Earlier this afternoon, the Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) staff gathered around a laptop in our office–just a mile or so from the White House–to watch the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu announce the much anticipated “plan” for Israelis and Palestinians. As I listened to the speech, I was devastated. I was heartbroken as I thought of all the pain, suffering, and injustice that this plan will perpetuate.
The plan presented by President Trump and further fleshed out by Prime Minister Netanyahu is nothing less than a recipe for endless oppression and injustice. Palestinians for far too long have suffered under Israeli military control, a reality which today was denied and ignored.
The proposed plan would further entrench the Israeli security establishment, ensuring that generations of Israeli young men and women will serve in a military tasked with continuing control of the Palestinian people. The inevitable result will be more human rights abuses, trauma, and violence.
This cannot stand.
In addition, as Christians, we must not stand by and let our faith be perverted. It is clear that Christian values are being weaponized in an attempt to give a veneer of moral legitimacy to a plan that is, in fact, meant to facilitate further Israeli control over Palestinian lives, land, and resources.
The use of Judeo and Christian religious and spiritual imagery to justify political aims and agendas is idolatry. Referring to the modern geopolitical state of Israel as “a light unto the world,” and glorifying “places inscribed in the pages of the Bible,” without seriously addressing the injustices suffered by those who have lived under decades of occupation, flies in the face of what the Prince of Peace taught us. This appropriation of religious ideals diminishes the true spiritual significance of the land we call Holy and is a betrayal of the Christian faith.
At first glance, some of the language of the plan sounds promising. For example, we heard, “No Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted from their homes.” Certainly a good thing! However, when the repercussions of the plan are understood more fully, it becomes clear that another reading is possible. Palestinian citizens of Israel might not be moved out of their homes, but it is very possible that they would be disenfranchised, and the territory their homes are on would be deemed a part of the triangle communities of the “future Palestinian state.” This would be a part of the proposed “land swap” meant to maximize the amount of land under Israeli control while minimizing the number of Palestinians living on the land.
Speaking of “opportunities for Palestinians” to have a prosperous future without recognizing the root causes of the suffering experienced by generations worldwide obfuscates the problem and presents a distorted “solution.” While Palestinians at times have not contributed constructively toward peace, we must be clear: the root of their despair is decades of dispossession, violence, and lived humiliation — a perpetuated dynamic that is not without consequences for Israeli society. For Israelis to have hope for a future without fear, where their legitimate security needs are met, there must be a peace plan where U.S. and Israeli governments recognize and commit to just resolutions in response to the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people.
What we also did not hear was an articulation of the basic rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, freedom, equality, and dignity in a land to which they have centuries-old ties — something that money can’t buy.
So where do we go from here?
We must redouble our efforts to advocate for a durable and just peace that, unlike this and other plans of the past, centers justice, equality, human rights, and freedom for all in Israel and Palestine. Please join us in prayer. Let us know your thoughts and desire to stand in solidarity with all people in the Holy Land, especially those who were not present at the “peace table” today. Please stay tuned in the coming days and weeks for positive actions you can take to engage in advocacy as part of the CMEP community and in your networks. As we prepare for the work ahead, I offer this prayer:
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon