Comments by Steve Berube to Louise Martin at CBC regarding her report on Elizabeth May.

August 22, 2016

Dear Ms. Martin,

By way of background, I have served as a human rights observer in Bethlehem for the World Council of Churches and I co-chair the United Church network seeking a just peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI – United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel).

You characterized BDS as a movement against Israel – it is not. This idea plays into the narrative constructed by the Israeli government and pro-Netanyahu groups. BDS is pro international human rights and humanitarian laws. It is non-violent and seeks a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike through an end to the 49 year long illegal occupation as defined by the 4th Geneva Convention and as determined by the International Court of Justice in two separate cases. The illegal occupation has further been condemned by the UN Security Council and General Assembly.

Certainly, you and the CBC are interested in accurate reporting. Unfortunately, there is a strong campaign by those who benefit from the illegal occupation who control the narrative.

Independent Jewish Voices, a Canadian group, actually supports BDS. The Jewish community is not monolithic in it’s view of the situation as Netanyahu would want people to believe.

I trust CBC to report accurately. Your report was an attempt to be faithful but showed a basic misunderstanding of BDS.

I would be happy to speak/correspond further with you on this subject. I would be happy to provide you with background material which could actually improve your understanding on this subject.

Rev. Steve Berube

Rev. Steve Berube
St. Paul’s United
404 Cleveland Ave.
Riverview, NB
sberube@nb.aibn.com

An open letter to Alan Hall re Divestment

Steve Berube, Co-chair of UNJPPI, released a public letter on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 urging the Responsible Investment Committee to act on divestment as requested by GC 42.

Religion, Divestment, Shareholder Engagement, the United Church and the Way of Jesus

Religion is not rational. It is about relationships and symbols that speak to our lives and to our connections with what is within us and beyond us. It helps us connect to other people and to the creation as a whole. Religious beliefs ground our ethics. Theology helps us to see and hear the sacred in a disordered and flawed world.

Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple as a sign of God’s outrage with those who were taking advantage of the poor and powerless. After the incident, the moneychangers cleaned up the mess, complained to the authorities and went back to business as usual. Meanwhile, because Jesus had the audacity to react to immorality – he was arrested, beaten and executed.

Divestment from companies that support or profit from the occupation of Palestine may not be the same as overturning the moneychangers’ tables but it is a theological choice.  Primarily, it says to our partners, “We will stand in solidarity with you in your hour of need.” It is a way for us to be “salt and light” in the world.

Human suffering may not trigger a change in corporations but it should elicit a response from Christians. Divestment clearly says we refuse to support corporations that make people suffer. It puts our relationship with our brothers and sisters who “cry out in anguish” ahead of any commercial enterprise.

In some cases, shareholder engagement is an effective tool to bring about change. Unfortunately, in Palestine and Israel it has failed. Larger churches in the US have worked with Hewlett Packard, Caterpillar and others for years with no success. Dr. Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine and Harvard Law Professor, has clearly stated that attempts by the UN failed with most corporations.

A year ago, the General Council (GC) of the United Church of Canada, the highest decision making body of the denomination, a group we believe is guided by God’s Spirit, requested the United Church, our foundation and pension fund divest from companies supporting or profiting from the occupation. Four years ago, GC directed, “the Executive of the General Council to explore the wisdom of divesting in companies that are profiting from or supporting the occupation.”

In response, a committee was formed to develop a policy regarding what euphemistically has been called responsible investment. No actions and/or recommendations on divestment in support of our partners in Palestine and Israel and our other partners in Guatemala who have ongoing concerns with Canadian mining interests have been forthcoming from this group. This leads to the question, what is our priority, developing a policy or supporting those who have been and who are suffering?

The will of the General Council is clear – divest. So why not divest, as requested and then develop a policy for future guidance? After all, there is no legislation that prevents the United Church or any other body from investing in or divesting from any one corporation. The wisdom of the General Council is clear. The stories from our partners are compelling. The groundwork done by other churches is faithful.  Finally, the overwhelming evidence from independent NGO’s, sister churches, the UN and other agencies in Palestine and Israel calls us to act!

The evidence in relation to the brutality of the occupation is abundantly clear. The firsthand accounts of our partners and the 20+ Ecumenical Accompaniers appointed by the denomination attest to daily violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian laws. Credible international groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Defence for Children International, the World Council of Churches, B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights and Addameer have clearly documented the reality of the occupation. Additionally, the last report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian territories is tantamount to an indictment for apartheid. So why not do the right thing, the just thing and act!

Religion and theology help to guide us in a disordered and tragic world. The prophet Micah wrote, “God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” The General Council has decided for justice and support for human rights and the rule of international law. It would serve us well as a denomination to listening to the cries of our partners and humbly respond by divesting from corporations that benefit from the occupation and then create a guide to responsible investing. After all, we do have a theological obligation to stand in solidarity with those who have suffered for 49 long years.

When we divest there will be criticism. There always is when we decide to stand for justice. I remember entering theological college in 1988 just after the GC decided that sexual orientation was not a barrier to ordination. There was a lot of criticism. Still, we trusted in the Holy Spirit guidance then and we did not delay implementation. Our church is richer for that decision.

Divestment is a sign and symbol of solidarity with those who are suffering. It is not a reasonable shareholder reaction – it is saying, “Here I stand I can do no other”. It may not be as dramatic as overturning the tables of the moneychangers but it is faithful to the one who calls us to be salt and light in the world.

Steve Berube,
Co-Chair, UNJPPI
August 5, 2016

World Social Forum – a Personal Review

I attended the World Social Forum (WSF) in Montreal (Aug 7-14).  It was a memorable, once-in-a-life-time experience to gather with social activists from all over the world.  I was there as a member of the Canadian Friends of Sabeel (CFOS) Board of Directors which presented 3 workshops on Palestine.

The World Social Forum started in 2001 in Brazil.  This is the first time that it has met in a developed country in the global north. Unfortunately, WSF organisers say more than half of the expected delegates were denied visas to enter Canada.

I found the Forum a great opportunity to meet with leaders and activists from Palestine Israel as well as from other areas of the world. Dr. Basel Ghattas, a Palestinian elected member of the Israeli Knesset, was one of the participants in our workshops and I had the privilege of meeting him and having conversation with him. The workshops were held in the universities/colleges in the centre of Montreal which meant a lot of walking.  It was impossible to attend all of the events but several Grand Conferences gathered people to focus on specific issues.  I attended a couple of the conferences on Palestine besides the workshops we organized.

The following summary on the World Council of Churches website provides a good overview of the Forum:
A delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC) attended the 12th World Social Forum (WSF) in Montreal, Canada, which concluded on 14 August. More than 30,000 participants from around the world gathered to discuss global issues based on their local experiences, network with others working on similar problems, and create new joint initiatives advancing a progressive path forward. Trade, climate change, clean water, clean energy, environmental justice, land reform and agro-ecology, new media, social financing, ending destructive extractive industry and demilitarization were among the broad array of topics discussed in more than 1,200 workshops.

We managed to live stream a couple of the CFOS workshops:

  1. Our Land, Our Hope: Experiences of Dispossession and Theologies/Spiritualities of Liberation
  2. Divesting your Church and Denomination 101

Curtis Marwood

Your support for the activities of UNJPPI is appreciated.
UNJPPI
111-678 Broadview Ave.
Toronto, ON M4K 2P2

Say “No” to the Forced Transfer of the People of Susiya

The United Church has issued a call to “Say “No” to the Forced Transfer of the People of Susiya”. 

This small village in the South Hebron Hills of Palestine is once again being threatened with demolition by the Israeli government.

On August 1, Israel’s High Court gave the new Minister of Defense two weeks to decide whether to continue negotiations. This decision is expected soon. In the absence of dialogue, it will be up to the Israeli High Court to decide if it will accept the state’s request to demolish 40 percent of the village.

We are urged to Take Action by writing to The Hon. Stephan Dion and our MP’s to ask that Canada issue a public statement calling directly on the Israeli government to immediately freeze all settlement activity and demolition orders, as well as cancel all transfer plans. A sample letter is available at the bottom of the page on the Take Action page of the UCC website.

The take Action page also has a link to a video in which residents of Susiya speak out against the demolitions and takeover of their community.

Share this appeal with your network.

Your support for the activities of UNJPPI is appreciated.
UNJPPI
111-678 Broadview Ave.
Toronto, ON M4K 2P2

Thank the Green Party for their Decision to support the non-violent BDS Movement

August 11, 2016

Dear Friends,

On Sunday, the Green Party took a courageous stand in supporting the BDS movement. It is vitally important for those of us who support an end to the illegal military occupation in Palestine to thank the Greens.

Currently, the leadership of the Green Party is under tremendous pressure. A reliable source has told me the Green’s have received over 1,000 letters from those who oppose BDS since the vote on Sunday. The pro-Netanyahu government forces in Canada are extremely well funded, highly resourced and vicious when anyone or any group with a public profile offers any support to Palestinians and Israelis who long for a just peace. Subsequently, the Greens need to know there are many Canadians who support BDS and appreciate the decision of he Green Party.

I urge you and plead with you to take five minutes and write the Green Party to thank them for their decision to support the nonviolent BDS movement. The email address is: www.greenparty.ca/en/contact

The letter can be as simple as:
As a supporter of human rights and the rule of international law I wish to thank the Green Party for its support of the non-violent BDS movement.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom, Paix,
Steve

United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel
http://www.unjppi.org

Palestine sessions live stream

Remember, you can join the World Social Forum at home.

The activities organized by CFOS will be streamed online.

Participate in each session live. Click on the links for each session to enter a chat room.  You will be able to ask questions or add comments. We can take your questions for speakers/workshop leaders there as well. You will find the link to the streaming video in the Skype room.

G4S and Municipal Campaigns: Aug 10th, 1pm
https://join.skype.com/wRl2hZKhv8vyc

Grand Conference: Palestinians under Apartheid, Occupation and Seige: Aug 11, 6pm
We will send the link later.

Our Land, Our Hope: Experiences of Dispossession and Theologies/Spiritualities of Liberation:  Aug 12, 9am
https://join.skype.com/wJIySWuaiSxA

Divestment and Palestinian Liberation Theology: Aug 12, 1pm
https://join.skype.com/Dp019uvV7fTd

Canada denying Visas to WSF Participants – sign petition

To sign as organizations & individuals, and share widely….as we move toward the WSF

Canada obstructing Palestinians and many others from the global south from participation in World Social Forum in Montréal by denying people’s visas. http://goo.gl/Eb87DO

Here is a petition to sign:
https://outreach.mayfirst.org/civicrm/petition/sign?sid=2
Please sign and forward widely on all platforms.

United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel
PO Box 1342 · Blenheim, Ontario N0P 1A0 · Canada