Common Global Ministries Board adopts statement on the situation in the Middle East
[The following statement was adopted by the Common Global Ministries Board of Directors at its fall meeting, held in Indianapolis, Indiana on Nov. 11-12, 2023.]
Five weeks ago on Oct.7, 2023, Hamas[*] launched thousands of missiles into Israel and broached the sealed Gaza border, attacking and murdering 1200 Israeli Jews in nearby communities, taking hostages along the way. October 7 was the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. This aggression is broadly viewed as the beginning of the latest cycle of war between Israel and the Palestinians, but its roots trace back decades.
In the last five weeks, the world has witnessed what has become a massive Israeli air bombardment and ground offensive on the Palestinian people in Gaza, including the small Christian community there. In that time, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed – of whom an estimated 68% are said to be women and children; more than 1.5 million Palestinians of the 2.3 million people of Gaza have been displaced from their homes and communities – many of whom were already refugees; and whole neighborhoods and areas in Gaza have been destroyed. The United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Mr. António Guterres, has described Gaza as a “graveyard for children.” Israel has intensified its ongoing blockade of Gaza, denying food, water, electricity, and fuel, resulting in a humanitarian crisis that has reached grave proportions. Hospitals no longer have fuel or medicine, and people have not been able to find safe spaces to avoid the Israeli onslaught. Not even overcrowded churches or mosques, schools or hospitals, or UN buildings are safe. At the same time, more than 1000 Palestinians in the West Bank have been forcibly displaced, according to the UN. Many others have been killed and more than 2400 have been injured. Israel has detained or arrested more than 2000 Palestinians without charges. Palestinians have not experienced this scale of calamity since the Nakba (“catastrophe”), when more than 400 Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed,and more than 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and dispossessed of their homes, land, and property during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
The Israeli blockade of Gaza has been in effect since 2007, during which minimal supplies have been permitted to enter, and in 2015 the UN forewarned that Gaza would be uninhabitable by 2020. Israel has waged military operations in Gaza in 2006, 2008-9, 2012, 2014, and 2021 in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, rocket attacks, and other acts by Hamas which, for its part, has cited Israeli occupation and blockade, Israel’s imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians, Israel’s violations of sacred spaces of worship such as al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and Israel’s regular raids of Palestinian communities in the West Bank as motivations for its resistance.
There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, either now or at any time.
As it has for a long time, the United States has not only been complicit but has enabled Israel politically and supported it materially in these weeks, with little apparent regard for the devastation of Palestinian life, which amounts to ethnic cleansing. The US prevented a UN Security Council resolution calling for a humanitarian pause, voted against “an immediate, permanent, and sustainable humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities” and ceasefire that was supported by 120 countries in the UN General Assembly, committed two aircraft carriers and a nuclear submarine to the eastern Mediterranean, and is preparing to approve more than $14 billion in military aid, in addition to the regular $3.8 billion it sends annually to Israel.
The Common Global Ministries Board of Directors, meeting in Indianapolis on Nov. 11-12, 2023, having remained attentive to the dire situation in Gaza and the realities experienced by partners of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ there:
- Insists that the current escalation end immediately, that relief supplies and humanitarian aid be provided in ample and sufficient amounts, that the Palestinian people of Gaza be protected from further Israeli military aggression, and that settler violence and Palestinian displacement in the West Bank and Jerusalem end;
- Calls upon the Biden Administration and Congress to support a ceasefire, a de-escalation, and restraint by all parties; to send no additional military aid or assistance; and to work diplomatically to bring a swift end to this crisis;
- Urges Israelis, Palestinians, and the international community to address the core issues including borders, Jerusalem, movement of people and goods, access to resources, refugee rights, settlements and settler violence, living conditions in Gaza, and occupation, respecting international law and resolutions, for without resolving these issues, injustice and violence – all of which are part of Israel’s apartheid policies and practices that underlie the ongoing Nakba experienced by Palestinians for more than three-quarters of a century – will only be perpetuated;
- Supports the immediate release of those who are being held with no cause – Israeli hostages and Palestinians – especially minors – who have been arrested and held without charge; and
- Encourages members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ to pray for a just peace, study the history and current issues, advocate with our governments for a change in policy and approach, and support our church partners in the Middle East, including those in Gaza, through the respective appeals issued in response to this crisis.
Our two churches have long sought a just resolution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine. The current escalation only reaffirms the necessity of such a lasting, durable, and just peace that affirms the rights, dignity, freedom, and equality of all the people there – Israeli and Palestinian; Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Druze – so that all may enjoy life in all its abundance.
[*] Hamas is an acronym in Arabic that stands for “Islamic Resistance Movement.” It is also an Arabic word that means “zeal.”