Thursday, March 23, 2017

In Resistance, In Prayer

In April 2016, Omar Barghouti spoke at a "Justice for Palestine" event held here at Peace United Church in Santa Cruz.  A leader in the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement (BDS), Omar had planned to travel to California for the conference; but he was prevented from traveling by Israeli officials.  Instead, he spoke via Skype, speaking to the deep roots of BDS' mission in human rights tradition and nonviolent practice.  Omar's influence around the world proves threatening to the far-right visionaries who see no place for Palestinians or a Palestinian state in the Holy Land.  Omar's role at our conference was especially controversial, in that he's been 'targeted' by pro-settlement and pro-occupation activists for a long while.  Many cast him as an anti-Semite; though his work speaks loudly against all forms of oppression and state-sponsored division.  

Early, in March of 2016, Israel's Minister of Transport, Intelligence and Atomic Energy had called on Israel to engage in 'targeted civil eliminations' of BDS leaders.  Apparently, that language implies a coordinated effort to 'tarnish the reputation and character' of particularly effective human rights leaders.  It's not hard, though, to see how such language fuels a more violent and destructive spirit in hardliners.  Many of us have worried for some time about Omar's safety.
This month, Omar was detained and arrested in Israel, ostensibly for tax evasion.  But there's really no question that his arrest is further evidence of the state's effort to discredit Palestinian nonviolence and coordinated campaigns to effect justice in the Holy Land and human rights for all there.  The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) put out this statement in response: "Omar Barghouti has for years been subject to intense threats, intimidation and repression by various arms of the far-right Israeli government, particularly after it considered the movement a 'strategic threat' to its entire system of injustice against Palestinians."

Similarly, Issa Amro (who spoke here in worship last October) is awaiting trial in an Israeli military courtroom, accused of a series of offenses ranging from demonstrating without a permit to "insulting a soldier."  A creative practitioner of nonviolence and an effective organizer in his hometown of Hebron, Issa is especially committed to teaching nonviolence to teens and young adults who are eager for new and meaningful ways of resistance.

In my mind's eye, I see Omar and Issa in their homeland, surrounded by people they love, fearing for their future.  I'm reminded--especially during Lent--of the cost of discipleship, the way of the cross, the consequences of faith.  To speak truth to power is to risk freedom and reputation.

My own life is so much easier than theirs.  But today, in my prayers, I give thanks for Omar Barghouti and Issa Amro, and I pray for God's protection in their lives.  May the light of truth shine brightly in their hearts, and may the love of friends and colleagues be a source of deep and sustaining encouragement.  We walk, we march, we work together.

You can offer your own support to Issa's efforts here.  Tellingly, Omar Barghouti has recently said that a key way for U.S. leaders to support the Palestinian quest is to urge local congregations to join the HP-Free Church Campaign.  Here's one very specific way we can shine a light on corporate complicity with the occupation and the denial of human rights it represents.  I'm again pleased to report that Peace United Church was the first congregation in the country to join the campaign last December.
During the same conference, Israeli Minister of Transport, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Yisrael Katz who called on Israel to engage in “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence, meaning to tarnish one’s reputation and character among civil society. - See more at: