Saturday, June 25, 2005

Methodists, Israel, Divestment.

"The New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church on June 11 passed a resolution calling for voluntary selective divestment from companies that profit in a significant way from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. This measure is similar to initiatives being considered by several other Christian denominations. The Presbyterian Church USA adopted a selective divestment measure last year. A number of Jewish groups in the United States, Israel, Europe, and South Africa have also called for selective divestment as a tool to end the Israeli occupation...

"Israel continues to take the land of the Palestinian people for ever-expanding settlements, Israeli-only roadways, and the construction of a giant wall and fence that is confiscating a significant portion of the Palestinian land in the West Bank. 83% of the West Bank’s water has been taken for Israeli use, leaving Palestinians with desperate water shortages. Israel has destroyed the homes of more than 28,000 Palestinians in four and a half years. Hundreds of thousands of ancient olive trees and vast tracts of agricultural land have also been destroyed.

"Israel has built a ring of Jewish settlements around Arab East Jerusalem, impeding access to the West Bank for Jerusalem’s Arab residents and ensuring that Palestinians cannot use East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, which has been called for by every major peace plan.

"In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled by 14-1 that Israel should halt and dismantle the Wall being constructed illegally in occupied Palestinian territory, and make reparation for the damage arising from its unlawful conduct. Palestinians continue to alternate between often-futile non-violent protest and unacceptable violent attacks on Israelis. Israeli soldiers have repeatedly fired on non-violent protesters, killing and wounding not only Palestinians, but international peace activists – including Americans – who have stood with them. In addition, volunteers with the Christian Peacemaker Teams in the West Bank have been attacked by Israeli settlers while escorting Palestinian children to school. Settlers have been involved in many acts of violence against Palestinians.

"Palestinian Christians are being forced to leave the Holy Land. Their land and water has also been taken by Israel. They now comprise less than 2% of the West Bank’s population, and there are very real fears that soon there will be no Christian presence in the land of Christ’s birth. Those who remain are calling on Christians everywhere to reject the policies that are driving them and their Muslim neighbors from a region their ancestors have inhabited for more than 2000 years. Many recall a time when Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived in harmony together in this land, and believe it can happen again when people of all religions are accepted as equals, with full rights to life, liberty and property.

"Our Christian faith calls us to reject violence of any kind, and to reject acts of aggression that provoke violence. As United Methodists, we are committed to work for justice, and to refuse to be complacent in the face of such monumental human suffering. We are also called to support other members of the Body of Christ around the world.

"It is not expected that United Methodist divestment activity or that of any other religious denomination will significantly affect Israel’s economy or the bottom line of major US companies, but this is not the goal. The goal is to make all United Methodists and other Americans aware of their relationship to companies that benefit from the Israeli occupation and give them an opportunity to withdraw from such relationships, so they are not participants in human rights violations that violate Christian principles and international law. Another, equally important goal is to give hope to Palestinians, including our Christian counterparts in the region, and let them know they are not forgotten.

"Christ has called us to be a light to the nations, to replace darkness and despair with hope rooted in love for all God’s creation. Refusing to be a part of an illegal occupation that endangers Israelis as well as Palestinians is an effective way to show our light to the world."

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