Photo by Mouna Photography

Jon Jacobs, an Evangelical Church of America pastor, was one of 20 who spoke in support of Palestinians at a rally on May 15 that marked the anniversary of the nakba and protested the killing of  Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Shireen Abu Akleh believed this world could be more humane by speaking truth to power. She made this her life’s work. To the people of Palestine, I mourn with you the loss of Shireen Abu Akleh, her voice in the struggle for human rights and the promise of the “Right to Return” for the people of Palestine.  

Ordained as an Evangelical Lutheran pastor, as a follower of Jesus, my faith is rooted in honoring every human. I ministered to a congregation at Ascension Lutheran Church in Milwaukee for almost 27 years. During that time, I served as an ambassador for Bright Stars of Bethlehem, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that promotes peace, justice and advocacy for basic human rights in Palestine. 

I support the demand for an independent tribunal to investigate the murder of Shireen and demand that Israel allows the rightful return of the Palestinian people to their homes. 

I am grateful for the leadership of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition and many others who organized the May 15 protest in Milwaukee for Palestinian Human Rights on the 74th anniversary of the nakba. It was my honor to stand with Palestinians grappling with the loss of a beloved reporter and spokeswoman.

Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian Christian, was killed while covering ongoing conflict between the Israeli army and the Palestinian soldiers in the northern West Bank town of Jenin. Shireen continuously reported on the ways in which the Israeli government illegally and systematically took land away from the indigenous peoples of Palestine. The Israeli government and the empires of the West continue to do this with financial support of the U.S.      

Speaking truth to power is a dangerous occupation. Shireen knew this risk. One of the only checks on the abuses and inhumane actions of empire builders is to expose them through the media. She did this on behalf of the oppressed, marginalized, abused and forgotten.  

At least 19 journalists have been killed in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. No one has been held accountable or charged for these murders. In 2022 alone, 28 journalists have been killed covering conflicts around the world. 

This is an ancient practice of empire builders: settle on land by pushing out those who have lived there before you and then claim it as your own. Models of economic and political systems are built upon the need to exploit human labor and control land, regardless of the people who have lived and stewarded that land for centuries.

Empires exploit the bounty of that land for the benefit of those who have the military power to control the resources. Whether it is settlement colonization, military occupation, genocide, enslavement or the exploitation of human labor, we humans have often found that in order for one tribe to survive another must die.    

The United States was, in part, built on settler colonization: the removal of the indigenous people of our land and the exploitation of cheap labor from enslaved or indentured labor from around the world. This model of apartheid has been employed over and over, including the building of the nation of Israel. And this has been done at the expense of Palestine and her people.   

I believe that the earth cannot sustain this model of human interaction. We do not, and cannot, stand alone. Nothing stands alone. We can only live in solidarity with each other, lifting up our common humanity and seeking a more tolerant worlda world shaped not by the power of empires but by the solidarity of our mutual humanity. This model cuts across the grain and requires the hard work of community building, peaceful conflict management, humane governing and a desire to allow all peoples the same rights and privileges.  

Peace be with you.