Israel, Occupation, Apartheid: Several Articles

From the Theology of the Vineyard:

Authentic Judaism: Ethan Buckner

June 28, 2017
Kudos to that indefatigable rabbi Michael Lerner the editor of Tikkun Magazine for putting out a 50th anniversary edition of the beginning of occupation. There are many excellent articles from different angles, including some from the victims themselves, the long-suffering and abused Palestinians.

There was one however in particular which inspired me and made me aware that prophetic witness is never lost. It ripples out and if it is a holy spark, it will light up other lives.
Ethan Buckner the author of this article entitled Why My Jewishness Compels me to Stand for Justice in Palestinei. Young Buckner s one of those holy Jewish sparks whose faith is real. He probably never heard of Elmer Berger and those rabbis who early on saw the harmful effects Zionism would have on the ancient biblical faith but in a sense his Judaism which “compels him to stand for Justice” is alive and well because of those rabbis who in 1942 said “no Judaism is not Zionism.”

Raised in a conservative Jewish community in Minnetonka, Minnesota Buckner belongs to one of those groups (If Not Now ( which have sprung up in the past few years, most probably because of the visceral disgust of the mass murders in Gaza in 2012 and 2014.
Like many young Jews, Buckner could not reconcile his Jewish upbringing and identity of tzedek (justice) and hesed (mercy) with the chauvinist and racist state that claimed to speak for all Jews. Buckner took the Groucho Marx cure (”Who do you believe, me or your eyes”).He went and saw for himself, something tribalist Jews and ahistorical Christian pilgrims never do. He joined the Center for Jewish Nonviolence and went to the Palestinian hell on earth, Hebron.There he ‘witnessed the horrors of occupation—the demolished homes, segregated roads, checkpoints, crops destroyed, water poisoned, daily verbal physical humiliations and relatives attacked by settlers.”
At the same time Buckner met young nonviolent Palestinians who inspired him with their resilience. Sadly he met fellow Jews “slinging hate speech” at him. He asked himself if he belonged to the same tradition.This vile Judaism “that embraces racism and violence in Israel and blind obedience in the United States is currently upheld by by mainstream Jewish institutions.”
In the end Buckner chose the other river ”a Judaism rooted in boundless and borderless which demands equity and justice for Palestinians.”

Costly solidarity part 2

June 22, 2017
Palestinian Christians call World Council of Churches
 and the ecumenical movement to ‘costly solidarity’
in this seemingly ‘impossible moment”
Our Call

“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (Justice), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”. (Matthew 5:10-11)

As we stand in front of this “impossible moment”, it gives us no pleasure to say that “we told you so” eight years ago when we declared the moment as a Kairos moment! We stand facing the impossible, but we have not lost hope, since as followers of the Risen One, we are the people of hope. However, we need you and we need you now more than ever. We need your costly solidarity. We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians. We urge you to hear our call and adopt the following:


1. That you call things as they are: recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law and in agreement of what a person like Desmond Tutu said and as the UN ESCWA report said: “Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people”. We are disturbed by the fact that States and churches are dealing with Israel as if the situation were normal, ignoring the reality of occupation, discrimination and daily death in the land. Just as churches united to end apartheid in South Africa and whereby the WCC played a courageous and pivotal prophetic and leadership role, we expect you to do the same!

2. That you unequivocally condemn the Balfour declaration as unjust, and that you demand from the UK that it asks forgiveness from the Palestinian people and compensates for the losses. We ask that churches and Christians to support the Palestinians in their request for justice. It was his infamous declaration, after all that laid the ground for the concept of an ethno-religious state – the very same thing our region is suffering today.

3. That you take a clear and the strongest theological stand against any theology or Christian group that justifies the occupation and privileges one nation over the other based on ethnicity or a covenant. We ask that you adopt and live the theology suggested by Kairos Palestine and that you organize conferences to bring awareness towards this end.

4. That you take a stand against religious extremism and against any attempt to create a religious state in our land or region. We ask that you support us in combating the foundations of extremism and that you seek our council when acting against religious extremism so that you do not jeopardize and harm our standing here.

5. That you revisit and challenge your religious dialogue partners, and that you are willing to even withdraw from the partnership if needed – if the occupation and injustices in Palestine and Israel are not challenged.

6. That you lead campaigns for church leaders and pilgrims to visit Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities on this side of the wall in cooperation with Palestinian tourist and pilgrimage agencies, in response to recent attempts by Israel. We ask that you publicly challenge any attempt by Israel or other Christians that discourage pilgrims from visiting Palestinian places.

7. That you defend our right and duty to resist the occupation creatively and nonviolently. We ask that you speak in support of economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation and go further to support sport, cultural and academic measures against Israel until it complies with international law and UN resolutions urging the ending of its occupation, Apartheid and discriminations, and accepts refugees to return to their home land and properties. This is our last peaceful resort. In response to Israel’s war on BDS, we ask that you intensify that measures.

Free P
8. That you create lobby groups in defense of Palestinian Christians. We ask that you publicly and legally challenge Christian organizations that discredit our work and legitimacy.

9. We therefore propose as a matter of the greatest urgency that you create a strategic program within WCC similar to the Program “To Combat Racism” to lead efforts to lobby, advocate and develop active programs towards justice and peace in Palestine and Israel and work on maintaining the presence of the Palestinian Christians through supporting their organizations, church work and peaceful efforts.

As faithful witnesses, we acknowledge, affirm and continue the long standing prophetic tradition, especially the one started by the Amman Call and articulated in the Kairos Palestine document. We fully grasp the pressure church leaders are facing here and abroad not to speak the truth, and it is because of this that we are raising this call.

Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. The current status-quo is unsustainable. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land. Our only hope as Christians comes from the fact that in Jerusalem, the city of God, and our city, there is an empty tomb, and Jesus Christ who triumphed over death and sin, brought to us and to all humanity, new life.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9)
12 June 2017

Costly solidarity in Palestine Pt.1

June 19, 2017
Palestinian Christians call World Council of Churches
Occ 17
and the ecumenical movement to ‘costly solidarity’
in this seemingly ‘impossible moment”
This will be part one of an evangelical wake up call to slumbering Christians in Canada, the USA and Europe.
Our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land have been waiting far too long for some tangible expression of solidarity.
The Canadian bishops have twiddled their thumbs as Palestine burns.Their limp abstractions about peace in Israel/Palestine is never followed up by any serious discipleship.

Like so many Catholic institutions and indeed other major Christian bodies seem immobilized by the predictable blowback of tribalists in the Jewish community and the biblical illiterates who espouse Christian Zionism.
When we discuss the Middle East we are neither pro-israel or pro-Palestine. We are simply pro-justiceJustice is a central concern of Jesus’ call of the reign of God. we need not be overly concerned about some negative criticism. The cross can never be denied.
2000 years ago Jesus warned us:


“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. Matt.23: 23, 24
Open letter from The National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine (NCCOP) to the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9)”
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. (Isa. 1:17)


As we meet this month in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, we are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unjust and unlawful Balfour declaration, intensified through the Nakba and the influx of refugees, followed by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza and the fragmentation of our people and our land through policies of isolation and confiscation of land, and the building of Jewish-only settlements and the Apartheid Wall.

We are still suffering because of one political declaration from a Western Empire, based on a twisted theological premise. Even some churches and few Christian leaders supported the establishment of the colonial state in our land, and totally ignored – even dehumanized – the nation, our people that had already existed here for centuries and paid the price for atrocities committed in Europe.

Hundred years later with thousands of lives lost, towns and villages razed from the face of the earth – though not our memory –, millions of refugees, thousands of homes demolished and continued incarceration of prisoners, our Nakba goes on.

Hundred years later and there is still no justice in our land!

Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression are the rule. Today, we stand in front of an impasse and we have reached a deadlock.

Despite all the promises, endless summits, UN resolutions, religious and lay leader’s callings – Palestinians are still yearning for their freedom and independence, and seeking justice and equality. Humanly speaking – we have reached the “moment of impossible”, as Emeritus Latin Patriarch Sabbah said recently:

Could it be that we have reached this “impossible moment” because things were built from the very beginning – a hundred years ago – on an unjust premise? Should we expect that such an unjust declaration will create anything but strife and destruction?
Today is also an opportunity to remember the Amman Call which was proclaimed ten years ago. We are thankful to those who stood with us back then in costly solidarity; those who stood for truth and justice. We are also concerned that ten years later the situation has been worsening on on the ground and still deteriorating. Like other initiatives advocating end of occupation, the Amman Call did not achieve its goals in building and achieving just peace and we must ask ourselves today – why?

We are also concerned by Israel’s systemic assault on Palestinian creative resistance, and on our partners worldwide who use this method to pressure Israel to end the occupation. Many new laws were issued in Israel and around the world to oppose this creative non-violent resistance unlawfully, and to stop all effort towards peace. Not only is this an attack on the freedom of conscience and speech but it is also an assault on our right and duty to resist evil with good. Israel is even now trying to prevent pilgrims from visiting Bethlehem – the city of Emmanuel!

While we are grateful for the ‘costly solidarity’ articulated in the Amman Call and exercised by many churches around the world, we are concerned that some churches have weakened their positions in the last ten years as a result of this manipulating pressure. Many still hide behind the cover of political neutrality, not wishing to offend their religious dialogue partners.

Finally, we meet in an environment of religious wars and persecution in our region. Religious extremism is on the rise, and religious minorities have paid a heavy and painful price. We thank you for your efforts towards the refugees and towards ending the conflicts in our region. We also thank you for your support of persecuted Christians in places like Iraq and Syria.

As we stand in front of this “impossible moment”, it gives us no pleasure to say that “we told you so” eight years ago when we declared the moment as a Kairos moment! We stand facing the impossible, but we have not lost hope, since as followers of the Risen One, we are the people of hope. However, we need you and we need you now more than ever. We need your costly solidarity. We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians. We urge you to hear our call.

Shonda is back!

June 16, 2017
Here we are now 50 years after the beginning of occupation  on June 5, 2017 protesting in front of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) where well-heeled Jewish Torontonians paid from $1000 to $5,000 to The Jerusalem Foundation of Canada to join the Mayor of Jerusalem to celebrate 50 years of military occupation of the Palestinian Territory of East Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights.
The evening is not without humour. The attendees are bummed out as they have to walk the fenced-off gauntlet of those vigilling. You can almost see smoke singing the kippahs of  many as they glare at the assemblage raining on their parade.
50 toronto

Then one of the longtime “Jews of Conscience” yells out the ultimate Yiddish put down: Shonda! I chuckle and try to explain it to a few people. The best I can come up with is this figurative translation: Shame on you, foolish ones, ermbarrassing Jewry in front of the goyim (Non-Jews).This is a scandal. Yiddish, music to my ears!
Then that Sunday  pick up the NY Times Magazine and there’s this article on Jared Kusgner Trump’s son–m-law as a slum lamdlord. The article  sent one jewish woman into orbit
Shoda is back!
How can Jared Kushner live with himself? As an observant Jew, he should be practicing tikkun olam, acts of kindness to perfect and repair the world. But he (through his legal and management agents) fails to repair his low-income rental properties, forcing his tenants to live with mold, leaks and vermin. When they move out, he hounds them for purported back payments. It’s a shonda, a shame, on Kushner for inflicting so much tsoris on people struggling to get by. I urge him to live up to the ideals of our faith.
Ellen Sweet, New York

Israel in deep denial

June 15, 2017
Denial is not a river in Egypt. It does describe modern day Israel.
Phil Weiss who began the indispensable blog Mondoweiss usually goes to Palestine rather than Israel to check things out and report on them. A rabbi I know calls Mondoweiss “hateful” as it is decidedly non-Zionist. This time Weiss stayed totally in Israel where 20% of the citizens are Palestinian—excuse me “Arabs”–in Israel Palestinians do not exist.
His report is instructive.
This political culture can be frightening. On Jerusalem Day I was in the crowd of Jews entering the Damascus Gate into the Old City and though I saw religious joy, I also saw intolerance and ethnocentrism at every hand. A group of religious men chanted in defiance of the Palestinians surrounding them, “The people of eternity are not afraid of a long path.” An Australian man swigging tequila told me, “Jerusalem is the soul of the Jewish people and it is our capital forever.”

Really, what does Jerusalem have to do with his life down under? Put another way, what kind of lout would brandish a liquor bottle in a militarily occupied Muslim Quarter of a country not his own? And look at the illegal Jewish settlers there. They’ve made a home in the Muslim quarter, and are passing out water.
The Aussie lout
A telling comment here:
Aside from the boorish Aussie lout,Weiss met Itmar who assured him,”There is no occupation,“Because god gave you the land?”
Then there was Yossi Gurvitz:

“All these people are living in denial, This is apartheid. David Ben Gurion warned about apartheid 50 years ago and it has come to pass.I tell anyone under 25 who is here: Flee.”  

A professional army, highly disciplined? Robots.

An Israeli woman police officer lost control with Palestinian women. Evidently this officer was tasked to handle Palestinian women. One woman she slapped when she did not immediately obey an order, two others she also abused. If there was anything like a professional occupying army her commanding officer would have told her to take a break and get out of there, But no; that behavior is condoned. All Israel supports it, more or less consciously. And of course, there is a legal double standard: the cops do nothing to stop the Jewish settlers saying Death to Arabs.

Of course there is always a price to be paid if you are a Jew of Conscience. Weiss:
None of my hosts even acknowledged a heroic action of Palestinian resistance during my visit, the prisoners’ hunger strike for better conditions. There is a complete blocking out of the real conditions of countless subjects of their government.
Phil Weiss like all dissidents has paid a price for his independent thinking, for his ongoing exposure in Israel/Palestine of the horrendous and too long suffering of Palestinians. He wrote that he had lost jobs for his opinions and even his own mother called him vile. This is very tough to take for anybody. How would a Toronto Jew exist as a Phil Weiss? Most, and I could name many high profile members of the community who know what’s going on, but totally evade the obvious. One needs to be absolutely  grounded to take such a prophetic position. Most simply cannot do it. Such a commitment demands major sacrifices in ones life.
Weiss’s conclusion is,” American Jews are all that can save Israel from the ideology that envelops it. That change won’t come from Israelis. I used pseudonyms for my four hosts, Anat, Allon, David, and Itamar, so as to protect their privacy.
Much gratitude to Mondoweiss

The messianic vision

June 13, 2017
Daniella Weiss, the voice of the the extreme most religious zealots settlers appeared on Israeli radio when Trump descended on Israel.
Evidently the Hebrew Scriptures are apparently a real estate deal.
She began by saying that Trump will bring no change because even Trump the great deal maker cannot undo what was agreed upon between God and the Jewish people when He promised “us” the Land of Israel. Then she stated that now there are 750,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria, and not one of them can or will ever be removed.
Such was the justification of the atheist Ben-Gurion in 1937 when asked by Sir Robert Peel what gave  Jews the right to all of Palestine Palestine, given that the Palestinians he interviewed all had land deeds from the Ottoman Empire. He then asked  the Jewish leader where he was from. Russia. Then the atheist leader simply held up up the Bible.Case closed.
“What about three million Palestinians?” Weiss  was asked and she made it clear that they are not part of the messianic vision that she holds.