Dialogika

Israel, Palestinians & Mid-East

"The Bethlehem Call" Document Promotes Pain, Not Peace

 

(Washington, D.C., Dec. 16, 2011)-B'nai B'rith International has issued the following statement:

A new document approved at "Kairos for Global Justice Encounter," a conference that concluded Dec. 10 in Bethlehem, adopted the language of a prophetic call for justice, and of "compassion," while virulently demonizing Israel alone and urging mobilized action against the Jewish state.

The conference was organized  by the coordinators of the greatly polarizing document known as "Kairos Palestine," issued by a group of Palestinian Christian figures in 2009.

Several Christian groups abroad have publicized the new document, "The Bethlehem Call."

The Bethlehem Call asserts that "The government of Israel claims to have and indeed enjoys an exceptional status within the international community," and that it is guilty of "evil designs," "ethnic cleansing and the geo-cide of Palestinians and Palestine," "crimes against humanity," "apartheid," and the "crime and sin" of occupying Palestinian-claimed land. It neglects to similarly deplore, or even mention, the Palestinian terrorism and radicalism that perpetuate regional conflict. At the same time, it pointedly rejects "any argument aimed at convincing Palestinians and the international community that the problems are caused by Muslims rather than the Occupation."

It positively cites the "deligitimization [sic] and criminalization of the Israeli government" and, also, "its local and international support base." It demands that a "Right of Return for all Palestinian refugees be enforced," a vision that conflicts with mainstream international commitment to Israel's preservation as a Jewish state alongside a future, peaceful Palestinian state. Its authors pledge to "challenge and boycott" all travel agencies that do not utilize a separate document, "Come and See: A Call from Palestinian Christians for Ethical Tourism," as guidance for travel to the Holy Land.

That document says of some current visitors to Israel: "Reflecting the pious practices of the Pharisees, they search for a personal blessing, seeking to renew an egocentric, individualistic faith. What they choose to see and do only reinforces their prejudices, preconceived notions, and limited understanding of a complex situation. Yet true faith requires more from a Christian...." The same guide to "ethical tourism" recounts an "expulsion of around 750,000 Palestinians, including 150,000 Christians" by Israel in 1948, a wildly irresponsible and unfounded assertion; another site linked as a resource to the tourism document, the Alternative Tourism Group, goes farther, blaming Israel for the exile of "between 800,000 and 900,000 Palestinians," and describing Zionism alternately as "Jewish colonization of Palestine" and as an "agent" of global "imperialist interests."

Finally, the Bethlehem Call affirms prayer for a change in the policies of Israel and "those governments that support it," concluding: "If this does not happen, we pray in trembling and hope if it is God's will.... for these governments to fall."

Israel has repeatedly endorsed a two-state solution, appealed for direct peace talks with Palestinians and even uprooted Jewish settlements and security infrastructure. In contrast, the vilifying narrative and belligerent approach reflected in a polemic like the Bethlehem Call only move the parties further away from justice, reconciliation and a better future.

David J. Michaels
Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs