… and now “a land in which human beings kill each other”
Many readers will know of Kairos from their Palestine Document of 2009. This was a bold statement by a group of Christian Palestinians which told the truth about the tragic situation in their country under Israeli occupation… “a cry of hope in the absence of all hope”.
Kairos is Greek meaning “a critical moment in time”. The document was called A Moment of Truth; A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering. And it was published after the murderous onslaught by Israel against Gaza over Christmas and New Year 2008/09.
The Kairos people said they had “reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people. The decision-makers content themselves with managing the crisis rather than committing themselves to the serious task of finding a way to resolve it.”
It was a long and comprehensive document so I’ll just quote this extract to provide a flavour:
Religious liberty is severely restricted; the freedom of access to the holy places is denied under the pretext of security. Jerusalem and its holy places are out of bounds for many Christians and Muslims from the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Even Jerusalemites face restrictions during the religious feasts. Some of our Arab clergy are regularly barred from entering Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the heart of our reality. It is, at the same time, a symbol of peace and sign of conflict. While the separation wall divides Palestinian neighbourhoods, Jerusalem continues to be emptied of its Palestinian citizens, Christians and Muslims. Their identity cards are confiscated, which means the loss of their right to reside in Jerusalem. Their homes are demolished or expropriated. Jerusalem, city of reconciliation, has become a city of discrimination and exclusion, a source of struggle rather than peace.
Also part of this reality is the Israeli disregard of international law and international resolutions, as well as the paralysis of the Arab world and the international community in the face of this contempt. Human rights are violated and despite the various reports of local and international human rights’ organizations, the injustice continues.
We also declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God… We declare that any theology, seemingly based on the Bible or on faith or on history, that legitimizes the occupation, is far from Christian teachings, because it calls for violence and holy war.
In 2012 came “The Iona Call” in answer to the Kairos Palestine Document. It said:
We are called to respond boldly to the deepening suffering of our sisters and brothers in Palestine under occupation by Israel… We believe it is necessary to challenge the deafening silence of most churches in the face of the continuing injustice of dispossession and denial of basic human and political rights. We agree with the Kairos Palestine document that the occupation by Israel is ‘an evil and a sin’.
We ask our churches and theological institutions to challenge how the Bible has been used to justify oppression and injustice… We support Palestinians in their non-violent resistance to Israeli injustice and oppression. We endorse their call for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) and other forms of non-violent direct action. We call on Christians to put pressure on governments and the European Union to demonstrate a commitment to justice for Palestinians and security for all people. [The added emphasis is mine.]
In 2017 Kairos Britain merged with Friends of Sabeel UK and became Sabeel-Kairos. The former had been seeking a just and lasting peace in the region based on the realisation of full human and political rights for all. The latter supported the Sabeel Theology Centre in Jerusalem, encouraged the Christian community in the Holy Land in their life and witness, and raised awareness in the UK of Christians in the Holy Land and promoted links with them. Let us hope the marriage bears fruit.
“An inhumane situation that must be changed”
Then, earlier this year Kairos issued a Statement on Gaza and Jerusalem reminding the world that on 14 May 2018 (the 70th anniversary of the proclamation of an Israeli state) Israel slaughtered 60 people and wounded or maimed 2,771 among crowds in Gaza walking unarmed towards their villages, which they had been forced to leave.
They were killed in cold blood and posed no threat to anybody. At the same time, the American embassy was relocated to Jerusalem in violation of international law. The transgressor is the great power that should call on others to respect international law.
We live in an inhumane situation that must be changed. The siege on Gaza, on two million people living on land of merely 380 km², must be lifted. The West Bank must be liberated and the people in it regain their freedom and complete equality must be ensured for all inhabitants… This is the 70th year of this painful truth: the Holy Land has become the land in which human beings kill each other…
We call upon the international community to remember its own resolutions and to abide by them. We call upon churches to be the conscience of humanity and hear the cry of the oppressed in the Holy Land. We call upon them to condemn the Christian Zionists whom we saw in these days contradicting the Gospel of love and peace, by supporting oppression and injustice, under the pretext of prophecies, and standing with the powerful of this world in their injustices.
We urge the international community to shoulder its responsibilities. We call upon it to exert every pressure, even sanctions if necessary, to force Israel to follow the path of peace and justice… abandon its apartheid practices and comply with international law.
They have just announced their intention to launch a Kumi (Rise Up) project later this month. Sabeel is inviting local and international individuals and organisations to join and work as a united force.
The Kumi project, they say, is founded on these three values:
- Inclusivity: everyone is welcome to join the movement.
- Justice: based on international law, ending the occupation (including Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem), the right of return, and equal rights for all citizens of Israel.
- Non-violent resistance: a commitment to using nonviolence as the only form of resistance.
Its aim is to raise awareness about Palestine and exert pressure on the powerful decision makers of the world to do what is right and end the occupation. With their deep knowledge they have drafted as good a discription of the dire situation as I have seen:
The ugly reality of the present situation has created a feeling of hopelessness for many Palestinians. In our attempt to stand firm in the face of oppression, many believe that we have no chance of success and rightfully feel that we have reached rock-bottom. From global to local levels, we are disheartened by the current reality.
First, at the highest level, the United Nations continues to prove that they are not capable or willing to implement their own resolutions when it comes to Palestine, nor are they able to pass new resolutions to protect the Palestinian people living under military occupation without being blocked by a veto from the United States.
Second, the major players in the international community, including the European Union, UK, China, and Russia, have not shown real political will to help Palestinians achieve their rights.
Third, the United States of America, considered the superpower of the world today, continues to disregard international law and ignores the call to stand for Palestinian rights. Both Democrat and Republican governments have failed to advocate for justice and lasting peace in the land.
Fourth, Israel has become a captive of its own fears and fundamentalist views.
Fifth, we Palestinians feel overwhelmed with what is happening in the Arab world. From the failure of the Arab Spring to bring true and lasting reform, the escalating sectarian wars, the disrespect of human rights, to the growth of religious extremism, we do not expect help from our Arab brothers and sisters.
Sixth, we witness the lack of true coordination between human rights organisations in Palestine, Israel, and around the world developing a clear road map so that a solution based on justice and international law is achieved.
Finally, the internal divisions and disputes among Palestinians have restricted our ability to resist as one united people. These divisions have not only broken our resistance but have also broken our spirits, making us feel completely helpless in the face of oppression.
There’s nothing like telling it the way it is! But despite the many reasons for hopelessness, say Sabeel, they feel that giving up as a people on the margins simply isn’t an option.
Thankfully, Sabeel-Kairos maintains credibility by managing to separate themselves from the usual religious windbags who shy away from politics. The Christian Church ducks these uncomfortable issues by relying on “interfaith dialogue” and maintaining the “deafening silence” referred to in the Iona Call. Take those great buddies, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Oodles of interfaith dialogue there. At top level too. But it made no difference. In a vicious attack Sacks recently called a mild remark by Jeremy Corbyn about Zionists 5 years ago “the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech” and absurdly described Corbyn as “an anti-Semite” who has “given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate”. Sacks revealed himself in his true colours especially when it emerged that he had been promoting and leading the notoriously provocative March of the Flags each year on Jerusalem Day, which is an out-and-out religious hate fest terrorising Palestinians in their own homeland.
This appeared in Haaretz last year:
The march, largely attended by bussed-in yeshiva students, is associated with hate speech and violence. Haaretz’s Bradley Burston describes it as “an annual, gender-segregated extreme-right, pro-occupation religious carnival of hatred, marking the anniversary of Israel’s capture of Jerusalem by humiliating the city’s Palestinian Muslims. Marchers vandalised shops in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter, chanted “Death to Arabs” and “The (Jewish) Temple Will Be Built, the (Al Aqsa) Mosque will be Burned Down”, shattered windows and door locks, and poured glue into the locks of shops forced to close for fear of further damage.
Nice one, Sacks. He was elevated to the House of Lords in 2005 “for services to the community and to interfaith relations”. Oh, the irony of it.
Israel, said Sacks, is the place where his people were born almost 4,000 years ago. I read somewhere that Lord Sacks is of Polish/Lithuanian extraction. Can he demonstrate ancestral ties to the ancient Holy Land?
What Sabeel-Kairos says helps campaigners and civil society keep focus on some of the essential issues in the big struggle ahead. I pick out the following:
- Challenge the deafening silence of most churches and why the Bible has been used to justify oppression and injustice;
- The “enemy within” is often the Christian Zionist;
- *Call for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) and other forms of non-violent direct action;
- Need for better cooperation among human rights organisations and civil society groups in drawing up a road map towards a solution based on justice and international law;
- America, the great power, must be persuaded to respect international law and call on others to do the same;
- The siege on Gaza must be lifted;
- The West Bank must be liberated and its people allowed to regain their freedom. Equality must be ensured for all inhabitants;
- The international community must shoulder its responsibilities and the UN must show itself capable or willing to implement its own resolutions or dissolve;
- Internal divisions have destroyed Palestinian resistance and undermined international support. The causes must be removed – urgently.
It’s sickening to read that Israelis continue to murder Palestinians daily, with impunity. I for one want to see campaigners target the slime balls in Washington and London who could stop the systematic killing and impose justice but to their everlasting shame won’t.