Middle East, apartheid and America: comment from World Methodist Council

 We are witnessing the state of Israel moving from its original ideals to a nation in which some people - particularly Arab-Palestinians - are treated as 'second class'. Why is the escalation of such extreme violence happening now? 1. We are seeing in the West Bank (occupied by Israel since 1967) the practice of apartheid in the year 2000. Outlawed in South Africa some years ago, it has become a way of life in Israel. Huge settlements are being built on Arab land for Jewish immigrants. New roads that bypass Palestinian communities are being constructed with freedom of movement for all Jewish people. Arab Palestinians are forced to carry pass cards, have license plates on their cars that identify them, and face Israeli checkpoints that restrict their movements. In America, we would call the lesser of these practices 'racial profiling'. 2. The uncritical support of Israel by the United States makes an already bad situation worse. This support is moderated by very occasional and mild rebukes, one being the fact that we (the US) 'abstained' from a recent UN vote condemning Israel, rather than casting a veto. To Palestinians, America wants to help 'keep the lid on' in the occupied West Bank and is not genuinely concerned to see any change. They have witnessed too many 'signing ceremonies' that have raised their hopes and then seen them swiftly dashed by inaction. They have lived under occupation for a third of a century, and things have got worse, rather than better. These people have no voice, no hope, no future. The illegal Jewish settlements have been built on virtually every high hill in the West Bank for the Palestinians to see every day. They know we have permitted the state of Israel to construct them. In the state of Israel, Arab-Palestinians living there from the time Israel was born in 1948 remain second-class citizens. The pot is now boiling over in both places - in Israel and the West Bank. This is something new for the state of Israel. Israeli helicopters attacking from the air are destroying what little infrastructure and new public buildings have been built in places like Jericho and Gaza - towns the Israelis, with great media coverage, returned to Palestinian control. Yes, there is rage! It is occurring because of a forced peace without righteousness! As I spoke with a colleague in Jerusalem, on Oct 12, a major Palestinian building was being destroyed in Gaza by Israeli fire. 'It is a massacre!' my friend said. The news that evening reported 36 deaths. Acts like these ignore the wisdom of our common scripture: 'Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.' (Proverbs 14:34) What can we do? As Americans, we can call upon our leaders, and especially those running our highest office, to be true to our highest American ideals in our dealings with both Israelis and Palestinians. In these days, our eyes have been opened to see that blind, uncritical support for either side is not the answer. If being a 'friend of Israel' and Israel's being 'our friend in the Middle East' requires us to deny what is most precious in our American dream - liberty and justice for all people - the price is too high for any American to pay and too high for the United States of America to pay, for it diminishes us both at home and in the eyes of the peoples of the world. It is time for us to earnestly pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for all the people - Jews, Muslims and especially the Palestinian Christians. Joe Hale, general secretary of the World Methodist Council, has visited Israel more than 35 times. His first trip was in 1955. Source: United Methodist News Service. Commentaries provided by United Methodist News Service do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of UMNS or the United Methodist Church.

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