Each year the English-speaking bishops visit the Holy Land, and on their return issue a communiqué. In 2017 they began, “For fifty years the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza have languished under occupation, violating the human dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis. ...As Bishops we implore Christians in our home countries to recognise our own responsibility for prayer, awareness and action.” (http://catholicnews.org.uk/hlc-final-communique-2017 )
Exploring how we can respond was one focus of the St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese’ Caritas, Justice and Peace commission, when we met in February. We had just heard how our country has been ill-served by media obstructing awareness, and propagating false values in relation to refugees. With exceptions, Israel and Palestine have also been misrepresented in the media for many years. In consequence, distinguishing fact and spin is difficult, especially those who have not visited.
This year, the Bishops wrote, “Along with other Palestinian Arab citizens and migrants living in Israel, many Christians find themselves systematically discriminated against and marginalised. Those we met expressed particular concern about the Nation State Law….the misery of occupation has been deepened by severe cuts to humanitarian funding by the US government.
...we commit ourselves through prayer, pilgrimage and practical solidarity...”
Some Jewish organisations in Israel and other countries are among those who have been calling Israel to a deeper expression of Judaism, with rights for all in the land. You can read the Nation State Law here:
In my visits to the West Bank, I have met Christians whose lives are dominated by settlers and Israeli forces through increasing violence, permits, checkpoints, settlements, roads only for Israelis, demolitions, control of water and imposed unpredictability. Even in this context, these Palestinians said, “We would not displace the settlers. Many have known nowhere else. We will not do to them what Israel tries to do to us. The occupation and the oppression must cease; there is land enough for us all.”
Christian Palestinians in 2009 spoke out in the Kairos Palestine document, “A Moment of Truth; A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.” As decades earlier in South Africa, the term Kairos conveys a faith-based hope of transformation in a desperate time, ripe for change. The document is a call for the international community and especially the churches, to act to bring about a just future for all in the land. It calls us to recognise and challenge theologies that claim to justify oppression and exclusion.
How can we help bring about justice for all in the Holy Land?
We can form a network by sharing knowledge, resources; planning events of awareness and solidarity in every parish. (contact email@example.com )
We can challenge the media, when they fail to report adequately continuing protests such as the “March of Return,” when Israeli forces shot Palestinian journalists, medics and children. (e.g. here https://pchrgaza.org/en/?p=11988);
We can write to politicians to call for action – as I was told by a Palestinian, “not to bring Israel to its knees but to its senses.”
We can shop to support Palestinians, see hadeel.org,
We can join Sabeel-Kairos, http://sabeel-kairos.org.uk
We can visit.
We can keep informed (e.g reading UN reports, https://www.ochaopt.org/reports)
We can read the Bishops’ communiques and do what they ask.
We must pray.