SEE ALSO: the collected articles of Rev Alex Awad, UMKR Steering Committee member, retired UMC missionary and former dean of Bethelehem Bible College:
Find them here
Iowa could strengthen support for human rights instead of passing legislation to back Israel
It seems one of the very few things Democrats and Republicans can agree on these days is unquestioning devotion to Israel.
by Kathleen McQuillen
Kathleen McQuillen is director of the Catholic Peace Ministry; she attends First United Methodist Church in Des Moines and is a member of their anti-racism task force, as well as co-chair of the Middle East Peace Education Coalition in Des Moines.
February 2022 – “Strengthen Iowa’s stance in support of Israel” is the title of a guest opinion printed in Des Moines Register on Feb. 16. Interestingly, it is a joint effort by longtime Republican leader Charles Schneider and longtime Democratic leader Tom Henderson. It seems one of the very few things Democrats and Republicans can agree on these days is unquestioning devotion to Israel.
Here's a different view, based on the reality on the ground in Palestine and what the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, or BDS, movement is all about. This movement grew out of Palestinian frustration with Israel’s refusal to negotiate in good faith.
It became clear that Israel’s goal in the “peace process” was to use the negotiations and delays to seize more Palestinian land, leading to the current situation wherein there is not now a contiguous piece of land on which to build a Palestinian state. Seeing the futility of the peace process, the Palestinian people issued a call for non-violent resistance through a BDS campaign. They’ve asked the international community to join them in this effort, as the international community had done in South Africa in the struggle against apartheid.
Black and Indigenous Solidarity with Palestine
by Dianne Roe
Dianne Roe is a long-time UMKR activist and a member of the Task Force Conference for Palestine-Israel in the UMC's Upper New York Conference.
October 2021 – The first “Journey toward Understanding” taken by members of the New York West Area (former Western NY and North Central NY Annual Conferences) was led by our African American Bishop Forrest Stith in January 1989. Our first full day in Jerusalem was on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. For our evening prayer-communion service at the hotel, Bishop Stith reflected on the experiences of the day, comparing it with his experiences as a Black man, and comparing the intifada with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Many of us in the room were moved to tears.
In the months and years that followed, these similarities became increasingly evident, leading to solidarity acts among Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples, including the Palestinians. For me the intersection of these issues was highlighted in a simple conversation I had with Laila Hasan, my friend from Hebron-Al Khalil when she visited me in Corning.
Laila was in our Upper New York Area while visiting her brother in Saratoga Springs. When she came to my home in Corning, we walked over to First UMC where she was presenting a program, cooking maklouba for us, and selling embroidery from the Women’s Cooperative in Hebron.
As we were walking down Market Street, she looked up at facades of what we call “historic Market Street” and she asked me how old the city was.
I answered, “well, the settlers came two or three hundred years ago.”
“Settlers?” she asked, with a look of alarm on her face.
See more at the website of the UMC Upper New York conference
Jerusalem from the Lens of a Native Son —
Ghettoization and Pauperization
by Philip Farah
August 2019 – Last month, I participated in an Eyewitness Palestine delegation of 22 Americans. Over a 10-day period, our intensive tour took us to cities and villages all over Palestine/Israel. We met with over 22 groups involved in various forms of resistance to Israeli domination. Our home base was Jerusalem, the city where I was born and spent the first 27 years of my life before emigrating to the U.S. in 1978.
East Jerusalem had been—overall– a very pleasant city to live before the Israeli occupation of 1967. It was a small city of about 65,000 people, but with strong connections to nearby suburbs and villages. It was the main transportation hub for all the West Bank, and hence a major commercial center. Its status as the home of al-Aqsa Mosques and the Holy Sepulcher has always made it the center of life of all Palestinians— physically for its inhabitants, and spiritually or culturally for all Palestinians. Because of its spiritual importance, it has also always been a far more cosmopolitan place than most cities of its size anywhere in the world.
This was the Jerusalem of my childhood and youth….
....Today, only the Gaza Strip and the so-called H2 section of the Palestinian city of Hebron surpass East Jerusalem in the sense of strangulation that the Palestinians feel under Israeli domination.
Read the full article
African Americans Show How Palestinian Solidarity Is Done
by M. Theresa Basile
January 2019 – The immediate and still-growing impact of the op-ed, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” by the author of The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, has been breathtaking to witness, particularly for those in the Palestine solidarity movement. Her examination of Martin Luther King’s legacy and how that has finally led her to an unambiguous declaration of Palestinian solidarity was published on the front page of the NY Times Sunday Review just in time for MLK Day 2019. It should be considered required reading for all people of conscience during this week’s remembrance Rev. King.
Coming from a civil rights leader and author of Alexander’s stature, placed so prominently in the premiere print news outlet of the US, written so beautifully and covering so much ground - some have already called it a “watershed” moment in the U.S. and global movement for Palestinian rights.
But before we look more closely at why this nuanced editorial is remarkable, Alexander’s courageous coming-out (it is her own fearful silence that she is breaking) should be viewed in the context of African American solidarity with Palestinians that extends at least as far back as the 1960s.
Is the Church Committed to Middle East Peace?
An Open Letter to United Methodist Leaders
by Rev. Alex Awad
....It seemed in those days that the Church not only had our backs, but through direct action was also quite proactive in defending the injustices faced by Palestinians. For example, in the past, the Methodist Church focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the Schools of Christian Missions. In addition, before the turn of the century, the Church sent delegations of Bishops to Israel and to Palestine to study the political turmoil, reflecting the Church’s concern over this issue. Regrettably, today church leaders seem to be satisfied with making mild statements and saying public prayers without any muscle behind them.
The Best Conference in Many Years
by M. Theresa Basile
The Rosemary Redford Reuther Conference on Justice and Peace for Palestine/Israel was organized and presented on October 7th, 2017 at Pilgrim Place, a unique ecumenical community of retired religious leaders that includes Ruether as one of their residents.
That conference title was not just a titular honor for an appreciated colleague; the entire conference was permeated with Reuther’s extraordinary body of theological work and the courageous activism that theology informed in herself and generations of others. It was fascinating to hear how much these eminent speakers owed to Reuther’s influence. The excellent lineup of speakers included Mark Braverman, Donald Wagner, Marc Ellis, Mae Elise Cannon, and Naim Ateek.
....With that very welcome free time, along with the impressive offerings of the speakers, the productive use of technology for video conferencing and for a presentation on Reuther’s life and career, the long-term planning and publicity that brought together such a full and diverse audience (150-200 people): all in all, I would have to say that this was the best conceived and organized conference that I have attended in many years.
Following are some notes from each speaker’s address, in the order they were delivered. Some have more detail than others, which does not reflect the length or importance of their messages but, rather my ability to take notes at various times during this long and rewarding day! Read the full article
Am I "all in"?
A United Methodist reflects on the JVP National Members Meeting 2017
by Paula Roderick
Sometimes it’s easier to start at the end in trying to explain why an event had so much power.
“Sell the Torah, put the child in school.” That was the moral of Rabbi Wise’s story, told in the closing plenary of Jewish Voice for Peace's National Members Meeting, held March 30-April 2.
I did not envision - and I doubt that the JVP organizers even envisioned - such a ferocious, sad, powerful, joyous, moving closing plenary. Rabbi Alissa Wise (Deputy Director of JVP) began that plenary – titled “All In!” – with the story of a rabbi and a young child who had been denied the chance to go to school because his family lacked funds. The rabbi ultimately told his congregation to “sell the Torah and send the kid to school.” That is what it means to be “all in.”
Read the full article
We are in this together
A report on the conference “A Call to Action: Black and Palestinian Liberation”
By Judith Polson
In April this year, I drove over 100 miles from Anderson, South Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend “A Call to Action: Black and Palestinian Liberation,” an event that organizers promised was “not just another conference.” And it did not disappoint! Which should not be surprising, considering the range of participating organizations, including Black Lives Matter, Jewish Voice for Peace, Friends of Sabeel (FOSNA), the Fellowship of Reconciliation, local churches of several denominations and more [see the list here].
.... the church’s pastor, Rev. Tim McDonald, told us that “an event is not a movement.” Even a series of events is not a movement. Movements are based on relationships. If we want both Black liberation and Palestinian liberation to happen, we have to join together in activism. We build a relationship when we work together. We must ask ourselves: Who am I in the trenches with? How do we transform what matters to people?
10 Weeks in Palestine
J.R. Atkins, seminary student at Emory's Candler School of Theology and UMKR activist, had the opportunity to spend a big part of his 2017 summer in Palestine, thanks to the Candler Advantage Program. In his blog, he shares the lessons he learned from his ministry work there and the people he came to know in Palestine. Read his blog
Reflections of a United Methodist Missionary
United Methodist Missionary Janet Lahr Lewis reflects on her time as a missionary in Israel and Palestine
July 31, 2017 – In 1994, I began working in a Palestinian village in the Lower Galilee region of Israel. It was only about a year after the now infamous “Oslo Agreement” was signed – when hopes were high with the anticipation that peace between Palestinians and Israelis would be accomplished in only a couple more years. Tens of thousands of tourists who had avoided traveling to the region, considering it too risky, began flooding into the country. It was a time of optimism and confidence in a better future.
Palestinian Pastor Sends Open Letter to UK Prime Minister
3 March 2017 – Rev. Alex Awad, retired UM missionary to the Holy Land and pastor and UMKR Steering Committee member, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May about the 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and Britan's role in the last century of suffering for his people. He calls on her for bold leadership, independent of the U.S., for Britain to forge a new path to justice in Palestine. Read more »
UMC Agency Joins in Briefing Paper to Trump and Congress
15 February 2017 – Fifteen Christian organizations – including the UMC General Board of Church & Society – sent a Briefing Paper to the Trump Administration and all members of Congress, calling for U.S. policies that promote peace, justice, and equality for Israelis and Palestinians. Citing issues such as massive settlement expansion, home demolitions, and military courts, recommended actions include applying the Leahy Law to all U.S. aid, protecting human rights organizations, and more. Read and download the paper »
lsraeli Rights Trump Palestinian Rights
by Alex Awad, UMKR Member
4 December 2015 – What are U.S. leader really saying when they use the tired old excuse for Israel's actions - that Israel has a "right to defend itself"? A hard-hitting look at what Palestinians are expected to endure, accept and refrain from doing. Read more »
Light Pushes Away Darkness
by Sam Morris, UMKR Member
21 November 2015 – Will we choose a path of light or let another path choose us? Morris expresses his reasons for profound sadness over an event at a local UMC church - supporting the oppression of the Palestinians - and concludes with good advice for justice advocates who consider attending such event. Read more »
A Tribute to Hashem Al Azzeh
by Dianne Roe, UMKR Member
24 October 2015 – A former member of the Hebron Peacemaker Team writes of the life and legacy of a Palestinian activist who steadfastly worked for justice for his people and who lost his life during the current upsurge in violence that is taking such a high toll on Palestinians. Read more »
An Evening with Hind Khoury
September 2015 – Hind Khoury, recently appointed Secretary General of Kairos Palestine appeared in many venues this month in a tour organized by UMKR. United Methodists and others heard from this former Palestinian ambassador about the crisis facing the Palestinians as the occupation worsens, the economic hardships and the moral imperative for church members to take meaningful action to support freedom and equality for all the people of the Holy Land. Read more »
Destruction in Wadi Foquin
June 2015 – Residents of this little West Bank Village that is being strangled by a nearby settlement were awakened one morning to see hundreds of their trees being destroyed along with vital water cisterns. Wadi Foquin is a United Methodist Advance Project and is well known to many United Methodists who have visited there. Read more »
The Win We Didn't Expect
by Rev. John Wagner, then UMKR Convener
May 2012 – UMKR co-founder and former Convener John Wagner reflects on the results of General Conference 2012 and what lies ahead for UMKR. Read more »
An Unusual Advocate
by Rev. John Wagner, then UMKR Convener
November 2011 – Not all activists look alike; meet a conservative evangelical and commercial banker who is a passionate advocate for justice in Israel/Palestine. Read more »
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It's time – again – for BDS to end oppression
by Lloyd Nyarota - Mondoweiss, April 26, 2015
Rev. Lloyd Nyarota is UMC clergy from Zimbabwe, former GBCS staff in Africa, and a UMKR Member.
For many Africans, a sense of déjà vu was unavoidable last month as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed, ‘”Whoever moves to establish a Palestinian state or intends to withdraw from territory is simply yielding territory for radical Islamic terrorist attacks against Israel.” Asked by the Israeli news site NRG if that meant a state would not be established if he remained prime minister, he said: “Indeed.”’ Three days later he won an election with unprecedented support from right wing Israelis.
When Benjamin Netanyahu made that statement in the run-up to the Israeli election I was reminded of another prime minister, one whose words still echo in the hearts and minds of my fellow Zimbabweans. “There will be no majority rule in my lifetime,” said Ian Smith in 1969. The position of the white minority government in Salisbury had finally been clarified, and the world began to realize how monstrous it had become. Read more »
U.S. Churches and the Boycott of Israeli Settlements
by Philip Farah - Huffington Post, Dec. 10, 2014
Philip Farah is co-founder of Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace and of Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace and a UMKR Member
Why are some churches in the U.S. calling for boycotts and divestment aimed at companies that profit from Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories? The decision last summer of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) to divest church pension funds from three such companies resulted in first-page coverage in The New York Times. A few weeks ago a grassroots group of pastors and lay members of the United Methodist Church (UMC) launched a holiday-season campaign to boycott products made in Israeli settlements located on occupied Palestinian land.
While this group Methodists is not an official agency of the UMC, it bases its boycott call on a 2012 decision of the policymaking body of the church calling "on all nations to prohibit any financial support by individuals or organizations for the construction and maintenance of settlements; and also to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements." Read more »
Evangelical Christians come under attack as more move
to oppose Israeli occupation
by John Wagner - Mondoweiss, Nov 7, 2014
Rev. John Wagner is UM Clergy in the West Ohio conference and Co-founder of UMKR. as well as first UMKR Convener and currrent UMKR Co-Chair.
On October 26, 2014, the Jerusalem Post carried an article entitled “Bethlehem Bible College – purveyor of anti-Israel propaganda” in their Christian News section. The Rev. Alex Awad, a Baptist minister who works both for Bethlehem Bible College and The United Methodist Church, was personally named as part of “a blatant attempt to demonize Israel.” The article goes on to denounce a video the college produced on the bombing of Gaza.
Though not immediately apparent, the writer of the article is on the staff of “Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting,” a controversial US-based, pro-Israeli organization.That the Jerusalem Post felt it necessary to publish this frontal attack on a well known Bible college is actually a good sign. Read more »
Palestinian Christians against the occupation
by Philip Farah - Huffington Post, May 1, 2012
Philip Farah is co-founder of Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace and of Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace and a UMKR Member.
In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren claimed that Christians in Israel are better off than their brethren anywhere else in the Middle East. Two Sundays ago, "60 Minutes" made clear he attempted to intimidate Bob Simon by going over Simon's head to speak to Jeff Fager, the head of CBS News and executive producer of "60 Minutes," to complain that Simon's story on Christian Palestinians was "a hatchet job" against Israel. In fact, it was a hard-hitting, but honest piece in which Simon helped to expose the terrible harm the Israeli occupation -- not Muslim Palestinians as the ambassador claimed -- is doing to Christian Palestinians in the Holy Land. Read more »
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