Listen to the Oppressed, not the Oppressor

Anti-BDS Bill Hearing, July 18, 2017
Anti-BDS Bill Hearing, July 18, 2017

Testimony presented at hearing on Anti-BDS Legislation, S.1689/H.1685, July 18, 2017

I am writing to you as House Chair & Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, regarding S.1689/H.1685 bills that are unMunir Jirmanusder consideration.

I am an elder at the Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church in Somerville and I was born in Jerusalem, Palestine in 1944 in our house which is now located at # 4 Levi St. in West Jerusalem.   My father who was a trial lawyer bought that piece of land on January 6, 1932 and built our house on it.  During the 1948 war that resulted in the creation of the state of Israel, our house was confiscated by the Israeli government since we were Christian and not Jewish.  Apparently when my ancestors converted to Christianity we lost our rights to our house according to Israeli Law.  You cannot selectively choose verses from the Bible to claim ownership of a land and God does not deal in real estate.

By training I am a physicist with a PhD from Tufts University and I became a US citizen in 1984.  My wife is also a physicist and we have two daughters who were born in Somerville and Medford & were educated in Medford public schools and received their undergraduate degrees from Harvard.  My daughters are denied the right to inherit or even visit their grandfather’s house.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has maintained constant contact with the indigenous Palestinian population in Israel and in the occupied West Bank after 1967.  The Church has always supported the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and has also shown its opposition to the Illegal occupation and the ethnic cleansing that is still ongoing to this day.  This was expressed in resolutions in 2012 & 2014 to Boycott products from Israeli settlements (aka colonies), and to Divest from US corporations supporting the occupation of Palestine.  The Church (along with 14 other US based Christian churches, agencies & organizations) also signed a letter urging Congress and the Administration to take actions which will enhance the prospects for peace, justice, and equality in Israel and Palestine, and refrain from actions that would harm those prospects.  This included protecting the rights of U.S. citizens seeking to carry out nonviolent economic protests to challenge unjust (Israeli) policies.

The well funded opposition who are supporting this bill keep insisting that you need to hear from their side (the Israeli government’s position) and suggesting that you should listen to the views of the Occupier / Oppressor while judging the people who are Occupied / Oppressed. They have also funded free trips to Israel to many of our elected officials to show them the rosy Israeli side, but not the real lives of the 2.6 million Palestinians under Israel’s military occupation.

In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu the Nobel peace prize winner: “It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government, but with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians, a future in which both the violence of the occupier and the resulting violent resistance of the occupied come to an end.”

It is with this in mind that I urge this committee to reject this resolution which seeks to support the oppressive actions of one very powerful state by discriminating against & punishing our churches, institutions and ordinary citizens when they exercise their basic rights under the First Amendment. 

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.