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Getting financial aid from the UN in Gaza City, September 2021
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News & Analysis by UMKR Leaders, Members
WRITINGS OF REV. ALEX AWAD
Letter from Rev. Alex Awad to Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church, May 2013 See this
Is the Church Committed to Middle East Peace? An Open Letter to UMC Leaders, May 2018 See this
Rev. Dr. Alex Awad is a retired United Methodist missionary, a member of the UMKR Steering Committee and a member of Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace (PCAP). For more than 25 years he and his wife Brenda served in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In those years he served as pastor of the East Jerusalem Baptist Church, as Dean of Students at Bethlehem Bible College and the director of the Shepherd Society. He also was a co-founder and organizer of the Christ at the Checkpoint conferences.
Awad has written two books, Through the Eyes of the Victims: The Story of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, published in 2001, and Palestinian Memories: The Story of a Palestinian Mother and Her People, published in 2008. That inspirational book describes the strength and perseverance of his mother Huda after her husband was killed in 1948, leaving her to raise seven remarkable children on her own.
Come And See - Colliding Forces during the Christmas Season
Alex Awad, December 2021
Astronomers tell us that galaxies collide in the vast space and when they do, millions of stars explode while others are newly formed. They also calculate that our Milky Way Galaxy is speeding to collide with a galaxy called Andromeda. Our solar system would not survive the impact of that crash. The good news is that such galactic activities are not expected to happen in our lifetime or that of our children or grandchildren.
This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)
The collision of the divine forces with the forces of evil continues as we celebrate the birth of Jesus in 2021. Millions of people around the world yearn for freedom from poverty and political oppression and hundreds of thousands of activists are demanding justice for all members of humanity. However, these longings and efforts collide with the powerful forces of greed, racism, militarism, political corruption, and the economic strangulation of the masses.
Establishing Shekel-Free Shops in Palestinian Cities and Towns
Alex Awad, November 2021
During the early stages of Gandhi’s
non-violent resistance against the
British colonial presence in India,
many of his close compatriots mocked
his simple, non-violent strategies.
They could not envision how
confronting the British monopoly
over the salt trade would possibly
result in the liberation of India.
Nonetheless, Gandhi led his committed followers on a march to the Arabian Sea to make their own salt rather than depend on salt processed by British companies. That simple act, and the brutal British reaction to it, became the trailblazer to India’s independence.
As the Palestinian people aspire for independence from Israel’s apartheid regime, they, too, need simple, non-violent ways to shake off the chains of the occupier. Palestinians have called on the global community to join the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. Yet, because of international treaties and economic challenges, Palestinians themselves are limited in finding practical methods to challenge Israel’s hegemony over their economy.
“Hear O Israel”
Alex Awad, September 2021
The Shema is the title given to the prayer that is most frequently used by devout Jews when they worship in synagogues or at homes. To religious Jews, it has similar significance as the Lord’s Prayer to Christians and the Fatiha to Muslims. The Shema gets its name from the first Hebrew word of the prayer in Deuteronomy 6:4, “hear.” The prayer calls on ancient Israel to acknowledge the oneness of God and calls on those who believe in God to love him:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.—Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NIV)
The Shema begins with the word “hear.” In our modern-day world, saturated with distractions, activities and various forms of media, all incessantly competing for our attention, can we distinguish and tune in to the true voice of God?
Is Religion Behind the Turmoil in the Middle East?
Alex Awad, June 2021
“What do you say to the people who believe that religion is behind much of the turmoil in the Middle East?”
I was a speaker at the April 2021 “End U.S. Support for Israeli Apartheid?” conference and this was the final question asked by an attendee. I gave a quick and short reply since my time was almost up. However, I pondered the question in the days after the conference and it occurred to me that even a thick book focused solely on this subject might fail to answer this question adequately. What I propose to do, in this short exposé, is to reflect on the negative and positive influences of religion that I experienced growing up in Palestine.
An Interview with Father Abraham
Alex Awad, April 2021
If a one-day time machine is invented and travel to the past becomes possible, one of the people I would love to meet and have a conversation with is the biblical patriarch, Abraham. However, since that is out of the realm of reality, I will present an imaginary interview with Abraham.
Palestinians Confronting the Giant of Christian Zionism
A presentation in the WRMEA Conference
Video presentation and text
Alex Awad, April 2021
See text below this video
Addressing the efforts of the Palestinian evangelicals and other church leaders to confront the “Goliath” of Christian Zionism. What are they doing to stop the spread of Christian Zionism in many U.S. churches? How is Christian Zionism impacting Christians living under Israeli’s apartheid regime? Reverend Awad will describe the work of the Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, Sabeel, and other Christian organizations and their efforts to halt Israeli actions endorsed by Zionist Christians, such as the confiscation of Palestinian land, the demolition of homes, and the construction of segregated Jewish settlements.
Palestinian Evangelicals in Confrontation with Christian Zionism
Alex Awad, February, 2021
A few milestones in my personal life have led to my confrontation with Zionist Christianity. I was born in Jerusalem and grew up in the embrace of conservative evangelical missionary churches. I’ve always been active in my evangelical church, where I learned about God's love and salvation for me and the whole world, and the principles of love for neighbor and enemy as well as the command to seek peace, justice and goodness for all.
I soon realized that the teachings of Zionism had spread to most evangelical churches and a good number of non-evangelical churches in the U.S. Over time, these teachings spread from houses of worship and lecture halls of colleges to become a formidable political force. Christian Zionists even played a role in the election of Donald Trump as president and the transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Arabs and the Palestinians have not only lost the balance of power militarily, but they have lost the hearts of evangelical Christians—most of whom adhere to the following Zionist beliefs:
On-the-Ground Realities for Biden in The Middle East
Alex Awad, December 2020
Adding to the chorus of millions of peace and
justice-loving people in the U.S. and around
the world, I sincerely offer my heartfelt
congratulations to you, President-elect
Joe Biden and Vice President- elect Kamala
Harris. You passed through the election
fray graciously, and you won.
It will soon be time for the passing of the
leadership “baton.” And it will be your
cabinet’s turn, Mr. President-elect, to
tackle tremendous tasks such as the
pandemic, the economy, racism and global
warming among many others. Most likely,
sooner rather than later after you move to
the White House, like all U.S. presidents for the past half century, you will be called upon to address the challenge of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I imagine you will have many advisers ready to help you develop your policy toward what seems to be an intractable conflict.
Sidestepping Palestinians Will Never Foster Real Peace
Alex Awad, December 2020
AFTER YEARS of an apparent stalemate between Israel, the Palestinians and other Arab nations, the Trump administration has heralded a so-called breakthrough in relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, two small but wealthy Gulf states, each of which is more than 1,000 miles in distance from Israel. On Sept. 15, parties interested in the region watched the televised “celebration” that was crowned with the title, “A Historic Peace Agreement.”
In a bid to justify the agreements, many commentators, with a clearly pro-Israel bias, have remarked that these treaties augur well for the Palestinians if they take advantage of the opportunity they have been afforded. Palestinians, this line of reasoning goes, should quickly join the bandwagon of these two states and pursue peace and a final settlement with Israel. These same commentators often portray the Palestinians as intransigent and rejectionist, never accepting any of the “generous offers” that Israel has put on the table. Once again, this line of thought goes, Palestinians are rejecting peace, and would do well to reconsider.
Equality, Freedom and Justice for All,
But Not for Palestinians!
Alex Awad, October 2020
Would a Biden/Harris win
bring political respite for
Palestinians or would their
victory continue the
Democratic Party’s tradition:
justice for all but not for
As I watched the 2020 Democratic National Convention, I was amazed at how many times the words “justice,” “equality,” “human rights” and “freedom” were uttered by the distinguished speakers, not to mention numerous sentences which addressed these issues conceptually. The Bidens, the Obamas, the Clintons, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and other speakers repeatedly promised that a new administration under Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would work hard to bring justice, equality and fairness to the unemployed or underemployed, to African Americans, to Latinos and Native Americans, to women, to students, to gays and straights and to all Americans suffering from a failing health system.
Heavy boots on Palestinian necks - A Palestinian Response to Alon Ben Meir
Alex Awad, September 2020
As I read your article, Time is Running out for Palestinians, I felt the weight of heavy boots on Palestinian necks.
You blame the Palestinians for missing all opportunities to make peace with the State of Israel and you call the unholy rush of some rich Arab leaders to normalize relations with Israel as a move towards peace. You consider the fact that the Palestinians are not joining this opportunistic haste as another missed opportunity. The truth is, there has not been one genuine opportunity for a just peace that Palestinians missed. Palestinians rejected many offers to surrender their legitimate rights and they were brave and steadfast in refusing to abdicate their rights in spite of the enormous weight of Israeli, US, hyper Zionist, Christian Zionist, rich Arab leadership and your very own boots on our neck.
Published in Mondoweiss under a different title
Should Evangelicals Terminate Their Affair With the State of Israel?
Alex Awad, June 2020
For Years, I, a Palestinian and evangelical, have watched with pain the unholy alliance of evangelicals and the State of Israel. Evangelical infatuation with Israel began before there was a Jewish state in the Holy Land. British evangelicals, some of whom were Christian Zionists, helped bring the Jewish state into existence. This fixation kept deepening in the last seven decades.
We used the Bible, our pulpits, publications, politics, finances, and our radio and TV stations to expand the territory and power of a Zionist state in Palestine. The average evangelical in the U.S. does not realize the volume of hurt and harm that the political might of evangelical leaders has wrought on the people of the Middle East and especially on Palestinians.
How is God Speaking to Us Now?
Alex Awad, March 2020
We believe and confess that God is good, all-powerful and “God is love”. We also believe that he is near and that he cares. How can we reconcile what we believe about God with the Covid-19 pandemic that is rattling humanity?
God must be aware of this pandemic. Why doesn’t he come swiftly and put an end to the Coronavirus? Is he on a vacation? Are those correct who claim that God is angry at us and this pandemic is the beginning of his wrath?
I don’t hold God responsible for starting this virus. It didn’t originate in heaven but rather in China and I don’t hold the Chinese any more responsible than the rest of us. But since it is such a threat to humanity why doesn’t God intervene to eliminate it?
Straining Out a Gnat but Swallowing a Camel
Alex Awad, October 2019
Israel’s apologists never seem to tire of pointing a finger of accusation at the Palestinian Authority (PA) with allegations that the PA persecutes Palestinian Christians. Hence, they say, the decline of the indigenous Christian population in the Palestinian territories.
Jesus had words to describe such accusers: "You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” Matthew 23:24 NIV. The camel in the room is the occupation, and Israel’s apologists want to shift blame from the massive crimes of the occupation to place the PA in the defendant’s seat. These accusers are not willing to look at the thousands of dunums of land that have been confiscated from Palestinian Christian landowners by Israeli settlers and government agents. They turn their eyes away when Israeli bulldozers demolish Palestinian Christian homes and farms, and they keep totally silent when thousands of Palestinian Christians, like me, lose the right of citizenship in their homeland because they left the country to study or to work overseas.
Why Single Out Israel?
Alex Awad, October 2019
IN 2017 U.S. AMBASSADOR to the U.N. Nikki Haley accused the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) of “singling out Israel” for criticism. The previous year, Pakistan’s representative to the UNHRC, Aamar Aftab Qureshi, expressed dismay at Israel for complaining about being singled out by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Dealing with Israel has been a huge issue in the history of both the United Nations and the United States, involving considerable time and effort on the part of the international community at large.
At a United Methodist Church General Convention, I sat in close proximity to the delegates as they discussed divestment from companies that aid the occupation of Palestine. One delegate who opposed divestment asked, “Why pick on Israel?” It struck me that this is the most frequently circulating argument I hear against divestment. I heard the same argument when speaking at a regional conference for the Mennonite Church in Des Moines, Iowa where a delegate said, “With so much violence in the world and in many Middle Eastern countries, why single out Israel?” Israel’s defenders at universities, colleges, church gatherings, United Nations forums, public debates, etc., routinely ask, “Why single out Israel?” The argument is that with all the human rights abuses in the world, why forget about everyone else and focus on Israel?
Waving the Bible to Block Justice
Alex Awad, June 2019
It is deplorable and somewhat surprising
to watch Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador
to the United Nations, wave a Bible at a
session of the Security Council to defend
his country’s theft of Palestinian land in the
West Bank. He is certainly inspired by his
boss, Benjamin Netanyahu, who, although
secular, quotes the Bible frequently to sell
his expansionist agenda.
The misuse of sacred texts to score political
gains has a long history. The Bible has often been manipulated by false prophets, corrupt religious leaders, and shrewd politicians to support their self-serving agendas. In the Middle Ages, popes and emperors quoted the Bible to justify their influence on nations and armies toward committing grave atrocities. The Crusades and the Inquisition are examples. European powers supported by church leaders quoted the Bible to defend slavery and to justify colonialism. In more recent history, the Bible has been frequently used to support the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
President Trump’s Vengeful Crackdown on the Palestinians
Alex Awad, October 2018
It is an accepted fact that U.S. policy in
Israel/Palestine has been pro-Israel from
the days of Harry Truman’s presidency
all the way to Barack Obama’s. Even so,
from time to time the United States could
be critical of Israeli policies and have
threatened to punish Israel for violating
international law. Several U.S. presidents
followed through on threats, including
Republicans George H.W. Bush, who
opposed loan guarantees and new Israeli
settlements, and Ronald Reagan, who
suspended a strategic cooperation agreement
after Israel illegally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. However, with Donald Trump occupying the White House, a shift has taken place in U.S. policy toward the Israel-Palestine dispute. Now, U.S. policy is no longer merely pro-Israel, but rather fully right-wing Israeli. Whatever Binyamin Netanyahu and his far-right government ask the United States to do for them, Trump complies and hands it to them on a silver platter.
Here is the Israeli wish list that other U.S. administrations refused to grant and Trump’s administration has handed over, asking nothing in return:
Recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel;
Move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem;
Declare that the future of Jerusalem is off the negotiating table;
Call for the dismantlement of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and an end to all U.S. contributions to the U.N. agency. The U.S. was paying more than a quarter of the agency’s $1.2 billion annual budget.
Call for removal of the refugee issue (the right of return of Palestinian refugees) from future negotiations;
Support the redefinition of the term “Palestinian refugee” so that children of Palestinian refugees do not retain refugee status (which is contrary to UNHCR guidelines that refugee dependents “are normally granted refugee status according to the principle of family unity”);
Reduce significantly U.S. annual support to the Palestinian Authority;
Cut $25 million in U.S. aid to Palestinian hospitals, including those in East Jerusalem;
Consistently withhold criticism of Israel’s human rights violations and brutality against Palestinians, especially in international forums like the U.N. Security Council;
Close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington, DC, leaving the Palestinians without a formal presence in the U.S. capital.
What is behind this shift in U.S. policy toward the Palestinians?
Assessing the Damage of Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement
Alex Awad and Susan Akram, January 2018
As a Palestinian Christian pastor and longtime peace activist, I have a confession to make: I’m guilty of despair.
For many years, Jewish, Palestinian and international peacemaker groups and individuals, myself included, have worked hard to influence US leadership by working with grassroots America or directly with members of Congress. We worked particularly hard with and through mainline Christian denominations and groups committed to peace and non-violent resistance like Mennonites and Quakers to bring balance to the political landscape. Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, along with Jewish activists, crisscrossed the US advocating for a balanced US policy. We hoped ultimately all this advocacy would result in a fair US policy towards the Palestinians.
Then came Donald Trump.
Palestinian Pastor sends an open letter to the British Prime Minister
Alex Awad, March 2017
The Honorable Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:
I am a Palestinian who was born in Jerusalem in 1946 during the British Mandate over Palestine. During the first Arab-Israeli war in May 1948 I was two years old. My father, a civilian, was shot and killed in crossfire between the Zionist Haganah militias and the Jordanian army, leaving my mother to care for seven children. The oldest of my siblings was eleven and the youngest six months old. Soon after the death of my father, our neighborhood was taken over by the Israelis and we fled, becoming refugees. As I grew up, I began to ask questions about why my father was killed, what caused the Israel/Palestine conflict and what triggered all the suffering of millions of Palestinians and Jews in the last 100 years.
In time, I learned about the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate over Palestine. I discovered that in 1917, the British Foreign Secretary sent a letter, later called the Balfour Declaration, to Lord Rothschild and Zionist leaders, promising to support the creation of a homeland for the Jews in Palestine. After WWI, against the objections of my people, the British government colonized Palestine and made it possible for the Zionist movement to take over our homeland.
Israeli Rights Trump Palestinian Rights
Alex Awad, December 2015
In a seeming attempt to reconcile with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama declared on October 15, 2015 that Israel “has the right to defend its citizens.” This has been a regular theme in statements by American politicians this electoral season. Another case in point is Hilary Clinton’s letter to Jewish leaders endorsing the right of Israel to defend its citizens. Add to the choir of eager politicians John Kerry’s voice, who on his recent visit to Israel stressed that Israel “has the right to defend her citizens from Palestinian terror.” Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers repeatedly and publicly state that Israel has the right to defend its citizens.
Who would deny that Israel has the right to defend its citizens? Every country in the world has the right and obligation to defend its citizens, and Israel is no exception. However, the problem with the above statements is that they stop at Israel's rights, leaving out the other part of the story. They ignore the context of this conflict that began early in the 20th century and has continued to develop since then. What part of the story is disregarded? The very backdrop that created this mess in the first place.