Monday, June 22, 2015

Building Bridges, Not Walls!

Dear Friend,
Your KUSA-W. MI Board continues to plan for the appearance of Abuna Chacour here in Holland/Zeeland, Thursday, September 17.

We will be seeking support from the HOPE College and Western Seminary community, area congregations and community activists.

Archbishop Elias Chacour has pioneered reconciliation among all inhabitants of the land, almost from the moment when his family's home was destroyed, along with their village, during the early stages of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.

His book BLOOD BROTHERS is still "must" reading for those wishing to know the kind of resistance KUSA champions.

This week's Christian Science Monitor highlights the story of Abu Awwad emphasizes that nonviolence is a means, not an end, and Palestinian rights have yet to be achieved.

Co-existence and Hope in the Heart of the Conflict

"... effective dialogue is the secure place for argument and deeper understanding. It is in this space that solutions can be built."

In our experience and our understanding, we know that violence is the product of inequality, fear and suffering. But more important than this - the lack of knowing each other - causes us to compete over our suffering and to fall again and again into the cycles of violence.

The Roots project draws Israelis and Palestinians who, despite living next to each other, are separated by walls of fear- not just fear of each other, but even of the price of peace. Without building trust, the suspicions between us will suffocate the political peace agreements.

In order to bring the two people's together, the project's outreach program includes monthly meetings between Israeli and Palestinian families, a women's group, work with school children, engaging local leaders, a summer camp, language learning, and cultural exchanges. In order to accommodate this wide variety of activities, a centrally-located site in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank is used as a convenient meeting area.

We know that there is great disagreement over many issues - over the facts of the past and even about the reality of the present; but we believe that effective dialogue is the secure place for argument and deeper understanding. It is in this space that solutions can be built.

The promise of peace means different things to our people - but the path to peace is common, and must be walked together.

"Putting a human face on the enemy assuages the hatred against an anonymous foe, and helps people to stop feeling a victim. "

The coordinators of the Roots project are Ali Abu Awwad, Shaul Judelman, and Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger. For general questions and inquiries about Roots, please feel free to contact them at

John for KairosUSA-West Michigan Community ()
From indifference to any truth; from cowardice that shrinks from new truth;
from laziness content with half truth; and from the arrogance that thinks it knows the whole truth,
O God of Truth, deliver us!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What is Truth?

Dear Friend,
Occasionally, one article epitomizes the issue in I/P.

Such an article came out over the weekend from B'Tselem, the Israeli-based human rights organization (that tracks the settlement movement which seeks to solidify the Occupation of ALL the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is convinced Israel has enemies everywhere, seeking to blacken Israel's name internationally. Here is what he has said according to the NY Times: JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Sunday that his country faced “an international campaign to blacken its name” based not on his policies toward the Palestinians but “connected to our very existence,” likening the mounting boycott movement to anti-Semitic “libels” of previous eras.

In pointing the finger outward, three fingers remain pointed at himself and the practices of exclusion by Likud, of the indigenous population. He wants us to believe that criticism of Israel has NOTHING to do with Israel policies, and EVERYTHING to do with irrational hatred of Jews because they are Jews. The man and his extreme right-wing administration is losing touch with reality and losing any remaining shred of credibility. In the so-called international community, here in the US, and even among a growing number of his own citizenry.

There seem to be no release values in the pressure cooker that is continuing to boil. We seem headed toward another explosion. Unstoppable force facing an immovable object is like the Large Hadron Collider (CERN) in Geneva. GENEVA (Reuters) - The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will start smashing particles together at unprecedented speed on Wednesday, churning out data for the first time in more than two years that scientists hope might help crack the mystery of "dark matter". . . .

Nobody knows quite what the LHC might reveal with its new particle collisions -- mini-versions of the Big Bang primordial blast that brought the universe into being 13.8 billion years ago -- but scientists hope it will produce evidence of what has been dubbed "new physics".

Instead of particles colliding, the leaders of Israel and the Arab Palestinians seem intent on having their conflicting narratives collide, and that, at great force, with no compromises. It's all or nothing. Nothing but Unconditional Surrender (WW II) will be acceptable.

We seem to want to establish the reality of "dark matter", that mysterious force that makes up as much as 96% of reality. We are revisiting Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. And yet, as Shakespeare has Cassius say in Julius Caesar: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,/ But in ourselves, that we are underlings Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141).

You need to know that Cody O'Rourke (Christian Peacemaker Teams) told many personal stories of how the children of Hebron are treated at the checkpoints, harassing them as they seek to go to school and make their way in and around Hebron, deep in the West Bank. Hebron, the ancient city of Abraham and Sarah, long a city inhabited by Arab Palestinians, but now claimed by a vanguard of Jewish settlers. Over 50 were present at First Presbyterian Church (Pastor Linda Knieriemen as host, along with Sarah Hamm and CPT) last Wednesday evening. Thank you Cody. Thank you Sarah. Thank you Pastor Knieriemen.

We are hosting Archbishop Elias Chacour this September 17. He has been in the vanguard of those seeking reconciliation among the people of the land: the new-comers and the ancient inhabitants of the land. Not an easy task. Put it down on your calendars, for the afternoon and evening sessions. Details are still being worked on.

With thanks to our emerging Board of Directors of KUSA - W. MI Community, JRK
Here comes the article by B'Tselem (also as an attachment). . . .

Israel’s Charade of Democracy
Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories is nearing the half­-century mark, and Israel’s new right-­wing government offers little hope of ending it.

Nevertheless, the new government promises something else of value: clarity. And with that clarity, the opportunity to challenge the prolonged lie of the occupation’s “temporary” status.

For if the occupation has become permanent in all but its name, what about the voting rights of Palestinians?
Two months ago, on election day in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel’s Arab citizens were flocking to the polls “in droves”— a clear effort to cast the voting of one­-fifth of Israel’s citizens as a danger to be counteracted. That undermined basic democratic principles, but it paled in contrast to the status of the Palestinian population living next door in territories under direct or indirect Israeli rule. They have no say at all in choosing the government of the occupying power that is in ultimate command of their fate.

If you look at all the land Israel controls between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, that area contains some 8.3 million Israelis and Palestinians of voting age. Roughly 30 percent — about 2.5 million — are Palestinians living outside Israel under varying degrees of Israeli control — in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They have some ability to elect Palestinian bodies with limited functions. But they are powerless to choose Israeli officials, who make the weightiest decisions affecting them. International humanitarian law does not grant a people living under temporary military occupation the right to vote for the institutions of the occupying power.

But “temporary” is the operative word. Military occupations are meant to have an end. And common sense says half a century is not “temporary.” Nevertheless, that is the basis for denying Palestinians their political rights: Their status is temporary, we are told, until a political agreement with Israel allows them to vote for sovereign Palestinian institutions.
Now the chances of that happening are more clear. On the eve of elections, Mr. Netanyahu promised that there would be no Palestinian state while he is in office. Does that mean nobody in the occupied territories has a meaningful vote?

No. In fact, some people do: Israeli settlers. In August 1970, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, discussed amending the Knesset Election Law, which stipulated that Israelis — with few exceptions like diplomats on duty abroad — had to be inside Israel to vote. The amendment sought to expand the exception to include Israelis “residing in the territories held by the Israel Defense Force.” In other words, Israeli settlers could vote for the Knesset from outside Israel; their Palestinian neighbors could not participate from anywhere.

In a Knesset session discussing the amendment before it passed, one legislator and peace activist, Uri Avnery, expressed a widely held belief that peace initiatives would soon make the amendment obsolete. He expressed the hope that “it won’t be long — a year, a year and a half, two at most — before the thing called ‘the held territories’ is no more, and the I.D.F. pulls back into Israel’s borders.”

More than four decades later, what has become obsolete is not the amendment, but rather the accuracy of a description of Knesset elections often heard here: general, national, direct, equal, confidential and proportional. How can elections be “general” when millions of people under Israel’s control for almost 50 years cannot take part in electing the institutions that hold sway over them?

Let’s face it. Only the first six of Israel’s parliamentary elections — those held before 1967 — were truly “general.” Even though the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel proper were under military rule inside its borders at the time, they could vote. Settlers now have voted in their communities in 14 Knesset elections. Over time, their numbers rose from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands. Yet one thing remained constant: Millions of Palestinians could not cast a meaningful vote, even as the voting of their settler neighbors — citizens of an occupying power — helped decide the fate of the disenfranchised.

To be sure, after the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, Palestinians in the occupied territories got to cast ballots for some institutions of their own. But Palestinian independence never came to pass, and the interim partial autonomy established in its stead underscored how “temporariness” is abused while ultimate control remains with Israel.

The Oslo Accords themselves were meant to be an interim arrangement, in effect for five years. The most recent Palestinian vote under them, in 2006, proved of little value to the Palestinians; the results were set aside after Hamas emerged as the winner in the new Palestinian parliament — whose autonomous powers in effect merely relieved Israel of responsibilities for infrastructure, health care and education.

In reality, the Palestinian Authority remains subject to the whims of the occupying power — as was demonstrated most recently when Israel froze (and then unfroze) the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues to it.

All this is shameful. And one of the occupation’s most shameful aspects is the democratic facade that obscures an undemocratic and oppressive reality. Israel’s use of military force against Palestinians is one variety of violence.
Its patronizing disregard for millions of subjects, while boasting of its own “celebration of democracy,” is violence of another kind — violence to history, reality and the truth. A day will come when this occupation ends.

It may end with one state, two states, or something else. That specific political choice is beyond the deeper question of human rights, as long as the option eventually chosen respects the human rights of all.

For now, the one choice we cannot make is to continue calling the current reality democratic and the occupation temporary. Clarity may be of value after all, if it helps bring the occupation’s end sooner.

Hagai El­-Ad is the executive director of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. A version of this op­-ed appears in print on June 1, 2015, in The International New York Times. © 2015 The New York Times Company

John for KairosUSA-West Michigan Community ()
From indifference to any truth; from cowardice that shrinks from new truth;
from laziness content with half truth; and from the arrogance that thinks it knows the whole truth,
O God of Truth, deliver us!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Christian Peacemaker Teams PRESENTS!

Dear Friend,

This coming Wed. May 27, 2015, we will hear from Cody O'Rourke and the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT). Learn what living under the Occupation feels like if you live in Hebron, the West Bank. At 1st Presbyterian Church, (659 State St, Holland, MI). 7:00 p.m!

Big News: We have booked Archbishop (Abuna) Elias Chacour as our presenter, Thursday, September 17 (a Thursday). Right here in Holland, MI. Abuna Chacour (of Blood Brothers fame) is one of the originators of reconciliation between Jews and Palestinian Arabs in the land of I/P. Your Board is working on two venues, 1) for the College and Seminary students (in the afternoon); and 2) an event for the Western Michigan community in the evening. Stay tuned.

Big News (#2): Your KUSA community now has an emerging Board of Directors. We are feeling our way forward, with collegiality, diversity of experiences, young and old, passionate about justice and love in addressing I/P.

We are moving toward articles of incorporation as a Not-For-Profit Corporation, changing the name of our community from KUSA - Hollland/Zeeland to Kairos USA - West Michigan Community.

Our evening with Daoud Nassar included multiple persons from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Grand Haven, South Haven, as well as persons from Holland and Zeeland. So, although based in Holland/Zeeland, our reach is to all of W. MI (and beyond).

Your Board of Directors continues to affirm the KUSA national movement, whose Executive Director, Mark Braverman, writes to all of us in this forwarded Pentecost newsletter.

We will be learning more about the KUSA document, a "Response" to the cry for help from our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters (and a "Call for Action").

I made a perfect nuisance of myself, again, in responding to Mr. Dunkelberger's screed in the Holland Sentinel. Forgive me for that. I'll try to keep quiet publicly. For a while at least. He addressed me personally. Many times. In public. I wanted to give him a response. In public. In responding, I was fully aware that his mind would not be changed. But hopefully there are others who have more of an open mind and really want to know "what's going on over there" and why the Zionist experiment is losing its luster. (If you want copies of 1) my first letter to the editor, 2) his response, and 3) my response, just ask me. I'll shot them right off.)

So take this as a personal invitation to join us at 1st Presbyterian Church this coming Wednesday, May 27, at 7:00 p.m., in the sanctuary. (With thanks to Sarah Hamm and Rev. Linda Knierieman). One of our goals as a KUSA community, is to lift up those who are making a difference in reconciling opposing persons and forces. We will not throw up our hands in resignation and defeatism. We are still in awe at the turn-out to the event with Daoud Nassar, who appeared via SKYPE and addressed us personally on April 30. There were 110 present for this event, even though it was announced he would not be able to appear in person.

We want to understand more and do more to truly address the issues and bring about resolution of long-standing problems and an end to the occupation and oppression of the indigenous people of the land. Please join us! Faithfully yours, JRK

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Gulf Summit and I/P

Dear Friend,

While I'm preparing my response to today's Sentinel op-ed, I thought I would put together some relevant material to put Obama's Gulf Summit into perspective, especially as it relates to our region. US Middle East policies are in flux.

With President Obama inviting leaders of the Gulf states to Washington today (May 13, 2015) and Camp David tomorrow, interest is heightened as to his views on US Middle East policy, and especially with regards to Israel/Palestine.

He was recently interviewed by Asharq Al-Awsat, a leading Arabic-language newspaper. This summit of Gulf State leaders is perhaps the most significant in the last 50 years. It is a far-ranging interview, covering Yemen, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. We are especially interested in what he says about I/P. Here are the relevant paragraphs:

Q: There was much appreciation for your initial efforts to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and have a two-state solution. And yet those efforts have been met by obstruction from various sides. Have you given up on reaching the two-state solution before the end of your presidency, and if not, how can you change the dynamic?

I will never give up on the hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and the United States will never stop working to realize that goal. As I said when I visited Ramallah two years ago, Palestinians deserve an end to the occupation and the daily indignities that come with it; they deserve to live in an independent, sovereign state, where they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity. And as I said in my speech to the Israeli people on that same trip, peace between Israelis and Palestinians is necessary, it is just, and it is possible. It is also in the national security interest of the United States. That’s why we’ve worked so hard over the years for a two-state solution and to develop innovative ways to address Israel’s security and Palestinian sovereignty needs.

With the breakdown of talks, simmering tension in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, last summer’s conflict in Gaza, and serious questions about overall commitment to a two-state outcome, it’s no secret that we now have a very difficult path forward. As a result, the United States is taking a hard look at our approach to the conflict.

We look to the new Israeli government and the Palestinians to demonstrate—through policies and actions—a genuine commitment to a two-state solution. Only then can trust be rebuilt and a cycle of escalation avoided. Addressing the lasting impact in Gaza of last summer’s conflict should also be central to any effort. Ultimately, the parties will need to address not just Gaza’s immediate humanitarian and reconstruction needs, but also core challenges to Gaza’s future within a two-state context, including reinvigorating Gaza’s connection with the West Bank and reestablishing strong commercial links with Israel and the global economy.

Here is now a lead article in today’s Haaretz newspaper (the leading “liberal” newspaper in Israel):

Despite Obama's demand, Netanyahu's coalition guidelines make no commitment to Palestinian state
Neither of Netanyahu's previous two governments made commitment to two states either, but Israel's international standing and the demands of the U.S. and Europe have changed the playing field.
By Barak Ravid | May 13, 2015 | 1:19 PM |
A document detailing the basic guidelines of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new coalition, presented Wednesday to the Knesset, bears no mention of the solution of "two states for two peoples" nor does it include any intention of establishing a Palestinian state.
The document includes a general statement alone according to which, "the government will advance the diplomatic process and will strive for a peace agreement with the Palestinians and with all of our neighbors."
The document also mentions that the government will push for a diplomatic peace process while preserving Israel's security and national historical interests. "If an agreement of this kind is reached, it will be brought for the approval of the cabinet and the Knesset, and if necessary, for a national referendum as well," the document on the coalition guidelines says.
The wording of the political clause in the document is similar to the wording used in Netanyahu's previous government in 2009 and 2013. Neither of those two government expressed commitment to a two-state solution either – mainly due to the opposition of many members of Likud and its coalition partners on the right. . . . .

Friends, here are my thoughts:
“Ending the Occupation” is a code phrase in Israel, for dismantling the Jewish/Israeli State. Israel, especially under the new Likud administration will not “stand for” it.

The Two-State solution has been dead at least since 1967, when Israel’s rulers decided against a “deal” to divide up the conquered territory with Palestinians, satisfying their quest for an independent state. After what happened in the Israeli War for Independence in 1948 (driving out the Palestinians), the Israelis can never trust the (possible) good intentions of the Palestinian people to co-exist with the Israeli interlopers.

It does appear that President Obama is going to hold Prime Minister Yetanyahu to his electioneering comment that Likud will never conclude a treaty granting Palestinian state-hood, “under his watch”.

Yet, Obama holds to the politically correct view that the “Two-State” solution is still the official view.
Many of us are strongly of the opinion that the way forward is to continue to press for a One State solution with liberty and justice for all the inhabitants of the land (and justice for the millions of refugees who were displaced by the Israeli Occupation).

The Separation Barrier continues to prevent previous human/interpersonal contact between ordinary Israelis and Palestinians, thus intensifying “us vs. them” adversarial relations. The immediate future is more and more bleak in my view. Hopefully, the logjam that intensifies will be released as a few of the logs (settlements, Palestinian disunity, popular apathy) are slowly removed.

Stay tuned for developments.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Daoud Nassar, Palestinian Farmer (Tent of Nations)

Dear Friend,
It is with deep sadness that we announce that Daoud Nassar, Palestinian Christian farmer, is not able to keep his appointment with us for Thursday, April 30 in Holland/Zeeland, MI, USA.

BUT, the KUSA leadership team (still forming!) has decided to GO AHEAD with both the 5:00 Benefactor Reception AND the 7:00 Main Event in the Chapel, at Christ Memorial Church.

"Benefactors" will hear directly from Bill Plitt, President of FOTONNA (Friends of Tent of Nations, North America), who (at 5:00) will explain in more detail why Daoud could not come and how we can support Daoud in his struggle to maintain his domain in the face of Israeli roadblocks and harassment. It is more important than ever to understand what drives the broken relationships between the Israeli settlers/occupiers and the native land-holders. Mike Spath, our partner from Fort Wayne's Indiana Center for Middle East Peace (ICMEP) will also be present.

In a hastily convened meeting at Western Seminary this morning, 7 of us (leaders) concluded it would NOT be wise to hold the Farmers Colloquy with Jeff Roessing and WTS students and agricultural enthusiasts, since Daoud's person was deemed essential to its success.

At 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. we will see a freshly made video from Daoud to us, as well as the Power Point presentation that Bill Plitt and Daoud would be giving even if Daoud were able to come. We will receive an inside glimpse of Tent of Nations and why and how it is an international demonstration of the nonviolent struggle to be part of the soon-to-be growing, pluralistic Israeli democracy with equal rights and responsibilities for all citizens. (We are a long way from this goal, but that IS the goal, according to many of us!)

For those of you who are still with me, here is a little bit more about the issue that keeps Daoud from traveling to four venues in the US Midwest: The Israeli territorial authorities have demanded that Daoud (and other area farmers) re-register their farms. He has done that by the April 21 deadline. BUT, there is a meeting next week, where aerial surveys will be examined to determine if any of the ancestral holdings should be classified as "State/Public Land" instead of personal property. So, the stakes are high for our friend and his friends. His presence was deemed to be paramount.

Please help us get this important word to any and all of your constituencies.

As Travis West (a professor at Western Seminary, and one of our "leaders") puts it so well: [In the light of these changes]: Bill [Plitt] and Mike [Spath] will be there to speak on behalf of Daoud, and that, given the events that are keeping Daoud in Palestine, [our] support and participation is even more critical now than ever.

Faithfully yours, for KUSA - Holland/Zeeland, I am, John Kleinheksel

Friday, April 3, 2015

Israeli Major General: "We Don't Do Gandhi Very Well"

Dear Friend,
We're between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I've been waiting for a full year to send you this powerful reminder of what our friends in Israel/Palestine are facing. Oppression is a harsh term. Occupation is a word that Israelis refuse to utter. For all his bluster about Iran, PM Netanyahu never mentions the Palestinians. Israel is a fear-based society, seeing threats to its survival at every turn.

Please read this article carefully. It's from Prism, put out by Eastern University (Tony Campolo, emeritus). Ron Sider from Evangelicals for Social Action knows the author of this piece, Ryan Beiler.

The "weakness" of Jesus' Way led to his persecution and execution. His resurrection is God's validation of his Way of forgiveness and persistence in nonviolent action to confront the excesses, the hypocrisy, the mendacity and cruelty of Empire.

Our friends, the Israelis and the Palestinians, need our support in bringing about justice, redress of grievances, equality of treatment and liberty with civil rights and the same law for all citizens of the land. JRK


Posted by Prism on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 ·


Story and photography by Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Mahmoud Al’aa Elddin spends most Friday afternoons in “dialogue” with the Israeli soldiers who invade his West Bank village of Al-Masara. Each week since 2006, Palestinian, international, and Israeli activists have attempted to march from Al-Masara to agricultural lands that will be cut off by the Israeli separation barrier if extended as planned. Armed only with a Palestinian flag, Al’aa Elddin faces a row of gun-toting, riot-shielded conscripts blocking the road.

Here, as with 85 percent of its route, the barrier would take more Palestinian land for Israeli settlements instead of separating the West Bank from Israel on the internationally recognized border, or Green Line. Both the barrier and the settlements are illegal under international law because Israel is building them on occupied Palestinian territory.

Many believe the barrier that is in place has stopped Palestinian suicide bombings, which ended in 2008. Between October 2000 and February 2008, these and other acts of violence killed 1,012 Israelis. During the same period Israelis killed 4,536 Palestinians. Most victims on both sides were noncombatant civilians. But even now, only two-thirds of the barrier’s planned route is complete. Large gaps, which could easily be infiltrated by would-be attackers, allow tens of thousands of unauthorized Palestinians to enter Jerusalem or Israel on a daily basis to find work. Even former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens told an Israeli newspaper, “It’s clear there is no connection between the wall and the cessation of attacks.”

“Some people think that this wall is just to protect the Israeli people for security,” says Al’aa Elddin. “But they don’t know at the same time this wall is dividing the land and separating families.”

To protest the barrier, several Palestinian villages started weekly demonstrations, including those documented in the films Budrus and the Oscar-nominated Five Broken Cameras. In these two cases, activism succeeded in moving the barrier closer to the Green Line, leaving more village land accessible for cultivation.

WEstbankMost of the organized protests are peaceful. But unaffiliated youth sometimes throw stones at the wall, jeeps, or soldiers. At the Al-Masara demonstration, there is almost never stone-throwing. “Peaceful resistance is important because there is no reason for the Israeli army to shoot,” says Al’aa Elddin. “And this will show who uses violence.”

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has reported on the army’s systematic “dispersal of demonstrations using force, even when demonstrators were not violent in any way.” In the last decade, the military has killed 15 protesters and injured scores more through unlawful use of tear gas projectiles, rubber-coated steel bullets, and live ammunition.

“We don’t do Gandhi very well,” admits Israeli Major-General Amos Gilad, according to a leaked US State Department cable. The same document describes how the military will “be more assertive in how it deals with these demonstrations, even demonstrations that appear peaceful.”

While the army has used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the Al-Masara demonstration, most weeks the marchers get very up-close and personal with the soldiers blocking the road. The ensuing “dialogue” embodies the problem often ignored by would-be peacemakers who recommend reconciliation without acknowledging the power disparity between Palestinians and their military occupiers. Those with greater power have little motivation to risk genuine conversation, or to change anything as a result.

“Just put your guns on the ground and come to our side if you want peace,” Al’aa Elddin tells one soldier. “We will welcome you, and we will drink coffee. We will discuss it, and we will find a solution.”

“We just want to put some keys in their mind just to open it and to think more as a person,” says activist Moath Al Lahham of Bethlehem. “Sometimes they don’t want to speak, they just want to stand and block the road. Some of them said, ’I don’t like it, but this is an order. I want to leave, but I don’t have the chance.’ And some of them said these words like a machine: ’It’s our land. God promised. You as a Palestinian, you shouldn’t be here. It’s just for Jews.”

20120914-palestine-0282Though none of these activists are Christians, their actions often embody the kind of radical reign-of-God subversion that Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount. What some dismiss as passivism in Christ’s commands to turn the other cheek, offer the cloak as well as the coat, and go the second mile (Matthew 5:29-31), others interpret as confronting the oppressor with one’s humanity. Activists have even offered the soldiers cups of tea, bites of birthday cake, and plates of pasta. Each gesture asserts the dignity of the host, while heaping hot coals (Romans 12) on the heads of uninvited guests.

“Just put your guns on the ground and come to our side if you want peace,” Al’aa Elddin tells one soldier. “We will welcome you, and we will drink coffee. We will discuss it, and we will find a solution.”

When asked about his response to this invitation, the soldier says in unaccented English, “I didn’t understand him.” When reminded that Al’aa Elddin was speaking English, the soldier says, “I didn’t listen.”

But these activists know their main audience lies beyond the row of riot shields. Even if a few soldiers’ hearts and minds are opened, a just peace will only come through pressure on an Israeli society content with the status quo. “I think in this peaceful demonstration, the important and the first thing is to make a change in the thinking of many people around the world,” says Al’aa Elddin. “I have the hope and I have the power inside me to continue. But in the same time I don’t have power like the Israeli occupation. They have the power; they have all the guns. But for me, my weapons and my power are more and more the international people and the Israeli people who come and stand by my side.”

“Our problem is not with the Israeli people,” says Al’aa Elddin. “Israeli people come, and they participate with us in our demonstration. The problem is with the Israeli army and the settlers who occupy the land, build the settlements, and use violence against Palestinians.”

According to Israeli activist Sahar Vardi, her main role is “simply to show solidarity, to convey the message that Palestinians are not alone in resisting the occupation.”

Other Jewish activists express a religious motivation. “The most important teaching in the Torah is that God stands with the oppressed and that God demands that we stand with the oppressed,” said Rabbi Brant Rosen, an activist with the US group Jewish Voice for Peace, at one week’s protest. “For Jews, it is a profound challenge for us because we need to look inside ourselves and understand the ways that we have become oppressors ourselves.”

Solidarity activists also leverage their presence and privilege against unjust structures. “The cost of getting arrested for an Israeli activist is much smaller than for a Palestinian activist for the same action,” says Vardi, who once physically blocked soldiers attempting to arrest a Palestinian boy.

20120518-palestine-0424While Israelis live under civil law, Palestinians like Al’aa Elddin live under the military rule of occupation. “Palestinian residents have no vested freedom of protest,” reports B’Tselem. “Even nonviolent resistance and civil protest involving peaceful assembly are forbidden.”

Many Palestinian activists have been imprisoned under false accusations of violence or charges of organizing “illegal demonstrations.” Al’aa Elddin once spent a week in Israeli prison, charged with assaulting an Israeli officer. Despite video evidence proving his innocence, the military court ordered him to pay 3,000 shekels for his release—more than five months’ wages for the average Palestinian.

Yet despite such risks, Mahmoud Al’aa Elddin remains committed to nonviolent activism: “I think that peace will not come by using violence. Peace will come by the nonviolent way, because violence never brings peace or freedom to any people.”
Ryan Rodrick Beiler is a service worker with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Palestine and Israel.
There is no PEACE without JUSTICE; there is no justice without LOVE.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kairos Holland/Zeeland, MI, USA: Meet the KUSA newsletter

Dear Friend of KairosUSA - Holland/Zeeland Community,

As you know, we are part of the KUSA (National) Community. Here is the most recent newsletter from our parent organization, and our Program Director, Mark Braverman.

It includes a message from our Fort Wayne partner, Mike Spath, whom many of you have met.

Our KUSA H/Z Community is planning on bringing Mr. Braverman to Holland, MI, to train others from the Midwest USA in the KUSA document/response to the Call for Help from our Palestinian brothers and sisters.

This winter, I'm hopeful of refreshing our understanding of that document in three consecutive weeks after the first of the year. Watch for the news. (Perhaps you were part of the HASP classes in October/November of 2012. We'll take a fresh look. KUSA communities are spring up all over the USA, from ecumenical and evangelical congregations and communities like Fort Wayne and Holland/Zeeland.

We are working closely with Western Theological Seminary here in Holland. Our friend Marlin (Sally) Vis will be taking 12 Western Seminary students (plus others) to I/P for 10 days beginning early in January. We hope they will be part of the training Mark will give on a full day of Saturday training in April, 2015, right at Western Seminary (@ College Avenue and 13th Street!)

This is such a crucial time for the Israelis (and Palestinians too). The present Likud-led government has broken up. New elections have been called for in March. The choice for Israelis is more of the same Nationalistic, Jewish ethnocracy; or opening up to more of a Democracy led by a coalition of Mr. Herzog and Ms. Livni. We are still a long way from equal rights for the 20% of Israelis who are Arab Palestinians, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) who have fled the country and are wanting to return to their homes and property, confiscated and colonized by the Jewish/Israeli State. The situation still looks very bleak and hopeless. Watch for a pick-up in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the years ahead.

Have a great New Year, everybody. JRK for FPI/KUSA-Holland/Zeeland Community