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Churches Against Annexation

 Over the past several months, many of us who work on behalf of justice and an end to the conflict in Israel-Palestine, have been particularly concerned with the possibility of unilateral annexation.  Annexation is the extension of Israeli sovereignty over significant portions of Palestinian land in the West Bank. 

The Oslo Accords, a set of agreements between the Israeli and Palestinian governments, divided Palestinian territory into three parts: Areas A, B, and C each with different levels of control by Israeli and Palestinian governments. Area C was placed under full Israeli control. However, the arrangement was to be temporary; over a five year period Israel was to transfer control over to the Palestinians with the exception of areas agreed upon by both parties during further negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated he has no intentions of offering citizenship or special rights to Palestinians

Over 25 years later, Israel retains full control over area C of the West Bank. Under the current coalition government, Israel could have begun annexing as early as July 1. Settlements, communities in the West Bank in which only Israelis are allowed to live, would officially become a part of the state of Israel, along with any other land Israel decided to include. So what does that mean for the Palestinians who currently do not have citizenship but live or tend property in the parts of the West Bank that might be annexed? While the full extent of the land that will be annexed is still unclear, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated he has no intentions of offering citizenship or special rights to Palestinians who live in the areas to be annexed. It is quite possible they would be forced to relocate to the other parts of the West Bank where the majority of Palestinians already live.

As the cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in cities throughout the United States and as we continue to face a reckoning regarding white supremacy and the violence perpetuated against people of color, you might be wondering why should what’s happening in Israel-Palestine be on your radar? Why should annexation of Palestinian land be a concern? 

Annexation, should it proceed, could jeopardize the sustainability of the Christian community

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul reminds us of the interconnected nature of our Christian faith: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Corinthians 12.26) The church in Palestine is suffering. Since formal annexation has become a distinct possibility, they have continued to raise their voice, calling on Christians from across the world to remember the church where our faith began and to speak up in support of their rights. In a letter from concerned Christian clergy in Bethlehem, the authors note the feeling of helplessness that pervades their communities: “our parishioners no longer believe that anyone will stand courageously for justice and peace and stop this tremendous injustice that is taking place in front of your eyes.” Earlier in the letter, the pastors share the real fear that annexation, should it proceed, could jeopardize the sustainability of the Christian community in Palestine. The church cannot fully flourish when one of its members faces injustice and oppression.

Opposition to annexation though, should extend beyond our desire to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian Christian siblings. We are called as Christians to be agents of reconciliation and to work for justice regardless of whether or not the people for whom we advocate share our beliefs. Annexation threatens to entrench inequalities and the violation of Palestinian human rights for the foreseeable future, making it imperative for Christians to oppose annexation and instead work toward an end to the conflict in Israel-Palestine that will result in justice and equality for both Israelis and Palestinians.

It is critical Christians concerned about justice continue to raise their voices

So what can be done? Earlier this summer, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) began our #ChurchesAgainstAnnexation campaign to help amplify the voices of Christians who oppose annexation. If you are in the United States, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN) introduced HR 8050 the Israeli Annexation Non-Recognition Act on August 14, 2020. The legislation “prohibits the United States from formally recognizing or providing U.S. aid to any area of the occupied West Bank annexed by the Government of Israel in violation of international law.” This is a positive step and it is imperative constituents ask their Congressional representative to support this legislation. CMEP has created an action alert for folks to easily reach out to their members of Congress.  We have also created a public statement where you can sign and affirm your opposition to annexation. It is viewable here

While annexation remains on hold, and the recently announced normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates might contribute to a further delay, it is critical Christians concerned about justice continue to raise their voices in opposition and encourage policies that will contribute to a future in which all in Israel-Palestine can live with dignity and with their human and civil rights respected.


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