Monday, July 31, 2006

"Stop the Slaughter" Tikkun Peace Ad in New York Times Today

Tikkun magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives publised an ad in the New York Times today, calling for to "Stop the Slaughter in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Territories." You can view the ad here: (You may need to enlarge the document to read it.)

They are hoping to get this ad reprinted in U.S. , Israeli, Palestinian, and Lebanese media. The timing is urgent.

To make a donation towards reprinting: go to or call 1 510 644 1200 or mail donation to Tikkun Ad c/o Tikkun, 2342 Shattuck Ave, Suite 1200, Berkeley, Ca. 94708.

Friday, July 28, 2006

"Season of Prayer for Peace in the Middle East" Website Launched

Encouraging religious communities to engage in prayer both in their regular worship times and faith observances as well as in joint events of witness for peace in their communities, the NCC launced a resource website yesterday. Many religious leaders have signed on to support the initiative and others are signing on.

We encourage you to use the site as a resource for events in your community and to send in prayers, litanies, scriptures and other prayer aids so we might publish them for use by others.

Click here for the website

Click here for the story on NCC website

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Middle East Conflict Challenges Local Interfaith Relations -- A Report from Detroit

The current Middle East conflict is causing serious challenges to local and national interfaith relationship, particularly among Jews, Christians and Muslims. Rev. Dan Appleyard of Christ Episcopal Church in Detriot compiled these articles which give us a glimpse of the struggle of one community.

A Summary of Interfaith Responses to the Israel-Lebanon Crisis in Metro-Detroit, July 18 – 21, 2006. Compiled by Rev. Dan Appleyard.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Faith leaders find unity elusive
Metro Detroit's interfaith activists see glimmer of hope through strain of Mideast events.
Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News

DEARBORN -- As Muslims, Jews and Christians traveled to an interfaith meeting at St. Paul's Lutheran Church on Tuesday, some stopped at a demonstration by 7,000 mostly Arab-American and Muslim residents, protesting the Israeli incursion into Lebanon.
"We're just stopping by to see what is being said, to pick up on people's concerns," said Brenda Rosenberg, who is Jewish and an interfaith activist from Birmingham.
"Our work is extraordinarily difficult now."
When violent events roil the Middle East, emotions run high in Metro Detroit, the home to about 100,000 Jews and 200,000 to 300,000 Arabs of both the Muslim and Christian faiths. Since Sept. 11, 2001, people of the three faiths have attempted to establish a deeper relationship, with varying degrees of success. Whether those ties bind amid events like the dire current circumstances is the true test of their efforts, they say.
"When one knows of a loved one in either Lebanon or Israel who has been wounded or killed, it is so easy to go to a place of fear and hatred of those who are causing the pain," Rosenberg said. "But we can choose a different response."
So far, they say, things have gone well -- and not so well. The important thing, they say, is that the work continues toward the goal of uniting religious groups to foster a better society, especially in an area as diverse as Metro Detroit.
"We are going through some strains right now," said Eide Alawan, of the Islamic Center of America.
"But the group is still talking to each other, mostly through the Internet and on the phone."
Alawan met Tuesday with Rosenberg, Sheri Schiff of Birmingham, the Rev. Elyse Nelson Winger of St. Paul's and others to talk about a coming interfaith event.
"Nobody canceled the meeting," Schiff said. "Unfortunately, the events overseas do overshadow everything that we do here. But we try to identify common boundaries and common denominators and develop an ability to talk to each other to sustain a dialogue.
"And when it comes to the hard stuff, hopefully those considerations will be in place."
Sometimes they are; sometimes they are not.
Dawud Walid, the regional director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, talked about receiving a phone call from another interfaith activist last week, as the bombardment of Lebanon began.
"We tried to talk about everything except for that," Walid said. "There was some tension there."
Walid described the atmosphere among Muslims and Jews in Metro Detroit as "pretty cold, right now."
But Walid said he and others are committed to persevering.
In talking about the interfaith efforts, including groups like Interfaith Partners of the National Conference for Community and Justice, Robert Cohen, executive director of the Jewish Community Council, chose not to address the current events at all.
"I have been pushing for the interfaith community to get really engaged in addressing community and human needs going beyond issues of interfaith understanding and respect to talk about actually doing things together," Cohen said. But when asked repeatedly how the events in Lebanon and Gaza affect efforts on hunger, health care and mental illness, Cohen demurred.
"I think what's important here is to focus on those things where we really can get somethings done. That needs to be the foundation so that we can go on to other things," he said.
Steve Spreitzer, the director of interfaith programs for the NCCJ, formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews, said that after September 11 the groups tried to do more than "just holding hands and praying together."
"For as long as the NCCJ existed, until then, discussing the politics of the Middle East was simply verboten," Spreitzer said.
"We realized we had to move beyond that. In some cases we have."
Members say that they are circulating a document that would be a joint statement on the current contretemps. It is taking longer to reach agreement than some had hoped.
"The crisis has simply overwhelmed us, so quickly," said Victor Ghalib Begg, vice chairman of the Council on Islamic Organizations in Michigan.
"The effort is there, but the situation is so out of hand. Frankly, I had hoped that we would be able to accomplish more."
You can reach Gregg Krupa at (313) 222-2359 or

To Community Leaders:
What we would like to see happen in Detroit...
We all live in an increasingly diverse metropolitan area. First, second, third and even fourth generation citizens, immigrants from all over the world including significant numbers from the Middle East have contributed much to our expanded community while still maintaining close ties with friends, family and leaders of their countries of origin. These metro Detroiters have settled down and created by in large positive relations with others who would have been considered adversaries “back home.” We’ve been very fortunate, in that civility has been maintained throughout the most difficult of times even when ethnic, religious and cultural conflicts flare in other parts of the world. That is-until last Friday.
The media has reported on the stories from both the Lebanese and Israeli sides. We all have heard about families and friends whose lives have been abruptly and cruelly affected by the ever escalating conflict. This past week, a press conference/rally held in Detroit crossed the line. Voices spewed hate and the rally produced dangerous anger.
It is with this in mind that I call on you to not allow our past interfaith and interethnic partnership efforts be forgotten. We all want peace. We all want an end of terrorism. We all want those living in the Middle East to live safely and securely. We all want the quality of life for all to improve.
What can we do? We can all make sure that the voices expressing despair and outrage do not promote destruction and murder or any other words that may promote violent actions and God forbid more. I believe that all it would take …is one…one who listens to the hateful rhetoric and decides to follow a misguided path and ultimately destroys-at best property –at worst –human life.
I am asking all involved in interfaith efforts in metro Detroit to call one another and express words of condolence… to come together and listen to each others fears, suffering and concerns. I am asking that we call for a ceasefire and for peace. I am asking that we encourage leaders to return to the negotiation table. We who have worked so long together -side by side- ought not attend nor participate nor allow our religious sites to host hate-filled rallies. I ask you to join interfaith leaders from across the country and in our world, using the words of Abdullah bin Al Hussein, King of Jordan in “helping people believe that a difficult peace is far less costly than continuing a destructive conflict”.
Brenda Rosenberg
Interreligious Affairs Commission Chair
American Jewish Committee
Metropolitan Detroit Chapter

Local Religious Leaders Join Forces
By Val ClarkWeb produced by Sarah MorganJuly 21, 2006
Friday, Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders joined together to pray for peace in the Middle East. They publicly called for an end to the violence that is destroying Lebanon and threatening Israel.
Not since the tragedy of 9/11 has this group of interfaith religious leaders collectively stepped into the spotlight.
Reverend Dan Appleyard, Christ Episcopal Church, said, "When we called ourselves to gather today it was to emphasize the need for prayer, the need for a recommitment to relationships locally as a model for what might be relationships worldwide."
Brenda Rosenberg, Pathways to Peace, said, "I have seen the miracles happen when we are willing to come together and share our stories. I truly believe an enemy is someone whose story we have not heard."
The group is not solely depending on their communities or governmentfor aid—they directly called on God.
Father Norman Thomas, Sacred Heart Church, said a short prayer, "Our faith is in you. Our hope is in you. Help us. Amen."
In addition to prayer, the community leaders said there is a need for them to put their efforts together and apply political pressure to foster change.

Religious leaders' prayer: Peace
July 21, 2006

Starting this afternoon, metro Detroit's religious communities, heartbroken by the loss of civilian life in Lebanon and Israel, will head toward weekend services in search of spiritual solace.
"As clergy, whether we are Christian, Muslim or Jewish, we all want to be mediators, trying to help people with what we say and do in our services, but nerves are so raw right now that it's hard even to find words to say," the Rev. Kevin Turman, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Detroit, said Thursday.
In local mosques, where imams' weekly sermons at Friday afternoon prayers are expected to draw larger than normal crowds, the messages are likely to stress the loss of life in Lebanon, local Muslim leaders said.
And in synagogues, where rabbis' words tonight and Saturday also will reach more ears than usual, the sermons are likely to emphasize Israel's need to defend itself.
But every religious leader who spoke with the Free Press stressed the need to pray for peace.
Imam Mohamad Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights said he will condemn the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon in a sermon this afternoon.
"The level of destruction and death and casualties in Lebanon is just unimaginable," he said.
But, then, Elahi plans to talk about the need for Muslims to work toward peace in the region. "The solution is not to add to the aggression there," he said. "The solution is love and reconciliation. This is the essence of our religion."
Imam Mohammad Mardini at the American Muslim Center in Dearborn plans to say that both sides have a role to play in ending violence.
"But I do not think that my Friday sermon is a time to make political speeches. So, I will call on our people to humble our hearts and look to our religious sources for wisdom. And, when we do, we see that we must be patient and pray for peace. ... In the end, people will have to sit down at a table and negotiate. Destruction is never going to bring peace."
Rabbi Joseph Krakoff, who will be speaking at Congregation Shaarey Zedek's B'Nai Israel Center in West Bloomfield tonight and Saturday, said he will talk about Israel's need to stamp out terrorism.
"I will speak about the need to persevere against terrorism, but in every Jewish soul there is a longing for peace. For 4,000 years in our tradition, every series of Jewish prayers ends with a prayer for peace."
Rabbi Daniel Nevins at Adat Shalom in Farmington Hills said his congregation will hear about the need to support Israel's struggle against terrorism. Right now, that's a sad but necessary part of the effort to restore peace, he said. "We certainly have a vision that in the time to come, there eventually will be peace throughout the world."
During the Saturday morning service, some of the teenagers who returned this week from Israel will be invited to stand up "and we'll have a special prayer of thanksgiving for their safe return," Nevins said.
The Rev. Daniel Appleyard at Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn is a longtime volunteer in programs to bridge differences between faiths. Now, he said, friendships across metro Detroit are being tested.
For Sunday, he will use a prayer that calls on God to "look with compassion on the whole human family. Take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts. Break down the walls that separate us. Unite us in bonds of love. And work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on Earth."
The Rev. Kevin Turman at Second Baptist Church also has served for 26 years as a military chaplain, currently in the U.S. Navy Reserve. "This obviously is part of a long conflict that has flared up again," he said. "And it's going to require a great deal of effort on all sides to even stop what's happening, let alone bring a meaningful peace."
Turman said he fears a misguided missile from either side could result in a tragedy that will widen the conflict. "It is such a dangerous, divisive situation that I think we all need to search for more moderate tones in which to speak. And we all need to lift this region in prayer."
Contact DAVID CRUMM at 313-223-4526 or

LOCAL COMMENT: Muslims here should be a force for peace
July 21, 2006


Muslim Americans have a religious obligation to fight terrorism and to engage others in dialogue to find ways to protect our mutually cherished American values.
The ongoing events in the Middle East add to the urgency of countering the mind-set of vengeance permeating our communities. We especially cannot allow our youth to fall prey to radical manipulation. The holy Quran teaches (41:34-35): "The good deed and evil deed are not alike. Repel evil with what is best. You will see that he, with whom you had enmity, will become your closest friend."
It is time for American Muslims to do some soul searching and for all Americans to indulge in a quest for the root causes of the violence our world faces.
Peaceful, law-abiding Muslim Americans must take it upon themselves to monitor potential troublemakers and take preventive measures -- as would be expected of any faith community -- to check right-wing/extremist elements within. The so-called Jihadists are villains within Islam.
The current climate is particularly disturbing, because Islam has now become an integral part of western civilization and the American landscape.
Muslims have actually made impressive contributions toward religious tolerance throughout their 1,400-year history, living with diversity and building inclusive communities around the world. Muslim Americans must take back this heritage from the agents of terror who defame their faith -- and American policymakers must include Muslims in achieving peace and security with justice.
Muslim communities have long been ghettoized in Britain, France, Germany and elsewhere, but not in America. The recent Muslim fury in Europe is the product of a community that has been marginalized and discriminated against -- much like African Americans, who have faced discrimination, deprivation and being cut off from educational and economic opportunities.
On the contrary for Muslims in America, according to the Detroit Mosque Study by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, (, 52% of mosque attendees have bachelor's or graduate degrees, while another 25% have some college education. The Muslims in America are not only educated, they are also economically well off -- many of them are doctors, engineers, scientists, educationists, public servants, businessmen and other respected professionals. As contributing citizens of America, Muslims have a duty to be part of the solution -- a responsibility to themselves, their families, their congregations, society at large and, above all, to God.
What may motivate some members of a successful community to participate in radical behavior? How can we stop this toxic hatred from spreading in our neighborhoods? The answers must be found by engaging all quarters of our community -- faith, business, media and political leaders need to come forward to discuss prevention.
Interfaith Partners of the National Conference for Community and Justice, for example, brings congregations together for dialogue and joint service projects. Such efforts need wider support, including funds from the business sector. Media must avoid painting all Muslims with a single brush. Political leaders must work with the interfaith leaders to isolate all extremists.
After the 9/11 attacks, our country chose to take the military route to settle the score with the terrorists. Any discussion of the root causes of terror was discouraged and Muslims raising such questions were called terrorist sympathizers. We cannot afford to stand idly by any longer in light of the current events and must speak up. U.S. military actions abroad and Homeland Security at home alone cannot be the sole answer.
True, Muslims generally oppose the Iraq war and have serious differences with American foreign policy. Yes, Muslims are on the receiving end of civil liberty constraints and profiling.
But there are also other Americans who disagree with American policies and others who have faced and continue to face greater civil rights challenges. The American way is to participate fully in the decision-making process, articulating disagreements in a peaceful fashion. It is imperative for the Muslim community to build interfaith alliances, working with others, including our government, to foster in America a culture of tolerance and peace.
VICTOR GHALIB BEGG chairs the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan. Write to him in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit 48226 or

Wall Street Journal
Divided in Detroit:Arabs and Jews Clash Over Mideast WarRallies

Heat Up the Rhetoric And Fray Fragile Bonds;'We Are the Underdogs'
July 22, 2006; Page A1

DETROIT -- In recent days, thousands of Arab-Americans have rallied here in response to the Middle East conflict. At one mosque, 200 people applauded a speaker who called Israelis "barbaric" and "not human" and accused Israel of having secret chemical weapons that destroy the internal soft tissues of Arabs. In nearby Dearborn, adults and children jammed the streets to cheer for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Separately, thousands of local Jews have rallied in support of Israel. At a rally in a synagogue in suburban Southfield, they applauded a speaker who said "twisted" leadership in Iran and a "thugocracy" in Syria wants "to annihilate every Jew on the planet." A rabbi exclaimed: "We did not seek this fight, but we will finish it!"

A Jewish congregation held a rally this week in Detroit. Click the image to see more photographs. The Detroit area has 300,000 residents of Arab descent, the largest such population in the U.S. More than 72,000 Jews also live here, and they are among the nation's strongest fund-raisers for Israeli and Jewish causes. For decades, the two groups coexisted peacefully, though uneasily. Their leaders tried to build bridges, working together, for example, to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. Now, protests and inflammatory rhetoric over the Mideast conflict threaten to sever those fragile bonds.

"There have been numerous uncomfortable moments through the years, but nothing as unsettling" as the recent tensions, says Sharona Shapiro, director of the American Jewish Committee's Michigan chapter. In years past, American and Israeli flags have been burned in Dearborn, she says, and speakers with alleged terrorist ties have preached against Israel at local mosques. What worries her today, she says, is that moderates in the Arab community may be afraid to speak up, making it difficult for the two communities to have a constructive dialogue.

Hasan Newash, director of Palestine Office Michigan, an advocacy group, says that dialogue with Detroit's Jewish community is futile. He says that unlike Israeli citizens, who often question their government, Detroit's Jews "are entrenched in carte blanche support for Israel, no matter what." At a rally last Friday at the Islamic Center of Detroit, Mr. Newash claimed that "families en masse" are being killed by Israel in "barbaric assaults" backed by the Bush administration.

The first large wave of Arab immigrants came to Detroit in the 1870s. When Lebanese Christians fled the Ottomans in the 19th century, many came here to sell goods door-to-door. Other Arabs came to work in the auto industry, or more recently, to escape violence in the Middle East and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Now, many of them own businesses such as gasoline stations and convenience stores and are middle-class.

Jews began coming to Detroit in the mid-1850s from Eastern Europe. Over the years, many worked their way up to become upper-middle-class professionals.

The rallies in recent weeks have been nonviolent, but tensions have ratcheted up. On Wednesday, about a dozen Arab protesters rallied in front of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, a Southfield synagogue where more than 3,000 Jews had gathered to show their support for Israel. The Arabs called Israel a terrorist state and waved signs at Jews stuck in parking-lot traffic. Profanities were exchanged.

Jewish Friends
Sam Abdallah was among the Arab protesters. He emigrated from Lebanon in 1976, and his family opened a deli near the synagogue. Over the years, Mr. Abdallah, who is Muslim, says he made many Jewish friends. At the protest, he wore sunglasses so his Jewish friends wouldn't recognize him. "If this [protest] is what it's going to take to help my family back at home and show that what Israel is doing is not right, then this is what I'm going to do," said Mr. Abdallah, who has family in Lebanon.

Kenwah Dabaja, who sits on a policy council of the Arab American Institute, an advocacy group in Washington, attended the synagogue rally to hear the speeches. She says Jewish leaders at the rally "spoke with such confidence, and they can do that because they have the support of our government, and we are the underdogs.

"When the synagogue rally ended, most of those emerging from the building ignored the Arab protesters. One of the protesters held an Israeli flag with a swastika instead of a Star of David in the middle. "That flag really got to me," said Sara Raick, a Jewish woman who said she hadn't realized that local Arab-Americans "had such hatred." She said she did not confront the protesters because she didn't want to start trouble.

Stirring Emotions
Further stirring emotions: Several Arabs from the area say they've lost loved ones during the fighting in Lebanon, and many others have relatives trying to leave the country. And earlier this week, 214 Jewish teens from suburban Detroit came home weeks early from a community-organized trip to Israel. They said they had been close enough to the action to hear the rumbling of rockets.

Only a few years ago, Jewish-Arab relations in Detroit were moving in a different direction. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Jewish leaders publicly supported efforts to fight stereotyping of Arabs and discrimination against them. Local Arab leaders expressed gratitude. Jews and Muslims raised money together for the American Red Cross.

For the most part, though, Jews and Arabs live separate lives in different parts of the metropolitan area. Many Iraqis, Lebanese and Palestinians live in Dearborn, west of the city. Many Jews live in the northern suburbs, which are also home to a large population of Chaldeans, who are Iraqi Christians.

In past years, local Jewish leaders weren't eager to widely disseminate incendiary comments from local Arab leaders, says Don Cohen, former Michigan director of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. Mr. Cohen, who monitored Arab-American speeches for years, says he found this frustrating.

Now, Detroit's Jewish News is publishing Mr. Cohen's dispatches from Arab rallies, and his reports are being emailed throughout the Jewish community. Some Jews say they are realizing, for the first time, the depths of their differences with Arab neighbors.

Osama Siblani, publisher of Detroit's Arab-American News, says that "our Jewish cousins" in Detroit should try to understand why Detroit Arab-Americans cheer for Hezbollah and rail against Israeli bombings that have killed Lebanese civilians. Because of the Holocaust, he says, Jews know what it's like to have their homes destroyed and their children killed. "Arabs are expressing their frustration, not their hatred," he says. "We are angry and wounded. The Jewish community should be the first ones to rally with us.

"Arthur Horwitz, publisher of the Jewish News, says that he has met with Mr. Siblani in the past, but that it "would no longer be constructive" for the two publishers to have a relationship.

Abed Hammoud, president of the Congress of Arab American Organizations, an umbrella group, works as an assistant prosecutor for Wayne County, where Detroit is located. At a recent rally, he referred to President Bush as a "criminal" for backing the "crimes" of Israel.

Mr. Hammoud says his strong comments are necessary because "in the battle for the hearts and minds of Americans, the Jewish community has won." He says he can't have a dialogue with Jews in Detroit because "I don't want a lecture about how bad my people are, and how anyone who throws a rock at a tank is a terrorist." Among Detroit Arabs, he says, cheering for Hezbollah is "almost like cheering the underdog...Hezbollah is the people of Lebanon.

"Leaders from Detroit's Arab and Jewish communities say they have no immediate plans to meet. "Right now, everything is too raw," says Wendy Wagenheim, president of Detroit's Jewish Community Council.

Write to Gina Chon at and Jeffrey Zaslow at

Friday, July 21, 2006

"Where are the Christians?" A Surprising Column by Pat Buchanan

Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan has a very interesting syndicated op-ed piece today. Even some consertives know that the US position on the Middle East war is immoral and untenable. To his question "Where are the Christians?" the answer is in my previous post just below this, which lists the statements made by the NCC, WCC and various churches. See also the top story in today's NCC web site:

Also, several religious organizations are working to set up a "Season of Prayer for Peace in the Middle East." Look out for more details next week.

Pat Buchanan writes: "When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unleashed his navy and air force on Lebanon, accusing that tiny nation of an "act of war," the last pillar of Bush's Middle East policy collapsed." For more of Buchanan's column, click here

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Link to Statements from Churches on the Middle East Crisis

Today's NCC website ( has a linked page of statements by churches and church organizations. They include statements from World Council of Churches, Middle East Council of Churches, the Vatican and a variety of US based churches. Click this link to read the statements

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Statement on Gaza -- A Must Read from Sabeel

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, a respected ecumenical partner of the churches that form the National Council of Churches, is led by Rev. Canon Naim Ateek (Anglican priest). With their statements, strong on justice for Palestinians, Sabeel has drawn the ire of my Jewish colleagues in the mainstream Jewish organizations in the US. As my Jewish colleagues would point out, I am always aware of the alternative narratives that are a part of this struggle. However, the following statement from Sabeel on the situation in Gaza is well done. It provides background, analysis of the situation on the ground, theological reflection and action steps. I commend it to your reading and reflection

The Arrogance of Power

“For [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).

In Palestine, rain does not fall in the summer. It falls during the rainy season between November and March. People wait with eagerness and thankfulness for the rain after the hot and dry summer months. In the Gaza Strip, rain hardly falls even in the winter. It is a parched land whose only freshwater reservoirs have been depleted by decades of Israeli occupation. The name of the Israeli army operation itself reflects a callous euphemism. By calling the invasion of the Gaza Strip “summer rains,” Israel has taken the word “rain” that stands for and represents a blessing to Palestinians and to all other people and turned it into a curse. It has taken God’s wonderful gift of nature that brings life, food, and health and instead used it to shower destruction and devastation on the people of Gaza. To name this brutal aggression “summer rains” is cruel. Since June 25, over 106 Palestinians have been killed, many of whom are young children, and more than 241 injured. During the same period, six Israelis have been killed with an unknown number of injured.

Since the outset of the second Intifada, under the pretext that there was no Palestinian partner, Israel has practiced unilateral policies violating International Humanitarian Law. This included the construction of the separation wall, settlement expansion and confiscation of Palestinian land. After the death of President Arafat in November 2004 and the election of Mahmoud Abbas in elections in January 2005, Israel also rejected him as partner and continued its plans. From the unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip to the continued construction of the separation wall in the West Bank, there were no efforts at negotiations. In the last legislative elections, with the Hamas victory and the formation of its government, Israel again used this as a justification to continue its unilateral policies. Throughout, the Palestinian effort to hold together all political factions in a period of quiet (hudna) for eighteen months was never taken into account.

The recent events before the Gaza incursion were triggered by an attack by the military wing of Hamas on June 25 against an Israeli military post. Israeli columnist Gideon Levy in Ha’aretz, on July 3, 2006 spoke about the context for the recent chain of events: “The legitimate basis for the IDF's [Israeli army] operation was stripped away the moment it began. It's no accident that nobody mentions the day before the attack on the Kerem Shalom fort, when the IDF kidnapped two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from their home in Gaza. The difference between us and them? We kidnapped civilians and they captured a soldier, we are a state and they are a terror organization. How ridiculously pathetic Amos Gilad [major general in Army Intelligence] sounds when he says that the capture of Shalit was "illegitimate and illegal," unlike when the IDF grabs civilians from their homes.”

What We Should Consider

  1. The humanitarian crisis: Since the strike on Gaza’s only electrical plant on June 28, the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza are without electricity between 12-18 hours a day. Water utilities, dependent on electricity for pumping and treatment, have been reduced to 1/3 capacity.

  2. The lack of due process: Israel has seized the members of a democratically elected government including eight cabinet ministers and 34 legislators; and bombed its interior ministry, the foreign ministry, the economic ministry and the prime minister's offices.

  3. The collective punishment: These practices range from nocturnal "sound bombs" under orders from the Israeli prime minister to "make sure no one sleeps at night in Gaza"; to flyers that have told the civilian population to flee their homes; bombing of infrastructure; and shooting of hundreds of air to surface missiles and artillery shells that have terrified the civilians and especially the children.

  4. The loss of human life: The Israeli army has repeatedly fired missiles into residential areas, with multiple civilian fatalities including entire families. Although the “extrajudicial-assassination” policy has caused a large number of “unintentional” civilian causalities in the last months, Israel continues to shoot missiles into the crowded communities and streets of Gaza.

  5. The crisis of prisoners: In the last four years, as a condition for the release of Palestinian prisoners, Israel has demanded Palestinian political concessions and a complete cessation of “violence”. At each stage, after the goal was met, the prisoners have never actually been released. Currently there are around 10,000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli prisons including 380 children and 109 women, most without charges or if charged, given prolonged terms for belonging to political organizations. During this Intifada, prisoners have only been released en masse in response to a Hizballah kidnapping in 2004.

  6. The claim of self-defense: President Bush’s repeated saying that Israel has the right to defend itself is a distortion of the facts on the ground. What Israel is doing is tantamount to a defense of its occupation. Israel is occupying Palestinian land, denies Palestinians the right to resist and calls its aggression self-defense. It is the epitome of the arrogance of power.

  7. The prison of Gaza: With all entries and exits out of the Gaza Strip closed to the citizens of Gaza, Israel is creating a frustrated and radicalized population that feels trapped and isolated. This population has little hope and increasing bitterness.

What Must Be Done
  1. Immediate international intervention: According to international law, civilians under occupation have the right to protection and self-defense. Israel has been using excessive military force and violence to exert control and to suppress the Palestinians. Israel is incapable of protecting the Palestinians. Therefore, the deteriorating situation demands immediate international intervention. The international community cannot remain passive. It must step in and implement the demands of Humanitarian and International Law.

  2. Financial and infrastructural support: The people of Gaza need immediate humanitarian aid and social support to address this crisis. While we are thankful for the assistance of the international community, Israel needs to be held responsible for the damage it has caused. We believe that behind the carnage is an Israeli policy that aims at slowing down and impeding Palestinian progress. So long as other countries keep footing the bills of Israeli destruction, Israel will continue to create havoc and act irresponsibly. The international community must force Israel to pay for the rebuilding of the infrastructure, including new electrical and water plants, the building of bridges and highways and the reconstruction of demolished buildings. Israel must be held accountable.

  3. Due process for the prisoners: Palestinian prisoners deserve the same rights as political prisoners around the world. This includes due process for open trials and sentencing, adequate representation in their language, no administrative detention, and release once terms are served or if evidence is not provided. Taking Israeli soldiers captive has become the only way to force the release of prisoners. It should not be so. By respecting the rights of prisoners, Israel can reduce much tension in the area. The issue of the prisoners has been at the heart of so much suffering and violence. The prisoners themselves have tried peaceful means to raise attention including various hunger strikes all of last year but to no avail. The international community must take a stand and push for their civil rights.

  4. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority: The US must pressure Israel into immediate political negotiations with the Palestinians. Military force will never solve the conflict. Only direct negotiations, with the sponsorship of the United Nations and on the basis of International Law, will achieve such a resolution. Israel cannot force its will on the Palestinians. Peace is possible today only if International Law is applied. The Palestinians are ready. Why does Israel continue to reject International Law? With vetoes and lobbying the US has weakened the only institution that could step in and bring about peace.

Theological Response
One of the beautiful and challenging sections in the Sermon on the Mount according to Matthew is found when Jesus exhorts his disciples to love and pray for their enemies,

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the
righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matthew 5:44-46)

Such words sound foolish to the ears of those who believe in violence as the way to deal with the enemy. We have become so enmeshed with violence that we cannot see the alternatives. Violence is our worst enemy and will not produce peace. The challenge before us is to try the way of nonviolence that can potentially turn an enemy into a neighbor with whom we can live in peace and security. This challenge is for the oppressor as well as the oppressed, the strong as well as the weak.

When Jesus described God’s love and mercy by sending rain to fall on the just and unjust, he was giving us one of the greatest and most essential lessons we humans need to learn. Jesus was not talking about cheap and sentimental love of enemies. In our own context of life, true and genuine love expresses itself in doing justice to one’s enemy. It is the love that is willing to share the country with the other for the sake of living in peace, love that respects the rule of International Law for the sake of oneself as well as for the sake of the other, love that is willing to show and accept mercy, love that respects the humanity of the other, love that extends and receives forgiveness from the other, love that seeks the peace and well-being of the other, love that wants to guarantee the security of the other as much as one’s own. This is the rain that God showers on us and this is the rain that we need for both the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Sabeel still says that a genuine and lasting peace can only be established on justice which is the other side of love. This is the shortest and surest way to a genuine peace. We call on our friends to pray and work for the end to this conflict. Human life and precious time are being wasted by dealing with the symptoms of the occupation rather than addressing the real problem. To End the Conflict, we must End the Occupation.

What can our friends do?
  • Use the above talking points for letters to the editors and articles for local press

  • Join in the various campaigns to raise financial support for the people of Gaza

  • Participate in building awareness about the forgotten residents of Gaza and the need for due process for the Palestinian prisoners with local rallies, forums and campaigns

  • Write your elected officials and demand both international intervention and immediate return to negotiations

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
July 18, 2006

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Progressive Faith Blog Con

Progressive religious bloggers came together in a first conference this weekend at Montclair State University in New Jersey. What is progressive religion? How do bloggers contribute to progressive religion? Could bloggers organize in such a way that it actually impacts public opinion? These were some of the questions that were on the agenda.

I found it very interesting to sit with fellow bloggers, and know that there are so many people and organizations participating in this. Blogging, I think, is beginning to emerge as an alternative media. At a time when mainstream media does not reflect many of our values, this may be an imporant medium.

Here are a few people and blogs I particularly appreciated getting to know:
Rabbi Arthur Waskow (with whom I work closely)
Bruce Prescott (Read his presentation on "What is progressive religion.") (Read her blow-by-blow description of the Blog Con) (One of the prime movers of this conference together with Rachel -- velvateenrabbi) Faith in Public Life, an organization based in Washington DC provided the organizational resources to get this conference together.

Here's the link a "carnival of blogs" which is a listing of progressive religious blogs

From this first beginning, I hope there will be ways to organize and co-ordinate the messages and language of the Progressive Faith Blog community -- a hard thing to do since such organizing goes against the grain of the blogging's post modern paradigm.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Citing Futility of Violence NCC and CWS Call to End of Hostilities

National Council of Churches and Church World Service today issued a joint statement calling for an end to the hostilities in the Middle East. The statement also calls upon religious communities of the region to pray, teach and lead their people in the ways of peace, and upon religious communities throughout the world to walk with them in solidarity until peace is achieved.

To read the entire statement and press release please click this link:

Monday, July 10, 2006

Israel Has Crossed a Moral Boundary -- Rabbi Michael Lerner

The following article by Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine is an important comment coming from a leading American Rabbi. Perhaps most significant that he is now ready to take Israeli government to task just has he takes the US government to task, something few Jewish leaders have been willing to do.

I agree with Rabbi Lerner that "the onus is upon us as ordinary citizens to act and act decisively." I urge you to join in such a movement.

Israel has Crossed a Moral Boundary
by Rabbi Michael Lerner

In 2003 I was prevented from speaking at a large demonstration protesting the impending war in Iraq because I was deemed too pro-Zionist by one of the sponsoring organizations. My sin then, as now, is that I believe that both sides have acted with insensitivity and have been oblivious to the needs of the other, and both sides need to repent.

I still believe that now, and as late as last week was calling on the tens of thousands of readers of to insist to the Palestinians that they would be far more effective if they were to adopt the non-violent strategies of Gandhi, King, and Mandela rather than to imagine themselves capable of militarily defeating Israel. And just as I’ve critiqued the state terrorism against civilians that the IDF brings to the West Bank occupation, so I’ve always critiqued the terrorism of some sectors of the Palestinian population.

But this week it’s impossible as a Jew and as an American to not notice that a new human rights violation by Israel has taken place which manages to surpass many of its previous violations in cruelty and in the outrage it has generated.

Anyone has ever faced the crippling heat of the desert-like conditions of southern Israel or the Gaza strip knows the desperation for water that comes each summer. So when Israel bombed and destroyed the electricity system for 1.2 million Gazans and thereby made all electric pumps inoperable, they inflicted a collective punishment on the entire Gazan population.

The alleged justification was a desire to punish Palestinians for electing a Hamas government, and more immediately to retrieve a soldier who had been “kidnapped” (the quotes because this was not a civilian but a soldier in uniform, so if Israel sees itself as at war with Hamas, then the only possible description is that their soldier was captured by the other side). The Hamas government, however, has publicly urged the “kidnappers” whom it does not control to free the captured soldier.

Moreover, the outrage in Israel about this “kidnap” reflects a huge level of systematic denial going on in the consciousness of Israelis and many who support its policies—because virtually every human rights group including the various Israeli human rights organizations has chronicled tens of thousands of acts of "kidnap" of this sort by the IDF against Palestinian civilians, who are then kept in detention for as long as six months without a trial, often facing brutal torture, and then released without ever having been charged with any crime. Of course, and I thank God for this because I care for the well being of the people of Israel , and as a Jew I am deeply tied to the success and safety of this particular Jewish society, the Palestinians have never been able to punish hundreds of thousands or millions of Israelis collectively for these systematic violations of human rights. To the extent that they do so through acts of terror, I condemn those acts.

This is a defining moment in our relationship with Israel for all Americans of whatever faith. Just as we need to make clear to our own government that its human rights violations in Guantanamo and Iraq are unacceptable, so we need to communicate to the Israeli people that the mass punishment of a million people for the acts of a few is as unacceptable when it comes from a democratic society as when it comes from the willful oppression of entrenched authoritarian dictators. Even if, God forbid, the captured soldier is murdered by the lunatics who captured him, it is only they and their conscious sponsors who should be punished, not random Palestinians, unless you think it equally appropriate to some day punish the entire American public for the three million Vietnamese killed by American action in Vietnam or for the horrendous acts which continue in Guantanamo and Iraq even today.

Unfortunately, we can’t count on our U.S. government to convey this sentiment without qualifying its concerns in ways that essentially communicate that Israel can do whatever it wants and we won’t interfere.

So the onus is upon us as ordinary citizens to act and act decisively. We need to communicate our concerns to legislators and media. We need to organize demonstrations in front of the offices of our elected officials, and also outside Israeli consulates and those Jewish institutions which continue to use their influence to support Israeli policy even at this moment (there are a few which have spoken out in critique, but very very few). And we need to write to those in power in Israel, starting with Prime Minister Olmert, telling them that even those of us who love Israel and will never let it be destroyed find this particular action unconscionable, demand that Israel immediately rebuild the electricity system, and that Israel stop trying to impose its will with military might but instead sit down with the Palestinians and negotiate a lasting peace.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazine, the largest circulation liberal/progressive Jewish magazine in the world. He is rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco, national chair of The Network of Spiritual Progressives , and the author of ten books, most recently a 2006 national best-seller The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

When Will They Ever Learn....

In the continuing disaster in which Israeli forces are pounding Gaza, the despairing question is the same one raised by the old 1960s protest song, “Where have all the flowers gone?” Will they ever learn the things that make for peace, asked Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem 2000 years ago? We still ask the same question.

In today’s North Jersey Herald News Hani Awadallah, professor of Chemistry at Montclair State University asks the same question, in an opinion piece entitled, “Will Israel Choose Peace?” I commend that article to your reading.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Olmert's Candid Comment

Correction made on July 11th:

With gratitude to Rabbi Daniel Brenner, I make the following correction on the quote attributed to Prime Minister Olmert in the first paragraph of this post. My quote came from an unreliable source -- my apologies.

The correct quote is: "I am deeply sorry for the residents of Gaza, but the lives, security and well-being of the residents of [Jewish] Sderot is even more important to me."

While I understand that he may have said that at a difficult time to Sderot residents, it still is problematic since it legitimizes for them their devaluing of the humanity of Palestinians.

I have edited the previous post accordingly.


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a candid comment, perhaps in an unguarded moment, which showed his true feelings. He said, "I am deeply sorry for the residents of Gaza, but the lives, security and well-being of the residents of [Jewish] Sderot is even more important to me."

In recent days Israel has used the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of a third by Palestinians as an excuse to invade Gaza with overwhelming military force and demolish its infrastructure which included bridges on the main roads and Gaza's main power plant, leaving half of Gaza's 1.5 million people and its two main hospitals without electricity and running water.

“What Israel and its benefactor - the United States - really want is to destroy the democratically-elected Hamas government, “writes Margaret Cohen, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, president-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the American Association of Jurists, in an article entitled
Israel Creates Humanitarian Crisis. In addition, in the biggest raid since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005. Israel has kidnapped 64 Palestinian governmental ministers and politicians. It bombed the home of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh.

This sentiment expressed by President Olmert is what inevitably leads to Israel's policy of collective punishment. Writes Cohen: “Attacks on a civilian population as a form of collective punishment violate article 50 of the Hague Regulations, which provides: ‘No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible.’

Hundreds of Israelis protested outside Olmert's home, denouncing the government as war criminals and demanding an end to the Gaza invasion. ‘We call for our government to stop targeting Palestinian civilians - the targeting of civilians is a war crime - and start negotiating with the elected Palestinian leaders, not to arrest them,’ said Yishai Menuhin, a spokesman for the peace group Yesh Gvul.

Gershon Baskin whom I read often has a great piece on the present crisis at Click on "What New at IPCRI" and go to the post of July 2nd.