Every (now) three years, as we approach the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, Lutherans will once again begin talking about Israel/Palestine. And each time, the same objection/question will surely arise: “Do we really need to talk about this again?
It’s actually a good question and sadly, we DO need to talk about it AGAIN.
• The military occupation is now approaching its 50th year, with no signs of withdrawal to internationally recognized boarders;
• Because our Lutheran sisters and brothers and the Lutheran World Federation and their collective ministries in this region are directly (and very negatively) impacted by the occupation;
• Because Christian leaders, including Lutheran ones, have explicitly asked for our help in 2009, documented here, and we have not responded in any meaningful way;
• Because the U.S. government (that is, you and I), U.S. industry and U.S. organizations all fund the occupation;
• Because Christianity is disappearing from the land where Jesus walked;
• Because the occupation harms people of all faiths: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Druze or people of no faith.
Yes, we still need to talk about this.
For decades, the State of Israel has been building what are euphemistically called “settlements” in the occupied West Bank. Because invasion forces cannot transfer their own population into occupied military areas under the Geneva Convention, these settlements are often referred to as “illegal settlements”.
Because of their illegality and because they represent a significant obstacle to peace, the U.S. has been calling upon the State of Israel to halt settlement building since the 1970s. However, because the State of Israel sees their bargaining position as only improving by transferring Israeli citizens to the West Bank, and because the U.S. imposes no visible penalties or disincentives for doing so, the settlement activity continues and even accelerates.
More recently though, settlement activity has been accelerating, resulting in the destruction of more Palestinian homes and businesses and an even greater displacement of the Palestinian population.
B’tzelem, the Israeli human rights organization, has documented this acceleration here.
The more settlements and settlers, the less interest the State of Israel has in pursuing a peace agreement and the less chance there will be for an operable peace agreement between the Palestinians and the State of Israel.
Isaiah 58 is a group of concerned ELCA Lutherans who support justice for those living under military occupation in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. We urge the ELCA to take a more active role in assisting our neighbors in need in this part of the world, including our Lutheran sisters and brothers who live and minister there.
Isaiah 58 is also a passage from the Hebrew Bible that speaks about aligning our actions with our religious claims.
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday (Is. 58:6-10).