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Letter from Kairos Palestine authors to ICCJ

At its annual meeting last June in Istanbul,  members of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) discussed a climate of polarization widely reported in interfaith discourse. This led to the issuance of a statement called, "Let Us Have Mercy upon Words." The ICCJ statement included some discussion of the reception of the December 2009 document, "Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth."  A copy of the ICCJ statement was shared with the authors of Kairos Palestine, who have responded to the ICCJ in the letter below. .

 

To All Board Members of the International Council of Christians and Jews.

On behalf of the Kairos Palestine Board of Directors, we want to thank you for your interest in and response to the Kairos document. We also take this opportunity to initiate an open dialogue with the ICCJ about the Kairos Document – a document of faith and action rather than one of lament.

In order to promote this dialogue and foster clarity, we would like to address your questions with the following clarifications.

1. The title: “Kairos” Palestine. In a footnote, we explain: “Kairos is the moment when we see God’s gifts in the midst of our suffering”. We use the term and concept of Kairos in analogy with the situation in South Africa. Indeed, there are many similarities that characterize the Palestinian political reality and the South African one: first of all, a central injustice (Apartheid in South Africa, occupation in Palestine), as well as collective efforts realized by both Palestinians and South Africans in attempt to fundamentally change these injustices. In both places and eras, the Bible has been used to defend and rationalize injustice, to justify both Apartheid and occupation: which becomes an obstacle for communities of faith who are seeking an end to those ills. Finally, we and our brothers and sisters in South Africa have defined both injustices (Apartheid and occupation) as a sin against God and Humanity. So as we Palestinians remain under occupation, we are heartened by the struggle for justice in South Africa, and we hope our situation will change as theirs changed: we hope to regain our freedom. In that sense, and in an analogy of solidarity, we use the word “Kairos”.

2. Definition of “armed struggle”. We wish to stress that we do not create definitions; rather, we use those put forth by international law. It is equally important to note that international law a)  defines the right of occupied people to resist; and, at the same time, b) prohibits any actions directed at civilians. Therefore, Kairos Palestine reiterates that we are  against violence, but that we support non-violent resistance. Without attempting to define in this letter what is terrorism vs. what is justified resistance, we clearly state our opposition to any kind of violence and terrorism conducted by individual groups or states.

3. Universal mission of the land. What is the mission of this land, and what about it is so particular and unique? We want to more fully discover the mission of the land, as well as the will of God for the people living here. Further, [we] cannot allow Palestinian rights and existence to be continually denied according to interpretations of the Bible. We need to continue to meet over the topic of the land and deepen our understanding of its particularity as we reject religious exclusive claims to the land from any side.

4.  “Sin, letters of stone…”. When we use the word “sin,” we mean a system of oppression and matrix of control that violates the basic and human rights of a whole group of people (in this case, the Palestinians). When we talk about “the letters of stone,” we refer to the use of the Bible to justify any injustice.  While we want the Bible to remain a word of life, we see this utilization as one that justifies death and destruction against Palestinians. This is the main line of thought behind our use of these “freighted words” in the Kairos Document, and the reason why we do not need more precise explanations or definitions here. 

5. End the occupation. We completely support non-violent actions taken in order to end the occupation. If and when the occupation ends, there will invariably be a paradigm shift, in the sense that it become easier to find a solution for any other related problem: in other words, ending the occupation is a starting point, not a final step. We must dedicate ourselves to ending it before tackling other matters; constantly arguing about who is to blame, who was responsible, etc., is short-sighted when the urgent task at hand is to end the occupation itself. Ending occupation will prevent any individuals or organisations from spreading hatred and promoting exclusion, both of which only serve to fuel the conflict. We see that non-violent means should be used in order to achieve our objective and to build a better future for all in this region.

6. One state or two-state solution? Again, we refer to International law for our terminology. When we talk about “occupation,” we are using the definition put forth by international law and UN resolutions; as such, we advocate solutions supported by those same laws and regulations. We are not promoting any hidden agenda or specific political plan. We simply ask for freedom, peace, justice, security, and a better future for all – for, in other words, a solution that is both just and sustainable – none of which are possible to achieve under occupation.

Last but not least, Kairos Palestine is against polarization. Upon launching the Kairos document on 11 December 2009, we insisted on having Jewish participants and speakers present on that day, joining and participating here with us in Bethlehem.

We thank you for your questions and your sincerity. We would like to extend an invitation to meet and face challenges together, reflecting on the role of the Palestinian people that is conspicuously absent in most Christian-Jewish dialogue.  We do not want the rejection of a “replacement theology” to be transformed into a “displacement theology”; indeed, our people are being displaced under several religious stamps. We think that this is an important matter to confront in Christian-Jewish dialogue. We affirm that theology and ethics should work together, and should enrich each other; after all, both seek and define the will of the Creator as it guides us all.

Sincerely yours,

Kairos Palestine