Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Opinion

Divestment will help ease Palestinian suffering

The United Methodist Church is holding its General Conference in Tampa. One of the most important, and unfortunately controversial, resolutions to be taken up is the Palestinians' request for the world community to help them end the 44-year Israeli occupation.

We, a Jewish American, a Palestinian Muslim and a Palestinian Christian, support the Palestinians in their struggle for justice and freedom. We believe the Methodist Church's proposed resolution to divest from multinational companies profiting from the Israeli occupation will aid in ending Palestinian suffering.

Tragically, the Israeli occupation continues to strangle Palestinian society. Israeli political and religious leaders threaten Palestinians with transfer out of their homeland, enforce the occupation of the West Bank with incredible violence, and continue the naval blockade of Gaza which keeps the people there in dangerous deprivation. In the last 20 years, illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank have increased from 241,500 inhabitants to some 500,000, including East Jerusalem.

Israel's occupation practices impose severe hardships on residents. Palestinians routinely find themselves trapped by barriers and the Israeli separation wall — unable to visit family members, friends, schools, businesses and places of worship. Death, injury or arrest is a distinct possibility, even for nonviolent protesters demonstrating against home demolitions or land confiscation.

Palestinians, long denied freedom through negotiations with the Israeli government, have asked for the world to intervene in a humane and moral way to ensure that equality and justice are honored. Palestinian Christians issued the Kairos Palestine Document, "A Moment of Truth," in 2009 (Read the document in full at http://www.kairospalestine.ps/):

We, a group of Christian Palestinians, after prayer, reflection and an exchange of opinion, cry out from within the suffering in our country, under the Israeli occupation. … The cruel circumstances in which the Palestinian Church has lived and continues to live have required the Church to clarify her faith and to identify her vocation. … Today, we bear the strength of love rather than that of revenge, a culture of life rather than a culture of death.

The document asks the international community to implement nonviolent tactics, such as divestment, to end the occupation.

Similarly, we urge the Methodist Church to divest from multinational companies that support the Israeli occupation. Divestment is required if we are to press Israel to uphold equality for all people in Israel and Palestine. Such pressure is long overdue and urgently needed for Palestinians. In fact, we believe that pushing for an end to the occupation and equal rights for Palestinians is fully consistent with securing a safer and better region for Jewish Israelis as well.

Forty years ago most of the land in and around Bethlehem was owned and inhabited by Christians. Today, the majority of the land is held, patrolled and settled by Israelis. For thousands of years people traveled freely between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, located just 5 miles away. Now there is a wall separating the two holy cities. Thousands of people are separated from family, friends, work and religious sites on the other side. Under these conditions of occupation, Christians by the thousands are making the painful decision to leave the site of Jesus' birth and make a life elsewhere. (See a 60 Minutes report from Sunday at tinyurl.com/tbt-60minutes.)

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has asserted: "In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of nonviolent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime." This past summer in a Charlotte Observer column he noted "the apartheid perpetrated in the Holy Land" and encouraged "retirement giant" TIAA-CREF "to refuse to profit from oppression of a people, and thus to stand on the side of what is right: a safe, secure and peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis."

Likewise, we appeal to the delegates of the Methodist General Conference to vote in favor of divestment from Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard, so long as these companies profit from the mayhem in the Holy Land.

Michael Berg is a Jewish native of St. Louis who bakes bread and does environmental activism. Hala Abdelaziz is a Palestinian-American who lived in the West Bank from 1995-1999. Sandra Tamari is a Palestinian-American Quaker who lives outside St. Louis.

 
Comments

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trump’s risky move

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough County’s Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17