For from the least to the greatest of them,
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace’,
when there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:13-14)
With the words of Jeremiah ringing in our ears, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship condemns the attacks by Hamas on civilian and military targets in Israel, and Israel’s attacks on civilian and military targets in Gaza. An eye for an eye leaves the entire Middle East blind to any hope for justice. Absent justice, there is no hope for peace.
We grieve with those who grieve in Israel and Gaza, and pray for a balm in Gilead amidst the present violence.
We call for peace when there is no peace, but do so remembering the prophet’s warnings about unjust gain and false dealing. For too many years, the Palestinian people have suffered from the “unjust gain” sought by the state of Israel and those who would profit from it. In Gaza, the Palestinian people have been living under a militarily enforced state of siege for more than 15 years. Two-thirds of the population of Gaza are refugees from the 1948 Nakba. (“Nakba” is Arabic that translates to English as “catastrophe,” and refers to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.)
Moreover, the people of Israel and Palestine continue to suffer under the false dealings of their leaders. The government of Israel has ignored the cries of the oppressed, created widows and orphans rather than caring for them, and turned its back on its Palestinian neighbors. It has also ignored United Nations resolutions for decades while imposing apartheid conditions on the Palestinian people. The first steps toward peace in Israel-Palestine cannot be taken until the walls, checkpoints, detainments, and settlements of apartheid come tumbling down. The systemic injustice imposed by the state of Israel and enforced by the violence of the Israel Defense Force upon the Palestinian people for generations must end.
We pray for a free Palestine, recognizing that such liberation is only possible with the end of Israel’s colonial occupation.
At the same time the people of Gaza deserve better leaders. Hamas has canceled elections, tortured and murdered opponents, jailed journalists, and enriched its leaders while expressing an utter lack of imagination of any nonviolent paths of resistance as the way to liberation for the people it claims to lead. Liberation for Palestinians will not come from an attack on a desert concert any more than security for Israelis will result from attacks on neighborhoods in Gaza.
We pray for a peaceful Israel, recognizing that such peace is only possible with the liberation of the Palestinian people.
The present violence cannot change the past and will not redeem the future.
War can never establish justice. War will never result in peace. “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way,” as A.J. Muste said.
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship restates our long-term commitment to justice in the Middle East and our call for an end to Israel’s apartheid practices. We also oppose the Biden Administration’s unconditional provision of additional arms to Israel, and the ongoing unconditional U.S. funding of Israel’s military. We condemn the support of Hamas from Iran and Russia, and other nations, and call again for the abolition of all state-sanctioned violence.
The bloody images of broken bodies in Israel and in Gaza seem designed to drain all hope for peace and to inspire revenge fantasies of redemptive violence. Above all else, the myth of redemptive violence serves the interests of weapons manufacturers and the military-industrial complex in the United States and around the world. Against the cacophony of missiles and gunfire, is it possible to hear a word of peace?
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in 1934, amidst the rise of fascism in Germany, “The hour is late. The world is choked with weapons, and dreadful is the distrust. … For what are we waiting? … We want to give the world a whole word, not a half word—a courageous word, a Christian word.”
The word that PPF offers to the world is the age-old invitation to study war no more, and the renewed commitment to engage nonviolent resistance to injustice. In particular, we renew our call to follow the invitation of Palestinian civil society leadership to engage the nonviolent strategies of boycotts and divestment.
We affirm that the way to peace “requires learning and practicing nonviolent methods for resisting aggression and injustice. These requirements flow from the nonviolent life of Jesus Christ and from the scriptural affirmation that God is love.” We pray that the light of that love will guide our feet in the way of peace.
Acknowledging our own complicity in the injustice and violence of the world, nevertheless:
“We follow Jesus of Nazareth, the Prince of Peace.
We are a people of peace, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
We say “no” to war, for war has no power to save us.
We strive to embody the command to love God and neighbor.”