May 142021

A Call to Action in Israel and Palestine

CHICAGO- May 14, 2021 As people of faith, we watched in horror when Israeli police mounted an assault on the Al-Aqsa compound while tens of thousands of Muslims gathered to observe Ramadan. We opposed attempts to change the status quo on Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, a site sacred to Muslims and Jews. We protested as efforts to evict Palestinian residents in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah continued a campaign of displacement. We urged Israel to share its supply of coronavirus vaccine with all the peoples in its charge. But we were not loud enough, even with all our partners working tirelessly in Israel and Palestine.

And we see the tragic result as violence spreads through the land and war descends. Again, families and individuals in Palestine and Israel alike find themselves sheltering from the destructive rain of missiles and rockets, all placed in harm’s way by the escalation of a long-simmering conflict lacking careful mediation. In such a moment, as people of faith, our prayers go to those sheltering in fear. At the same time, as people of faith, we must also demand that authorities responsible for their well-being take measures to avoid provocations that create more peril.

And as Americans, we call upon the Biden administration to step up now. We support the action items identified by JStreet as a beginning:

We urge your administration to commit to sustained leadership not only to end the immediate cycle of violence, but to address the root causes of conflict, including the injustice of occupation and de facto annexation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In addition to working urgently to de-escalate the current fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, we encourage the White House to:

  • Appoint a Special Envoy charged with addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and with outlining a clear strategy to support the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians to peace, security and self-determination.
  • Fast-track the urgent provision of humanitarian assistance to Gaza to address the destruction of infrastructure and medical services, and the worsening COVID-19 crisis.
  • Make clear to the Israeli government that forcing Palestinian families from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank is against international law, and that the use of force against peaceful Palestinian protesters is unacceptable.

The United States is not a mere bystander in this conflict. As the most powerful country in the world and Israel’s closest ally, we need to act responsibly and boldly to prevent more violence, suffering and injustice.

Rabbi Dr. Rachel S. Mikva, Herman Schaalman Professor in Jewish Studies
Senior Faculty Fellow, InterReligious Institute
Yasmine Abou-El-Kheir, Director of Lapp Learning Commons
Chicago Theological Seminary