A Human Tragedy Called Gaza

A Human Tragedy Called Gaza
The picture of the human tragedy in Gaza is appalling. In the space of a few days, the Israeli army managed to kill 126 Palestinians and injure over 300. Over 40 of those killed were children. On the Israeli side, 2 soldiers and one civilian were killed and 7 injured. Watching the news on different TV channels and seeing the dead and injured was heartbreaking. Violence has a very ugly face and it has trapped both sides by its snares.

This is not the first time that the government of Israel has used disproportionate force against Palestinians. Some analysts feel that Israel‘s objective was to pressure the Palestinian leadership into calling off the bi-lateral talks resumed after Annapolis and especially after President Bush‘s January 2008 visit to the area.

At Annapolis, it was agreed that negotiations would resume in order to address the core issues of the conflict. After 18 rounds of talks between Abbas and Olmert, the negotiations have not advanced one iota. The fact is that Israel does not want the talks to come anywhere near Jerusalem, refugees or the settlements. As for the final borders, Israel has taken care of that by building the wall. Apparently Israel is unable to face the moment of truth. The pattern is now clear for any observer to see. In order to disrupt the talks, Israel carries out a series of provocations: Daily incursions into the West Bank, arrests of scores of Palestinians every night, expansion of settlements, demolitions of homes, erection of checkpoints, assassinations, killings, and suffocating closures. The list goes on and on. As a result, the rockets start flying from Gaza but Abbas carries on with the so-called negotiations despite pressure from his people. Israel‘s provocations escalate until they reach the level of carnage carried out in Gaza. Abbas halts the talks and Israel is relieved. The blame is placed squarely on the Palestinians and Israel can claim that they do not want to talk.

It is worth mentioning that when excessive force is used by Israel, its message to the Palestinians is clear: We have the power to wipe you out. If you even scratch us, we will clobber you. Many westerners justify Israel‘s actions because they believe that Israel, as a sovereign country, has the right to defend itself. The truth is, so long as the government of Israel is occupying the Palestinian territories, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip and denying the people their freedom, dignity, and human as well as political rights, international law gives them the right to resist and to defend themselves.

In that sense, Israel has no superior right to defend itself than is equally due to the Palestinians. It has no a priori moral right to defend itself when it is dominating, oppressing, and violating the human rights of almost four million people. When Israel ends its occupation and is attacked then it has all the right to defend itself. Israel has no right to defend its occupation and definitely no right to ask the occupied Palestinians to protect it. Israel‘s only moral responsibility today is to end its occupation and set the Palestinians free.

One and a half million Gaza Palestinians – Muslims and Christians, men, women, and children – are incarcerated in the largest prison on earth. Gaza is also one big refugee camp. Over seventy percent of its population are refugees living in eight large refugee camps. These refugees were driven out of their towns and villages in the south of Palestine by the Jewish Zionist forces in 1948. The Gaza strip is totally encircled by walls, fences and towers. The Israeli army controls its air, sea, and land, with nowhere to escape. The people of Gaza are suffocating. Visitors who go to Gaza have testified to this fact.

The desperate situation of the people explains the firing of the qassam rockets. From our faith perspective, we do not at all condone these rocket attacks or any form of violence. We condemn the indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians perpetrated by both sides. However, we feel the government of Israel bears the greater responsibility because it has created this situation with its over 40 year-long occupation that contravenes international law.

Palestinians resisting the occupation interpret the message of the rockets as a distress signal of a hurting and wounded community. It is a cry of desperation for help sent to the community of nations to come to their rescue, to lift the Israeli siege, to end their occupation, and to give them freedom. It must be remembered that according to international law, Gaza is still under occupation even after Israel‘s redeployment.

The message of distress is not heard by the international community largely because many leaders are prone to stand with the strong against the weak and because they lack the courage to face the Israeli leadership with its injustice. The international community has lacked the political will and the guts to resolve the Palestinian conflict. It has been 60 years and the cries of the Palestinians have been falling on the deaf ears of the world leaders. Consequently, some Palestinian groups have resorted to violence but their message of need and despair has not been heard. The humanity of the Palestinians has been suppressed and censored. They have been perceived as “terrorists” when in fact they are seeking justice and freedom.

Although the qassam rockets have caused relatively small damage on the Israeli side, their psychological effects have been significant. In fact some Palestinians feel that the logic behind the firing of the rockets is: We cannot match the Israeli military might but we can match terror with terror and fear with fear. Those rockets have been a blow to the arrogance and hubris of the Israeli government. Israel has not been able to stop them in spite of its repeated incursions against the Gazans. Israel‘s frustration caused the deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai to say, “The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah [holocaust] because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.” To this a Hamas official from Gaza commented, “We are facing new Nazis who want to kill and burn the Palestinian people.” (Haaretz, Februray 29, 08) It is tragic that the oft-repeated slogan of “never again” has now found exception when a senior Israeli official wishes the holocaust on the Palestinians. (It is worth pondering what would have happened to any one of us if we had used the word “holocaust” in the way Vilnai has.)

From Sabeel‘s position of faith, we believe that for a genuine peace to be achieved, the government of Israel must first terminate its injustice against the Palestinians, cease its violations of international law, and end its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.

For the immediate future, the Israeli government must accept Hamas‘ offer for a long term hudna (ceasefire) and enter into negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in good faith.

We also appeal to the Palestinian fighters in Gaza to abandon violence and to choose the way of nonviolence. It is a much stronger and more effective way of resistance. It has been tried by many people in the past who through nonviolence, stood against empires and were able to gain their rights and achieve their liberation.

We also plead with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas leadership to transcend their differences and to reconcile with each other. It is mandatory that they maintain the territorial integrity of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as well as the unity of all the Palestinian people.

To all the people of this land – Israelis and Palestinians – we say: It is only when we recognize the humanity of the other and possess the courage and the humility to honor each other‘s rights and submit to the demands of international law that we can hope for peace and security.

Our faith teaches us that ultimately, the oppressed will be set free and peace will triumph over violence and liberation will prove to be stronger than occupation.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center


Sabeel‘s Statement on 40 Years of Israeli Occupation

A Message from Jerusalem
26 March, 1999

We Palestinian Christians of the Holy Land dedicate this day, Friday, March 26, 1999, as a day of prayer and fasting for our city Jerusalem. Jerusalem today, is an occupied city. It came under Israeli sovereignty by a unilateral Israeli decision that violates international law and the consensus of the international community. It is maintained by the power of might rather than justice and right. We therefore declare – peacefully, non-violently and with calm reasoning – that the present situation of Jerusalem can never lead to a secure and durable peace. We refuse to accept it and firmly believe that it is also unacceptable to God.

Israel’s monopoly of control over the Holy City, to the exclusive benefit of Jews, increases tension between Israelis and Palestinians and exacerbates the violence. Israel continues to confiscate more Palestinian land and property for the building of Jewish colonies. It persists in demolishing Palestinian homes and in confiscating Palestinians’ identity cards causing their forced expulsion from the city. Israel continues to close Jerusalem to Palestinians, to deprive them of their livelihood and deny them access to the Holy City even for worship. All these measures, as well as the humiliating and inhumane treatment of Palestinians are in violation of religious, moral, and ethical principles, as well as international conventions.

We reaffirm that the city of Jerusalem is a city for two peoples – Palestinians and Israelis – and three religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism; and that its sovereignty must be shared. We, therefore, call upon the Israeli government to halt unilateral changes of the city’s character and composition, and the violation of the rights of its indigenous people whether religious or political. We also call upon all peace-loving governments, institutions and individuals to continue working for an end to aggression and the establishment of justice.

As we commemorate the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate his glorious resurrection, we affirm, inspired by his great example, the victory of right over wrong, of justice over oppression and of life over death. We live in the hope of a better future for all the people of our region. We pray to Almighty God, to cause a miracle to happen, to bring about a change in our situation and grant our city and country a just and secure peace.

Sabeel‘s Statement on the Sixth War on Lebanon

THE MADNESS OF WAR Hizballah and Israel

The pain! I can’t bear the pain!
My heart! My heart is beating wildly!
I can’t keep quiet; I hear the trumpets and the shouts of battle.
One disaster follows another; the whole country is left in ruins.
Suddenly our tents are destroyed; their curtains are torn to pieces.
How long must I see the battle raging and hear the blasts of trumpets?
The LORD says, “My people are stupid; they don’t know me.
They are like foolish children; they have no understanding.
They are experts at doing what is evil, but failures at doing what is good.”

(Jeremiah 4:19-23 TEV)

The words of the prophet Jeremiah are our words as we feel the pain and the tragedy in our region. Nothing justifies the extent of the destruction and the number of human beings that have been killed, wounded, and displaced. It is insane and mad.

After Israel’s forced termination of its 22 year occupation of South Lebanon in the year 2000, and having defied U.N. Resolution 425 for as many years, it still held Lebanese prisoners and maps of land mines in violation of mutual agreements. In addition, Israel continuously violates Lebanese airspace against international law.

On July 12, 2006, Hizballah crossed the border into Israel, killed 8 Israeli soldiers and took two captive, demanding to exchange them with Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. Israel’s retaliation came with a vengeance. Since July 12, the Israeli army has killed over 750 Lebanese and wounded thousands, the majority of casualties being civilians.

Initially, it was believed that Israel’s invasion of Lebanon was aimed at the release of the two Israeli soldiers, but the rate and extent of the devastation of Lebanon soon made it clear that Israel’s goals reached far beyond a simple rescue mission. The kidnapping of the soldiers became only the excuse to start massive air attacks and infrastructural destruction – three airports bombed; 62 bridges destroyed; three dams and ports hit; Tens of thousands of homes damaged and approximately a million Lebanese displaced from their homes. Countries around the world have been shocked by the excessive use of Israeli power. Israel seemed to be bombing the Lebanese and the Palestinians in Gaza into total submission, capitulation, and resignation pushing their infrastructure decades back.

During the first 20 days of war, a number of massacres were committed by the Israeli army against civilians. The worst, however, has been the massacre in the village of Qana in the south of Lebanon on July 30th. This is the second time within a decade that a brutal massacre is carried out by the Israeli army against innocent civilians in Qana. Over 60 people were killed more than half of them were children. No justification whatsoever is acceptable. It is a crime against humanity — thanks to America’s “smart bombs” and Israel’s “most moral army in the world.” This carnage will go down in history as one of the most shameful crimes in this conflict. The pictures from Qana and the rest of Lebanon bring shame to Rome’s ministerial meeting on July 26, 2006. Had the ministers insisted on a ceasefire as was proposed, and not complied with the US Secretary of State, the children of Qana and their mothers would be alive today.

As Israel was bombing Lebanon, Hizballah fired hundreds of its katyushas into northern Israel sending approximately a million people into shelters, causing considerable material damage, and killing over 50 Israelis, half of them civilians.

All the while, as the eyes of the world turned to Lebanon, Israel continued its killings in Gaza more ferociously. One hundred forty-one people including thirty children were killed in the last three weeks. Seventy-six homes were demolished.


  1. In 1948 over 300,000 Palestinian refugees were forcibly displaced by the Zionists from the north of Palestine into Lebanon and Syria where they have been living in refugee camps ever since. Most of them were driven out of an area that was slated for the Palestinian state according to the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Israel refused to implement UN Resolution 194 calling for their return. The Palestinians engaged in guerilla warfare against Israel insisting on their right of return to their homes and villages.
  2. In 1978, Israel invaded Lebanon to destroy the Palestinian Liberation Organization resistance, killing almost 20,000 people, including the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, and destroying much of the country. Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon lasted 22 years in defiance of UN Resolution 425 calling for its withdrawal.
  3. In 1984, Hizballah, a Lebanese Shiite organization emerged as a resistance movement to Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. Hizballah proved more formidable than the Palestinians and managed to drive the Israeli army out of Lebanon in the year 2000.
  4. In the 1990s, Israeli forces kidnapped Hizballah leaders including prominent religious figures and carried out exchanges of prisoners with the exception of three, in violation of mutual agreements.
  5. It is important to point out that in the Middle East, it is the US and Israel that are occupying other people’s land, and paradoxically, it is they who brand the people they oppress and who resist their occupation as terrorists.


  1. Immediate and unconditional ceasefire by all parties.
  2. Implementation of all UN resolutions: The Middle East region has endured so much suffering and pain over the last sixty years. The time is now ripe for a comprehensive and lasting peace that will restore hope, and lead to a new Middle East established on justice and dignity for all its peoples. This can only be achieved by implementing ALL UN resolutions pertaining to the conflict without exception. No agreement will hold without first solving the Palestine-Israel conflict conclusively. This opportunity must not be lost.
    Implementation of UN resolution 1559: Israel insists on the implementation of 1559 while ignoring its own obligations to dozens of UN resolutions since its establishment in 1948. It is hypocritical of Israel to insist on one resolution and totally disregarding others. If the implementation of 1559 in Lebanon helps to bring security to Israel, we believe that the
  3. Implementation of UN resolutions 242 and 338 as well as others pertinent to the Palestine-Israel conflict will bring peace and security to Palestine, Israel, and the whole region. These include the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, the withdrawal from the Shebba farms, and the withdrawal from all the Occupied Palestinian Territories including East Jerusalem.
  4. Exchange of Prisoners: One of the major root causes for the present war is the question of prisoners – Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian, and others – whom Israel refuses to free. The international community must find a solution to this humanitarian problem. Without the release of prisoners the conflict will be renewed. The release of the prisoners must be an integral part of the solution.


Israel is pursuing a short sighted policy based on power and domination. It must consider the far reaching consequences of such a policy. By its own doing, it is creating an atmosphere of hatred and rejection which will be difficult to overcome. Palestinians and Arabs in general have accepted the reality of the existence of the state of Israel in the Middle East. In order for Israel to live in peace and security in the region it has to guarantee the same for its neighbors. It needs to face its past and present injustices squarely and responsibly. It can do that by fulfilling the demands of International Law. It can then, with the Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, and other neighbors live in peace.


The so-called “war on terror” is counterproductive. Injustice breeds violence and the arrogance of power does not bring submission. Solutions are within reach if they are established on International Law with equity, compassion and respect for the human dignity of all.


A new Middle East conceived by the US and Israel and inflicting such horrible “birth pangs” on innocent civilians will be short-lived. A new Middle East can only be born through the will of the people, in a natural environment of justice, peace, and understanding among the nations of the region. Only then can the new-born survive, be healthy, and prosper.

It is high time for the United Nations to assert its rightful responsibility in guiding and implementing justice and peace in the world. So long as the US dictates its will on the UN, the hope for just solutions in various conflict areas is minimized. The peoples of the world want the UN and not the US to be entrusted with issues of peace. As believers in God, we reiterate our plea for a new Middle East where the international community would faithfully commit itself to bring about justice, mercy, and freedom to all the people of our region.

Sabeel Liberation Theology Center
August 2, 2006

Sabeel‘s Statement on the Israeli Invasion of Gaza, June 28, 2006


The Arrogance of Power

“For [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).

In Palestine, rain does not fall in the summer. It falls during the rainy season between November and March. People wait with eagerness and thankfulness for the rain after the hot and dry summer months. In the Gaza Strip, rain hardly falls even in the winter. It is a parched land whose only freshwater reservoirs have been depleted by decades of Israeli occupation. The name of the Israeli army operation itself reflects a callous euphemism. By calling the invasion of the Gaza Strip “summer rains,” Israel has taken the word “rain” that stands for and represents a blessing to Palestinians and to all other people and turned it into a curse. It has taken God’s wonderful gift of nature that brings life, food, and health and instead used it to shower destruction and devastation on the people of Gaza. To name this brutal aggression “summer rains” is cruel. Since June 25, over 106 Palestinians have been killed, many of whom are young children, and more than 241 injured. During the same period, six Israelis have been killed with an unknown number of injured.


Since the outset of the second Intifada, under the pretext that there was no Palestinian partner, Israel has practiced unilateral policies violating International Humanitarian Law. This included the construction of the separation wall, settlement expansion and confiscation of Palestinian land. After the death of President Arafat in November 2004 and the election of Mahmoud Abbas in elections in January 2005, Israel also rejected him as partner and continued its plans. From the unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip to the continued construction of the separation wall in the West Bank, there were no efforts at negotiations. In the last legislative elections, with the Hamas victory and the formation of its government, Israel again used this as a justification to continue its unilateral policies. Throughout, the Palestinian effort to hold together all political factions in a period of quiet (hudna) for eighteen months was never taken into account.

The recent events before the Gaza incursion were triggered by an attack by the military wing of Hamas on June 25 against an Israeli military post. Israeli columnist Gideon Levy in Ha’aretz, on July 3, 2006 spoke about the context for the recent chain of events: “The legitimate basis for the IDF‘s [Israeli army] operation was stripped away the moment it began. It‘s no accident that nobody mentions the day before the attack on the Kerem Shalom fort, when the IDF kidnapped two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from their home in Gaza. The difference between us and them? We kidnapped civilians and they captured a soldier, we are a state and they are a terror organization. How ridiculously pathetic Amos Gilad [major general in Army Intelligence] sounds when he says that the capture of Shalit was “illegitimate and illegal,” unlike when the IDF grabs civilians from their homes.”

What We Should Consider

  1. The humanitarian crisis: Since the strike on Gaza’s only electrical plant on June 28, the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza are without electricity between 12-18 hours a day. Water utilities, dependent on electricity for pumping and treatment, have been reduced to 1/3 capacity.
  2. The lack of due process: Israel has seized the members of a democratically elected government including eight cabinet ministers and 34 legislators; and bombed its interior ministry, the foreign ministry, the economic ministry and the prime minister‘s offices.
  3. The collective punishment: These practices range from nocturnal “sound bombs” under orders from the Israeli prime minister to “make sure no one sleeps at night in Gaza”; to flyers that have told the civilian population to flee their homes; bombing of infrastructure; and shooting of hundreds of air to surface missiles and artillery shells that have terrified the civilians and especially the children.
  4. The loss of human life: The Israeli army has repeatedly fired missiles into residential areas, with multiple civilian fatalities including entire families. Although the “extrajudicial-assassination” policy has caused a large number of “unintentional” civilian causalities in the last months, Israel continues to shoot missiles into the crowded communities and streets of Gaza.
  5. The crisis of prisoners: In the last four years, as a condition for the release of Palestinian prisoners, Israel has demanded Palestinian political concessions and a complete cessation of “violence”. At each stage, after the goal was met, the prisoners have never actually been released. Currently there are around 10,000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli prisons including 380 children and 109 women, most without charges or if charged, given prolonged terms for belonging to political organizations. During this Intifada, prisoners have only been released en masse in response to a Hizballah kidnapping in 2004.
  6. The claim of self-defense: President Bush’s repeated saying that Israel has the right to defend itself is a distortion of the facts on the ground. What Israel is doing is tantamount to a defense of its occupation. Israel is occupying Palestinian land, denies Palestinians the right to resist and calls its aggression self-defense. It is the epitome of the arrogance of power.
  7. The prison of Gaza: With all entries and exits out of the Gaza Strip closed to the citizens of Gaza, Israel is creating a frustrated and radicalized population that feels trapped and isolated. This population has little hope and increasing bitterness.

What Must Be Done

  1. Immediate international intervention: According to international law, civilians under occupation have the right to protection and self-defense. Israel has been using excessive military force and violence to exert control and to suppress the Palestinians. Israel is incapable of protecting the Palestinians. Therefore, the deteriorating situation demands immediate international intervention. The international community cannot remain passive. It must step in and implement the demands of Humanitarian and International Law.
  2. Financial and infrastructural support: The people of Gaza need immediate humanitarian aid and social support to address this crisis. While we are thankful for the assistance of the international community, Israel needs to be held responsible for the damage it has caused. We believe that behind the carnage is an Israeli policy that aims at slowing down and impeding Palestinian progress. So long as other countries keep footing the bills of Israeli destruction, Israel will continue to create havoc and act irresponsibly. The international community must force Israel to pay for the rebuilding of the infrastructure, including new electrical and water plants, the building of bridges and highways and the reconstruction of demolished buildings. Israel must be held accountable.
  3. Due process for the prisoners: Palestinian prisoners deserve the same rights as political prisoners around the world. This includes due process for open trials and sentencing, adequate representation in their language, no administrative detention, and release once terms are served or if evidence is not provided. Taking Israeli soldiers captive has become the only way to force the release of prisoners. It should not be so. By respecting the rights of prisoners, Israel can reduce much tension in the area. The issue of the prisoners has been at the heart of so much suffering and violence. The prisoners themselves have tried peaceful means to raise attention including various hunger strikes all of last year but to no avail. The international community must take a stand and push for their civil rights.
  4. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority: The US must pressure Israel into immediate political negotiations with the Palestinians. Military force will never solve the conflict. Only direct negotiations, with the sponsorship of the United Nations and on the basis of International Law, will achieve such a resolution. Israel cannot force its will on the Palestinians. Peace is possible today only if International Law is applied. The Palestinians are ready. Why does Israel continue to reject International Law? With vetoes and lobbying the US has weakened the only institution that could step in and bring about peace.


Theological Response

One of the beautiful and challenging sections in the Sermon on the Mount according to Matthew is found when Jesus exhorts his disciples to love and pray for their enemies,

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matthew 5:44-46)

Such words sound foolish to the ears of those who believe in violence as the way to deal with the enemy. We have become so enmeshed with violence that we cannot see the alternatives. Violence is our worst enemy and will not produce peace. The challenge before us is to try the way of nonviolence that can potentially turn an enemy into a neighbor with whom we can live in peace and security. This challenge is for the oppressor as well as the oppressed, the strong as well as the weak.

When Jesus described God’s love and mercy by sending rain to fall on the just and unjust, he was giving us one of the greatest and most essential lessons we humans need to learn. Jesus was not talking about cheap and sentimental love of enemies. In our own context of life, true and genuine love expresses itself in doing justice to one’s enemy. It is the love that is willing to share the country with the other for the sake of living in peace, love that respects the rule of International Law for the sake of oneself as well as for the sake of the other, love that is willing to show and accept mercy, love that respects the humanity of the other, love that extends and receives forgiveness from the other, love that seeks the peace and well-being of the other, love that wants to guarantee the security of the other as much as one’s own. This is the rain that God showers on us and this is the rain that we need for both the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Sabeel still says that a genuine and lasting peace can only be established on justice which is the other side of love. This is the shortest and surest way to a genuine peace. We call on our friends to pray and work for the end to this conflict. Human life and precious time are being wasted by dealing with the symptoms of the occupation rather than addressing the real problem. To End the Conflict, we must End the Occupation.

What can our friends do?

  • Use the above talking points for letters to the editors and articles for local press
  • Join in the various campaigns to raise financial support for the people of Gaza
  • Participate in building awareness about the forgotten residents of Gaza and the need for due process for the Palestinian prisoners with local rallies, forums and campaigns
  • Write your elected officials and demand both international intervention and immediate return to negotiations

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
July 18, 2006

Sabeel‘s Statement on Iraq

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem expresses its revulsion at the prospect of waging war on Iraq and the probability of the death of many innocent people, and irreparable environmental damage. We would like to stress from the position of our faith in God that the peaceful attempts to avert war have not been exhausted and that such a war can only be a travesty against God the loving Creator and against our fellow human beings especially women and children who will undoubtedly be the main victims of such a war.

By stating this, we are not defending Saddam Hussain and his regime. Neither are we defending the autocratic and dictatorial rule of many states around the world that rule with an iron fist and continue to suppress their own people and inflict misery on them. But we believe that war is not the answer.

Many of us had hopes that after many centuries of wars and bloodshed, the twenty first century might usher in a new spirit and determination for human beings who now have the means and capability to find peaceful solutions to the various intractable problems of the world. Indeed, we had hoped that the leaders of the world had learned the lessons of the past, that wars aggravate conflicts rather than solve them. Therefore, we must seek other methods to address our problem than waging war. The more successful we can be in solving conflicts without resorting to war, the closer we will be to God, the God of peace who calls us to be peacemakers. We can shed the primitive concept of a god whom humans have created in their own image; a god of war who calls those people to battle who rejoice in the defeat and devastation of others.

It is amply clear that the higher and deeper concepts of God in the Bible see God as one who puts an end to war and calls people to peacemaking:

“He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.” (Psalm 46:9)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be
called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

The God of the Bible is one who does not rejoice in the death and destruction of sinners and evildoers but in their salvation and liberation. The God whom we have come to know in Jesus Christ is one who seeks the lost sheep at great cost and brings them to the fold. God is one who does not choose to kill others but sacrifices himself on behalf of others.

When President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair who claim to be Christians appear frequently on TV and talk about going to war, they represent the primitive warrior god of certain parts of the Bible whom we totally reject and find offensive. We believe they are acting contrary to the spirit and message of the Bible. They are not being peacemakers but “warmakers” and this makes many of us Christians ashamed. We want to make it clear that we cannot follow the God of George Bush and Tony Blair. We follow the God of peace who wills peace and who makes us God’s children by virtue of loving, seeking, and pursuing peace.

From our experience of life in the Middle East, we know that the war on Iraq will not bring about peace nor reduce the risks of aggression. It will most certainly de-stabilize the whole region, if not the world, and exacerbate the dangers and threats of terrorism. In the long run, we fear, it will contribute to further wars and violence and the death of a greater number of innocent people, simply because a few war-mongering leaders “do not know what makes for peace”(Luke 19:42).

What makes for peace and security in our world today?

FIRST: People in power must learn to do justice. We reiterate the words of the prophet Micah 6:8. God expects from leaders as well as all of us “To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God”. Most of the problems in the Middle East stem from the fact that some western powers, especially the United States and Britain, have obstructed the doing of justice in Palestine. It is possible today, with no exaggeration, to curtail much of the violence and terrorism in the Middle East if the United States sponsors genuine justice in Palestine. This means, once and for all, the ending of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel and the establishment of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state on the whole of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Such an act will guarantee stability and peace for the whole region and the world.

SECOND: If the United States were to take the lead and encourage other countries to follow suit by diverting most of its military budget to the pursuit of health and happiness, for all of humanity, the results would be spectacular. If a fraction of the billions of dollars that will be spent to devastate Iraq and kill and maim people could be spent on health, education, and economic development, we can eradicate many diseases and change the lot of the poor. If the United States would spend more money and energy in developing creative strategies for peacemaking as much as it creates new smart weapons of destruction, our world would be a much safer place for all.

In fact, it is a disgrace that the United States’ administration, the richest and strongest country in the world, is leading and pressuring other nations of the world to go to war rather than mobilizing them for the pursuit of peace. When the United States leads the world to think globally for the well-being of all human beings rather than nationally for its own interest, we would be on the right track for achieving peace and justice for all.

THIRD: Instead of leading countries to war and forcing the United Nations’ hand, it behooves the United States to empower the United Nations and allow it to do its job fairly and objectively. The right address for conflict resolution must not be the United States but the United Nations. The latter is the body that is entrusted with championing the pursuit of justice through peaceful means. The United States, however, due to its power and influence, can work through the UN and with other countries to be on guard to guarantee the respect and implementation of international law. Thus the United States can contribute to peace and stability in the world rather than pursue selective justice based on its national needs and interests and thus be perceived as a dishonest broker by many people in the world. As a leader of the so-called free world, the United States can by word and deed, through the United Nations, promote, enhance, and nourish human rights, democracy, environmental preservation, and respect for the dignity of every human being. It can ensure the implementation of the will of the international community. As the greatest power today it can use its influence to be the servant of peace in the world rather than to dominate and to impose its will on others and incur the resentment and bitterness of many.

We want to thank God for our friends in the United States together with millions of others around the world who have that kind of vision for their own countries. Many of them have been in great agony and distress over the policies of their own governments. We thank God for the courage of Friends of Sabeel in the U.K., U.S., Canada, Scandinavia, Australia and other countries including especially Germany and France, as well as the many people of different faiths who have been taking a strong stand against the war. They all believe in the power of peace more than in the power of war. We thank God for all people who see the futility of a war on Iraq and are working and praying for its prevention.

War must not be an option. May the Almighty, Gracious, and Loving God strengthen us all to prevent the war on Iraq.

Sisters and Brothers everywhere continue to pray and work for peace. May we be God’s instruments of peace to make “war cease to the end of the earth.”

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
February 20, 2003

Sabeel Solidarity Statement

Sabeel Solidarity Statement April 13, 2002


This statement was adopted by participants in the international Sabeel Solidarity Visit held in Jerusalem from April 6-13, 2002.

We have arrived in a land under its most intense military occupation in years, and among a people suffering a sustained and brutal military assault. Violence against the Palestinian people has reached a level that is unprecedented in 35 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

Illegal Israeli settlements cover much of their land. Hundreds of Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks choke off movement by Palestinians, as well as international visitors, humanitarian aid workers, and journalists.

The people of Palestine feel betrayed by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the people of Israel, and the international community. The world has remained largely silent as Palestinians‘ land has been confiscated, their homes demolished, their culture compromised, their economy devastated, and their most basic human rights violated.

Now they stand on the brink of a disaster as terrible as the one that forced them from their homes and land in 1948. Still the world‘s silence betrays a people who seek justice, dignity, and their own nation.

We believe that justice for the people of Palestine demands an immediate end to Israel‘s occupation. Only justice can lead to lasting peace and, ultimately, to reconciliation.

We condemn all attacks on civilians, Palestinian or Israeli. Terrorism by any individual, organization or state is unacceptable to all civilized people. We see in the occupation the source of all of the violence.

We call for the establishment of a sovereign and viable Palestinian state on the whole of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to exist alongside Israel in peace and security.

The Rapid Escalation of the Conflict

Sabeel Statement
March 13, 2002

In the context of the rapid escalation of conflict in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, and in Israel, we at Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center remember the call of the prophet Micah to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. In the spirit of this call we ask the global community of every family, language, people, and nation:

  1. To call for an end to Israel‘s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem implementing UN Security Council Resolutions 194, 242, and 338;
  2. To demand Israel‘s compliance with international law and the IV Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in occupied territories, including
    – Fulfilling nations‘ obligations under the IV Geneva Convention to intervene and bring to an end the present deadly cycle of violence caused by the current Israeli incursions into  Palestinian refugee camps and cities, the continuing bombardment of civilian areas, and the terror it has created on both sides;
    – To end the Israeli policy of collective punishment and humiliation of the whole Palestinian population;
    – To require Israel to end the killing of Palestinian doctors and other medical workers and targeting of ambulances and all other Grave Breaches of the Convention, which constitute war crimes;
  3. To support the protests against the Occupation voiced by Palestinians and those Israelis who stand for a just peace;
    To honor, encourage and stand in solidarity with the many people who are engaged in non-violent resistance
  4. To pray for the victims of violence, the wounded, and all of their families on both sides of the conflict;
  5. To support church-related and other international programmes of monitors to the Occupied Territories for the protection of Palestinian civilians, and again call upon the world community to provide the same.
    The Palestinian people have the right to struggle for freedom and independence. Occupation is the source of this conflict. Until it ends more suffering will take place. We appeal to the global community to bring about a just resolution to this long-standing conflict by upholding international law and enforcing the implementation of all relevant UN resolutions and the Geneva Conventions.

Speaking Truth, Seeking Justice Statement of Participants in Sabeel‘s Alternative Assembly

Statement of Participants in Sabeel‘s Solidarity Gathering

We Christians, Jews, and Muslims from over 20 countries have come to Sabeel‘s Alternative Assembly in Palestine to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are enduring the yoke of occupation.

Sabeel is an ecumenical Christian center for Palestinian Liberation Theology, which seeks to make the Gospel contextually relevant. Sabeel, which in Arabic means both “the way” and “spring of life-giving water”, strives to develop a spirituality based on justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation, and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. In doing so, it encourages us to work for a just, comprehensive, and enduring peace informed by truth.

“We have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears…” the pattern of the pervasive control and domination by Israel which is causing widespread suffering and reflecting the injustices faced by the Palestinian people. The Oslo “peace process” has failed.

Deepening our understanding and gaining fresh insights, we can only conclude that peace is a real possibility if, and only if, justice is achieved. Toward this end, we affirm the timely Principles for a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel, that is, The Jerusalem Sabeel Document of May 2000.

We therefore note with deep sadness that the failed “peace process” has resulted in:

  • Entrenching a new and harsh form of occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (which includes East Jerusalem). The occupation is violence.
  • A dramatic increase in the expansion of settlements, construction of by-pass roads, control of territory by settlers, and other “facts on the ground”.
  • Allowing, in practice, through closure and rapid settlement building in East Jerusalem, the isolation of Jerusalem from Palestinian life in Gaza and the West Bank, and her transformation into a closed city.
  • A de facto apartheid system of Palestinian life in the Occupied Territories, with the populated areas carved up into “Bantustans”.
  • Gross violations of basic human rights, intensified in recent months.
    A new phase of extreme Israeli violence, including use of heavy artillery against civilians, causing over 15,000 injuries in addition to over 400 deaths in only the last five months.
  • Severe damage to the Palestinian economy while giving Israel control and domination over that economy.
  • Further threat to the continued existence of the Christian community in Palestine by creating circumstances that encourage emigration.
  • The continued occupation, control, and oppression by Israel of the Palestinian people are in themselves the greatest risks to the security of the state of Israel, while justice offers the only hope for both Israelis and Palestinians. Justice undergirds a durable peace, which will offer security for all the people of the region. A new and just process must be established which returns to the principles of international law, resulting in:

The immediate implementation of the IV Geneva Convention, to which Israel and most of our countries are signatories, and which applies to the West Bank and Gaza, to be upheld by international peacekeepers.
Implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, and 1322, which will terminate the occupation and its violence.
The return and compensation of all refugees who so choose, in accordance with UN Resolution 194.
Justice also requires an acknowledgement by Israel of al-Nakba (the Catastrophe of 1948), followed by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an instrument of healing.

We pledge ourselves to identify and then challenge the structures of domination in Israel and Palestine and in our own countries, including those that supply armaments as well as financial and political aid which supports the injustice in Palestine.

We affirm our commitment to strive for the realization of a just peace, in solidarity with all who seek a just peace, based on our faith that all can be redeemed and reconciled in Christ. With Sabeel,

We will stand for justice. We can do no other. Justice alone guarantees a peace that will lead to reconciliation and a life of security and prosperity to all the peoples of our land. By standing on the side of justice, we open ourselves to the work of peace; and working for peace makes us children of God. (The Jerusalem Sabeel Document)

February 24, 2001

The Jerusalem Sabeel Document: Principles for a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel

“Seek Peace and Pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:11)

In pursuit of peace and out of our faith commitment, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem has formulated a set of principles by which we, as Palestinian Christians, feel a just, secure, and lasting peace can be achieved.


Our faith teaches us that,

  1. God, creator and redeemer, loves all people equally (John 3:16, Acts 17:24-28).
  2. God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security, or reconciliation is possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of justice will not disappear; and the struggle for justice must be pursued diligently and persistently but non-violently (Jeremiah 9:23-24, Isaiah 32:16-17, Romans 12:17-21).
  3. The Holy Land is God’s gift to Palestinians and Israelis. They must live justly and mercifully and be good stewards of it (Micah 6:8).
  4. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is an inclusive principle that must be honored and sought after (Mark 12:31). The Golden Rule continues to apply, “Do to others what you want them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12).
  5. Faithfulness to God obliges us to work for justice, peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing (Matthew 5:9, 43-45).


  1. We acknowledge the sufferings and injustices committed against Jews by the West, especially those inflicted in the holocaust. Nevertheless, they do not justify the injustices committed against Palestinians. Justice claimed by one people at the expense of another is not justice.
  2. Since Israel has, by force, displaced the Palestinians, destroyed their villages and towns, denied them their basic human rights, and illegally dominated and oppressed them, it is morally bound to admit its injustice against the Palestinians and assume responsibility for it.
  3. Since Israel acquired by force 77% of the land of Palestine in 1948, approximately 20% more than the United Nations had allotted, and established its state there, it is moral and right for Israel to return the whole of the areas captured in 1967, i.e. the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to the millions of Palestinians who need their own small sovereign state.
  4. Israel’s ‘Law of Return’ which allows any Jewish person to immigrate to Israel while denying Palestinians the right of return to their homeland is immoral and discriminatory.
  5. Sharing the sovereignty of Jerusalem is imperative to a moral and just peace.
  6. The ideology of militarism as well as the stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction are morally wrong. They sabotage the spirit and viability of peace and will not provide security either.

LEGAL BASIS: International Legitimacy

The following principles have been affirmed and repeatedly reaffirmed by the international community:

  1. Palestinian refugees have the right of return –UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
  2. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are occupied territories and the Israeli forces must withdraw from them — UN Security Council Resolution 242 and 338 based on the international principle of the inadmissability of the acquisition of territory by force.
  3. The Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal. Moreover, it is illegal for the occupying power to transfer its population to, or to change the status of, the occupied territories — Fourth Geneva Convention.
  4. East Jerusalem is occupied territory. Israel’s unilateral actions to alter the status of Jerusalem are illegal and invalid — UN Security Council Resolutions 252 and 478.
  5. Violations of human rights such as home demolitions, land confiscation, torture, revocation of residency rights, restriction of movement, closures, and the monopolization of resources are an insult to the dignity of human beings and contravene international law — United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The people of the region–Palestinians and Israelis–both need and deserve a lasting peace, and security. With peace and security in place, bonds of acceptance and friendship can grow. It is no service to either community to promote a peace which flouts international law, ignores justice, and ultimately cannot endure since this will lead to continued bitterness and violence.

The following principles are therefore, based on international legitimacy. The international community has a responsibility to see that they are fulfilled. Once achieved, the strongest international guarantees must be given to ensure that the people of Palestine and Israel will live in peace and security.

  1. Israel must admit that it has committed an injustice against the Palestinian people and must accept responsibility for that. This means that reparation must be paid to all Palestinians who have suffered as a result of the conflict since 1948 whether they are Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians living on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or Palestinians living in the Diaspora. The road to healing and reconciliation passes through repentance, forgiveness and redress.
  2. The Palestinians must have their own sovereign, independent, and democratic state established on the whole of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Israel must withdraw to the June 4, 1967 borders. No solution is acceptable if it does not guarantee the Palestinians’ and Israelis’ right to self-determination, independence, and sovereignty.
  3. Jerusalem’s sovereignty must be shared by the two states of Palestine and Israel. The city must remain open for Palestinians, Israelis, and all. East Jerusalem can be the capital of Palestine while West Jerusalem can be the capital of Israel. Any agreement must protect the sanctity of the holy places and guarantee the rights of the three religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism on an equal basis. All illegal confiscation of land or expansion of areas by Israel within the walled city of Jerusalem since 1967 must be reversed.
  4. The right of return to Palestinian refugees must be guaranteed according to international law. All refugees must be fully compensated.
  5. All Israeli Jewish settlements on the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law. All the settlements built on Palestinian soil since 1967 must be part of Palestine.
  6. Once the principles of an acceptable justice are applied, a peace treaty must be drawn up between the two states of Palestine and Israel guaranteeing the full sovereignty and territorial integrity of each including recognized borders, water rights, and other resources.
  7. Furthermore, both states must fully guarantee the respect and protection of the human rights of all their citizens, including freedom of religion, in accordance with all international conventions.



In 1948 a grievous injustice was committed by the Zionists (forerunners of the state of Israel) against the Palestinian people. The Zionists acquired by force 77% of the land of Palestine and displaced three quarters of a million Palestinians. Consequently, the state of Israel was declared as a Jewish state. Since then, most of the displaced Palestinians have lived in refugee camps and their national rights have been denied. Despite UN Resolution 194, passed in December 1948 and reaffirmed annually by the UN, Israel has adamantly refused the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes. The 150,000 Palestinians who remained within that part of Palestine which became the state of Israel were given Israeli citizenship. However, they have been discriminated against and have been treated as second class citizens.

In 1967, the state of Israel acquired by force the rest of the country of Palestine (the 23%) further displacing approximately 325,000 Palestinians. The Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank came under Israeli military rule. The occupation has been oppressive, brutal, and dehumanizing. Palestinian land has been systematically confiscated, human rights violated, and people systemically humiliated, as documented by a number of international, Israeli, and Palestinian human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, B’Tselem, LAW and Al-Haq. Furthermore, Israel assumed control of Palestine’s water supply (unfairly restricting water to Palestinians and charging them exorbitant prices), began building exclusively Jewish settlements on Palestinian land and, through hundreds of military laws, persisted in its oppression of the Palestinians. As to East Jerusalem, Israel annexed it and, in 1993, closed it and cut it off from the rest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, thus denying Palestinians the right of access to it. Consequently, even the right to worship in its churches and mosques is obstructed. Moreover, Israel enacted a policy to limit the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem to 27% of the city’s population, through demolition of homes, confiscation of land, revocation of Palestinian residency rights as well as other means.

In 1991 at the end of the Gulf War, the peace process was initiated by the United States and Russia. In spite of its initial promise in the Madrid Conference to achieve a just peace, it became, in its Oslo form, an instrument for furthering the injustice. As it evolved, certain portions of the occupied territories were returned by Israel to the Palestinian Authority. By the end of March 2000, only 18.2% of the area of the West Bank has been returned to full Palestinian Authority; 24.7% is under Israeli security and Palestinian civil control. The remaining 57.1% of the West Bank is still under full Israeli control. The areas that have been returned to the Palestinians are not geographically linked together. The Israeli Army controls the highways and major roads throughout the occupied territories, as well as everything below the ground and sky above. It is important to note that in the Gaza Strip, only 60% of the land is under Palestinian control where over a million Palestinians live; while Israel controls the 40% of the Strip for the benefit of 6100 Jewish settlers. Furthermore, some of the 194 Israeli settlements (166 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and 28 in East Jerusalem – – all illegal under international law) have expanded to sizable towns. It is estimated that the number of settlers, including those who live in the settlement ring in and around Jerusalem, is approximately 400,000.

The two sides, Israelis and Palestinians, have more recently been engaged in the final status negotiations which include the thorniest issues, namely, Jerusalem, borders, refugees, water, and settlements.

We feel we are standing at a most important juncture in our history. The United States Government has been working to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Syria as well as to keep alive the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Many of us are afraid that what might ensue in Palestine is an unjust peace. We at Sabeel feel we have a Christian responsibility to speak our mind for the sake of a lasting peace that will bring an acceptable justice to the Palestinians and security for all the peoples of our region. We fear that the Palestinian Authority might be forced to accept an unjust peace which will be attractively packaged by the state of Israel and the United States Government. We are, however, sure that an unjust peace will only be temporary and will inevitably plunge our region into greater violence and bloodshed. We will not be silent. We lift our voice prophetically in pointing to the pitfalls of injustice. The following points comprise the different scenarios. We would like to present them clearly with their probable consequences.

THE GREATEST CONCERN: A bantustan state

Taking a good look at the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, it is clear that Israel’s eye is focused on the West Bank which includes East Jerusalem. The confiscation of Palestinian land, the building and expansion of the settlements have never stopped. Israel continues to insist that the settlements will remain under Israeli rule. If this is done, Israel will maintain its military presence on the West Bank while allowing the Palestinian Authority to have autonomous rule over its own people. The areas under Palestinian rule will be called Palestine. They will have the semblance of a state but will exist under the suzerainty of Israel and will not enjoy genuine sovereignty. What we are witnessing, therefore, is a bantustan-type state, home rule, just like what was proposed by the former apartheid government of South Africa to its black citizens. From all indications, this is the picture which is emerging on the ground.

If pressured, Israel may even concede the Gaza Strip, where it currently has only 6100 settlers and controls approximately 40% of the land and one third of the water. It might withdraw totally from the Gaza Strip, which now has a damaged aquifer and a serious lack of usable water, and allow the Palestinians to have their sovereign state there. That area will be small and contained in one corner of Palestine and, from Israel’s perspective, will, presumably, not pose any serious threat to Israel. On the West Bank, however, the Palestinians will only be given autonomous rule, a homeland, in the guise of a state yet void of actual sovereignty.

This we believe is an unnatural, unhealthy, and unjust scenario and will only lead to a bloodier conflict. History teaches us that oppressed nations will not give up their struggle for freedom and independence. Under this scenario, Israel will not achieve the security it seeks because the forced and unjust peace settlement cannot be permanent.

Sabeel rejects outright this peace formula or any variation of it and warns that its imposition will be ultimately catastrophic for both peoples.

THE GENUINE HOPE: Two sovereign and fully democratic states

This scenario envisages the total withdrawal of Israel from all the occupied territories including East Jerusalem according to United Nations resolutions 242 and 338. The Palestinians will establish their sovereign state on the whole of the 23% of the land of Palestine. One way to redeem the settlements is to make them the new towns for the returning Palestinian refugees. This can constitute a part of Israel’s reparations to the Palestinians. Israel must compensate the owners from whom the land was confiscated. The Jewish settlers who choose to remain in Palestine can become Palestinian citizens and live under Palestinian sovereignty.

As to Jerusalem, it will have to be shared. The city must remain open to all. A peace treaty will be drawn up and the two countries will become inter-dependent economically and will help each other develop their resources for the well being of both their peoples.

This is the formula which the Palestinians have been hoping and working for. Indeed, it is not the ideal solution, but it carries within it an acceptable justice which most Palestinians are willing to live with for the sake of peace and prosperity. Furthermore, as this scenario agrees with United Nations resolutions since 1967, it will ensure the support of the international community of nations. This formula gives the Palestinians a state as sovereign as Israel, rids them of the Israeli occupation, and restores to them the whole of the occupied territories of 1967. Indeed, a state within the West Bank and Gaza, composed of only 23% of Palestine instead of the 43% allotted by the UN in 1947, is already a very signficant compromise by the Palestinians. The Palestinians would have to give up their right to most of historic Palestine. Obviously, Israel, with the help of the United States and the international community, will have to compensate the Palestinian people.


Our vision involves two sovereign states, Palestine and Israel, who will enter into a confederation or even a federation, possibly with other neighboring countries and where Jerusalem becomes the federal capital. Indeed, the ideal and best solution has always been to envisage ultimately a bi-national state in Palestine-Israel where people are free and equal, living under a constitutional democracy that protects and guarantees all their rights, responsibilities, and duties without racism or discrimination. One state for two nations and three religions.


At every turn, the principle of justice must be upheld. Unless justice is rendered and security is achieved, the solution must be rejected because it will not endure. A just solution must include an equal measure of justice and security for both sides to make it viable. Otherwise it will not lead to a permanent peace. This is the basic principle that must be upheld and used as the measure for every one of the above points.

This is where Sabeel takes its stand. We will stand for justice. We can do no other. Justice alone guarantees a peace that will lead to reconciliation and a life of security and prosperity to all the peoples of our land. By standing on the side of justice, we open ourselves to the work of peace; and working for peace makes us children of God.

A Call for Morally Responsible Investment a challenge for churches to consider a nonviolent approach towards a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict

Sabeel’s Call for Morally Responsible Investment

A Nonviolent Response to the Occupation

The movement towards a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict through nonviolent means is now accelerating. There is a window of opportunity to reach a just settlement. In spite of past setbacks and much skepticism, many people on both sides of the conflict cling to the hope for peace. As people of faith, the God we believe in is the God of hope and peace. We must not give in to despair.

Regardless of whether this new opportunity bears fruit in the political arena, we believe that serious ethical and moral issues pertaining to the occupation still need to be addressed by people of faith. Hence the challenge is for churches to consider seriously the issue of morally responsible investment.

Political Background

The State of Israel was established in 1948 on 78% of historic Palestine leading to the displacement of most of its Palestinian inhabitants, who became refugees. Since 1967, Israel has occupied the Palestinian territories – the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. This area constitutes approximately 22% of historic Palestine and has a population of almost four million people. During this period, Israel has consistently refused to implement United Nations Resolutions and International Law. Israel stands in violation of over 60 UN resolutions and has been protected by a United States veto over 30 times.

For many years the Palestinians rejected the establishment of the state of Israel because it was founded on the denial and violation of Palestinians’ rights. In 1988, and for the sake of peace, the Palestinian National Council accepted UN Resolution 242, thus clearly expressing its willingness to recognize the state of Israel provided it withdraw from all the occupied territories.

Similarly, in 2002 the Beirut Arab League Summit officially extended full recognition to Israel on condition that it withdraw from all occupied Arab land. Israel rejected the offer without even considering it officially

We believe that peace is not only possible but within reach. The peace we are talking about guarantees the security and territorial integrity of the state of Israel within its 1967 borders and allows the Palestinians to establish their own independent and sovereign state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Jerusalem will have to be shared and all other issues can find appropriate solutions based on international law.

Moral Reasons for Responsible Investment

Sabeel is a Christian organization. As such, it emphasizes the importance of faithfulness to God – the God of love, justice, mercy, and peace. All people are created in God’s image and are loved equally and unconditionally. We also believe that the creator God has sanctified humanity through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The dignity of every human being is precious in the eyes of God.

Furthermore, God in Christ has given us life. “…in him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:4). God’s will for all people is, therefore, to have life and to have it “more abundantly.” Jesus said, “I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). For people to enjoy life in its fullness, they must live in peace and justice, in dignity and harmony with each other. Their God-given human worth must be respected. We must do everything we can to remove any obstacles that prevent human beings from achieving life in its fullness. God must be sovereign over all aspects of our lives including our politics, work, and investments.

From this faith perspective, we call attention to the ethical and moral imperatives that must guard and guide all people and institutions including governments. As people of faith we see them expressed in biblical injunctions such as “Love your neighbor as yourself ” (Mark 12:31) and “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you”(Matthew 7:12). We also believe that the best embodiments of such principles as they apply in the international arena are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, which includes the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as other universally accepted principles of international law protecting human rights and human dignity.

There are multiple examples of violations of human rights in the Israel-Palestine conflict. International Humanitarian Law specifies that people living under occupation (like the Palestinians on the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem) must be protected until the occupation comes to an end. It is illegal to build on or confiscate their land. It is illegal to kill or harm innocent civilians (whether Palestinian or Israeli). It is forbidden to employ collective punishment, degrading treatment and torture. It is illegal to transfer parts of an occupying powers’ civilian population into occupied territories. International Law also forbids the acquisition of territory through war.

In this context, therefore, we need to consider the following:

  • Earning money through investment in companies whose products and services are used in such a way as to violate International Law and human rights is equivalent to profiting from unlawful acts and from the oppression of others.
  • Investment in such companies can be seen as condoning the harm of innocent civilians under occupation and the illegal Israeli settlement policies that lead to human rights violations.
  • Investment in such companies enables the government of Israel to sustain the ongoing violation of human rights of innocent civilians.
  • Continuing such investments, once the facts are brought to our attention, constitutes deliberate condoning of the evil practices.
[God] judges the nations with justice. The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed a place of safety in times of trouble… God remembers those who suffer; He does not forget their cry, and he punishes those who wrong them… The needy will not always be neglected; the hope of the poor will not be crushed forever” (Psalm 9:8-9, 12, 18).

The Legal Call for Morally Responsible Investment

Harm against all innocent civilians is unjustified and a serious violation of human rights. According to International Law countries are not allowed to cause harm to populations under their control. The de-development, impoverishment, and hardships inflicted on the Palestinians as an occupied people cannot be ignored. Our goal is to insist on Israel’s compliance with international and humanitarian law. Morally responsible investment is a means of enacting our obligation to prevent any assistance or participation in the violations of these basic human rights. All those who believe in a just resolution to the conflict also have an ethical duty to prevent unlawful harm to civilians.

It is clearly demonstrated that Israel, in its continued occupation and the practices associated with the occupation, is in open violation of International Law and specifically the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Violations of these articles, specifically the grave breaches (Art. 147) have been defined as war crimes.

Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 (to which Israel is a signatory) states:

Article 1: The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances. Article 27: Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.

Article 47: Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention by any change introduced, as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of the said territory, nor by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territories and the Occupying Power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.

Article 147: Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or willfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.

Out of this follows the concept of Ownership Responsibility. Within the structure of corporations, shareholders are theoretically the true owners of a corporation and are ultimately responsible, legally, politically and morally, for the actions of the corporation, which are done on their behalf, for their benefit and in their name.

No shareholders can avoid legal or moral responsibility once the issue has been brought to their attention. If they cannot direct the management of a company to change its actions, they are still responsible for such actions as long as they own shares. When the church controls through its pension funds and investments large numbers of shares, its impact can be significant.

When the company is involved in violations of International Law — child labor, pornography, apartheid practices, or settlement building — the owners (shareholders) are morally responsible. To the extent they cannot prevail on the other shareholders and the management to end their evil practices, they must divest and seek other investments that are more in line with their beliefs. Even if such action is numerically insignificant, it is morally essential in terms of the witness of the church itself.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice reaffirmed these requirements of humanitarian law and stated again that the building of the Wall violates international law, and has called on the international community to refrain from assisting these violations in any way.

Until the international community takes up its legal responsibility and its obligations to put an end to these violations, organizations and individuals are required, at a minimum, to refrain from giving any material or political support. Therefore the duty to withdraw any existing support becomes a legal obligation under the provisions of the law.

Construction of the wall within the Occupied Territories severely impedes on the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and is therefore a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect that right.

The International Court of Justice announced that all states are under an obligation:

not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the Wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction. (Passed by a vote of 13 to 2)

to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in the Convention. (Passed by a vote of 13 to 2) to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Wall and the associated régime, taking due account of the present Advisory Opinion. (Passed by a vote of 14 to 1)

We are concerned about the delegitimization of International Law that Israel models when it ignores the International Court of Justice, the Geneva Conventions and United Nations resolutions. The potential for these institutions and laws to resolve conflicts is weakened globally when one party chooses to selectively ignore its rulings.

We recognize that regardless of our position on the political resolution, we should not permit ourselves to have any involvement to facilitate or provide resources that would be used to inflict unlawful harm on people. This is a general principle that we stand for universally.

Bringing an End to Israel’s Illegal and Immoral Behavior

African National Congress President Oliver Tambo said in 1987 at the height of the system of apartheid: “trade and foreign investment have bolstered the apartheid economy and added to the resources which apartheid State has recklessly wasted in the pursuit of inhuman schemes….Furthermore this trade and investment has enabled the apartheid economy to fund ever increasing expenditure on the State’s coercive machinery which is aimed at internal repression and external aggression; and the flow of technology from outside helps to refine that apartheid machinery and make it more efficient….These international connections have helped sustain, and continue to sustain the apartheid system.”

Currently a system of international economic support for the occupation exists as multinational corporations build franchises in the occupied territories, supply military goods, and provide material for the construction of the settlements and Separation Wall. Although numerous U.N. resolutions have been passed and many countries have pleaded with Israel to change its policies, the “facts on the ground” of occupation grow worse year by year. The goal to end the occupation has never seemed farther away.

At this point in time, having assessed the international community’s failure to persuade Israel to comply with the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, we must look at other options. Around the world people are beginning to speak of selective divestment from Israel as a method of creating the change that is needed. One Israeli human rights lawyer, Shamai Leibovitz, put it succinctly: “As an Israeli thoroughly familiar with Israeli politics, I believe that selective economic pressure is the most effective way to end the brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and bring peace and security to Israelis and Palestinians. If the Jewish people are ever to become ‘a light of all nations’ (Isaiah 42:6) and return to their core values of justice and human dignity, Israelis and Jews of conscience must call now for effective measures to end the occupation of millions of Palestinians.”

Sabeel believes that the divestment issue opens up a larger conversation about the immorality of occupation that has not been emphasized enough in the past. In its statement, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) calls for sanctions: “The moral dimension led to a delegitimization of the very apartheid system that left no room for ‘reform’. Carried over to Israel’s Occupation, the moral element in a larger political condemnation of Israel’s policies could delegitimize the Occupation to the point where only its complete end is acceptable. A campaign of sanctions which highlights the moral unacceptability of Israel’s Occupation could have a great impact, eventually impelling governments to impose economic sanctions while creating a climate difficult for businesses (beginning with Caterpillar) to continue function.” (www.icahd.org) As responsible owners and investors, the churches have multiple economic options. The dictionary defines divestment as “to free of,” “to sell off,” “to dispossess”. Today, there are many methods of investment and divestment including these five strategies:

Avoidance strategy, i.e. avoiding investment in companies on moral grounds.

Involvement strategy, i.e. exercising influence and pressure on companies and corporations in shareholder meetings to actively promote moral and social responsibility and accountability.

Alternative strategy or selective investment, i.e. establishing alternative investment funds that promote justice and peace.

Withdrawal strategy, i.e. simply pulling investments on moral grounds.

Reinvestment strategy, i.e. moving the money on moral grounds from investments in corporations complicit of wrongdoing to organizations that engage in morally responsible business, or to reinvest in the organization or company after positive change occurs.

What Methods Does Sabeel Recommend?

As the next logical step, we encourage morally responsible investment along the lines of the above mentioned points, which basically translates into selective divestment — the model that has been advocated by the World Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Episcopal Church (USA), as well as other organizations working for a just peace in the region. As the U.S.-based organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, states: “At JVP, we fully support selective divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. This includes American companies like Caterpillar who profit from the wholesale destruction of Palestinian homes and orchards. It also includes Israeli companies who depend on settlements for materials or labor or who produce military equipment used to violate Palestinian human rights.” (www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org)

  1. Therefore, Sabeel calls on churches to exert pressure on companies and corporations to discontinue business activities that:
    Provide products, services or technology that sustain, support or maintain the occupation;
    – Have established facilities or operations on occupied land
    – Provide products, services, or financial support for the establishment, expansion, or maintenance of   settlements on occupied land or settlement related infrastructure;
    – Provide products, services or financial backing to groups that commit violence against innocent civilians; or
    – Provide finances or assist in the construction of Israel’s separation wall or settlement infrastructure.
    (adapted from the criteria set by the Presbyterian Church USA)
  2. When such pressures fail to yield positive results, Sabeel calls on churches to divest/disinvest from companies and corporations that do not respond and comply with morally responsible investment and business practices.

“We do not believe that such investment plans are, by their very nature either anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli. On the contrary, the Occupation is destroying Israeli society by increasing poverty, violence, and insecurity. Therefore actions that oppose the Occupation are, in fact, pro-Israeli. Furthermore, we believe that such actions are in keeping with our vision of a Judaism that is based on the principle of justice.”

Not in My Name Statement of Support for Selective Divestment (http://www.nimn.org)

Obstacles and Challenges Facing the Churches

Blessed are you when people revile you and speak all manner of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way were the prophets persecuted before you (Matthew 5:11-12).

There are obstacles that make it difficult for some churches to carry out divestment even when it is particular to companies operating in, benefiting from or financing the occupation, companies that are aiding and abetting activities prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

Supporters of Israel’s illegal practices will offer several challenges to the churches to which Sabeel offers the following responses:

  1. Apologists will argue that historical, psychological, biblical, theological, and even social reasons make it difficult for many western Christians to confront the unjust policies of the government of Israel. The evil of anti- Semitism, which has marred Christian-Jewish relations, still looms strong and the tragedy of the Holocaust remains a source of guilt for many Christians.
    Sabeel’s response:
    We are promoting the same values as those who struggle against anti-Semitism. No group of people, simply due to their ethnicity or nationality, should be excluded from the protections of International Law. Morally responsible investment is a Christian imperative and a nonviolent method aimed at ending the illegal occupation. We are calling for divestment from targeted companies that benefit from the violation of human rights and refuse to alter their behavior once confronted. This pressure must continue until the occupation ends
    We must advocate for upholding International Law specifically because these laws were designed to protect all civilians. It is precisely because we care about the legacy of the Holocaust and other international violations of human rights that we strongly believe that when we see indiscriminate violations of International Law, we must take a moral stand.
  2. Apologists will ask church officials who are critical of Israel’s violations of International Law to enter with them into dialogue that drags on and on. All kinds of justifications, excuses, and rationales are presented which can create fear and reluctance within Christians and result in undermining their initial commitment.
    Sabeel’s response:
    Sabeel takes this stand for morally responsible investment in an effort to create a real dialogue about peace with justice. We ask churches to have “clean hands” and to stop supporting proven violations of International Law that have been well-documented by both Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations in the last 38 years. (www.btselem.org; www.hamoked.org.il; www.alhaq.org; www.pchrgaza.org)
    Learning the facts is important. Engaging in dialogue is useful – but the best dialogue is done from an informed perspective with a goal of bringing the suffering to an end. Sabeel provides opportunities to visit and learn first-hand about the impact of the occupation on the daily life of the Palestinians. (www.sabeel.org)
  3. Apologists will bring up the question of Palestinian violence. They claim that if the Palestinians would stop their “terrorism,” there could be peace and security.
    Sabeel’s response:
    The use of violence against civilians represents the problematic proliferation of contempt for the basic tenets of International Law in the area. Putting an end to violence against civilians requires addressing both the state and individual violence in the region and all responsible parties.
    Sabeel decries all violent acts against civilians and has made that clear in previous statements that are available on line (www.sabeel.org). At the same time both Palestinian and Israeli civilians have the same human rights to security as all people and Sabeel stands by and for their inherent rights. Our call for morally responsible investment includes divesting from any organization or corporation that supports or promotes in any way violence against civilians.
    The government of Israel has shown no intention or effort to date of complying with International Law. The international community and the leading powers, for their own political reasons, have been unwilling to enforce International Humanitarian Law. Therefore, it is left for us as faith communities to do what our political representatives are not doing on our behalf. Violations of human rights can never be justified.
  4. Apologists, in all probability, will use the Christian Zionist voice against the mainline churches in an attempt to discredit them and to show that millions of Christians accept and approve of Israel’s actions which violate International Law.
    Sabeel’s response:
    Standing alone for justice is not new for Christians. We may be a voice in the wilderness but when we act out of the conviction of our faith then mountains can be moved.
    Sabeel understands that within every denomination comes a wide variety of perspectives on the conflict. A decision like this can and will cause denominational disagreement. Yet, we encourage churches to use this process of discussing morally responsible investment to better understand both the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict and our obligation to live by ethical standards with our resources. The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) has prepared an informational DVD that can be used as a congregational resource (see www.pcusa.org).
  5. It is likely, due to the various types of pressure that will be placed on a church that takes this step, that most churches may be tempted to back down or dilute their divestment strategy to an extent that would make it ineffective.
    Sabeel’s response:
    As Christians we have to ask ourselves if statements are all that we can give as help to resolve this conflict. It is time to take a clear stand for human rights and dignity. If the rules of International Law were adopted by Israel, there would be an automatic resolution to the conflict and a just settlement would emerge. While we understand the political dimension, our clear stand as Christians comes from our belief in the dignity and well-being of all people. Too many precious children of God, Palestinians and Israelis, have been lost due to our unwillingness to forthrightly address the moral issues.
  6. Many will ask, “Why target divestment of firms actively engaged in violations of International Law in Israel rather than of firms actively engaged in violations of International Law in China or Saudi Arabia?”
    Sabeel’s response:
    If, for example, a firm is complicit in violation of child or prison labor, U.S. and E.U. law boycotts those firms. If a firm violates standards for trade, they are subject to countermeasures by governments. When the U.S. or the E.U. is not diligent, then movements of conscience step in and press for such action, while carrying out their own citizen actions – boycotting or targeting firms that are especially complicit. To some degree, these other countries are being acknowledged and pressured for their human rights violations by the U.S. and the international community already. Unlike Israel, they are not being protected or insulated from the application of International Law. The Security Council has been prevented, again and again through the U.S. veto, from taking action against the acknowledged violations by Israel of International Law.
    We at Sabeel encourage churches to put pressure on and/or divest from any and all companies and corporations that are involved in practices that violate human rights. It is important to note that our call for morally responsible investment is specifically focused on companies directly involved in illegal practices in the Occupied Territories and not in Israel itself.
    Sabeel believes that any divestment must be done from moral obligation – the same moral obligation that obliges us to struggle against and separate ourselves from anti-Semitism. The blessing that is promised in the Sermon on the Mount is for those who are falsely accused. We must be sure that we are acting solely as a result of moral constraints.

A Call to the Churches

“In the center stands faith, on the periphery you have works; in the center the gospel, politics on the periphery; in the center salvation, on the periphery the well being of our neighbor. Between the center and the periphery our human life revolves, on the periphery is decided and revealed what has happened at the center.” -Helmut Gollwitzer

The mainline churches in the West have, by and large, maintained a very balanced position vis-à-vis the Palestine/Israel conflict. On the one hand, they have always affirmed Israel’s right to exist. On the other hand, they have been clear that Israel must withdraw from all territories that it occupied in the 1967 war and allow the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The churches repeatedly and categorically have stood on the side of a just peace for the Palestinians in accordance with UN resolutions and International Law. International, regional, and national councils of churches around the world have asserted this same position. Through their statements and representations, the churches were encouraging their national governments to pressure Israel to implement International Law, all to no avail. Indeed, the international community has been helpless to prevail upon Israel to halt its oppression of the Palestinians..

As churches examine their own investment policies and show willingness to take moral and ethical investment decisions, they pick up where the political global community has failed to date. It is important to demonstrate by our own example that, just as we are prepared to bear burdens to maintain our own respect for international law, so Israel must accept these same burdens. Churches, by moving from statements to direct action and adopting appropriate financial policies that are in line with their moral and theological stance, create an example for the international community, even if it means incurring and absorbing some financial loss.

We applaud the decision of the World Council of Churches Central Committee, meeting in February 2005, which called on the churches to:

  • Encourage member churches to work for peace in new ways and to give serious consideration to economic measures that are equitable, transparent and non-violent;
  • Persuade member churches to keep in good contact with sister churches embarking on such initiatives with a view to support and counsel one another;
  • Urge the establishment of more and wider avenues of engagement between Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities pursuing peace;
  • Remind churches with investment funds that they have an opportunity to use those funds responsibly in support of peaceful solutions to conflict. Economic pressure, appropriately and openly applied, is one such means of action.

The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure – in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Divestment from apartheid South Africa was fought by ordinary people at the grassroots. Faith-based leaders informed their followers, union members pressured their companies’ stockholders and consumers questioned their store owners. Students played an especially important role by compelling universities to change their portfolios. Eventually, institutions pulled the financial plug, and the South African government thought twice about its policies. Similar moral and financial pressures on Israel are being mustered one person at a time. If apartheid ended, so can this occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined. The current divestment effort is the first, though certainly not the only, necessary move in that direction.” -Archbishop Desmond Tutu

A Call from Palestinian Christians

The Palestinian Christian community in Palestine is very small in number. We are less than 2% of the population. Although we are fully Palestinian and an integral part of the Palestinian people, we are distinctly Christian. Since the inception of the conflict one hundred years ago, the Christian community has been playing a very active role in championing justice for all the people of the land. In fact, some of the main advocates for peace have been Palestinian Christians. We continue to take a stand on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Palestine so that all of us can enjoy freedom.

Although we work for peace alongside our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters, we are blessed by our links and partnership with a “great cloud of witnesses” throughout the world that, like us, are members of the Body of Christ. Biblically and theologically we stand together:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body (1Corinthians 12:12-13).

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it (1Corinthians 12:26).

We are called by God to work for justice: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).

We are called by Christ to work for peace: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).

We are, therefore, pleading with our brothers and sisters all over the world to invest their God-given material resources in morally responsible activities that would contribute to the achievement of a just peace in Israel-Palestine. Furthermore, we ask them to continue to pray for all the inhabitants of our land so that peace will be achieved and the way for reconciliation will be opened. We are reminded of the words of the Latin American theologian, Leonardo Boff: “If we want to serve the true God, we must break out of the circle of self-absorption and pay heed to the bloodied faces of our fellow human beings. If we do not share life with the oppressed, we do not share life with God.”

A Closing Prayer for Guidance

Almighty God, who created us in your own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
PO Box 49084
91491 Jerusalem

Resources for further study

Christian Statements:

World Council of Churches Central Committee minutes

Episcopal Church in the United States of America *

Global Ministries [the Common Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ] document “The Palestinians, Israel, and the Churches’ Economic Leverage”

Presbyterian Church (USA) Statements on Ending the Occupation and Divestment

HOPP Campaign for a Just Peace in the Middle East, End the Occupation of Palestine, Sweden **

The Network of Christian Organizations in Bethlehem district (NCOB) Statement

Jewish Statements:

Israel Coalition against House Demolition Call for Sanctions

Not in My Name statement in support of Selective Divestment

Jewish Voice for Peace in support of divestment

European Jews for a Just Peace statement on illegality of settlement products:

New Profile: Movement for the Civilization of Israeli Society ** *

A complete list of products manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements.

Information on the struggle against the occupation.

*Episcopal Church in the United States has stated the following:

It is the intent of the Social Responsibility in Investments Committee to undertake the following:

Over the next twelve months, SRI will investigate what corporate actions (including corporate dialogues and shareholder resolutions) might be appropriate with (1) companies that contribute to the infrastructure of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and (2) companies that have connections to organizations responsible for violence against Israel.

In doing this work, SRI will work in partnership with the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East and with the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, the latter of which is preparing a report for the Anglican Consultative Council in June 2005. It will also seek dioceses and congregations that may be interested in being partners in corporate actions designed to promote peace in the Middle East.

In doing this work, SRI will also seek input from the wider church, from ecumenical and interfaith partners (including the American Jewish community), and from Jewish and Palestinian groups in the Middle East.

SRI will report back to the Executive Council with recommendations on this work at its October 2005 meeting.

The Social Responsibility in Investments Committee—which while monitoring what other church bodies like the Presbyterian Church (USA) are doing, understands that its primary responsibility is to implement existing Episcopal Church policies—will interact with as many groups as possible to better understand the underlying issues and how corporate actions in the Middle East may be impediments to peace. Further, the emphasis of this process is not likely to be divestment from companies whose actions are morally questionable, but rather engagement with them. In so doing, the Episcopal Church is acting in ways consistent with its own policy statements on the Middle East, with our participation in the wider Anglican Communion, and its call to peacemaking in the world.

** Christian Council of Sweden has appealed to their member churches and their aid organisations to participate in the campaign, Support a Just Peace in the Middle East – End the Occupation of Palestine. Many churches and organisations support this campaign, among them Caritas, Diakonia, Evangelical Alliance, Swedish Organisation for Individual Relief (SOIR), YWCA-YMCA, The Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation, Student Sweden Christian Movement, Church of Sweden, Church of Sweden Women, Mission Covenant Church of Sweden and Baptist union of Sweden. The Swedish campaign is a response from churches and Christian organisations in Sweden to the invitation from the World Council of Churches to work towards an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The campaign includes:

Co-ordinated, focused work to raise opinion and lobbying

Support for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme, EAPPI.

Exerting political pressure to make the EU suspend its free trade agreement with Israel.

Specific action: Boycotting produce from the illegal settlements on occupied territory.

*** New Profile aims to transform Israel from a highly militaristic society to a civilian society dedicated to equality of gender and ethnicity and firmly based on universal human rights. One of several characteristics of militarism is the use of force to obtain political objectives. New Profile deems Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians to be a use of force to obtain the political objective of creating the ‘greater Israel.’

New Profile opposes the Occupation on three counts:

Its destruction of Palestinian life, society, land, and property.

Its role in maintaining militarism in Israel.

Its erosion of Israel’s socio-economic and moral fabric.

We therefore seek non-violent means of ending this catastrophic Occupation. One such means is using economic sanctions to pressure the government to change its policy. To this end New Profile welcomes and supports selective divestment aimed at divesting from companies that contribute to the continuation of the Occupation by supplying arms, other equipment, or staff.

We welcome all such endeavors, believing firmly that ending the occupation is not only to the benefit of the Palestinians but also necessary for the welfare of Israel, its youth, and future generations. Over 20,000 Israeli soldiers have died in its wars since 1948. Enough. It is time to beat our swords into ploughshares, to bring security to Israel by giving the Palestinians their freedom and recognizing their absolute right to exist, and to build a future for today’s Israeli youth and generations to come by creating a civilian society whose underpinnings are equality of gender and ethnicity and universal human rights.

New Profile: Movement for the Civilization of Israeli Society