Boycotts and Other News

General Mills/Pillsbury Boycott

December 14. 2020

The word boycott has a familiar ring to many United Methodists who remember supporting the Nestle Boycott three decades ago. As a result, the Nestle Corporation agreed to major changes in its policies around infant formula, practices that had proved toxic to mothers and their infants in nations of the third-world. To be sure, that particular boycott was difficult for United Methodists because it hit too-close to home. Dr. Cornel West reminds us: “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” As United Methodists we are called to love our neighbors through acts of justice as we bring into play: our reading of scripture, an understanding of our United Methodist heritage and tradition, our minds our reason and our personal experience of a loving God as we follow the way of Jesus in the world. (aka the Wesleyan Quadrilateral)

That brings us to the present and to what may prove to be an even more difficult dilemma for United Methodists, especially in Minnesota. Did you know that United Methodists for Kairos Response, (our national body), has called upon us to consider a boycott of (and divestment from) a major corporation and its operation in east Jerusalem? The Pillsbury dough factory there is bringing acute pain to local Palestinians, especially those who, until the factory was constructed, owned and lived off of that land. Minneapolis-based General Mills/Pillsbury is presently gaining the attention of peace advocates around the globe, including Minnesota.

As a result, our Palestine Israel Justice Project of the Minnesota Annual Conference is reckoning with a most complex and challenging dilemma regarding this initiative, for the following reasons:

  1. General Mills/Pillsbury is in our own backyard.
  2. It has seemingly endless positive connections in our state.
  3. It employs a multitude of Minnesota United Methodist who have been or are currently employed by General Mills.

This raises an important question: how or to what extent, we as Minnesota United Methodist Churches can join the protest in light of the fact that dozens of Palestinians are actually employed at the factory.

It is incumbent on us to remember that the Palestinians who work at the factory do so because of appalling unemployment in Israel’s West Bank. They are desperate for sufficient income to help their families eke out a living under the oppressive thumb of the Israeli occupation. The factory is located at the Atarot Settlement where, in order for construction of the factory to take place, longtime land-owners, farmers, shepherds and olive tree growers were forced off their property. As the land-seizure repeats itself across the West Bank, Palestinian-owned land is further reduced to smaller “land islands” where, (because of permanent and moveable military checkpoints, cement barriers, and Israeli-only highways), travel becomes all but impossible and commerce comes to a grinding halt. This concerns us deeply, and we suspect that you may be concerned as well.

The United Nations recently listed General Mills/Pillsbury among the mega corporations that are in violation of the U.N. charter around human rights. This is in spite of the fact that General Mills is widely known for its commitment to the local community, its allegiance to global fairness and justice, and its respect for land-ownership that is woven into its statement of purpose.

Expressing God’s love through justice is never easy, but when it involves protesting, (and possible boycott and divestment) in our own backyard, it is especially painful and complicated. While your Palestine Israel Justice Project weighs the extent of our involvement in the fast-emerging issue around General Mills/Pillsbury, we are called to think about our response as we bring together, scripture, tradition experience and reason in formulating our personal and collective response. One way or another, we will strive to do the right thing, congruent with our faith in a God of equality, fairness, empathy, compassion, and Christ-like love.

News From the Tent of Nations – September 2020

(Note:  The organic farm on which the Tent of Nations project runs is known as ‘Daher’s Vineyard’. This land, which stretches 100 acres, is owned by the Nassar family and is situated 9km southwest of Bethlehem. The family has been fighting a legal battle to keep hold of the land since it was classified as ‘Israeli State Land’ and thus threatened with confiscation in 1991. Their quest for justice has been an ongoing battle for the past thirty years.  The following is a recent letter written by Daoud Nassar recounting their more recent troubles.  More information about the Tent of Nations can be found here: Tent of Nations   )

“While we are dealing with all the challenges we have with the Israeli Authorities, especially after the settlers of Neve Daniel appealed to the Supreme Court to stop us from the re-registration process, claiming the land is a State Land and we are not allowed to re-register it as a private property, 3 people from the village of Nahalin came on August 28, early morning and brought a tractor and started cultivating our land, claiming the land belongs to them. We immediately called the police and filed a report.”

Some days later, On September 3, Amal and Jihan were picking grapes in the new vineyard. They were confronted by 20 to 30 young people with sticks who had torn down the fence in the new vineyard and were threatening to do destruction to the vineyard cave. Jihan managed to call Tony Nassar in Bethlehem who called the police.

On September 4, they came onto the land during the night and wreaked havoc on the vineyard cave. They tore out the heavily fortified door to the cave, broke windows, emptied cabinets and threw contents on the floor, plus other destructive acts. On the outside of the cave, they destroyed the small solar panels and the batteries, and they stole the generator, both of which provided electricity for the cave. They also destroyed the security camera and stole the recorded tape from that camera. Tools left in the vineyard were also stolen. The mess they left behind totaled almost $30,000 in damages. The only good thing coming out of this was that no family members were present there that night. We are still trying to figure out who is behind this attack, what is the motive and why it is being done now and if all are connected together.

We responded legally, the process is too slow, we need the people who did that to be brought to court soon, in the meanwhile we need protection but who is going to do that?
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
Blessings and salaam,
Daoud”

 

A Letter from Bethlehem

The following is an open letters to the world’s Christians appealing for help from the Christian community, in the birth place of Jesus.  No one can possibly understand the situation in the Holy Land as much as those who live there. 

Open Letter to the Christian Community from Clergy in Bethlehem  in the West Bank of Palestine –  July 7, 2020

Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed (Jeremiah 22:3)

We are writing this letter in our capacity as spiritual leaders of various Christian
communities in the Bethlehem Area. The Israeli Government is planning to annex more occupied Palestinian land. According to the information they have released, this process could begin on July 1st. For Palestine, Bethlehem and particularly for its Christian population, this new process of annexation will be particularly catastrophic.

Soon after the occupation of 1967 Israel annexed over 20,000 dunums of land in the northern parts of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, for the construction of illegal colonial settlements. This severely hindered our capacity to grow as communities. They have already annexed one of the most important Christian religious sites of Bethlehem, the Mar Elias Monastery, and separated Bethlehem from Jerusalem for the first time in the two-thousand years of Christian history in Holy Land.

One of the only areas left for our expansion, as well as for agriculture and simply for families to enjoy nature, are the valleys of Cremisan and Makhrour, both located to the west of our urban areas and are under the current threat of annexation by Israeli authorities. This will affect the private property of hundreds of our parishioners. In the Cremisan Valley we also conduct spiritual activities. There is a school run by Salesian Nuns in addition to a historic monastery. The western Bethlehem countryside is also in danger, where some of our parishioners have been farming for generations, and this includes the Tent of Nations in Nahhalin. At the same time, and in accordance to the
original maps of the US Plan, there are threats against the eastern part of Bethlehem, including the Ush Ughrab area of Beit Sahour, where there has been plans for years to build a children hospital to serve the local community.

Our biggest concern is that the annexation of those areas will push more people to emigrate. Bethlehem, surrounded by walls and settlements, already feels like an open prison. Annexation means the prison becomes even smaller, with no hopes for a better future.

This is land theft! We are talking about land that is largely privately owned and that our families have owned, inherited and farmed for hundreds of years.
Most of our parishioners have lost hope in earthly powers. They feel hopeless and helpless, evident in the words a parishioner this month as he watched his land devoured by Israeli bulldozers preparing the way for more wall expansion: “It is devastating. You see bulldozers destroying your land and you can do nothing. No one is stopping them.”

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. The human rights of Palestinians have been violated for decades. Hope is a pillar of our faith, yet is being challenged due to the actions of those who claim to care about the Christians in the Middle East. In practice, annexation could be the final straw when it comes to a viable Christian presence in Palestine, as well as the national aspirations to live in freedom, independence, dignity and equality in our homeland in accordance with
international law.

Nobody can claim that they did not know the consequences of annexation for Palestine in general and Bethlehem in particular. We feel the burden of history upon our shoulders to keep the Christian presence in the land where it all started. As we continue to put our hope and trust in God, we call upon the leaders of this world to stop this severe injustice. We remain committed to peace with justice, and find strength in the support of many around the world, specially the support of many churches. We hope that the world takes decisive and concrete actions to stop this injustice and provide the conditions to restore hope for a future of justice and peace that this land deserves.

Fr. Yacoub Abu Sada – ‘The Theotokos’ Melkite Church Bethlehem
Fr. Issa Musleh – Forefathers Greek Orthodox Church Beit Sahour
Fr. Hanna Salem – Catholic Church of the Annunciation Beit Jala
Fr. Bolous Al Alam – St. Mary Greek Orthodox Church Beit Jala
Rev. Ashraf Tannous – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation Beit Jala
Fr. Suheil Fakhouri – Our Lady of the Shepherds Melkite Church Beit Sahour
Rev. Munther Isaac – The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church Bethlehem and The
Evangelical Lutheran Church Beit Sahour

Rep. Betty McCollum and co-sponsors have introduced another historic bill in the U.S. Congress, The Israeli Annexation Non-Recognition Act, H.R. 8050.

This bill will prohibit the United States government from recognizing Israeli claims of sovereignty over any part of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

It also puts the issue of U.S. funding for unlawful Israeli actions squarely on the table for political debate in Congress.

This bill is a vital step toward divesting from Israeli militarism and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian land.

H.R. 8050 had early endorsement from 37 organizations, including The United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society.

It covers the following:
➨Israel’s potential annexation is a flagrant violation of international law and a prohibited act of aggression under Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

➨ The US government should support and promote equality, human rights, and dignity for both Palestinians and Israelis.

➨The US government should reject and refuse to recognize any undemocratic system or act of aggression in which Israel unilaterally exercises permanent rule over a Palestinian people denied self-determination and human rights.

This bill makes US military funding to Israel conditional: it forbids the use of U.S. funding to deploy personnel, lethal materials, equipment, and more in any Palestinian areas annexed by Israel.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)

The U.S. government’s decision to terminate assistance to the Palestinian people is cruel and amoral. It withholds vital humanitarian as a cynical tool of foreign policy. It is already resulting in untold harm to a vulnerable population, especially children.

The Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace calls on people of conscious to show that Americans will not condone a policy that punishes innocent refugees to serve political purposes.

Millions of Palestinians, the largest and longest suffering refugee community in the world, rely on UNRWA for vital health and education services, and food assistance, vocational training, and jobs.

Since 1948, over half the Palestinian population was driven out of their hometowns and villages that fell under the control of the newly created State of Israel. Despite international consensus, enshrined in multiple United Nations resolutions, the Palestinian refugees were not allowed to return to their homes.

To respond to their plight, in 1950 the United Nations Relief and Works
Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) was created.

When the Agency began operations, it served a population of 750,000 refugees– Palestinian Muslims and Christians. Today, that number has increased to more than 5 million.

Until 2018, the U.S. was the largest donor to UNRWA. But as of 2018, in an unexpected move, the US government cut its funding to UNRWA and other humanitarian programming for Palestinians in the Holy Land. The cut of 30% of UNRWA’s annual budget has created a massive funding crisis and threatens the rights and dignity of millions of refugees.

American Christians have the opportunity to support Palestinians in the Holy Land via UNRWA USA, a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit that supports the work of UNRWA through fundraising, education, and advocacy in the United States.

US church organizations that help provide vital educational and health services for the neediest Palestinians also face the threat of shut-down of the facilities they support. These include the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem and the Ahli Hospital in Gaza, both providing specialized care that is not available elsewhere for Palestinians in their respective communities.

UNRWA’s work is widely recognized as an important source of stability in a very volatile region and remains essential to ensure sustainable and effective support for refugees stripped of their rights to return to their hometowns and villages.

Additional stress on Palestinian society threatens to wipe out the already dwindling Palestinian Christian community, the oldest Christian community in the world.

The Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, PCAP, is a nonsectarian, ecumenical alliance of Palestinian American Christians that seeks to provide a clear voice and presence in faith-based communities in the US. See their statement below>

“We believe that achieving peace requires ensuring justice and human rights for the Palestinians. American churches, church bodies, and church-based organizations can and ought to play a leading role in advocating for a just peace among all people in the region.”

Visit Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace at :  www.pcap-us.org  and https://www.facebook.com/PCAPeace/

PCAP greatly welcomes opportunities to visit your church or faith community to present a Christian perspective on issues of peace and justice in the Holy Land.   Call them  at (703) 593-7982

More about UNRWA
UNRWA teaches more than 526,000 refugee children in the largest and one of the highest achieving public school systems in the Middle East.

  • UNRWA operates 143 primary health facilities, with nearly 9 million annual patient visits.
  • UNRWA provides food assistance to more than 1 million refugees.
  • UNRWA empowers 7,500 men and women each year at 8 vocational and technical training centers.
  • UNRWA has awarded over $493.7 million in microfinance loans to Palestine refugees.

 


Washington, D.C. – May 2, 2019

Media Contact:
Katie McRoberts
katie@cmep.org
202-543-1222

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) Strongly Endorses Rep. Betty McCollum’s “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living under Israeli Occupation Act”  

On Wednesday, Rep. Betty McCollum introduced H.R. 2407, “The Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living under Israeli Occupation Act.” Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) strongly endorses this legislation as a proactive step toward safeguarding the lives of vulnerable children caught in the middle of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

H.R. 2407 offers protection not only to Palestinian children, but to children worldwide, by amending the Leahy Law to prohibit any US foreign aid dollars from contributing to “the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of children in violation of international humanitarian law.” It also authorizes the appropriation of $19 million annually to fund NGOs that monitor human rights in Israel/Palestine and to fund organizations that provide physical and mental health support to Palestinian children who have been subject to military detention, abuse, or torture.

“Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families,” Congresswoman McCollum said. “It must be condemned, but it is equally outrageous that US tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.”

Kyle Cristofalo, CMEP’s Director of Advocacy and Government Relations, said “Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is grateful to Rep. Betty McCollum for her ongoing commitment to the rights of Palestinian children. We wholeheartedly support her legislation. For there to be any hope for a just and lasting end to the conflict in Israel/Palestine, all children, including Palestinians, must live without fear of military detention. Congress has a responsibility to ensure US policy reflects values that prioritize concern for the most vulnerable. We call on Rep. McCollum’s congressional colleagues to cosponsor this critical legislation.”

Rep. McCollum introduced a similar version of this bill in the 115th Congress, the “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act,” which was cosponsored by 30 of her colleagues.

Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of 29 national church communions and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical traditions that works to encourage US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. CMEP works to mobilize US Christians to embrace a holistic perspective and to be advocates of equality, human rights, security, and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and all people of the Middle East.

 

WCC, ACT Alliance and MECC statement on Gaza

08 May 2019

WCC, ACT Alliance and MECC statement on Gaza

With deep concern over the latest hostilities in the Gaza Strip,  the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)  and ACT Alliance express their  belief that the present situation in the Gaza Strip is morally and ethically untenable. We offer our heartfelt sympathies to all the victims, killed and injured and their families, of the recent intense spate of violence.

All parties to the conflict must face up to their responsibilities and their moral and legal accountability. It is imperative that they seek ways to protect the civilian population, especially women and children from recurring military confrontations that can only exacerbate an already tense situation and ongoing humanitarian crisis. It is particularly incumbent on those with the most powerful and destructive means at their disposal to exercise the highest responsibility for avoiding further catastrophes for the suffering people of Gaza

 The General Conference of the United Methodist Church has urged all United Methodists to read about the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians and nonviolent ways of ending the conflict by reading the “Kairos Palestine Document according to Resolution #6111 of the 2012 Book of Resolutions. One source of this document can be found at the Palestine/Israel Justice Project site  pijp.org/study-guide/    The study guide shown there is based on the Kairos Palestine Document and can be used as a small group study. Contact Gail Chalbi at gchalbi1146@q.com for more information.

WCC, ACT Alliance and MECC statement on Gaza

08 May 2019

WCC, ACT Alliance and MECC statement on Gaza

With deep concern over the latest hostilities in the Gaza Strip,  the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)  and ACT Alliance express their  belief that the present situation in the Gaza Strip is morally and ethically untenable. We offer our heartfelt sympathies to all the victims, killed and injured and their families, of the recent intense spate of violence.

All parties to the conflict must face up to their responsibilities and their moral and legal accountability. It is imperative that they seek ways to protect the civilian population, especially women and children from recurring military confrontations that can only exacerbate an already tense situation and ongoing humanitarian crisis. It is particularly incumbent on those with the most powerful and destructive means at their disposal to exercise the highest responsibility for avoiding further catastrophes for the suffering people of Gaza    Read more

Blessed are the peacemakers, but what about the troublemakers?

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon

May 15, 2019

May 14 marks one year since the U.S. Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, five months after President Trump announced the move December 6. What has the U.S. done about peace since then?

President Trump said that since he thought the Embassy move to Jerusalem was good for Israelis, he would next do something good for Palestinians. It is a bit hard to understand his definition of good for the Palestinians. Since the move, his actions have been more about troublemaking than peacemaking. He has:

Trump’s still-murky Israeli-Palestinian peace plan already meeting stiff opposition
The LA Times

“After numerous false starts, the Trump administration is finally preparing to unveil its long-promised Mideast peace plan in coming weeks, and initial indications suggest it is aimed at pleasing Israel while offering financial incentives to the Palestinians but no pathway to statehood, their primary demand.”

Read more