This is a very tender and complicated matter.
I have Jewish friends who are feeling threatened from every side today. From the right, neo-Nazis and other hate groups continue to terrorize synagogues and Jewish Community Centers in the United States. And now the Jewish community is surely feeling assaulted – at least verbally – from the left.
My own denomination approved a committee resolution last week at our General Assembly which states the following:
Recognize that the government of Israel’s laws, policies, and practices regarding the Palestinian people fulfill the international legal definition of apartheid. Apartheid is legally defined as inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them This occurs in Israel/Palestine through:
- Establishing two sets of laws, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians, which give preferential treatment to Israeli Jews and oppressive treatment to Palestinians
- Expropriating Palestinian land and water for Jewish-only settlements.
- Denying the right to freedom of residence to Palestinians.
- Dividing the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the Palestinians.
- Denying Palestinians the right to a nationality.
Mine is not the first denomination to use the word “apartheid” but it deeply stings to many hearers. My denomination has a long history of partnering with Jewish neighbors both in the United States and in Israel, and yet we are called to speak truth.
When I criticize the harmful systems in my own country based on my religious beliefs, I do so because I believe the United States can do better. It doesn’t mean I hate my country.
When we criticize the harmful systems in Israel based on our religious beliefs, we do so because we believe Israel can do better. It doesn’t mean we hate Israel.
The God of the Abrahamic faiths is a God of justice and mercy and it’s very hard to call out our friends when we see and hear about unjust, merciless practices. I have visited the Holy Land several times and have seen with my own eyes the differences in the way Palestinians are treated compared to their Israeli siblings. I have Jewish friends who agree that Palestines must be treated with more compassion if there will ever be peace. Again, it’s tender and complicated.
Just as the United States is not a Christian nation and – when we are our patriotic best – we welcome all faiths, many of us also recognize Israel’s right to exist while – at the same time – supporting the Christians and Muslims who have lived in Palestine for thousands of years.
Only God can help us with these conflicts. But I refuse to not speak up when any nation oppresses their people (including my own.)