August 2020 Monthly Update

In This Issue

Israel/UAE/US Accord – Throwing Palestine Under the Bus
Annexation Update – Listening to Palestinian Voices (and a Jewish Voice, too)
The Biden/Harris Ticket and Palestine
Betty McCollum Strikes Again
Cry for Hope: A Decisive Call for Action
Stay Informed on Palestine
Prayer

Israel/UAE/US Accord – Throwing Palestine Under the Bus

Donald Trump after signing the Accord with participants from Israel and the United Arab Emirates behind (Credit: NYT)

President Trump, of course, wanted to call it the Donald J. Trump Accord, but it became formally known as the Abraham Accord. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) became the third Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel (following Egypt and Jordan years earlier). It is possible that other Arab states, like Bahrain and Oman, will soon follow suit. Trump tweeted that it was a “HUGE breakthrough” and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called it a “geopolitical earthquake.” But was it really?

Israel and the UAE have never been to war with each other. In fact, relationship building between the two has been going on for decades, beginning as far back as the 1970s when they started sharing intelligence information. Over time, cooperation included economic and diplomatic ties, security concerns (including cyber-security) and, most importantly, opposition to Iran’s growing regional influence in the wake the U.S. failed invasion of Iraq in 2003. As Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University put it: “This was making overt a relationship that was already covert…making even more salient an alliance against Iran.”

Richard Falk, former Special Rapporteur to the United Nations on Palestinian Human Rights, assessed possible motivations for the accord by the three players involved: (1) Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, “to justify a delay in fulfilling his election promise to annex large portions of the occupied West Bank territory belonging to Palestine…[and] pressure to convince Israelis that he could be an effective leader…while under indictment for corruption and without making concessions to the Palestinians”; (2) For the UAE, “once ‘peace’ with Israel is achieved, the UAE will be eligible to buy advanced weapon systems from the United States…[and] to strengthen the anti-Iran coalition”; and (3) “as Trump has already claimed, this will be presented to the American people as a demonstration of the effectiveness of Trump’s deal-making diplomacy, as well as securing a victory for Israel in its efforts to achieving normalization with Arab countries without allowing the formation of an independent sovereign Palestine.”

In the process, the accord effectively throws Palestine under the bus. The announcement of the deal stated ambiguously that “Israel will suspend [emphasis added] declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim World.” The critical word is “suspend,” and as Falk put it, “in order to reach a common understanding the parties agreed not to specify what was meant by the word ‘suspend’…There seems little doubt that the two parties want to …put forward divergent interpretations…The UAE to hide its abandonment of the Palestinians in their struggle for basic human rights…and Israel wants to convince especially its settler movement that the suspension is temporary, and when an opportune moment arises, annexation will go forward.”

Rashida Tlaib, the first female Palestinian U.S. congresswoman, blasted the accord on Twitter: “We won’t be fooled by another Trump/Netanyahu deal. We won’t celebrate Netanyahu for not stealing land he already controls in exchange for a sweetheart deal. The heart of the issue has never been planned, formal annexation, but ongoing, devastating apartheid.”

In Palestine, Samia Khoury, co-founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, spoke from her heart: “We hardly got over the shock of the explosion in Beirut on August 4, and the loss of so many lives…when we got another shock on August 13, with the breaking news of the United Arab Emirates’ recognition of Israel and the normalization of their relationship on all levels. Why would the Emirates do that at a time when the Palestinians are at their lowest ebb, and they need the support of all the Arab neighbors to sanction Israel instead of allying with it…The UAE is rewarding Israel…and further abandon the Palestinians…Once again the Palestinians are paying the price…In an era of power and domination, neither justice nor the United Nations resolutions seem to work…’Woe to the powerless’ could not be more true than in those times when our cry is not only the cry of the powerless but a cry in the wilderness, when even our closest friends are not listening…But amidst all this hopelessness, can I really lose hope? Of course not. History has taught us that no injustice or empire can last forever.”

Annexation Update – Listening to Palestinian Voices (and a Jewish Voice, too)


Apartheid map (Credit: GUE/NGL)

With the threat of annexation as real after the accord as before, Palestinian voices cry out ever more strongly, like that of the prophet Habakkuk nearly three millennia ago: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

Our annexation coverage continues with three Palestinian voices from today and one significant American Jewish voice who just changed his mind.

Palestinian Voices
Jonathan Kuttab – An Analysis
“There has been a huge fervor over the threat of Netanyahu to annex portions of the West Bank…The outcry [in response]…hides the fact that a creeping form of annexation has been taking place the last 50 years…It is valuable…to remember why annexation is so roundly condemned…First, the entire fabric of international law and stability requires that…boundaries be respected and should not be altered unilaterally…Second…is that it puts the last nail in the coffin of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders…What most people miss is that Israel was perfectly happy to carry out its settlement and annexation activities as long as the world limited its response to verbal disapproval and did not take concrete steps to sanction it for these activities…It is therefore more important than ever that those of us who care about international law and the prospect of peace find ways to make our position known not by empty toothless proclamations and resolutions, but by seeking to make Israel to pay a price for its settlement and annexation activities. Where governments fail to take such actions, then we must turn to civil society activities like those proposed by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS).”

Yousef Al Khouri (Bethlehem Bible College) – The Sin of Annexation
“The Israeli government and its allies continue their plan to erase the Palestinian historical presence in the land of Palestine…The Christian biblical way to describe the plan is SIN…The Kairos Palestine Document, ‘Moment of Truth,’ states clearly that the occupation is a sin against God and humanity…Stealing of the Palestinian land from its indigenous people is an explicit breaking of God’s commandments to his people and the church…The coming of God’s Kingdom…is based on justice, peace, love and coexistence…The church…has the responsibility to be the prophetic voice of the Kingdom that speaks against the sin of occupation and annexation of the Palestinian people.”

An Open Letter from Christian Clergy from Bethlehem
“We are writing this letter in our capacity as spiritual leaders of various Christian communities in the Bethlehem area. The Israeli government is planning to annex more occupied Palestinian land….For…Bethlehem…the process of annexation will be particularly catastrophic…Soon after the occupation of 1967 Israel annexed over 20,000 dunums of land in the northern part of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour for construction of illegal settlements…One of the only areas left…for agriculture and simply for families to enjoy nature are the valleys of Cremisan and Makhrour, both located to the west of our urban areas and are under the current threat of annexation by Israeli authorities…Our biggest concern is that the annexation of those areas will push more people to emigrate. Bethlehem, surrounded by walls and settlements, already feels like an open prison. Annexation means the prison becomes even smaller, with no hopes for a better future…This is land theft.”

Peter Beinart’s Dramatic Change of Heart
For many years, the liberal American Jewish community has been firmly committed to a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. But one of those voices recently shook up the liberal Jewish American community.

Peter Beinart is one of the leading voices in the liberal American Jewish community and editor of Jewish Currents. Beinart has held out for a two-state solution for many years. But in July he published an article in which he declared the two-state solution dead and the one-state apartheid solution equally dead. His article included the following assertions about annexation and Israel’s future:

“Annexation is not the end of the line. It is a waystation to hell [for both Israel and Palestine]. Averting a future in which oppression degenerates into ethnic cleansing requires a vision that can inspire not just Palestinians, but the world. Equality offers it…The demand for equality—as manifested in the civil rights movement, anti-apartheid movement, and the Black Lives Matter movement—retains enormous emotional power.”

“For generations, Jews have seen a Jewish state as tikkun, a repair, a way of overcoming the legacy of the Holocaust. But it hasn’t worked. To justify our oppression of Palestinians, Jewish statehood has required us to see them as Nazis. And, in that way, it has kept the Holocaust legacy alive. The real tikkun is equality, a Jewish home that is also a Palestinian home. Only by helping to free Palestinians—and in the process coming to see them as human beings, not the reincarnation of our tortured past—can we free ourselves from the Holocaust’s grip. The Hebrew word for peace, ‘shalom,’ is connected to the word ‘shlemut,’ wholeness. Only Palestinian freedom—a precondition for true peace in Israel-Palestine—can make Jews whole.”

Beinart’s vision of a one-nation solution that is both a homeland for Jews and for Palestinians, where in a democratic Israel every Jew and Palestinian has an equal voice, has sparked a vigorous debate within the American Jewish community. Many, while opposing annexation, also disagree with Beinart. But criticism has also come from some who think he did not go far enough.

One of those is Rabbi Brant Rosen. While agreeing that Beinart’s article was “something of a milestone in American discourse on Israel-Palestine,” Rosen also argued that Beinart’s position “betrays a mindset that views the issue as a political conflict to be solved, not a moral injustice to be confronted.”

The Biden/Harris Ticket and Palestine


Joe Biden with Benjamin Netanyahu (Credit: Getty Images) Kamala Harris with Benjamin Netanyahu (Credit: Graystone)

Hopefully, a Biden/Harris win on November 3, 2020, will turn back the clock on the many horrendous policy changes made by the Trump administration on civil rights, immigration, the economy, the environment and so much more. But with Palestine, while their records and the words are not as damaging to Palestine as Trump’s cruelty, their expressed loyalty to Israel and near silence on the occupation and oppression of Palestine does not inspire hope. Indeed, no mention of Palestine was made in prime time during the Democratic National Convention.

A Biden/Harris administration will need to be pressed hard. As Rashid Khalidi told Democracy Now, “The people who are going to vote for the Democrats…strongly believe that Israel should be sanctioned for its violations of Palestinian human rights…So, a lot of work is going to be necessary to force the leadership to do what the people want.”

Here are just a few of their stated positions.

Joe Biden

  • ON SETTLEMENTS – “Look, I have been on record from very early on opposed to settlements, and I think it’s a mistake, and Netanyahu knows my position. But the idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find it to be absolutely outrageous.”
  • ON EMBASSY MOVE – “It should not have been moved…The move shouldn’t have happened in the context as it did, it should happen in the context of a larger deal to help us achieve important concessions for peace in the process.”
  • ON ANNEXATION (from an aide) – “Unilateral steps taken by either side that make the prospect of a negotiated two-state outcome less likely is something he opposes, and that includes annexation.”
  • ON BDS – “Firmly reject the BDS movement, which singles out Israel – home to millions of Jews – and too often veers in anti-Semitism, while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.”

Kamala Harris

  • ON DEMOCRACY IN ISRAEL – “Israel is a beautiful home to democracy and justice.”
  • ON PALESTINIAN HUMAN RIGHTS – When asked if Israel meets international standards of human rights, Harris replied, “Overall, yes.”
  • ON U.S MILITARY AID TO ISRAEL AND ANNEXATION – “My support for Israel’s security and the ten-year $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding is unwavering…I am deeply concerned by the warnings of some of Israel’s most prominent defense and intelligence leaders regarding annexation…and the disruption of peaceful relations between Israel and her neighbors, Jordan and Egypt.”
  • ON BDS – [The BDS] “movement is based on the mistaken assumption that Israel is solely to blame for the Israel-Palestine conflict…The BDS movement seeks to weaken Israel but it will only isolate the nation and steer Israeli’s against prerequisite compromises for peace.”
Betty McCollum Strikes Again

U.S. Representative Betty McCullom (Credit: Star Tribune)

Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) is proving to be one of the strongest supporters of Palestinian rights in the halls of the Congress. Last year she introduced legislation (H.R.2407) to prohibit Israel from using U.S. funds to detain and prosecute children. Now she, along with six Democratic House member cosponsors (Rashid Tlaib {MI}; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez {NY}; Ayanna Pressley {MA}; Ilhan Omar {MN}; Mark Pocan {WI} and Andre Carson {IN}) has introduced the Israeli Annexation Non-Recognition Act.

McCollum is putting forth the legislation because, “Annexation…will fuel instability, injustice, and an abhorrent system of apartheid. I want Palestinians and Israelis to have their human rights respected, their right to self-determination realized, and a future with peace, security, equality, and justice…I reject Israeli apartheid. I condemn annexation. And I will work to ensure the U.S. does not support, defend, or legitimize any plan to annex Palestinian lands.”

Cry for Hope: A Decisive Call for Action

Israel police stand guard in front of Orthodox Christians on the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) in Jerusalem (Credit: Saeb Awad/APA Images)

Global Kairos for Justice is a coalition of concerned Christians from a broad spectrum who passionately seek to use nonviolent means to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but who also seek to support movements around the world to bring down structures of racism, ethnic cleansing, violations of human rights and the abuse of land and its resources.

In early July Global Kairos for Justice issued a Cry for Hope: A Decisive Call for Action to churches around the world. Asking denominational bodies and congregations to decisively act to end the oppression of the people of Palestine, the Cry for Hope issued a challenge with Seven Actions to be taken, including to engage in study and discernment, to participate in the nonviolent  Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), to strongly oppose anti-Semitism and to come and visit the Holy Land.

To read the entire document and the full list of the Seven Actions, click here.

Stay Informed on Palestine

MennoPIN keeps you informed about Palestine through our monthly update, special alerts, calls to action, important resources and tour possibilities, all from an Anabaptist perspective. But there are additional excellent organizations and web publications that can keep you informed, some on a daily basis. We invite you to explore these groups and visit the web publications as another way to keep current and active for the people of Palestine. Here are some MennoPIN recommends:

Organizations

Web Publications

Prayer

On Tuesday, the 18th of August the Gaza Strip’s sole power plant halted operations due to an Israeli ban on fuel, along with most other goods, entering the enclave which is under Israeli blockade and bombardment. The Israeli action came as part of the punitive measures enforced over the launch of incendiary balloons and rockets from Gaza. Hospitals, businesses, and homes in Gaza will have to rely on generators and solar power to make up for the power cuts. Lord, we pray for the people of Gaza as they try to survive under the crippling Israeli blockade. We pray that the Israeli authorities will have mercy at this time of pandemic crisis and allow the restoration of fuel supplies to Gaza, before a humanitarian crisis breaks out. Lord, in your mercy…hear our prayer. Sabeel Wave of Prayer

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