Serving our Global Community
In this issue:

  • Jewish Voice for Peace renounces Zionism
  • Global Kairos meeting adopts multi-year strategy
  • One Democratic State Campaign inaugurated
  • Furor over tweet provokes conversation about AIPAC and Zionism
JVP Renounces Zionism
“Jewish Voice for Peace is guided by a vision of justice, equality and freedom for all people. We unequivocally oppose Zionism because it is counter to those ideals.” So begins JVP's statement renouncing Zionism.  Robert Herbst has written a very thoughtful appreciation of JVP's action . “JVP’s rejection of Zionism," writes Herbst, "is implicit recognition that the time for us to come together, to unify ourselves politically as one human race, is now, before it is too late.” Relieved that the Jewish community is at last coming to recognize how damaging Zionism has been, not only to Palestinians but to Jews, Herbst expands and deepens his analysis, e mphasizing the danger of Zionism “ and every other ethno-nationalism that keeps human beings in separate silos.” This rejection of Zionism "comes at an opportune time," writes Herbst, "when nationalisms of all stripes are making it more difficult for us to come together as a global community to address existential threats like climate change and control of weapons of mass destruction.”

Zionism sits at the intersection of theology and politics. At its founding 20 years ago, Sabeel in Jerusalem served notice on the churches and the world at large that in confronting institutionalized racism, we stand on a theological battleground. In 2009, the Palestine Kairos Document called on world Christians “to stand against injustice and apartheid” and to “revisit theologies that justify crimes perpetrated against our people and the dispossession of the land.” At the 2015 “Dangerous Memory” conference commemorating the 30 th anniversary of Kairos South Africa, an international group of activists and theologians situated the South African and Palestinian Kairos calls in the context of a global system of tyranny, supported by “Empire Theology.” And in Bethlehem this past December, on the 9 th anniversary of Kairos Palestine, confronting Zionism emerged as a key strategic focus of the Kairos for Global Justice gathering. Kairos USA was there and our report follows.
Global Kairos for Justice 2018:
" Local resistance and global solidarity merge "  
The issue of theology was front and center in Bethlehem this past December, when hundreds of Palestinians and internationals gathered on the 9 th Anniversary of The Kairos Palestine document. It was a meeting that holds great hope for the ability of the growing global network of church-related organizations to spread the prophetic message of Kairos theology. The conference statement issued a stirring call to the global ecumenical community:

"We welcome the growing awakening in the global Christian community. We take heart from the prophetic support for our cause, taking courage from their non-violent resistance and actions for justice, for the economic measures taken, and for standing in solidarity with all Palestinians here and the diaspora. We encourage all Christian communities to follow this lead and speak truth to power. Ecumenical structures should not be silent, choose the path of shallow diplomacy, or have lukewarm responses which directly support the Israeli policies of occupation."

Rifat Kassis, Coordinator of Kairos Palestine, opened the conference. “Kairos Palestine is now a global solidarity movement," he said. "When local resistance and global solidarity merge, ours is a winning formula.” Read Rifat's message, "Kairos is us, the vision of Palestinian Christians."

Following the conference, Kairos USA participated in a two-day meeting for representatives of the organizations comprising the Kairos Global Justice network. Over 60 peo ple from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas came together for two days of workshops and strategy sessions to discuss the future vision and strategy for the international coalition. For the United States, Kairos USA was joined by representatives from the Methodist, Episcopal, Congrega tional, and Presbyterian Churches, Disciples of Christ, Churches for Middle East Peace, and Friends of Sabeel North America. Participants focused on the key questions of how to communicate kairos theology and how to combat the influence of Christian Zionism. We emerged from the meeting with a strategic plan for the coming 18 months. We'll keep you informed as this moves forward!
Overdue -- One Democratic State in Historic Palestine
"Put on the whole armor of God!" Paul exhorts in the letter to the Ephesians. Today, just as in Paul's time, the work of theology is waged on the battleground of history and human affairs, confronting the "principalities and powers" responsible for systems of injustice and tyranny.

As the Global Kairos network was meeting in Bethlehem, and Jewish Voice for Peace was composing its statement opposing Zionism, a group composed of Palestinians and Jews from Israel and occupied Palestine inaugurated the groundbreaking Campaign for One Democratic State. "We contend," state the authors,

"that the only way to achieve justice and permanent peace is dismantling the colonial apartheid regime in historic Palestine and the establishment of a new political system based on full civil equality, and on full implementation of the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return, and the building of the required mechanisms to correct the historical grievances of the Palestinian people as a result of the Zionist colonialist project.'

Read the complete One Democratic State policy statement . The two-state solution, it reads, "is clearly dead. Israel buried it deep under its colonial settlement policies in the territories that were supposed to become the independent Palestinian state. Israel has imposed a single repressive regime that extends over all the Palestinians who live in historic Palestine, including those with Israeli citizenship."

" The time is far overdue ," writes Jeff Halper, one of the architects of the One State Campaign, " to begin formulating a genuinely just and workable political settlement, then follow it up with an effective strategy of advocacy within Israel/Palestine and abroad." Read Jeff's superb analysis and description of the plan, published recently in Mondoweiss. 

Exposed: "The New Anti-Semitism"
As we prepare to send this newsletter, the blogs, news services and listserves are buzzing about Ilhan Omar's tweet about AIPAC, and the accusations of anti-Semitism leveled against her. The controversy has produced a good and needed conversation, one that is very relevant to the theme of this newsletter. Although the uproar concerned whether Omar’s tweet about how money buys congressional support is an “anti-Semitic trope,” the controversy has surfaced a much broader issue -- the conflation of Zionism with Judaism and equating the State of Israel with the Jewish people.

The idea that anti-Zionism, or any questioning of the idea and the reality of the Jewish State represents a new and virulent form of anti-Semitism was first advanced in the 1970s, coined by apologists for Israel as "The New Anti-Semitism." The importance of the present controversy is that this is the first time that the question of whether criticism of Israel constitutes anti-Semitism has risen to the level of a public discussion in the United States. It has also produced a renewed scrutiny of AIPAC's influence on America's foreign policy. Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times called it “ a moment when activists have finally pried open space in American politics to question our relationship with Israel.” May the conversation continue!

Here is a recommended sampling of recent articles:

" It is happening because Omar is challenging Zionism "   w rites Denmark-based Israeli blogger Jonathan Ofir in Mondoweiss. He asks: why the furor and political censorship of Omar's statement? "This was not supposed to happen ever in American politics.”  

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, an e-zine that attempts to present an open discussion of controversial issues facing the Jewish community (and largely succeeds) offers this “Explainer” of the controversy .  

Here is Michelle Goldberg’s NYT piece, "Ilhan Omar's Very Bad Tweets."

Possibly in order to take some of the heat off Jewish organizations for exploiting panic about anti-Semitism, Goldberg makes much of the political influence of evangelical Christians injecting their brand of Christian Zionism into to U.S. politics. But the increasing influence of Christian Zionism must be taken seriously, and reminds us of the importance of challenging theologies that support injustice. R etired Anglican Bishop George Browning's recent challenge to Christians about Christian Zionism deserves a wide reading .
Support Kairos USA
Thanks to all who responded to Kairos USA's end of the year fundraising drive. We are still in need of funds to meet the goals for 2019 outlined in the December 2018 appeal. Now, more than ever, as voices within our government begin to speak up and the issue of justice for Palestine is on the table as never before,
please contribute so we can continue our work for a world where all people live in dignity, equality and freedom.