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Sabeel's Statement on 40 Years of the Israeli Occupation

Friday, June 1, 2007


How Long O Lord? – Enough is Enough
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,and You will not hear?

Or cry out to You, “Violence!" and You will not save?
Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble?
For destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.

So the law is weakened and justice never goes forth.

For the wicked surround the righteous, so justice is perverted.

Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded.

For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.
(Habakkuk 1:2-5)

As the prophet so eloquently notes, strife and contention are evident everywhere as we mark 40 years of the Israeli Occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The brutal assault on Gaza continues unabated. Israel’s army daily invades communities and kidnaps and kills Palestinians in the West Bank. The spreading violence is now destroying the stability of Lebanon. The breakdown in civil society in these besieged areas has reached a very dangerous level. Palestinian Christians and Muslims who have been working for many years to preserve and maintain a level of non-violent resistance have seen their work turn to ashes over and over again, and yet they courageously continue their efforts. However, the level of fatigue and discouragement is higher than it has ever been.

The reasons for the current feelings are clear. The Israeli government and the Israeli army are implementing a long term strategy to destroy the infrastructure of the Palestinian government, economy, and civil society. Each day new regulations, policies, and actions rob the people – people who are not at all related to any militant group – of their dignity, their livelihood and their future. The civil strife and the violent clashes among political parties, families, and gangs in Gaza and the West Bank can be traced to the effects of the long-lasting Occupation. We can never condone violence. We can never condone self-destruction no matter how dire the situation, but we can seek to examine and understand it.

The illegal 1967 Occupation of the 22% of mandate Palestine remaining after the Nakba of 1948 and the systematic plan to confiscate and control even the fragments remaining to Palestinians have left not only the Palestinians, but also the world, vulnerable to even greater disasters. When any nation or group is allowed to flout safeguards of international law, humanitarian law, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, along with basic moral standards, the whole of humankind is in grave danger. Yet, the Israeli government and its Zionist architects have been given a green light over the past 40 years of Occupation. The methods they have developed – targeted assassinations, imprisonment without trial, starving and collectively punishing whole populations – are now part of common practice and openly advocated and accepted in many places in the world. Such practices after World War II were seen as totally unacceptable yet these atrocities occur daily in the occupied areas of Palestine with little international reaction. The rules of civil society are being ignored and chaos reigns, most obviously in Gaza but also increasingly in the West Bank. Hopelessness and despair increase. When there is nothing to lose, some will strike out as we have seen recently in many places.

Most Israelis continue to live in fear and to act out of fear, not least because of the ongoing illegal Occupation. Through the past 40 years, they have failed to learn two lessons:
First, brutal military measures do not work. Militarism never works because the human spirit and the quest for freedom cannot be destroyed. The evil of seeking to steal the dignity of the other simply magnifies the desire to resist.
Second, to dehumanize the other is to dehumanize the self. The basic quest to be fully human lies within all of God’s children. To put others down in order to be powerful and controlling and to use others as scapegoats to cover one’s own inadequacy is self-defeating and self-destructive. The soul of the Israeli people is at stake in this treacherous battle of will and spirit. When common humanity is forsaken, evil prevails.

Understanding violence does not mean condoning violence. Sabeel continues to work, pray and advocate for non-violent responses to the Occupation. The only safe and secure way out of the current pit is justice. Justice and only justice. Justice is served when the dignity of every human being is honored and respected. Justice is served when love motivates and heals those who need justice and those who must in the last analysis give justice. Much progress will be made when the people of Israel return to their own values, values that have been battered and distorted by the Zionist agenda and the facts of Occupation. Progress will be made when Palestinians are relieved of the hate that so easily builds up under the oppression of Occupation and are thus freed to respond in love to those who acknowledge their shared existence as children of God. There are many layers to peel before the common humanity of all can be celebrated.

Although we are walking in the darkness of Occupation now, we know that the light of Christ will shine one day. We know that the truth will bring freedom and that one day Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, will walk hand in hand toward the light of God’s justice. But now we ask that all our friends pray, work, and speak against the Occupation and the injustice that rule every aspect of our lives. Silence allows evil to prosper.

Jesus said, "I tell you that if these are silent, the stones will cry out! (Luke 19:40)

The Rev. Robert Tobin, Acting Director
Sabeel, Jerusalem
June, 2007