A Message to the Church Regarding the Israel-Palestine Conflict
July 15,02

A Message to the Church Regarding the Israel-Palestine Conflict

To Our Brothers and Sisters in the Church:

We speak as retired clergy for whom the suffering occasioned by the Israel-Palestine conflict causes deep anguish and raises serious moral and political questions.  We are gravely concerned by the muted response of the Church to two systemic issues: Israel's claim to a "divine right" to territory now occupied by Israel proper, plus the Gaza Strip and the West Bank - a claim we reject - and United States Middle East foreign policy over the past four decades.
We recognize Israel's national existence, and need for security, but we oppose the Israeli government's policies of creating settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, whose primary purpose is to enlarge Israel's borders, dispossessing and oppressing native Palestinians, many of whom are in fact descendants of the Jews and Christians of Biblical times.  We do not accept the rationale that "God's covenant with Abraham" requires or allows Israel to establish settlements in Palestinian territory, and we question the argument that such occupation enhances Israel's security - casualties since 1967 indicate just the opposite.
We believe that the United States' long history of providing bountiful financial, political, and military support for Israel, denying such encouragement to the other side, and then leaving to Israel and the Palestinians the task of reaching agreement on refugees, borders, settlements, and the status of Jerusalem, is a policy that has failed. It has not led us, or Israel and Palestine, toward a world of peace and justice.
Terror is a weapon employed by other sides in the current conflict.  We condemn all killing and intentional infliction of suffering by either side for the purpose of achieving political goals - whether by suicide bombing, assassination, military attack, house demolition, property confiscation, or other means of collective punishment.  We categorically reject all religious encouragement of such violence, and regard it as transgressing core Judeo-Christian values.
We urge all clergy and lay Church members to call upon our leaders to implement a just, evenhanded, and effective policy toward Israel and Palestine: a policy that will strive for an end to violence, while addressing its root causes in poverty, despair, and hopelessness. Such a policy must guarantee secure borders, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, support for individual human rights, the rule of law, government by consent of the governed, and respect for the Geneva Conventions and United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. To achieve these goals, equitable levels of support must be granted both to Palestine and to Israel.

"If we want peace, we must work for justice."


Lon B.Chesnutt                       Harry C. Kiely                        W. McCarl Roberts, Jr.

C. Douglas Coon                     Chester W. Kirk                      William S. Ryan

Andrew Leigh Gunn                James R. Morgan                    Gerald W. Weiss

Clifford L. Harrison                 R. Bruce Poynter                    L. Carroll Yingling, Jr.

William A. Holmes                   Thomas E. Price                     Ira G. Zepp, Jr.