Since You Asked: What is the Episcopal Church's position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?

November 11, 2007

The Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, director of the Episcopal Church's Peace and Justice Ministries, and Maureen Shea, director of the church's Office of Government Relations, respond:

Since 1988, the General Convention has sought to support a just resolution to one of the world's most intractable problems, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. At the heart of the church's policies is support for the two-state solution: a secure Israel at peace with and recognized by her neighbors and an independent, sovereign and viable Palestine, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both nations.

The Episcopal Church cares deeply about the Christian presence in the Holy Land, especially its warm and affectionate relationship with Palestinian Episcopalians. The church also cares deeply for the Jewish people and their desire for their own state to flourish in the wake of the Holocaust. And, in recent years, there has been a growing interest in developing closer ties and understandings with Islam. Thus the church's vision is for the states of Israel and Palestine to be a home for the three Abrahamic faiths and the peoples who embrace these three religious traditions.

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a history of competing and seemingly irreconcilable narratives. The Jewish narrative for a homeland in the region of its roots described in the Torah (and the Old Testament) is born in part from the ashes of the Holocaust. Palestinians also lay claim to the same land and saw hundreds of their villages destroyed in the 1948 war, resulting in hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees fleeing their land, leaving to this day the largest population of refugees in the world. At the same time, many Jews were expelled from neighboring Arab states.

In short, for Jews, the creation of the State of Israel is cause for celebration. For Palestinians, it is remembered as the Nakba, the Catastrophe.

Standing in a place where the Episcopal Church supports both sides in this conflict with their differing narratives is not easy and requires careful discernment in order to hold up the principles of true justice. No person can truly say that one side is all right and the other side is all wrong.

So, while supporting the rights of both peoples, the church also must name injustices that impede peace, such as the illegal building of Israeli settlements and a separation barrier on Palestinian lands, and, indeed, point to the injustice of holding millions of people under occupation for 40 years. Attacks against Israelis through rockets and suicide bombers are also unjust, impede peace and violate the church's teachings opposing violence as a means to resolving conflict.

Thus, it is in this complicated context that the Episcopal Church sees its role to promote a just resolution of the conflict for the two peoples of the Holy Land, through advocacy work in Washington, D.C., and through education of church members and fostering of interfaith dialogue among the three Abrahamic traditions. Building bridges of understanding between competing narratives holds the hope of a just peace. And laboring to see these two neighbors at peace with one another is truly a faithful response to the Episcopal Church's mission of reconciliation.

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