Let Justice Roll

A Letter from Doug Dicks, serving in Israel and Palestine

Summer 2022

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Dear family and friends,

I hope you are holding up under the summer heat, wherever you are! As the world continues to heat up due to climate change, the Middle East is heating up faster than other parts of the world. The Dead Sea is slowly (or should I say quickly?) drying up. An independent Israeli study has concluded that Israel and therefore, also the Palestinian Territories are warming up almost twice as fast as the rest of the world! By 2050, the Middle East is predicted to be 4 degrees Celsius warmer, compared to the 1.5-degree mark that scientists have prescribed to save humanity.

On Wednesday, May 11, Palestinian TV correspondent and journalist for Al Jazeera TV, Shireen Abu Aqla, was killed in Jenin, in the northern part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. It is presumed she was assassinated or deliberately targeted by an Israeli sniper. At the time, she was wearing a press vest and was standing with fellow journalists when she was shot and killed. Her funeral was held on Friday, May 13, in Jerusalem, with hundreds if not thousands of mourners in attendance and participating in the funeral procession. Israeli police and security agents deliberately beat the pallbearers carrying her coffin for no apparent reason. The outpouring of grief over her untimely and senseless death was overwhelming.

The Abu Aqla family is still demanding accountability over Shireen’s death. Not only was she of Palestinian descent, but she was also an American citizen. The bullet that killed Shireen was eventually handed over to American authorities, who, in turn, handed it over to Israeli authorities for ballistics testing. The final report suggested the bullet was too damaged to come to any definitive conclusions as to its origin. However, only days following the shooting, Israel had already concluded that the bullet most likely came from an Israeli-fired weapon. In late July, the Abu Aqla family was granted a meeting at the U.S. State Department with Anthony Blinken, and they have also requested a meeting with President Joe Biden.

Israeli nationalists celebrated what they call “Flag Day” on May 29 – a Sunday – and held a provocative march through Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter of the Old City and to the Western Wall. It was reported that 3,000 Israeli police and security personnel were deployed to protect the marchers and to prevent disturbances between the marchers and the Palestinians of East Jerusalem. As photos would later show, Israeli ultra-nationalists and settlers attacked Palestinians, including women, just inside the Damascus Gate, kicking them and spraying them with what appeared to be pepper spray. You can watch it for yourself at:  peoplesdispatch.org/2022/06/03/jerusalem-day-an-annual-celebration-of-colonialism.

In mid-June, I traveled to the U.S., bound for the 225th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), held in Louisville, Kentucky. I had been asked to serve as a Missionary Advisory Delegate to the assembly and served on the committee “Addressing Violence in the USA.” I also resourced and spoke before the committee and in plenary to the committee dealing with international issues, specifically those related to Israel/Palestine. The theme of this year’s assembly was “From Lament to Hope.”

Overtures before the International Engagement committee and eventually the assembly included three items related to Israel/Palestine:  1. A call for lifting the siege of Gaza and collective punishment imposed upon the Gaza Strip by Israel since 2007; 2. A call to designate May 15 as “Nakba Day” on the Presbyterian Planning Calendar. This date commemorates the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands, cities, villages and homes and the displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians in 1948; 3. An overture naming the government of Israel as engaging in apartheid practices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against the Palestinian people.

In January 2021, B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, named Israel’s policies and practices “Apartheid.” Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joined B’Tselem in this designation. All three organizations have now declared that Israel is engaged in Apartheid against the Palestinian people. You can watch the short three-minute video on Apartheid by Human Rights Watch here at this link: youtube.com/watch?v=6TLe4J7Dvd0.

In his letter to the church at large, as well as to the public, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, stated the following: “We want to say this loud and clear: We are committed to continuing dialogue with our interfaith partners and to combating antisemitism and all forms of violence, discrimination, and human rights violations. To increase awareness of violence against people of other faiths in the United States, the 225th General Assembly has approved a study document denouncing antisemitism and Islamophobia. At the same time, we are convinced that there is a fundamental difference between antisemitism and the right to critique the policies of Israel deemed illegal under international law.” Speaking truth to power!

President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories in mid-July, which I was only too happy to miss, was met with large banners and signs across the main road in Bethlehem leading to Palestinian President Abbas’ Bethlehem headquarters. Paid for and sponsored by the Israeli  B’Tselem, they read simply, “Mr. President, This is Apartheid.” 

Timely!

In Hope,

Doug


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