Monday, 16 June 2014

A Palestinian conundrum

We would like non-violence to be the way.  Those who have a rocket lobbed at their village or who were bereaved by a suicide bomber want it.  Those who have ‘price-tag’ violence meted out on them or who were bereaved by a soldier’s bullet want it.  Pacifists want it and so do those who have Gospel aspirations yet are embroiled in being ready for war.

Yet somehow this wanting doesn’t quite establish the claim that those who have been engaged in terrorism should never be brought to negotiating tables or into government.  Such a claim might have kept members of the French Resistance, as much as some of the founding Ministers of the State of Israel, out of office post-War, and would have kept many in the ANC away from the new beginning in South Africa and many from Sinn Fein away from power sharing in Northern Ireland.

We heard Dr Yohanna Katanacho, a Palestinian Baptist theologian who was one of the authors of the Palestine Kairos document, speak at the weekend; we had heard him before speak in Jerusalem to Sabeel (the Palestinian Liberation Theology organisation).

In the last few weeks we had been involved locally in evenings - one showing the film ‘The Stones Cry Out’ about Palestinian Christians and one exploring the YMCA’s work in Jerusalem - and now we joined in the Friends of Sabeel UK’s annual day conference in Oxford.

He spoke of ‘loving you enemies’ not as some sort of emotional position but as a set of daily decisions about specific things.  He added that such an approach doesn’t duck issues of justice but says they must be pursued from within the logic of love.  He suggested that, where this was the case, there would be no need to view any Israeli or Palestinian as a threat but instead as a gift from God.

He spoke in particular of Christian ‘creative resistance’ to any evil or oppression (which he suggested was a positive take on the negative term ‘non-violence’).  He mentioned the reference to ‘DBS’ (‘disinvestment, boycott and sanctions’) in the Kairos document.  He suggested that, if the authors had known that this one brief reference would have got all the attention, it might have been left out.  It was just one example of what creative resistance to long-term occupation might mean.  What other creative options remain?

He didn’t mention David Cameron’s recent speech in the Knesset.  Cameron encouraged generous moves towards peace, inviting members to dream with him about the positive outcomes.  But he was openly critical of those who used repeated United Nations resolutions and those who advocated DBS as the ways to seek change, encouraging the members to disregard the legitimacy of either.  What creative options did he think this left?

And no, this isn’t to excuse kidnapping or to argue for violence instead.  It is to squirm in the face of the horrid conundrum facing those who wish to resist being occupied and gradually annexed and see some of their neighbours lash out in violence.  How can those who have used violent means in the past be accepted into genuine negotiations for peace and operations of peace if these were really on offer?  How can those who might even be tempted to use violent means in the future find genuine creative alternatives now?

The picture is another set of symbols of the passion and another picture from our recent visit to St Margaret's, Wispington.

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