They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. ~ Jeremiah 6:14
Jeremiah was right. The greatest lie of all is when the oppressed are told that the matrix of oppression is the path to peace.
For decades we have been told by Israel and all U.S. Administrations, including the current one, that the “two-state solution” is the way of peace. Many faith-based organizations, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), have adopted statements supporting that path. But Palestine has been chopped up into tiny unsustainable fragments by Israeli occupation, ethnic cleansing and expansionism. Given this reality, how can the “two-state solution” be considered anything other than a cruel joke? Enter the fallacy of “investment” without the removal of Israeli policies that strangle the possibilities for a genuine sustainable economy in Palestine.
The facts on the ground make the “two-state solution” a grandiose illusion even for the most die-hard supporters of Israeli expansionism. This week, U.S. policy, as stated by Secretary of State Kerry, has turned to boosting the peace process by investment in the Palestinian economy. The new language being used to distract from the reality of ethnic cleansing and apartheid is “positive investment.”
The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) warns against use of this investment strategy as potentially enabling and maintaining of the status quo, a brutal military occupation now in its fifth decade. The strategy is eerily reminiscent of strategies employed to quell calls for the end to apartheid in South Africa.
The latest diversionary statement, A Prophetic Peacemaking Strategy, published by Presbyterians for Middle East Peace (PFMEP) is more of the same propaganda aimed at preserving the oppressive status quo in Palestine.
What PFMEP and other promoters of the “positive investment” sleight-of-hand fail to recognize is how momentum towards justice for the oppressed is building, and that they are falling further and further on the wrong side of history. Everyone likes the proposition that investment can indeed be positive: entrepreneurs want their money to go to positive successful pursuits.
However, now is the time for American Christians and Jews to recognize that they cannot have it both ways. We cannot call for investment in Occupied Palestine while at the same time reaping financial benefit from our funds invested in the very apparatus that continue to maintain the occupation of Palestine. What keeps this fantasy alive, of course, is an age old church trick: Infuse an area with benevolence dollars and call it “investment” when it really is nothing more than traditional church mission funding dressed up in new clothing, with no return for investment.
Groups like PFMEP and others have been talking up “positive investment” since as early 2006 but they have yet to show any success. After all, in Palestine, Spanish-funded solar panels have been destroyed by Israel; Polish-funded water cisterns have been destroyed by Israel, and so on. What serious entrepreneurs are going to invest in this kind of atmosphere? Palestinian economic leaders are industrious and creative enough to make real investment pay off, but they are telling the world that the obstacle of the matrix of occupation needs to be dismantled before they can succeed.
In the famous contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18), the difference between the two was that while Elijah had the truth, justice and righteousness of God on his side, the hapless pagan priests had nothing but empty rhetoric. There is no doubt that “positive investment” proponents see their stance as prophetic. When compared to the actual facts on the ground in Palestine, their claims are nothing more than empty rhetoric.