Naim Ateek: For such a time as this, what is required?
Reflection by the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, founder and director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem
[The following reflection was published by Rev. Ateek on July 4.]
For the last three months, approximately 200 Palestinian administrative detainees have been on a hunger strike to protest their detention without charge or trial.
On May 15, 2014, on Nakba day, a few weeks before the kidnapping of the three young Israelis, the Israeli army killed two Palestinian teenagers near Ramallah in cold blood.
On Monday evening, June 30, the Israeli army found the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers. On Tuesday morning, July 1, the Israeli army killed a 16 year old Palestinian in Jenin and some settlers tried to snatch a 9 year old boy in Beit Hanina, but he was rescued by his mother and some passersby. Early Wednesday morning July 2, settlers kidnapped a 17 year old boy from Shufat, killed him and burned his body. In addition, over the last two weeks over 10 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army some of them quite young and over 500 detained and hundreds injured.
We grieve with all the families – Palestinians and Israelis. We condemn the killings whether by the Israeli army, the unruly settlers, extremist Palestinians or unknown suspects. We uphold the sanctity of all human life Israeli as well as Palestinian, Jew as well as Muslim, Muslim as well as Christian.
For those who have eyes to see, all the killings that have taken place were senseless and the major culprit is the right-wing Israeli government. Its policy has been a total rejection of peace on the basis of the demands of international law. It refuses to share the land and accept a sovereign Palestinian state on only 22% of historic
Palestine that is willing to live in peace next to Israel. The government of Israel believes that it can turn back the wheels of history and create an ethnic/religious state. It believes that it can impose its will on the Palestinians because it possesses the military power and the technology that is needed. This cannot happen. It is on the wrong side of history. History itself is against it, not only the Palestinians. The future of the world is for multiethnic,
multiracial, and multireligious communities living together. History is for diversity and not for uniformity. Israel’s right wing government is the culprit. It is responsible; it is the offender. It is cheating the Israeli and Palestinian youths of life because it is charting an ethnic and racist course of history that is untenable.
The good people of Israel, Palestine, and the international community must put a stop to this madness. Long ago Jesus quoted the Psalmist saying, “The meek will inherit the land.” The meek are the people of the land and they are the Israelis and the Palestinians, but they are not the arrogant exclusivists of this world. The exclusivists will
eventually pass away and someday new leaders will emerge, an Israeli Abraham Lincoln, or an Israeli De Klerk who will lead Israel to peace based on sharing the land where every person – man and woman, Israeli and Palestinian – will live as equal citizens with human dignity.
We call on our Palestinian sisters and brothers to continue resisting every act of injustice with nonviolent action; our religious leaders, Muslim and Christian, to raise the prophetic voice against injustice and oppression; and the Palestinian Authority to remain steadfast in its commitment to a unified government.
If the Israeli government wants peace, it must be transformed. It needs to believe in the power of peace that is based on justice and equality. For such a time as this, Israeli leaders need the courage and the will to do the following:
- They need to realize that violence can only beget violence and that despair can only beget desperate actions. Therefore the state must stop the cycle of violence and the cycle of vengeance.
- They need to address the root causes of the problems: racist laws, the military occupation, and the illegal settlements.
- They need to stop all collective punishments, arbitrary killings, and extra judicial executions and let the rule of law take its due course. It is unjust to punish innocent persons for the actions of a suspected few.
- They need to work with the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority to find the resolution of the conflict on the basis of international law that will guarantee the needs of peace and security for both Israel and Palestine.
We lament the inaction of world leaders in the face of the entrenchment of the occupation. They need to realize that ultimately the resolution of the conflict requires outside intervention. World powers helped create the conflict and world powers must help resolve it.
For such a time as this, “He told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
*The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek is the founder and director of Global Ministries’ partner, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, located in Jerusalem.