We appreciate the steady witness and organizing commitment of Bob Stoddard and his dedication to fairness for both Palestinians and Israelis. As you read this piece, perhaps reflect on whether there were any prayers for the “peace of Jerusalem” in your Christmas services just a few weeks ago. What does the Incarnation mean for the “facts on the ground” of today?By Rev. Robert Stoddard and Rev. William Lane
The recent exchange in Delaware Voice columns between Delaware Neighbors Against the Occupation and Lt. Gov. Matt Denn regarding Israel/Palestine cause us to urge a re-examination of this conflict from both viewpoints. If there is ever to be an end to this long, bitter and brutal conflict, we must all first recognize the sufferings, mistrust and legitimate fears of Israelis and Palestinians alike and their mutual longing for justice, security, and lasting peace.
We affirm the right of Israel to exist as a secure, democratic state. (Whether Jewish and democratic we leave for later discussion.) We call on all Palestinians to do likewise, thereby rejecting Hamas’ call for a Palestinian-only state in place of Israel. We condemn the use of suicide bombs and rockets against Israeli civilians, Jewish and Arab, by Palestinian militants and call for an end of such attacks. Given the demographics, we worry that even with 138 settlements and 506,000 settlers on Palestinian land and more settlements encouraged, Israeli Jews will still soon become a minority if Israel continues to occupy that land. And we are alarmed by Israel’s growing isolation, especially since the Arab spring, for Israel needs international and economic engagement and peace with its neighbors if it is to survive over time.
We affirm equally the right of Palestinians to exist within the secure borders of their own viable and contiguous state. We deplore and call for an end to the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, (the size of Delaware with four times our population), and the continuing siege of Gaza (about the size and density of Philadelphia). We vehemently oppose the Israeli government’s oppression of Palestinian men, women and children through the systematic confiscation of their land and water resources, destruction of their homes and orchards, walling in of their towns and villages, their detention and imprisonment without trial, the restriction of their freedom of movement and the relentless building of Jewish settlements and roads in the Palestinian territories, all enforced by the occupying Israeli army.
These are painful, but nevertheless indisputable “facts on the ground” verified by the United Nations, international and Israeli human rights organizations and we Christians, Jews and Muslims who have been there and seen for ourselves.
This is an unhealthy and unsustainable situation for Palestinians – and Israelis. The Occupation and siege are taking a terrible toll physically, emotionally and economically on both sides. Israelis have been injured and killed, but Palestinian casualties have been at a far greater rate due to Israel’s military power and asymmetrical warfare.
The Occupation undermines the religious and social values of Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, fostering in some hostility, hatred and extremism.
Former Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers testify that having to treat Palestinians as less than human dehumanizes them as well. Such policies negate the democratic values on which Israel was founded, not to mention our shared Judeo/Christian religious and moral values of doing justice, doing no harm to others and striving for true shalom – wholeness.
Furthermore, our nation’s unqualified support of Israel, at the expense of the Palestinians, undercuts our ability to be a fair and honest broker of peace. Then too, our unbalanced policies and actions reflect poorly on us internationally, especially in Arab nations and the Muslim world and now Europe.
What can be done to turn this situation back toward peace? What can we, Christians, Jews, Muslims, do to promote peace in Israel/Palestine? As citizens of “the most powerful nation on earth,” we can inform ourselves from sources other than our biased mainstream media and with visits to Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza of the true facts on the ground. Then, as difficult and painful as it is, we must face up to the truth and exercise our democratic right – and obligation – to speak that truth our Congressmen, United States senators and president to advocate for:
- Implementation of the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel
- Hamas’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist
- An end of all terrorist acts, be they carried out by Palestinian militants or the Israeli military
- An end to the Occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza and return to the 1967 borders with land swaps
- An immediate end to construction of Israeli settlements and infrastructure on Palestinian land
- Holding both parties accountable to American laws regarding military and economic aid
- Resumption of the peace process leading to the establishment of two independent states living side-by-side peacefully
And above all, America must deal with Israel and the Palestinians as equal partners, not favoring one over the other. This is the only way we can help bring about security and peace based on justice for all peoples in our shared Holy Land.
We must be pro-Israel and pro-Palestine if we are to be pro-peace. Shalom/Salaam.
Robert Stoddard is the founder and William Lane the chair of Delaware Churches for Middle East Peace.