Over the last six months, Israel has seen besieged by a campaign of Palestinian attacks on innocent civilians that has come to be known as the “knife intifada” in Israel and the “popular uprising” in the Palestinian territories (“intifada” is Arabic for “uprising”). While knives have been a primary weapon, car rammings and attacks with guns have also occurred. Most recently the attacks escalated with the suicide bombing of a bus in Jerusalem.
We at Presbyterians for Middle East Peace condemn these acts of senseless terrorism, as did the 2014 General Assembly. Indeed, the GA called on Presbyterians to condemn all acts of terrorism. Such attacks do not just harm Israelis. They also destroy the aspirations of innocent Palestinians who want coexistence and peace. They do not advance the cause of Palestinian self-determination; they instead doom it. There are no win/lose outcomes to this conflict, only the win/win outcome of peace and the lose/lose outcome of perpetual conflict.
If the violence continues, an already difficult situation for Palestinians in the West Bank will only get worse. Already, some Israeli leaders are talking about “greater separation” from West Bank Palestinians. What this means is some form of disengagement from much of the West Bank and establishment of whatever perimeter security is necessary to protect the Israeli public. Were this to happen and an already weak and unelected Palestinian Authority collapses, the catastrophe that followed Israeli withdrawal from Gaza could well be repeated. At a minimum, if the violence does not end soon there will be more fences, more checkpoints, and more Palestinian misery.
We also condemn statements by Palestinian leaders and others calling the perpetrators of these attacks “martyrs” conducting “resistance operations”. Any claim that those committing these acts will be “welcomed by God into Heaven” is a lie that people of all faiths must reject and condemn. Tragically, some within Palestinian leadership, including the Fatah organization of Palestinian President Abbas, have engaged in incitement and made such despicable statements. In addition, terrorists and their families are rewarded with compensation from the Palestinian Authority.
We stand in solidarity with the many Palestinians who refuse to participate in the so-called “popular uprising” and are as shocked and appalled by these horrific acts as the rest of the world. We also praise the courageous efforts of Palestinian journalists and others who have spoken out against these acts. On each day one of these attacks occur, over 90,000 West Bank Palestinians peacefully enter Israel to earn a living and harm no one. The fact that many Palestinians are understandably fearful of speaking out should not be taken as support for terrorism.
The international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction ( BDS) movement, which claims to embrace non-violence, has spoken out publicly in solidarity with the so-called “popular uprising.” The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) published a “statement of solidarity” with the wave of violence underway.
A General Assembly overture is currently circulating that calls upon the PC(USA) to engage directly with the leadership of the BDS movement and sponsor events with them. Already, much of the world sees the PC(USA) as closely aligned with the BDS movement. BDS publicly opposes Palestinian-Israeli coexistence and cooperation efforts. Now BDS leaders are publicly “in solidarity” with violence and terrorism. Is this what the P(CUSA) stands for? We think not and hope the upcoming GA says so in the clearest possible terms.