by a member of our clergy who purports to be an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This current resolution offers a one-sided, simplistic approach, that ignores the complex history of the Middle East in general and the United Nations partition of the Palestine Mandate in particular, which I and many of our members have studied in great depth. Lastly, it is deeply hurtful that our Diocesan convention claims to be an advocate of the marginalized in our own society, especially the LGBT community, and yet ignores the plain fact that members of the LGBT community are routinely bullied, harassed, and murdered in the Palestinian Authority, with no recourse as they have no rights. This sends a confusing message. Thank you! Christian Lehrer

Having participated this week in a workshop on non-violent communication, I will refrain from addressing the ad hominem attack, pejorative adjectives, and exercise in “pink washing” – all unrelated to the substance of the resolution - contained in the above comment.

Nor would it be productive to spend much time on the passing references to church demographics and the “complex history” of the Middle East. There are, of course, many reasons why people have left the Episcopal Church, including our commendable stance on LGBT issues. By way of speculation, however, I suspect that many young people leave, not because of what we do, but because of what we don’t do on other issues of justice like Israel/Palestine. Concerning the history of this conflict, I have learned it not just from books, but from four trips to the Holy Land that have included visits to kibbutzim and refugee camps. Suffice it to say, that history did not begin with the end of the British colonial mandate, but more likely with its problematic start. The Balfour Declaration and the Sykes-Picot Treaty come to mind.

Saddest of all, however, is Christian's reiteration of the call for a “balanced approach” – a call we have heard for decades, while an endless “peace process” drags on and the death toll – of Palestinians and Israelis – climbs. Simply put, there is nothing balanced about this conflict. Palestine is not occupying Israel. There are no Palestinian settlements, ringing Tel Aviv or Haifa. There are no Palestinian checkpoints on the road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There is, however, an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, where 1.8 million men, women, and children live – no, exist - amidst piles of rubble and overflowing sewage in the world’s largest outdoor prison. For those who need numbers to comprehend the imbalance, consider that, since 2000, 9,497 Palestinians and 1,216 Israelis have been killed, among them 1,712 Palestinian children and 92 Israeli children. Mourning them all, we must seek an end to the killing.

That requires naming the source of the oppression that gives rise to the killing – the occupation and colonization of one people by the other. Again, there’s nothing “balanced” about it. We would do well, in this regard, to heed the words of Elie Wiesel, who said: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” and thoswe of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” And, speaking of Archbishop Tutu, I am reminded of the words of his successor, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, with whom I visited Israel/Palestine in 2011. In a February 25, 2011 sermon in Jerusalem’s Church of all Nations at the end of that visit, he had this to say: “We must not be naïve in speaking about South Africa while standing in Jerusalem. The wall of strangulation or `beautification’ is worse than the South African pass laws, the Bantustans or homelands, and racial discrimination. Visiting with Palestinians in Bethlehem and Hebron is an experience I will treasure. I will rededicate myself to the pursuit of justice.” Can we not do the same?

I'd like to second Fr. Lehrer's excellent comment.

After the Nazis came to power in Germany on January 30, 1933, the Nazi leadership decided to stage an economic boycott against the Jews of Germany. (BOYCOTT OF JEWISH BUSINESSES, Holocaust Museum, Web site: https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005678.) I strongly urge defeat of Draft Resolution: Economic Pressure to End the Occupation and Foster Peace in the Holy Land. BDS (Boycott, Divestment, And Sanctions) against Jews in Germany was used in NAZI Germany. Now some want us to use BDS against Jews in Israel. Instead, we should affirm our belief in Israel’s right to exist, a two-state solution, and investments in both Palestinian and Israel. We should condemn violence against non-combatants in the strongest terms and urge all to negotiate in peace. We should also urge Palestine Authorities to stop rewarding terrorists who stab, shoot, or blow up peaceful civilians. “One item that ought to be on the agenda is a scarcely known feature of civic life in the West Bank: monthly salaries and lump-sum payments to terrorists. Without apology or shame, and yet in conflict with the Oslo Accords and professed aspirations for peace, the Palestinian Authority is running a bounty system. Payments to terrorists and their families are enshrined in Palestinian law, provided for in the Palestinian Authority budget and indirectly support by foreign aid. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/04/28/palestinians...).
Sincerely Your Brother in Christ,
Earl B. Curtis

In the second paragraph the phrase "and/or whose products and/or actions support the infrastructure of the occupation and to place such companies so identified on its “no-buy” list;" is very confusing. The use of and/or doesn't help but the "actions support the infrastructure of the occupation" can be seen as very broad and indeed anything that might support Israel could be seen as included. I urge the author to consider striking the second resolve of the Economic Pressure Resolution.
earl_curtis@comcast.net, Your Brother in Christ. Earl

If you go to the website of the organization that founded the BDS movement (I'm not going to link it here), the third demand in order NOT to boycott is that Israel allow "all 7.25 million Palestinian refugees" to settle anywhere they choose in the land of "historic Palestine." Putting aside the fact that 60% of historic Palestine is now Jordan, this demand, coupled with the references to "almost 70 years of Israeli occupation," makes it clear that the "problem" is not Israel's control of the West Bank, it is Israel's existence. I need to clarify the "7.25 million" figure. There actually were 750,000 Arabs who fled, often at the instigation of Arab leaders, from land that became the State of Israel. Incidentally, there were 800,000 Jewish refugees who were driven out of Arab lands at the same time. By a peculiar form of logic, a descendant of a Palestinian refugee is a also a Palestinian refugee. This does not apply to any other refugee group--I know Vietnamese refugees who have settled here and now have grandchildren who were born here. By the Palestinian definition, these grandchildren would be Vietnamese refugees themselves! While there are human rights issues of concern regarding treatment of Palestinians, the exclusive focus on the one Jewish state shows a form of anti-Semitism. This is especially evident when countries like Turkey (occupying Cyprus) and China (occupying Tibet) criticize the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Israel has offered many times to give up it occupation of the West Bank (and, in fact, it unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005) in exchange for a peace treaty and recognition of Israel's right to exist. Also, no one seemed interested in establishing a Palestinian state when the West Bank was controlled by Jordan. Anti-Semitism, thy name is BDS!

Might this be the same Earl H. Foote of Washington, D.C. who trolls the internet, deploying Israeli Government propaganda against anything favorable to Palestinians? Hearing again that canard of anti-Semitism, I find peace in Matthew 5:11.

And, to my Brother in Christ Earl B. Curtis, equating this plea for justice for an oppressed people with the Nazis' crimes against Jews is, simply put, a Schande! It was not Palestinians who perpetrated the Holocaust. It was European Christians. Having served as a diplomat in Germany and Poland, I am intimately familiar with the sordid details of that horror. That's why I was a charter member of the Holocaust Museum.

Can we not dispense with the name-calling and faulty history and address the substance of the resolution. Please.

Two thoughts: (1) I plead guilty to being a troll for Israel. (2) Thank you, Rev. Gray, for pleading that we stop with the name-calling. This was right after you called me an internet troll. Please point out where I have called you any names.

The Palestine Israel Network of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship supports the draft resolution "Promoting a Just Peace in the Holy Land". Economic pressure is a time-honored, nonviolent method to effect change. Just as it has been used effectively against systemic racial oppression in the United States, we believe its use is justified to prompt an end to the brutal military occupation of the Palestinian people. The call for divestment in this resolution is directed at commercial entities, not against Jews or the government of Israel. At PIN, we strive every day to educate and dispel the myths about Palestine and Israel; we challenge the conversation-stopping rhetoric of “antisemitism” and “terrorism” by focusing on the actual “facts on the ground.” We are motivated by our Baptismal Covenant to seek justice for all people. The “facts on the ground” in Palestine and Israel speak clearly enough about where the bulk of injustice lies, as documented by the United Nations, B’tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, and numerous other organizations. The public record holds abundant evidence of the daily atrocities of the Occupation: the tragically disproportionate use of military violence against Palestinian innocents, women and children; the callous, punitive restrictions of movement; denial of access to water and electricity as a means of punishment and control; population displacements and appropriations of Palestinian lands; ongoing growth of illegal settlements; demolition of homes; and the detention, imprisonment and torture of children. It is not complex or complicated at all. 

I said it at Deanery and I’ll say it again. This is a very bad resolution. It is wrong on the facts. It has nothing to with peace or justice. It is one-sided. It is partisan. It is supported and pushed internationally by extremist groups which support terror and genocide. It is mean-spirited. It needlessly divides our church to no good end. It ignores the via media. Its passage would make Episcopalians look like partisan extremist anti-Semites.

And to top it off, it is arrogant. By what authority do I or any of us claim to represent our parish on this issue? Ethical representative democracy demands that issues that will be voted on by representatives be debated or discussed in front of those being represented so that people know where their representatives stand.

I know what folks in my parish think about church issues such as clergy retirement, staff benefits, family leave, ecology, etc. because we talk about these issues in vestry, in our ministries, and among ourselves. Therefore I can represent them on these sorts of issues.

However, except for one or two people, I have no idea what folks in my parish think about Israel. They did not elect me to Deanery to argue about international politics. People in my parish don’t want to argue about politics and become divided, they want to unite in loving friendship and community with each other. We want to be in communion with each other. This is a divisive, wrong-headed resolution. We should vote it down.

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