Israel’s War: The Response of the Churches to the October 7th Attack by Hamas

Calling on governments to stop the carnage

Churches in the U.S.A. have mobilized to address the immediate threat to the lives of the over two million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. In the U.S.A. 27 churches and church-related agencies have addressed an urgent letter to Congress. The letter closes with the following words:

“During this time of heightened tension, we implore Congress to refrain from steps that only exacerbate the violence and increase the risk of expanding war into the broader region. Any Congressional effort that is one-sided, and rushes to send new weapons to Israel, will only intensify the conflict leading to further deaths and destruction. Congress must work to prevent the spread of more violence, including against Palestinian civilians in Israel and the West Bank.”

“Year after year, we have seen that increasing violence begets more violence. Our past responses have failed to end the bloodshed. As these horrific events unfold, we are reminded once again that only by addressing core systemic issues, including decades of institutionalized oppression and collective punishment of Palestinians through brutal military occupation and a 16-year Gaza blockade, will Israelis and Palestinians live in peace.”

Click here for the full text of the letter and list of signatories.

A similar appeal has gone out from Sabeel-Kairos UK to their government to act to cease further genocidal military actions by the State of Israel and to restore the basic necessities of life to Gaza. Read “Call to action in response to the situation in Palestine/Israel.” Here is an excerpt:

“The UK Government has been hiding behind the sham of supporting a two-state solution, long acknowledged by many in Palestine and Israel as dead in the water. They have allowed impunity to continue for decades, failing to support international mechanisms of accountability. In the last few days, they have expressed unwavering support for Israel, offering diplomatic, intelligence and security support.”

”To the UK Churches – we call on you to speak truth to power, as written in scripture. We call on you to fulfil your mission as the Church in standing on the side of the oppressed, the downtrodden, the poor and those without voice. We ask you to take actions to ensure that you do not support, either financially or spiritually, the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people. We ask you to respond to the call of Palestinian Christians.”

The churches speak

Following the 2009 “Moment of Truth: a Word of Faith, Hope, and Love from the heart of Palestinian suffering,” a broad and deepening network of churches and allied faith groups and organizations arose throughout the world in support of the Palestinian struggle. This network has responded to the current crisis. Links to these statements and excerpts follow. What follows is almost certainly incomplete as of today, and it is also certain that more statements and actions will originate from church bodies in the U.S. and globally in the coming days. We begin with the impassioned statement from Kairos Palestine.

“We have been crying for more than 70 years.” Kairos Palestine Statement on the war on Gaza

“This war came to say, it is time for everyone to wake up and know the truth about what is happening in Palestine and Israel, that Israel has settled in a land that belongs to the people of Palestine and has deprived the people of Palestine of their freedom. This situation needs to be corrected. Do not think that your comprehensive and destructive war on Gaza is the solution. Do not think that your ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in Gaza is the solution! We are people like you. We want life like you. We want all our rights like you.”

“We all cry for everyone who died, was injured, or was captured. We have been crying for more than seventy years. Refugees in all parts of the world are asking to return. In your prisons, Israel, there are thousands of political prisoners asking for their freedom. There are Palestinians who have been forcibly displaced, homes you have destroyed, homes you raided day and night, and in which you instilled terror. As for the root causes driving the war, they are the permanent state of terror that we Palestinians live in daily from the rule and tyranny of the Israeli occupation army, and the absolute insistence by successive Israeli governments, especially this government, that the Palestinian people have no right to self-determination. And all the consequences that arise from that.”

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A): In Pursuit of a Just Peace.

“We are horrified by the death and suffering inflicted by Hamas on Israeli civilians, including the holding of hostages. And we are horrified by Israel’s massive retaliation against Gaza, whose population of over two million human beings has no way to flee and nowhere to hide from a crushing military assault. An immediate ceasefire is essential to stop the bloodshed now.”

“As this latest abhorrent violence continues, IPMN remains steadfast in our commitment to pursue a just peace for all in the region. We share the conviction voiced by many others that peace will only come when underlying causes are addressed, namely dispossession, settler colonialism, occupation, and apartheid that the Israeli government continues to perpetrate on the Palestinian people.”

Fellowship of Reconciliation: On the Outbreak of Another Gaza War

“Even while pursuing normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries, the U.S. has not worked to bring an end to the occupation or demanded an improvement in the rights and status of Palestinians. Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler offered these words: from “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7) With an Israeli society that begins to resemble the segregation and injustices pre and post-civil war in the U.S., it is no small wonder that the frustration and pain will result in violence and war.”

Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine Israel Network: Statement on Events in Palestine and Israel

“The horrific events of Oct. 7, 2023, are the result of people resisting a brutal system of discrimination and seeking an end to their oppression. It is their legal right to do so. We do not condone violence, but we recognize a people moved to desperation whose every plea, every attempt at conciliation, every non-violent campaign has been met by obdurate racism, by the shameful silence of the international community, and worst, by complicit participation in the oppression by governments of the United States and western Europe through tacit endorsement, financial support, and diplomatic protection.”

“The violence did not begin on October 7. The violence began decades ago when militant, colonial forces sought to establish a Jewish immigrant state in the inhabited land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, claiming that land on the basis of religious exclusivity unrecognized by international law, and in the process displacing and dispossessing the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants through systemic and sustained violence.”

“We pray for peace with justice, but we categorically reject a “peace process” or “negotiation” or “restored period of calm” that continues the underlying daily violence of Israel’s regime, is mediated by biased parties such as the U.S. government, does not abide by international law, and does not begin with unconditional assurance of the freedom, dignity, self-determination, and human rights of all parties. We call on the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

Jewish Voice for Peace: The Root Violence is Oppression

“The bloodshed of today and the past 75 years traces back directly to U.S. complicity in the oppression and horror caused by Israel’s military occupation. The U.S. government consistently enables Israeli violence and bears blame for this moment. The unchecked military funding, diplomatic cover, and billions of dollars of private money flowing from the U.S. enables and empowers Israel’s apartheid regime. Those who continue calling for “ironclad” U.S. support for the Israeli military are only paving the path to more violence.”

“From the U.S., there are no sidelines. We will uproot complicity where we are: we demand that the U.S. government immediately take steps to withdraw military funding to Israel and to hold the Israeli government accountable for its gross violations of human rights and war crimes against Palestinians. We commit to escalating our campaigns for boycott, divestment and sanctions to end the billions pouring into the Israeli war machine from corporations and private foundations.”

Friends of Sabeel North America: Gaza, Colonial Violence, and the Pursuit of a Just Peace

“Palestinian rights must be taken into account. The Abrahamic Accords are arrangements based on shallow interests that deliberately failed to take Palestinians into account.This is not a conflict that can be resolved through the violent overpowering of one’s enemies. For this reason, it is essential that Hamas is no longer excluded from the conversation.”

“As the fighting continues and the number of victims on both sides increase, we must raise our voice and call for peace: a just peace based on equality, human rights, and dignity, and not on supremacy and colonial domination.”

Churches for Middle East Peace: Implores global leaders to address Core issues.

“CMEP urges the US government to refrain from providing further unrestricted material and political support for further militarization of the conflict … While the United States empathizes with Israeli suffering, so should it empathize with Palestinian suffering. Furthermore, the U.S. should not exacerbate the problem by ignoring the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people for their rights.”

Finally, this opinion piece, entitled “Statement of Solidarity with Israel/Palestine” appeared in Tikkun Magazine on October 12.

“Written and signed by Palestinians, Jews, and others,” its stated goal is to pursue ways to brings parties together and to “overcome polarization.”

“The unfolding horror in Israel and Gaza is an escalation of decades of state-sanctioned violence by Israel against Palestinians. We condemn the horrific actions of Hamas against Israeli civilians. We likewise condemn Israel’s unbridled bombing and cutting off access to all basic needs, including food, water, electricity, and medical care. Attacks on Palestinian and Israeli civilians are repugnant.”

“Israeli violence against Palestinians has been intentionally hidden, slow, and steady. Contrary to what the media is reporting, this attack was not unprovoked. The Israeli and American governments have worked together to suppress and deny the inhumane acts against Palestinians that have led to this moment. There are Palestinians and Jews who have been raising red flags and warning about this inevitable outcome for decades, only to be dismissed and ignored.”