Urgent! Bethlehem in danger!

Dear Kairos friends around the world. The last weeks have been amazingly busy for Kairos Palestine. In our direct neighborhood, the valley of Cremisan, the  Israeli army is building facts on the ground. The legal battles going on for years couldn't stop the construction of a new part of the Apartheid Wall which will risk the existence of over 50 Palestinian-Christian families. We need your support and a broad international response condemning the further construction of the wall and asking to immediately stop ongoing land confiscation, wall building and settlement extensions. Otherwise, these illegal actions will lead to the isolation of the Bethlehem area from the rest of the West Bank. Israeli Occupation Forces also destroyed three houses in the nearby town of Al-Walajeh, a town that has suffered from the wall construction already, and now  their homes get demolished.
The good news is that  the global BDS movement is gaining more and more influence in challenging Israeli policies of settlement expansion and making profit out of the occupation. Several important achievements have been made in the last months. 
Just after (Catholic and Lutheran) Easter, Kairos staff participated in a workshop on Advocacy for Peace. The Middle Eastern Council of Churches invited us to Lebanon, together with over 40 faith-based organizations and churches operating in the Middle East, to develop a joint advocacy strategy for the Middle Eastern region. For the first time, churches of the region took joint action towards peace in the Middle East. One focus of the strategy will be the occupation of Palestine.
These are only a few of the developments at Kairos, more can be found in this newsletter. We're looking forward to your comments, our joint actions and do have hope, that our common nonviolent resistance will contribute to a just peace in Palestine and Israel!   

Ethnic Cleansing in Cremisan - Kairos Call to Action
Towards a common Advocacy for Peace
Atlanta summit: Pursuing Peace
Nonviolence at its best - BDS wins!
Home Demolitions continue in Walajeh
Giving youth a voice: Kairos Ambassadors
Nonviolence Conference Rome
Towards a common Advocay for Peace Strategy - WCC Workshop in Lebanon
The refugee crisis in Lebanon and Jordan, the civil war in Syria and Iraq, the occupation of Palestine and religious extremism are  complex topics which keep the region on tenterhooks. Kairos Palestine recently participated in a regional workshop in Lebanon to develop an ecumenical strategy on Advocacy for Peace. The focus was on peace capacities and  the challenges faced by  the churches in the region. 

The initiative came from the UN-office of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Middle East Council of Churches (MCC) who invited a broad alliance of national, regional and international actors to develop an action plan which will coordinate the  advocacy work of churches in the Middle East and make our individual efforts more effective. We discussed how the global church could further influence political change and support initiatives for a just peace.  The participants developed a strategy which will promote a common vision of an inclusive peace process both on the regional and international level. 
The next step is finalizing the draft action plan which will include concrete actions and advocacy tools for a common, coordinated advocacy strategy that will  strengthen civil capacity in the region.

Nonviolence at its best - BDS is winning!

Kairos Palestine supports the struggle of the Palestinian people through the global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)  because we believe it is a just, nonviolent and peaceful means of resistance. We are convinced that this is a way to put pressure on the Israeli government to end its occupation, to respect international law, honour human rights and work towards a genuine and just peace.
The last months have been extremely successful for the BDS movement. More and more people realize that economic measures are probably the most successful way of resisting the occupation. How effective the boycott movement has become is shown in the Anti-BDS campaign itself. The first ever anti-BDS conference in Israel brought together Israeli politicians, including Israeli President Rivlin, to show their commitment to the fight against boycotts. International pressure has resulted in Israeli companies working inside 1967-Palestine, like the Dead Sea cosmetic producer AHAVA, Sodastream, and Teva Pharmaceuticals, leaving the illegal Israeli settlements. The world more and more understands that BDS is something everyone can do to support the Palestinian resistance against the illegal and unjust Israeli occupation of Palestine. Here are just a few example of recent developments:

The last months have been extremely successful for the BDS movement. More and more people realize that economic measures are probably the most successful way of resisting the evil of occupation. How effective the boycott movement really is has been shown in the Anti-BDS campaign itself. The first ever anti-BDS conference in Israel brought together Israeli politicians and even Israeli President Rivlin to show their commitment to the fight against boycotts. It is by these kind of actions, and ongoing demonizing of PM Benjamin Netanjahu, that the BDS topic is getting more and more famous in Israel thus generating even more pressure from the international community. Especially Israeli companies working Inside 1967-Palestine, like the dead sea cosmetic producer AHAVA, Sodastream, and Teva Pharmaceuticals, are more and more leaving the illegal settlements due to boycott calls from around the world. By doing so, the world more and more understands, that BDS is actually something everyone can do in order to support the Palestinian resistance against the illegal and unjust Israeli occupation of Palestine. Here are just a few example of recent developments:
  • During their National Gathering on April 8-10 in St. Louis, The Alliance of Baptists affirmed the use of nonviolent boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) strategies and comprehensive education and advocacy programmes to end the 49-year Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land. The Justice in Palestine and Israel Community presented the statement claiming to promote the call of Kairos Palestine. 
  • The Unitarian Universalists recently published an online article about UUJME’s proposed General Assembly (GA) business resolution, which asks the UUA to divest from five corporations complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land (March 28th UU World online). The article also reveals that the UUA is divesting from four of the five corporations named in the proposed resolution Caterpillar, HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Motorola Solutions.
  • Illinois becomes first US state to list companies banned for business due to BDS.
  • Universities: the Doctoral Students’ Council at the City University of New York passed a resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israel, the Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) has voted to endorse the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and students at the University of Liverpool have voted to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, in a significant victory for Palestinian solidarity campaigners.
  • The Dutch party D66 votes for sanctions on Israel - for the first time a Dutch political party has expressed its support for sanctions against Israel over the country’s ongoing violation of Article 2 of the EU-Israel agreement, which conditions trade privileges on respect for basic human rights.
  • BDS also managed to convince organizers of the Seoul Human Rights Film Festival to reject the participation of an Israeli film in the event.
  • And in Brazil, the Bahia province cancels a cooperation agreement with Israel’s Mekorot Water Company.
Attention! Ethnic Cleansing!
In the Cremisan Valley, which is next to the towns of Beit Jala and Bethlehem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Israeli Ministry for “Defense” has started the construction of the Annexation Wall on the lands owned by 58 Palestinian, Christian families, close to a monastery and its sister convent. This construction was preceded last year by  the confiscation of these private lands and the uprooting of dozens of centuries old olive trees.  The Cremisan Case is just one example of the Israeli strategy of annexing as much Palestinian land as possible while evicting Christian and Muslim Palestinians under the excuse of security measures.
Despite various international interventions and a pending appeal by the families in Beit Jala, the Israeli authorities started building facts on the ground endangering the basic livelihood of 58 Palestinian Christian Land owners and their families in addition to denying them free access to their agricultural fields. To  date, 3500 dunums of land (approx. 350 hectares) is being confiscated from the Beit Jala municipal area. Palestinian human rights organizations, The Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem (ARIJ) and St. Yves claim that with the construction of the wall in this area, Israel seeks to develop corridors between the illegal settlements. In the Cremisan case, it seeks to link the settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo,  under the pretext of security. Once finalized, and after the ongoing expansion of the Tekoa settlement in the south, the Bethlehem region will be denied most of its land, the natural continuity between its towns and villages and any chance of development. These measures further contribute to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland or force them to live under dire social and economic conditions within their homeland.

The planned annexation wall in Cremisan
After years of legal battles, the legal recourse has almost been exhausted. All of the Israeli Supreme Court rulings have been politically biased and violate international law. The only option we Palestinians have is lobbying and we call on all people of faith and conscience to stand with all Palestinian in their demand for the implementation of international law.

At a time when the Palestinian Christian presence in the Holy Land is increasingly threatened by the occupation, we seek more pressure on the Israeli government to stop the eviction of Palestinian Christians from their lands denying them their resources and a normal life.
Kairos Palestine condemns in the strongest terms the construction of the Annexation Wall, the further confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources and demands accountability for all violations of international law.
Palestinians, Christians and Muslims alike, will resist as long as their rights are being denied.

Support these families in their non-violent struggle:
  • Respond to our Kairos Palestine call at to help us end the Occupation and continued injustice.
  • Write to your Church leaders to ensure they are aware that construction of the illegal Annexation Wall in the Cremisan valley is almost complete, urge them to speak out and lobby their politicians to act!
  • Write to your elected representatives and to your countries’ ambassadors to Israel asking for:
    • Supporting an immediate stop of the construction of the Annexation Wall through the Cremisan Valley
    • The European Union has issued a statement stating that they are “deeply concerned” about the relaunch of construction works in Beir Ouna and confirmed once more that the annexation wall is illegal. Pressure member states to react to this statement and force the State of Israel to respect International Law and the human rights of the Palestinian people! (the statement can be accessed here)
Youth Poll: Almost 80% of Palestinian youth are for nonviolence
A recent poll by the Jerusalem-based office of German Friedrich Ebert Foundation and JMCC shows that almost 80% chose a way of non-violent resistance to instigate positive political change, like being good and active citizen, joining demonstrations and participate in civil society/grassroot organizations. A majority (42,8%) is also supporting the two-state solution while 19,1% prefer a bi-national state. 
At the same time, 40% of youths in the West Bank and 66.6% in Gaza believe the current uprising is serving the Palestinian cause, half of the interviewed in the West Bank (47,4%) and a minority of 21,2% in Gaza oppose the knife attacks of the last months.
These numbers clearly show, how important it is to strengthen young people's attitude towards non-violence. These characteristics of the Palestinian youth are both promising but also challenging for the Kairos understanding of resistance, that's why Kairos has defined young people as a focus group for promoting the Kairos values of Faith, Hope and Love thus promoting a culture of life and resistance in the logic of non-violence and love. All results of the poll as well as the methodology can be found here.
Kairos Ambassadors: Giving young people a voice

On April 16th, 2016 Kairos Palestine organized a workshop for youth as part of the overall strategy to train and empower young Palestinian Christians as "Kairos Ambassadors". In the morning, Patriarch Emeritus, Michel Sabbach, started with a lecture on the very basic message of the Kairos document: How can we implement the idea of Kairos in our daily lives in which we are faced with challenges such as the occupation and the corresponding inhuman acts Palestinians face? He called for resistance, but a resistance which is based on humanity and seeing the image of God in everyone, even in an Israeli soldier at the checkpoint. 

The second session was about context, the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) presented facts and figures about Israeli settlements, access to water and the economic situation in Palestine. Even though Palestinians know these facts and figures through  facing daily oppression,  feedback from the audience showed that actually things are much worse than expected.

In the afternoon participants worked together in small groups to develop an action plan and strategies for Kairos Palestine's youth work. The day showed that Kairos is for everyone and that the young people can be change agents who share and promote a vision of a just peace and life with dignity in Palestine and Israel.
U.S., Palestinian churches lay groundwork for future collaboration to strengthen advocacy - Atlanta summit has been a success

Leaders of 24 churches,  including the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Global Ministries, gathered for two days of prayer and  discussion on  the ethical urgency for a just peace in Palestine-Israel, to express ecumenical unity in action towards a lasting political solution to the Israeli occupation, and to strengthen the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
The unprecedented summit, held at the Jimmy Carter Center April 19th – 20th , brought  together representatives from Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic churches from both the United States and Jerusalem. President Carter was also present and addressed the conference:  "We feel this is one of the most important meetings at the Carter Center this year.”
After two days of discussions, the participants outlined ways in which they can develop a more effective advocacy in the United States to keep alive the prospects of a two-state solution, based on the pre-1967 borders, and cease the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Suggested actions included: pilgrimages to the Palestinian territories for clergy, lay leaders and seminarians to understand the nature of the conflict, and coordinating the efforts of churches in both regions.
Two Kairos authors, Rev. Mitri Raheb and Yusuf Daher , participated in the conference, and contributed to the development of the summit document which refers to the Kairos Palestine document. The document is available online here.
Home Demolitions continue - for example in Al-Walajeh

(Home Demolition Al-Walajeh, credit Fee Schreier/ KURVE Wustrow)
As if the construction of the illegal wall isn't enough already, Israeli authorities demolished three homes in the Palestinian village of al-Walaja, a neighboring town of Cremisan and directly below the illegal settlement Har Gilo. Bulldozers accompanied by Israeli soldiers raided the village at approximately 4am on April 11th  and began demolishing a home with two units that have yet to be occupied, a family home of five, and a home of Mahmoud, a young man who just got engaged.

(Home Demolition Al-Walajeh, credit Fee Schreier/ KURVE Wustrow)

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNOCHA, 60 children were among those who lost their shelter. A total of 54 structures were razed to the ground on Thursday in the so-called Area C which encompasses more than sixty percent of the West Bank. UNOCHA added that many of the structures had been built by international donors following earlier demolitions. The Israeli Occupation Forces have intensified its home demolitions in recent months. The Israeli regime is at the same time constructing more settler units. The policy has drawn widespread international criticism. 

(The separation wall being built in al-Walaja, December 7, 2010, credit
Hundreds of people have lost their homes and entire communities are in danger of expulsion. Settler groups such as an organization called Regavim, along with people such as Knesset Member Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) have been putting pressure on the authorities to carry out the demolitions, whose entire purpose is to expel Palestinians from Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli civil and military control. The Jewish Home party’s formal plan is to annex Area C to Israel, leaving the rest of the Palestinians imprisoned in Areas A and B. Read more...
‘Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence”
From April 11th to April 14th, Kairos Palestine's Secretary General Hind Khoury participated in an international conference hosted by Pax Christi International on Nonviolence and Just Peace in the discourse of the Catholic Church at the Vatican. Here she is sharing some of her experiences with us:

It was with enthusiasm and pleasure that I participated in the conference of Pax Christi and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.  The conference seemed like a good opportunity to present the   Kairos Palestine (KP) document/call of Christian Palestinians as a promising tool of nonviolence launched in 2009 and to promote its official adoption by the Catholic Church entities working for Justice and Peace.
The conference included international partners and networks. Christian Palestinian voices were well represented through the participation of Father Dr. Jamal Khader, a Kairos co-author, Nora Carmi, a longtime and active former staff of KP, Rania Murra, the director of the Arab Educational Institute and a board member of Pax Christi.
The conference was useful not only through its professional papers and discussions but also participatory planning through valuable group discussions to reach common understandings and consensus on how should the Catholic Church proceed in the world today.

The Words of Pope Francis
Pope Francis addressed the conference through an official letter which presents a policy position at the hierarchy of the Vatican. The pope framed the work on creative nonviolence within the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which in addition to internal peace actually calls the church to engage with the broad context of people’s life.  The Pope called on Pax Christi to further pursue its aims of reconciliation, promotion of rights, the human, social, economic and political development, and full use of diplomacy and justice. The Pope, as did former Popes, commended the use of active nonviolence and called on the conference to seek and define the necessary tools.

Sharing Experiences
In an initial workshop on experience with nonviolence, I had the opportunity to present the strength of the Kairos Palestine movement as a tool of nonviolence among experiences from other countries.
I explained how in the current circumstances of the alarming impasse in the peace process, the failure of peace efforts and plans, the growing violence of the military occupation forces and settlers against the Palestinian people and their resources, the rising human cost and despair, the flagrant violation of international law and Palestinian human rights, and the impunity bestowed on the occupying power, the Kairos Palestine movement prescribes a road map to peace. It calls for the courageous and prophetic voice of the church and people of conscience, a narrative of truth, a culture of inclusion and gospel nonviolence.
As a tool of nonviolence, the document recognizes failures and responsibilities, it promotes a justice-driven and contextual theology, it emphasizes the importance of adherence to our Christian values especially that of the commandment of love, and it calls for nonviolent resistance. The main actions it propagates are the critical review of theologies that support occupation, the respect and implementation of international law and a culture of inclusion, support to Palestinian nonviolence through the world boycott movement and a pilgrimage of justice to ‘come and see’ to visit and speak to the oppressed. It calls for love as a main strategy of nonviolence including the ‘Love of enemies’ which calls for resistance to violence and evil in the logic of love to save the humanity of both the oppressed and the oppressor.
Kairos is more than an urgent call; it is also an opportunity for all Christians to act for peace. This urgency has been voiced by Pope Francis as he described the present conditions of “a World War in Installments”. These conditions  of unimaginable extremism and violence committed in the name of religion (Muslim, Jewish and Christian), a flagrant human cost, and a balance of power in favor of might and greed needs to be countered by all if we are not to fall deeper into more  violence and a world devoid of morality.
The conference papers and concluding statement
The conference papers argued mainly for the church to adopt ”just peace” policies rather than those of prevailing  “theories of Just War”.  A research was presented that showed that nonviolence is twice as effective as violent means in the struggle for causes of freedom and dignity.
The discussion was enriched with the shared experiences of courageous negotiations with armed actors in Uganda and Colombia, working to protect the Article 9, the peace clause in the Japanese Constitution, the Kairos Palestine movement as a means of nonviolence in Palestine, and countrywide peace education in the Philippines among others.
Debates were enriched with small group discussions to create consensus and participatory conclusions on what needs to be done and what to recommend to the Catholic Church.
The final statement/Appeal of the conference was surely broad but the principle it promotes serves the agenda of justice and peace through the promotion, pursuit and focus on tools of nonviolence. It rejects the use of the Word of God to justify violence and injustice; it rejects just war theory, and called on ethics that commit to human dignity. 
It calls on the Catholic Church to lift its prophetic voice and challenge unjust world powers, to integrate nonviolence into the life and teaching of the Church, and promote relevant practices and strategies to ensure concrete contribution of the Church to nonviolence.
The conference called for emphasis on a theology of justice and peace by emphasizing the right of all human being to a life of freedom and dignity.
The conference concluded by emphasizing the importance of its work to meet “a global epidemic of violence’ and committed to continue the collaboration with the Holy See and the global Church to advance Gospel nonviolence.

The context of the Middle East
Though the case of Palestine and the importance of Kairos Palestine basic premise, theology and call to action were very present in all the discussions and often supported by participants, it is my feeling that the final statement failed or avoided the direct reference to these issues. This may be discouraging but we feel privileged and hopeful by the Vatican recognition of the Palestinian State within the territories occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.
In the context of the Middle East, it is still our hope and prayer that, as a follow up to this conference, the Catholic Church, through Pax Christi International and the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, will decide to study and respond officially to the Kairos Palestine document which fits the theology called for in this conference.  We look forward to a fruitful debate on the premise of our call with the wider Catholic Church entities dealing with Justice and Peace question. The Christian Palestinians hope that the Church will launch a dialogue with them, and listen to the oppressed. Together we can not only contribute to justice and peace but also promote a Christianity that can help transform the world to become more fully human.

Copyright © Kairos Palestine 2016, All rights reserved.

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