The BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement against Israel, which has gained some traction in mainline denominations, raises hotly contested questions. (See, for example, my article “Boycotting the boycott” and the responses to it.) A particularly salient one: Do ordinary Palestinians support BDS? Do Palestinians in the occupied territory want more separation from Israel or more integration with it?
The BDS movement posits that a just future for the Palestinians lies first of all in disengagement from and resistance to Israel. But does it?
As Lawrence Wright nicely chronicles, Jimmy Carter faced a daunting task at Camp David in 1978. Carter, Menachem Begin, and Anwar el-Sadat each had much at stake.
“Two things about my own life became clear: I really did understand both sides, and I didn’t understand them at all.”
(The Christian Science Monitor) The first bureaucratic triumph upon our arrival in Jerusalem came at the Ministry of Interior, when a surly woman peeled off our newly minted residency visas and pressed them into our passports. “We are prisoners of thanks,” my husband and I said, mustering an antiquated Hebrew phrase of gratitude. “Bye,” she replied, with all the feeling of a desert rock.
In August 1994, I was an introspective, brainy 16-year-old, fresh from a summer in Israel with a busload of other 16-year-olds. On my last morning in Jerusalem, I had watched the sun rise: cool breezes over ancient golden stones. I heard church bells ring and the Muslim call to prayer, whispering my own Hebrew dreams into fuzzy pink air. As a Jewish teen who went (reluctantly) to Israel for the Roman ruins but stayed for the prayers, when we chanted under desert stars I was suspended somewhere in between Reform Jewish teenagerhood and a future as a religious studies professor—plus my always evolving, complex relationship with Jewish adulthood. This was when I first encountered Rodger Kamenetz’s The Jew in the Lotus: A Poet’s Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India.
Why is so much energy aimed at protesting Israel's occupation of the West Bank? Such actions are unlikely to move the levers of power.
"While Israel has more interfaith activity pro-rata than anywhere else in the world, all such activity involves a tiny percent of the population."
It’s time for mainline Protestant churches to invite mainstream Jewish organizations to sit down and figure out what we can do together to support the Israel-Palestine peace process.