Q: There are plenty of other governments that abuse human rights in the region, why do some people seem to be so focused on the particular human rights abuses of the State of Israel?
A: There are a number of reasons ELCA Lutherans have focused on this issue in the past and will continue to do so as long as the Israeli Occupation persists. One of the most obvious reasons is the significant Lutheran presence in the Holy Land through the various ministries of the Lutheran World Federation (primarily Victoria Augusta Hospital) in occupied East Jerusalem and of the Lutheran churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). By imposing numerous restrictions, including restricting freedom of movement and worship, the Israeli Occupation substantially controls what these ministries can and cannot undertake.
Further, in 2009, these churches, along with other Christians living under Israeli Occupation, have pleaded for our assistance via actions of non-violent resistance to the Israeli Occupation in what is know as “Kairos Palestine” or sometimes “the Kairos Document.” Although the ELCA long ago publicly called for an end to the occupation and a halt to settlement building, the situation for Palestinian Christians and all Palestinians has only worsened significantly since 2009. Clearly, additional steps beyond those already undertaken by the ELCA are necessary.
Another important element is that U.S. government funding and the sale of military technology by U.S. companies play a vital important role in perpetuating the Israeli Occupation. The bulk of U.S. total foreign military aid goes to the State of Israel, and is on the verge of being increased substantially. The reason we focus on this particular set of human rights abuses in the U.S. is due to the fact that these abuses are enabled and funded by U.S. citizens and corporations and carried out in our names.
Finally, the historic Christian presence in the land we call Holy is significantly threatened by the Israeli Occupation.
Q: Why do ELCA Resolutions target only the human rights abuses of the State of Israel?
ELCA resolutions C1 and C2, as currently framed, focus on the actions of the U.S. Federal Government and ELCA investing. The resolutions denounce profiting from the suffering of those under occupation or suffering human rights abuses anywhere in the world, not just in the Middle East.
Q: What do people mean when they speak about the Israeli Occupation?
A: In 1967, the Israeli military occupied areas known as the West Bank (the western bank of the Jordan river), Gaza (a strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea), the Golan Heights and the eastern part of the City of Jerusalem, including what it commonly referred to as the Old City. Now, nearly 50 years later, the inhabitants at the time of the occupation still live under military rule, without freedom of movement, with restrictions on religious expression, and without any sort of rights of a citizen of a nation or judicial due process as we would think of it in the U.S. For example, arrest and imprisonment without trial and seizure of real estate and personal property by the Israeli military and government are commonplace.
Q: What is a “settlement”?
A: The term “settlement” is a euphemism describing the seizure of land by the Israeli government in the occupied West Bank and upon which houses and condominiums are constructed. Ultimately, these new structures are occupied by Jewish Israeli citizens, often with quite significant economic incentives.
The United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice have declared such construction illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, an international agreement to which the State of Israel is a signatory.
Q: Doesn’t the Bible promise the occupied territories to the Jews?
A: Although one should question the wisdom of using the Bible to establish ownership of real estate using modern models of land title, the Bible actually promises the land to all of Abram’s offspring (Gen. 13:15), not to just one small subset of Israelites. Abram/Abraham had eight sons (Gen 16:15; 21:15; 25:1-2).