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Question: Israel/Palestine, is the situation like South Africa?, Would a Truth and Reconciliation Commission help? CPNN article: Justice South African Style
CPNN Administrator
Posted: Dec. 31 1999,17:00

This discussion question applies to the following articles:

Justice South African Style
Liberia Follows South Africa's Lead Toward A Peaceful Society
The Elders support Palestinian move to sign international treaties
Presbyterian General Assembly Votes 310-303 to Divest from Israeli Occupation
Anti-Apartheid Archbishop Tutu Calls Presbyterians to Back Divestment From Israeli Occupation
Sanctions against Israel: Round up from 2014
US: ​United Methodist Kairos Response Welcomes Pension Fund Exclusion and Divestment of Israeli Banks
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CPNN Administrator
Posted: June 03 2003,12:39

Do you see any similarities between  the situations in South Africa and Israel/Palestine?  If so is there hope that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission might be established in Israel/Palestine to deliver restorative justice?
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Guest
Posted: June 05 2003,16:22

Last year Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu spoke out eloquently on the subject of "Apartheid in the Holy Land"  Excerpts were carried by the Guardian and the entire speech was reprinted in the Church Times.  Here is part of what he said:

"In our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were Jewish people. They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones, fighting
injustice, oppression and evil. I have continued to feel strongly with the Jews. I am patron of a Holocaust centre in South Africa. I believe Israel has a right to secure borders.

What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to another people to guarantee its existence. I've been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.  

On one of my visits to the Holy Land I drove to a church with the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem. I could hear tears in his voice as he pointed to Jewish settlements. I thought of the desire of Israelis for security. But what of the Palestinians who have lost their land and homes?  

I have experienced Palestinians pointing to what were their homes, now occupied by Jewish Israelis. I was walking with Canon Naim Ateek (the head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Centre) in Jerusalem. He pointed and said: "Our home was over there. We were driven out of our home; it is now occupied by Israeli Jews."  

My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?  

Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide
bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won't let ambulances reach the injured.  

The military action of recent days, I predict with certainty, will not provide the security and peace Israelis want; it will only intensify the hatred.  

Israel has three options: revert to the previous stalemated situation; exterminate all Palestinians; or - I hope - to strive for peace based on justice, based on withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both with secure borders.  

We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition. If our madness could end as it did, it must be possible to do the same everywhere else in the world. If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land?"

We in the North need to listen to the voices from the South like that of Desmond Tutu.  While in Africa during my work for the United Nations, I was profoundly impressed by the traditions of justice in Africa that are in many ways superior to the Judeo-Christian-Muslim system of justice.  In Africa, perhaps because they had no monotheistic tradition, justice has always been achieved through dialogue and negotiation rather than by imposition from above.  The Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition of justice, based on one law from one god, lends itself to imposition by the powerful upon the weak.  It leads to systems based on punishment (witness the overflowing prisons of the United States) rather than systems based on truth and reconciliation.  It is no accident of history that the essential experience of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission came about in Africa.  The book by Desmond Tutu is worth reading for many reasons, one of which is to make us begin to question our own Northern concept of justice and to listen to other concepts like that of Africa.
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CPNN Administrator
Posted: July 28 2003,19:37

Since the above was written, CPNN has received an important report from the Middle East about a new Palestinian/Israeli peace initiative which includes plans for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission modeled on the one in South Africa.  See the report Israeli Activists Elude Roadblocks to meet Palestinians for Peace .
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CPNN Administrator
Posted: April 27 2014,23:51

Little has happened in the ten years since the above was written that has improved the situation for the Palestinian people under the oppressive control of Israel.

What has happened, however, is that the ultimate responsibility for the situation, which lies in the hands of the United States government, is beginning to weaken.

In a speech on Friday, April 25 to the Trilateral Commission, a non-governmental organisation which includes senior officials and experts from the US, Western Europe, Russia and Japan, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that "A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second class citizens - or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state."

Kerry's remarks, which reflect his frustration after a year of attempts to broker a new Israeli-Palestinian agreement, would seem to confirm the prediction of Johan Galtung that US support for Isarel will become increasingly burdensome, Israel will founder and US support for it will diminish.
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David Adams
Posted: June 21 2014,15:33

The following discussion concerning the Presbyterian divestment from companies aiding the Israeli occupation of Palestine was received from The Tikkun Daily.

Editor’s Note from Rabbi Michael Lerner: We invited the Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement and J Street, both of which have opposed the Presbyterian divestment resolution, to respond to those who support the Presbyterian resolution. Neither agreed to do so. Tikkun has sought to be a safe space in which both sides could present their thinking. But it’s hard to get the two sides in the Jewish world to sit together and discuss the issues, since anyone who supports even the very limited form of divestment proposed by the Presbyterians is, as J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami said recently in explaining his opposition to any form of Boycotts, Divestments or Sanctions, crossing “a red line” and hence, in the view of the Jewish establishment, automatically suspect of being anti-Semitic. We believe a public debate is a more healthy way to conduct this discussion, and so we are disappointed that neither J Street nor the Reform Movement accepted our invitation.

Presbyterian Divestment – A Jewish Perspective
by Cantor Michael Davis, Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council

The first time I wore a kippa and talit outside of a synagogue setting was four year ago outside a hotel in downtown Chicago overlooking the Chicago river. I was singing with a group of my colleagues, local Reform cantors, to protest the mistreatment of hotel workers. I had the privilege of getting to know worker leaders, edit a national clergy report into worker conditions and organize my fellow clergy in Chicago. This was an exciting time – we took over the lobby of a Hyatt hotel with a flashmob, met with senior executives, collaborated with Christian clergy, traveled to other cities and on and on. Last summer, four years after their last contract expired, the Hyatt workers finally won a fair labor contract from management.

The lessons I learned from this successful worker justice campaign have relevance for me in thinking about how to end Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank.

The lasting lesson this experience taught me was that in any dispute between two parties of disparate power, the more powerful party will object to the involvement of third parties. In the case of the Hyatt labor dispute, management argued that this should be resolved between management and labor; the public should stay out of it. Israel, is by far, the more powerful side in the Israel-Palestine conflict: militarily, financially, politically. In Israel’s case, American Jews are told that only the Israelis have the right to an opinion on the Palestinians. After all, their future is at stake not ours. Americans, including Jews, have been accused of anti-Semitism or being fellow travelers of Jew-haters. We are told to stay out of it.

Yet our involvement in Israel-Palestine as Jews and as Americans is necessary and valuable. In the case of Hyatt, management was clearly disturbed by the public’s engagement with the issue. Hyatt Corporation’s most senior executives devoted many hours to meetings with clergy – particularly rabbis – who supported the workers. In the case of Israel, the international movement speaking up for Palestinian human rights is of great concern to Israel.

In Detroit, in a couple of days, the Presbyterian General Assembly will debate divesting from three companies that are complicit in Israel’s military occupation and colonization of the West Bank.

I, an Israeli national who served three years in the IDF, and who has served the Jewish community in Chicago for over 20 years, support the right of our Presbyterian friends to freely explore their conscience on divesting from American companies that benefit from Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank. I will be at the Presbyterian General Assembly arguing for divestment. I believe, along with a growing number of Jews and Israelis that BDS is the best non-violent option to stop the downward spiral to inevitable violence. For Jews – and for Christians – divestment is a principled position. As a supporter of BDS myself, I know how much effort the mainstream Jewish community is putting into shutting down this debate and excluding BDS supporters from the Jewish community. I would challenge those who are trying to shut down the Presbyterian debate to show how the motives of those supporting divestment are anything less than honest. This is unworthy of us as Jews and particularly egregious when directed at our Christian neighbors.

First, we should note that under international and American law, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is illegal. Any business involved in the occupation is therefore illegal too. That alone should be enough to keep American companies away from the Occupation. The Israeli government argues that the occupation is necessary in order to keep Israel safe. How does building Jewish cities on stolen Palestinian land or the daily harassment and humiliation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians make Israelis more safe? All indications are that antagonizing Palestinians imperils Israeli lives.

But more importantly, for us as Americans and Jews, the argument itself is irrelevant. The law does not recognize Israel’s perceived self-interest as legitimate grounds for making another population suffer. Jewish tradition teaches the same lesson. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, we read of the education of the Prophet Jonah. Jonah was commanded by God to prophesy to the city of Nineveh: let them repent their evil ways and be saved. But Jonah boards a boat to escape that mission. Rashi on the first verse of the Book of Jonah explains Jonah’s thinking: “the non-Jews will likely repent. If I prophesy to them, they will turn to God. And so, I will have shown Israel in a poor light since the Jews do not heed the words of the prophets”. Jonah was willing to let a non-Jewish city be destroyed, fearing what saving them might mean for the Jews. The ancient rabbis selected this reading for Yom Kippur to teach us that even when saving others in immediate danger now may imperil Jews later, we must choose to save our fellow human beings. If that is the reason for the Occupation, then Jewish tradition rejects that argument.

Let us also remember that the Presbyterian resolution does not call for divestment from the State of Israel, from Israeli companies, from individual Israelis or even from Jewish-owned companies. Rather the resolution calls for divestment from three American multinationals implicated in documented human rights abuses.

The Presbyterian General Assembly will consider divestment from three companies: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

Caterpillar (CAT) sells heavy equipment used by the Israeli government in military and police actions to demolish Palestinian homes and agricultural lands. It also sells heavy equipment used in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements, roads solely used by illegal Israeli seIlers, and the construction of the Separation Wall extending across the 1967 “Green Line” into East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The number of outstanding demolition orders in East Jerusalem alone has been estimated at up to 20,000.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) provides biometric ID equipment to monitor only Palestinians at several checkpoints inside the West Bank. 2.4 million West Bank Palestinians are required to submit to lengthy waits as well as the mandatory biometric scanning, while Israelis and other passport holders transit without scanning or comparable delays. The biometric ID is also used to regulate residency rights of non-Jews in Jerusalem. Since 1967, Israel has revoked more than 14,000 Jerusalem residency cards, with 4,557 being revoked in 2008 alone. HPQ sells hardware to the Israeli Navy that enables it to maintain the ongoing naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. This blockade has included interdicting humanitarian supplies and attacking Palestinian fishermen.

Motorola Solutions (MSI) Motorola Solutions provided an integrated communications system, known as “Mountain Rose,” to the Israeli government which uses it for military communications. It also provided ruggedized cell phones to the Israeli army utilized in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The company also sold wide-area surveillance systems for installation in the illegal Israeli settlements.

Plainly put, corporate revenue is built on the back of Palestinian suffering. And Jewish tradition is clear in its rejection of ill-gained profits.

Caterpillar profits from the destruction of Palestinian homes and the uprooting of Palestinian orchards by supplying the armor-plated and weaponized bulldozers that are used for such demolition work. Destroying homes is not a Jewish value.

Motorola Solutions profits from many aspects of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including developing perimeter surveillance systems installed around dozens of Jewish- only settlements in the West Bank, built on Palestinian land. Defending stolen property is not a Jewish value.

Hewlett-Packard provides ongoing support and maintenance to a biometric ID system installed in Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank which deprive Palestinians of the freedom of movement in their own land, allows the Israeli military occupation to grant or deny special privileges to the civilians under its control, and denies residency rights to a number of nonJews in Jerusalem by virtue of not being Jewish. Discrimination and segregation are not Jewish values.

Christians, like Jews, have a special interest in what happens in the Holy Land and a special responsibility to its peoples. The Presbyterian Church should be free debate the issues on their merits without fear of being branded as anti-Semites or any of the other harsh responses that have been circulating recently in the Jewish community. Friends allow friends to have their own opinion and to freely discuss their ethical choices.

Let us show our Christian neighbors the same respect that we expect and enjoy from them. Hillel said: Love your neighbor as yourself, this is the whole Torah.



To Support Israelis Fighting The Occupation, Presbyterians Should Vote “YES” On Divestment
by M.J. Rosenberg

A number of people have written to ask if I support the motion before the Presbyterian Church to divest from three companies which produce machinery Israel uses to sustain the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. The companies are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

Why those three companies?

Caterpillar manufactures the bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes to make way for settlements. Hewlett-Packard supplies Israel with the hardware to maintain the blockade of Gaza and the software to enable Israel to segregate and separate Palestinians at West Bank checkpoints. Motorola provides the surveillance equipment used to monitor Palestinian civilians throughout the West Bank.

These three are to the occupation what Dow Chemical was to the U.S. war in Vietnam.

The Presbyterian Church, with some $9 billion in investment assets, is being asked to divest from all three companies.

Actually, I don’t understand why any religious group would invest in any of these companies in the first place. All three are members in good standing of the military industrial complex and have been involved in unsavory activities around the globe. But that argument is for another day.

Right now, the Presbyterian Church has the opportunity to say NO to the occupation in a tangible, concrete way. It has the opportunity to support Palestinians without harming Israelis. I can hardly imagine any progressive voting NO on this resolution, choosing big corporations over the people of both Palestine and Israel.

Don’t overlook the latter: the Israelis. There are hundreds of thousands, maybe a few million. good Israelis who are desperate for outside help to end the occupation. Due to the quirks of their political system, they are saddled with Binyamin Netanyahu and his coalition of religious extremists and settlers. Time after time, they have looked to the United States for help and, time after time, the Netanyahu government and its lobby have blocked the Obama administration from providing any.

This resolution provides hope.

For the record, I oppose the Boycott, Divestment & Sanction of Israel in general because I believe that the BDS approach targets all Israelis, not just the government and certainly not just the occupation. The Presbyterian resolution targets only the occupation which is fair and right. If I thought it was anti-Israel in any way, I would not support it. But I believe that being pro-Israel requires opposing the occupation.

This resolution is pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian and, above all, pro-peace. It must be approved. Voting “NO” is a vote for the occupation.
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