In June 2014 the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to divest from three companies doing business with Israel:in the Occupied Territories. Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard. The story hardly covered in our newspapers is a virtual primer on the role of the Christian church under advanced capitalism.
In 2003 a young solidarity worker from The United States Rachel Corrie was crushed to death in Gaza as she tried to prevent the razing of a Palestinian home The spotlight was directed to the manufacturer of the Israeli bulldozer that killed her. Israel had been buying and “weaponising” Caterpillar bulldozers then using them to demolish Palestinian homes, build settlements and the separation wall, clear land to build Jewish-only roads, uproot olive and fruit trees, and carry out military operations.
This gave impetus to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement(BDS) which helped to bring down the quintessential apartheid state South Africa. It is a tried nonviolent measure to help bring countries to their senses. South Africa sensing that it had become a universal pariah for its racist segregationist policies finally capitulated.
Nobody hated the country but disliked its awful policies. Remember at the time the Dutch Reformed Church was the voice of the the establishment. For decades it justified the unjustifiable. Once again bad theology produced bad practice. Many great Christians like Desmond Tutu, Beyers Naudé and the Catholic archbishop of Durban Denis Hurley distinguished themselves in this struggle.
The contemporary South African Catholic Church apparently gets it and supports the present BDS Movement. They have the lived experience to fall back on. They supported BDS when it happened. They see a striking parallel, not an exact replica for sure but the same demonic features in Israel:L dispossession, racism marginalization and humiliation. True biblical discipleship demands solidarity not weak-kneed sympathy. It demands pastoral planning and calls to action. Both are missing in Toronto and New York inter alios.
The Roman Catholic Church in North America is still too compromised, too timorous, too afraid of Jewish reaction to speak the prophetic word. Notice in the following statement supported by the Roman Catholic Church in South Africa the note of lamentation in the backing away from social justice. There are several reasons for this which I will address in future posts
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Challenging injustice through the courage of faith
The South African Christian community through the South African Council of Churches (SACC), South African Conference of Bishops of the Catholic Churches (SACBC) and other several ecumenical agencies join the other parts of the Church in the world to remember the Israeli/Palestinian people in their celebration of the 8th International Israeli Apartheid Week starting from the 5 -11 March.
Our participation in this Week is influenced highly by our own history of struggle and suffering in South Africa for over many decades when the values of justice, peace and love were suppressed in the interest of apartheid, division, exclusion and conflict. We found through the teachings of the Gospel how these values formed the core of Christ’s ministry.
It is only regrettable that the voice of the Church against injustice in our society is highly weakened today. It is an observation that South Africans have made with a desire now rekindled to resuscitate the voice of prophesy.
As this reflection is made on the life of our own nation in South Africa, many of you will remember that Israel remained the single supporter of apartheid when the rest of the world implemented economic sanctions, boycotts and divestments to force change in South Africa
Our brothers and sisters in Palestine have made a call in this regard, that we should question what kind of regime Israel is. And to this, after many debates and exchanges, the answer is that it shared and continues to share a similarity with the old South Africa in implementing apartheid where all non-Jews of Palestine are discriminated against, displaced of their land and homes, and subjected to refugee camps and a permanent state of violent military rule.
Today the Palestinians cry out to the world and to God, saying:
How long, O God, will they steal our livelihood? Oppress, imprison and humiliate our people? Deprive our children of their childhood? Indeed how long, God, will the multitudes of Christians of the world ignore the anguish of our Palestinian sisters and brothers and all of the oppressed?
From South Africa we are called to repent of this ignorance and oblivion we have shown. We are called to return to the way of truth, community in humanity and speak out from the podiums to the mountain tops. We are called to tell the truth and join in prayer, in the pursuit for justice, peace and love in their land.
In their Kairos Document, similar to the one South Africans put to the world in the 1980s, Palestinians say:
Our question to our brothers and sisters in the Churches today is: Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?
Israeli Apartheid Week
We urge all South Africans and the Church in South Africa to join in the Awareness Campaign that over 100 Universities in the world including those in our country are engaging in during what is called Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW)
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an annual international series of events (including rallies, lectures, cultural performances, film screenings and multimedia displays) held -by ordinary people- in cities, communities, churches and campuses across the globe.
IAW seeks to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to mobilize support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
Last year IAW was incredibly successful with over 90 cities worldwide, and 9 universities in South Africa, participating in the week’s events. We now urge churches in South Africa to join in collective intercession for Freedom in Palestine before the Israel Apartheid Week takes place in different parts of the World. On the 4th of March we will join in collective prayer to bring Palestine to God our Father.