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Apartheid and Israel

February 2010
The following article is written by Fr. Jack Sullivan, MM.

“Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.” (Harry Siegman, The Nation, Jan. 25, 2010)

While many still seek an end to this tragic, too long lasting conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians through a two-state solution, the facts on the ground seem to reveal a de facto, bi-national, one State of Israel. Even as discussion of the two-state solution continues, this State continues to expand into territory that could have been a future Palestine. This reality of one State, already experienced by the Palestinians, is being acknowledged by a growing number of Israelis, U.S. American Jews, people of Muslim countries, and by most of the Western world, but not by most citizens of Israel and of the United States.

The Palestinian population on the West Bank, in Gaza and East Jerusalem see themselves as oppressed and occupied, kept apart from the democratic freedom practiced by the citizens of Israel. They are restricted and oppressed by check points, barbed wire fences, separation walls, expanding settlements, closed roads, and arbitrary imprisonment, all enforced by the Israel military and security establishment. In the absence of a secure and viable State of Palestine, or of full democratic rights and responsibilities for the full population now under its control, Israel, in the eyes of most of the world, has become an apartheid State.

Prophetic voices in Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities in the United States and throughout the world are now responding to these “signs of the times” and calling for an ending of the oppression of the Palestinians through apartheid, home destruction and ethnic cleansing. Calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions are increasing. These prophetic voices are often repressed and muffled by intimidation and misinformation. Nevertheless people of faith are being challenged to see and investigate the facts on the ground, to verify these “facts” for themselves, rather than close their minds and hearts to these prophetic voices.

Leaders of these communities are being called to listen to their prophets, and in some cases to be prophets themselves. Most of these leaders have traditionally and uncritically sided with the policies and practices of the State of Israel, conscious of the Holocaust, and the history and continuing presence of anti-Semitism in this country and Europe. Some who have been attempting to pursue neutrality, without awareness of the present situation of the Palestinians, are now becoming aware that their pursuit of neutrality may in reality be a way of siding with the unjust and oppressive policies of successive Israeli governments.

The U.S. is the strongest, most faithful, and oftentimes the only supporter of the State of Israel. U.S. citizens, through their government, corporations and private generosity, have given economic, financial and military support to Israel. They are now beginning to ask for more accountability from Israel for this support. They are asking their elected officials realistic and specific questions, and are no longer willing to give uncritical support.

More attention is being given in the media, in national and state legislatures, and in churches, synagogues and mosques to policies and actions of the Israeli government now being seen by many as unjust, oppressive and violations of human rights and international law. The siege, invasion and continuing blockade of Gaza, and continuing settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank have shocked and angered many of Israel’s strongest supporters in the U.S. For these supporters of Israel, criticism is an expression of deep concern for the future of this State. They are no longer silent lest they be accused of being anti-Semitic, anti-Jew, or anti-Israel. They are beginning to speak out because they are pro Israel, pro Palestine, and pro peace.

The ancient and present prophets of Israel, Jesus Christ in his life and ministry, the prophets of Christianity and Islam always speak out for the oppressed; they speak to the oppressors and their supporters; they are speaking now for a future of peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians alike. They are telling us that God does take sides with those oppressed by injustice and violence. They are asking all to open their eyes to see, judge and act. Will they be heard and heeded? Will people of good will check for themselves the facts on the ground and the growing world opinion that Israel is at present an apartheid regime rather than a true democracy? The future of peace in the Middle East, the future of Israel hangs in the balance.

Suggested readings:

An Israeli in Palestine, by Jeff Halper, 2008
A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, Naim Stifan Ateek, 2008
Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, Mark Braverman, 2010

Is the two state solution in danger?, Haaretz, Jan. 23, 2010
I’ve changed my mind about the two state solution, The Guardian, Dec. 31, 2009


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