Open letter from Kairos Palestine to the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches

Date: June 19th, 2024

Open letter to the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches 

”But based on his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”  (2 Peter 3:13)

Esteemed Members of the Executive Committee,

We at Kairos Palestine extend our appreciation of your statement issued in Bogota, Colombia by your esteemed Committee (6-11 June) titled: ”THE ESCALATING CRISIS IN GAZA”. We trust that the statement was issued with great concern and with the urgent need to terminate the atrocious crimes in Gaza.

However, as Palestinians, as Christians and as your partners, we would like to bring to your attention the following points pertaining to the content and the calls included in the statement:

1- We believe that the title ”Escalating Crisis in Gaza” is neither accurate, nor adequate. The protracted ”crisis” is a result of 8 months of Israel’s incessant large-scale military aggression which mounts to acts of genocide, prior to which, Gaza has been strangled by a 17year blockade that forced 2.3 million people to become aid-dependent and extremely vulnerable to famine and starvation. Especially with WCC being one of the key partners of the Office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide in the drafting of the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes (’the Fez Process’), it holds an elevated responsibility in identifying a genocide, condemning it with the strongest possible terms and acting to end it immediately. Besides our own accounts and meticulous documentation of the genocide as Palestinians, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) did confirm in its provisional measures that Israel’s is plausibly committing genocide. Not only is the term genocide absent from the title, it is marginalized in the body of the statement instead of being the essence of what the statement is condemning and calls for ending immediately. Investigation after investigation concludes that Israel is committing atrocious crimes under international law, including the most recent report[1] by the UN Commission of Inquiry which concluded that Israel is committing the crime of Extermination against the Palestinian people. It cannot be acceptable that crimes of such scale, committed deliberately over 8 months, be narrowed down to a ”crisis”.

2- We deplore that the Statement fails to mention Israel’s 7 decades settler colonial regime, apartheid and prolonged occupation with total impunity as the root cause and the context that laid the grounds for the events of 7 October and the ensuing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza and the grave escalation of Israel’s atrocities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

3- We equally deplore the avoidant, yet selective language of the Statement; while it lacks specifications in terms of identifying the aggressor when the perpetrator is Israel on the one hand, it uses strong language and adjectives when the perpetrators are Palestinian on the other. As the statement lays out the drastic statistics of the genocide in Gaza, it does not directly point to Israel, the perpetrator. However, the statement seems to reserve the use of strong, direct language to acts committed by Hamas, describing them as ”the most extreme and inhumane forms of killing, torture and other horrors, including sexual violence”. No such language is used to describe Israel’s atrocious acts in Gaza, which are, besides being much larger in scale and in the severity of impacts on civilians, very well-documented and live streamed for the entire world to witness.

4- Moreover, the statement tends to shrink the just Palestinian cause to the suffering of the civilian population in Gaza, or at least center this tragic outcome, and places the focus on humanitarian disaster, which is man-made, systematic and deliberate, still not directly defining the aggressor and the violator, i.e. Israel. As vital as it is to allow unconditional flow of much needed humanitarian aid for the starved Palestinians in Gaza, we know that no amount of aid can replace the Palestinian quest for freedom and justice. This should be the essence of the statement and any act of solidarity.

5- As Christians, we also uphold the God-given sanctity of life for all people. Yet, despite the massive difference in the death toll between Palestinians and Israelis, the statement put on equal footing the 37,000 Palestinians killed during Israel’s genocide in Gaza, and the 1200 Israelis killed on October 7th. The statement continued to both-side the ”violence” and the call for accountability, despite the stark differences in power dynamics. In doing so, the statement reflexively obscures the massive asymmetry of powers at play on the one hand, and the 7 decades long colonization of the Palestinian land and oppression of its people.

6- We hold a firm position that sexual violence must be condemned in its entirety and irrespective of who commits it. However, centering Israeli victims of sexual violence, in accounts that are still being investigated (at least for allegations of rape), and referring to Palestinian victims of Israel’s long standing, systematic policies of sexual violence, that have evolved as a tool of warfare in Gaza, with verified testimonies and documented accounts as mere ”instances of sexual violence by Israeli authorities against Palestinian detainees in the West Bank” is not acceptable. Adding to the decades of Israel’s policy of sexual violence against Palestinians, the latest report by the UN COI concluded that Israeli forces have committed sexual crimes against Palestinians, including through forced public nudity, forced public stripping, sexualized torture and abuse, and sexual humiliation and harassment.[2]

7- We join the call in demanding the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. Yet, the statement prioritizes the call for the release of 140 Israeli hostages over approximately 9000 Palestinian prisoners and hostages of all segments of the Palestinian society, children, women, men and elderly, held in the most inhumane conditions; tortured, starving and tens of them were killed without any investigation. The statement calls for the release of Palestinian ”persons”, not referring to them as hostages or prisoners, held ”without due legal process”. For over 7 decades, and with meticulous evidence and documentation, Palestinians understand that Israel’s ”due legal process” is a myth. Israeli military courts, where Palestinian civilians from all age groups are tried, have a 99% conviction rate.

8- The statement ”Urge(s) all members of the international community to ”rediscover” their moral and legal commitment to the equal human rights ….”. Indeed, we are of the position that legal obligations are not meant to be ”rediscovered”, but implemented immediately. Failure to do so must be held to account. Governments which represent what international law refers to as Third States MUST take action to end grave violations of international law. It is in the specific context of absolute lack of accountability and respect for international law that Israel has been able to conduct its genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and escalate its oppression in the West Bank. We are also of the position that respect for International Law must be ensured by ALL member states, and must apply irrespective of the violator, and that it cannot be prone to selectivity or politicization. The WCC’s calls must urge all churches and all governments to enforce the ICJ provisional measures, issued 3 times over the past 5 months. In this critical moment, we affirm what we wrote in our 2022 publication ”A dossier on Israeli Apartheid: A Pressing Call to Churches Around the World”: ”The church should not wait for the international community to officially describe and condemn Israel’s apartheid. No, a prophetic church should shape and lead the international community.”

9- We join WCC’s call for an immediate ceasefire, which must be merely a first step to end this harrowing genocide, but not the ultimate objective. We call on WCC to acknowledge that the ultimate objective must be ending the decades-long colonization of the Palestinian lands and the oppression against the Palestinian people, accountability, endeavoring for justice and then peace. We also call on the WCC, which has long affirmed the international law and UN positions to Palestine, to acknowledge and call for the recognition of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, like all people in the world, as the cornerstone for peace.

At the time of genocide, we need the churches and their widest ecumenical expression, the WCC, to voice their prophetic voice, to avoid neutrality, and not to be ”balanced” in the midst of genocide, and not to ignore a brutal colonization that preceded October 7th by 7 decades.

As your Palestinian Christian partners, joined by our allies globally, we do not need a statement that comes 8 months too late, but rather, an action plan for the implementation of the unique Christian message and mission which churches should contribute to the struggle against genocide and ethnic cleansing practiced by Israel against the Palestinians. We believe that the Christian community of believers has a special contribution to be made in this moment, emanating from their moral obligations as believers in the Christian faith.

We recall in this drastic moment what is written in our Kairos Palestine document section 3.4.1: ”The mission of the Church is prophetic, to speak the Word of God courageously, honestly and lovingly in the local context and in the midst of daily events. If she does take sides, it is with the oppressed, to stand alongside them, just as Christ our Lord stood by the side of each poor person and each sinner, calling them to repentance, life, and the restoration of the dignity bestowed on them by God and that no one has the right to strip away.”

Grace, peace,      

Kairos Palestine Board members


WCC skriver:

Statement on the Escalating Crisis in Gaza

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Bli medlem i Kairos Palestine Sweden