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“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”

A Letter from Doug Dicks, serving in Israel and Palestine

July 2020

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The long, hot days of summer are upon us here in the Middle East. In addition to the rise in temperature, tensions between Israel and the world began to heat up, as the calendar inched closer towards the date of July 1—the date that Israel had set for a major annexation of West Bank territory, including the Jordan Valley.

Not to be outdone, and with a growing sense of frustration in dealing with the White House, in late June, the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, took the case against annexation straight to senior members of the U.S. Congress. Utilizing the power of modern technology and through video link, the king pressed the case against a further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory and warned that the consequences for the region would be dire. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that the official statement was “mild” compared to the actual contents of the briefings themselves.

Likewise, the European Union warned Israel of possible sanctions, should Israel’s planned annexation go ahead. With the coronavirus raging in both Israel and the West Bank and with the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, facing charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, the date passed like any other, with no full-scale annexation. This does not mean that the planned takeover of Palestinian land is over, but, for now, the international pressure applied and the world’s preoccupation with the coronavirus pandemic seem to have put such plans on hold. In the meantime, nightly protests in Jerusalem and just outside of the prime minister’s residence are calling for his removal, not only over the corruption charges but also over the current government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn that the country has taken.

In the West Bank, many families continue to struggle with the issue of water shortages. One could reasonably ask why there are any water shortages, but especially this summer. With no tourists to fill the now-vacant hotels in Bethlehem, water should be in adequate supply. Yet, according to reports, Israel has cut the water supply, not only to the Bethlehem region but also to other major cities in the Palestinian Territories, even as demand for water has increased by as much as 30%. Water tankers run up and down the streets, trying to keep up with the challenge of supplying homes and multi-story apartment buildings with enough water to meet residents’ daily needs. Of course, that implies that this water has had to be bought, as it is over and above what the municipality supplies. With such a huge economic downturn due to the lack of tourism, this becomes a financial burden for families who cannot spare the extra money required to pay for their share of any additional water supplied to their apartment building.

The killing/murder of George Floyd on a Minneapolis street on May 25 resonated around the world, and for Palestinians, the brutality with which he was slain was all too familiar. His life was snuffed out in a matter of minutes, and his last words pleading for air to breathe, shocked all of us who witnessed it, again and again on our TV screens.

Only days later, on May 30, Iyad al-Hallaq, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian man, was shot and killed by Israeli police just inside Lions’ Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Israeli police say that he did not stop at a checkpoint after being ordered to do so by officers stationed nearby. However, Iyad’s teacher, who was with him at the time, begged the officers not to shoot, telling them that he did not understand. He was shot and killed inside an open-air garbage holding area. The investigation into his killing claims that NONE of the security cameras that are positioned on and around this area were working at the time and no footage was available to corroborate the story that he was not carrying anything lethal or harmful, except for a gift that he was taking to his school.

The brutal deaths of these two men, only days apart, have raised a new awareness among people of conscience everywhere. Each stands separate and apart from one another, and yet, in the larger scheme of things, speaks to a world that has become, all too often, out of touch with its own humanity. The power of privilege continues to silence—and often—kill those that beg for air to breathe, and the right to breathe—both free and freely.

On June 19, the opening of the 224th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was held—via ZOOM! In these unprecedented times, technology was utilized to bring together—at my count, and at any given time—up to 800 individuals who were logged in to participate in this historic gathering. Months ago, I had been asked to serve as a Missionary Advisory Delegate to the assembly and had readily accepted the invitation. Even though we were unable to convene together, in person in Baltimore, I agreed to continue to serve and logged in from early evening until the wee hours (my time!) of the early morning, until the business at hand was concluded. My life continues to be dominated—as I am sure many of your lives are—by ZOOM calls each week, as face-to-face meetings simply are not possible.

In John 10:10, Jesus reminds us that, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, stooped down to raise up the people of His day who were ignored, left out and marginalized by society. His example should be our highest calling.

May those voices that cry out to breathe free become shouts of freedom, justice, and liberty for all of God’s creation! May all people experience the abundant life that God so richly desires for us all.

Thank you for your prayers and your financial support, particularly in these days, when funds are in high demand and short supply. Without your help, my work and ministry here would not be possible.

Continue to stay safe, stay well, and wear a mask in public. It can help stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus and save lives, including your own.

Blessings,

Doug


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