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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Road towards a Just Peace? - A letter from Kairos Sweden

by Anna Karin Hammar (Kairos Palestine - Sweden) in the Swedish journal Dagen,  June 8, 2016

kairosglobaljusticeThe World Council of Churches (WCC) has recently been in contact with the representatives of the Israeli government in Geneva. The description given of the proceedings at the Ben Gurion Airport (April 28-May 2) is coherent with the description by Lennart Renöfält in this journal June 1, 2016 and with my original account on May 24. All testimonies affirm how the Climate meeting of the World Council of Churches with the Palestinian Christians in Beit Jala was prevented under considerable harassment, imprisonments for up to three days and nights, and deportations from the Ben Gurion Airport.

That HE the ambassador Isaac Bachman has declined to respond to the accounts of Lennart Renöfält could hardly be interpreted in any other way than that the Ambassador is lacking a credible response.

On the other hand, the Ambassador is responding with many personal accusations on my first article (see Dagen May 27). It of course saddens me, but I do not want to add time on that. What I would like to dwell on, however, is the reflection by Martin Blecher that very same day (May 27). He wonders why I am arguing with the support of the Kairos Palestine document and not directly from the BDS-movement. It is an important remark and I do want to explain this further.

The Kairos Palestine document, a theological-political analysis of Palestinian Christians of their situation and a cry for solidarity from the churches of the world, contains a double-strategy which is a special contribution from the churches to the economic advocacy work for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.

First of all strategy one is a strategy that the churches have in common with the majority of the governments of the world, namely not to support illegal actions and actions violating international law. To support the occupation of Palestine by e.g. Import or trade with goods produced on occupied territory, on settlements, is therefore an illegal action. The Norwegian pension funds interpret this as it is illegal also to support Israeli banks financing the settlements on occupied territory with loans. The corresponding global strategy against international enterprises on occupied territories  has also been successful, noting e.g. that Sodastream has moved its production from Occupied Territory to Israel proper. 

The second strategy, also present in the Kairos Palestine Document from 2009 and further developed in the global Kairos movement, coincides fully with the goals of the BDS movement. At the center is not solely the occupation but also the right of return for the Palestinian refugees (or the right to compensation) and the right to equal treatment of Israelis and Palestinians and a clear No to apartheid societies. Here is the possibility of boycotting not just the forms of and what is produced by the occupation but also its very cause and presupposition, the agency of the Israeli state.  BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions, is a global movement holding the state of Israel accountable for the lack of equality between Israelis and Palestinians. The boycott therefore hits everything Israeli (note: especially what has not distanced itself from the policy of the Israeli state) and therefore not solely what can be linked to the occupation.

BDS in this form is embraced by the North American movement Jewish Voice for Peace, while the first strategy is coherent with the position of Jews for Israeli and Palestinian Peace  in Sweden. Jews for Israeli and Palestinian Peace in Sweden does not want to isolate Israeli academies and peace movements, while they take a clear stand in their boycott of the occupation not to cooperate and support the Israeli military. 

Hence, in the international community there is a common understanding and strategy not to support what is illegal, i.e. the occupation of Palestine. The churches self evidently want to support this strategy based on international law. Who wants to act in an illegal and unlawful way? 

The second strategy i a nonviolent strategy more tuned towards peace movements and student movements, the grassroots in the churches of the world. It is not anti-Jewish, as HE ambassador Isaac Bachman fears, but it is against the present policy of Israel. This second strategy holds the Israeli state responsible for violating the international law against the Palestinians. This second strategy reminds of the organisation that the very Lennart Renöfält was chairing during apartheid in South Africa, the Isolate South Africa Committee.

Kairos Palestine contain both of these strategies each could therefore become a bridge between the international community and the BDS movement.

The future will determine whether it is enough with the first strategy to create conditions for a just peace in Israel/Palestine or if demands that more people, organisations and states also join the strategy number two, with BDS in its fullness.

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