Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Praying for the Peace of Israel-Palestine

In the not-t00-distant future I want to write a major blog post on why I am so strongly in favor of URGENT action for a just 2-state peace in Israel-Palestine. I just can’t do it, now. I am too anguished to do more than pray.

Suffice it for now to say this:  Until the mid-’80s, even after I became a pacifist, I was a zionistic, mostly uncritical supporter of Israel.  My next door neighbors growing up were elderly Jews with numbers tattooed on their arms–Holocaust survivors.  And my first young awareness of Middle East issues was shaped by the 1972 attack on Israeli athletes by PLO terrorists at the Olympic Summer Games in Munich.  That shaped my views.  I was convinced that all Palestinians were terrorists and that liberal failure to support any actions Israel took was due to anti-Semitism.  Even after becoming a pacifist in ’83, I thought all the blame was on the “Arab” side.

It wasn’t until I started meeting Palestinian Christians in the mid’80s that my views began to change–as I realized how one-sided the U.S. media is.  I still deplore Palestinian terrorism (or anyone else’s terrorism), but the state-sponsored terrorism of Israel, including starving whole peoples, should not get a free pass.  The Israeli press does NOT give a free pass. If you go to the English-language sites of the major Israeli newspapers, you will find a huge range of views–hawks to doves to pro-Palestinians–views that would be suicide for any U.S. editor to allow.  There is more debate in the Israeli Knessett (Parliament) than among U.S. politicians–who outdo themselves working to try to be more pro-Israeli and hawkish on Palestinians than others.  This DEEPLY distorts U.S. views, especially those of U.S. Christians.

I would say more, but I can’t just now. I am worried for my friends the Awad family (Palestinian Baptist Christians who are leaders of the nonviolent movement that gets ZERO attention in the U.S. press) even though they live in the West Bank, not Gaza.  If Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders would all travel to Gaza to be nonviolent human shields and call for a cease fire, maybe we could stop the madness.  I am no religious leader, but I will volunteer to be in any such delegation.  We cannnot wait for governments. We must act NOW!

December 29, 2008 - Posted by | Israel-Palestine, just peacemaking


  1. Only Dennis Kucinich has the courage to stand up and tell the truth. All other Democrats are supporting Israel, including Obama. Obama fully supports israel’s attacks on Gaza and is the warmonnger I feared.

    Kucinich here:


    Obama gave the green light to Israel here:


    Obama is worse than Bush because we had hopes that the Democrats would be better. this is betrayal.

    Comment by Jennifer | December 30, 2008

  2. Peace
    Will come
    When hearts are changed.

    Comment by Paul | December 30, 2008

  3. Peace will come when America stops supporting Israel and America and the west get out of the Middle East and erase history that they were ever there at all so that the deepset resentment that exists now, never had cause to grow in the first place.

    Comment by steph | December 31, 2008

  4. I say again peace will come when hearts are changed-not through a political solution. We can blame Israel but the Palestinians have a share of the blame as well and any reasonable person knows it.

    Comment by Paul | December 31, 2008


    Comment by Dan Hollander | December 31, 2008

  6. Of course I’m just unreasonable Paul. Ultimately you see, I blame America and it’s western supporters

    Comment by steph | December 31, 2008

  7. ..”its” western supporters

    Comment by steph | December 31, 2008

  8. There is much blame to go around–America certainly bears much of it, Steph. Repentence is a key factor in just peacemaking. But, I worry that too much concentration on fixing blame is what keeps such cycles of violence and oppression going. How many negotiations break off because of “you started it” sessions?

    I don’t seek to evade the U.S. share of responsibility (we took over in the Middle East from the UK–and, to lesser degrees, from France and Germany). Israel is our largest customer of military hardware and, since at least the ‘1970s, unquestioned support for all Israeli actions has seemed to be a test for all U.S. politicians and journalists. (This was less so–in all political parties–in the ’40s thru early ’70s. The change is directly related to the rise of the Religious Right and its dominance by Dispensationalist/Christian Zionist theologies.) We also deposed Iran’s only democracy and set up the Shah–actions for which we are still paying. And much else.

    But we are not alone: Russia continues where the USSR left off and now China is a major factor. France and the UK are still major playors in the Middle East, too.

    And Israel, many Palestinian groups, and many Arab nations all bear their share of blame.

    And all of this is discussed in far more open and frank detail everywhere in the world than in the U.S. Our “free press” is completely intimidated by a combination of the “Christian” Right and by rightwing Jewish groups. (Liberal Jewish groups, where Israel is concerned, have MUCH less political clout.) U.S. politicians are in the same boat.

    Again, this is not to evade responsibility. Far from it.

    But I don’t want America to become anti-Israel. I want us to have a critical friendship that is as pro-Palestinian as it is pro-Israel–that forces both sides to realize there is no military solution and to compromise in the cause of peace.

    It CAN be done. It was almost done during the Carter years (but both Begin and Carter lost reelection and Sadat was assassinated). Clinton ran out of time before his presidency ended–and STILL the TABA negotiations continued and would have ended in a just 2 state peace except that Ariel Sharon provoked the 2nd Intifada and Bush didn’t care.

    Numerous times we have been inches away from real peace.

    It CAN be done–but it will need to involve a full court press by the U.S. (as the only govt. Israel will listen to). It must also involve global religious leaders. I am convinced that if the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and other major religious leaders from many faiths and all around the globe traveled to Gaza, they could stop the fighting and get a true peace process on track.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 31, 2008

  9. Thanks Michael – that’s encouraging. I had less faith in humanity. I didn’t realise peace had been that close before.

    Comment by steph | January 1, 2009

  10. I too pray for peace in this world and with peace comes responsibility – the responsibility to work at peace as we (the people of the world) have worked at war. We have to find a good reason to love one another and realize the value of human life. A lot of people pay lip service to truth, but do little to uphold it. To love one’s neighbor is a good start toward a more peaceful world. Can we do it ? Happy New Year !

    Comment by Paul | January 1, 2009

  11. I understand your pain at seeing the deaths of innocent people and I too pray for an end to the bloodshed. However I do not understand the conclusion you draw. You wrote:

    “If Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders would all travel to Gaza to be nonviolent human shields and call for a cease fire, maybe we could stop the madness. I am no religious leader, but I will volunteer to be in any such delegation. We cannnot wait for governments. We must act NOW!”

    I find this idea hard to understand. If you came with a group of people to the Israeli city of Sderot (or Beersheba, Ashkelon, Ashdod, etc….) as “nonviolent human shields”, why do you think that your presence would deter Hamas terrorists from firing Kasam and Grad missles at you and killing you? Why do you think that lives of “Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders” would be more effective deterrents to Hamas than the innocent Israeli citizens they have already killed?

    Saul Stokar
    Raanana, Israel

    Can you explain what you mean?

    Comment by Saul Stokar | January 5, 2009

  12. Saul, it is unfortunate but true that Hamas just thinks of the residents of these towns as names Israeli oppressors. Likewise, Israel’s view of the citizens of Gaza. What famous religious leaders as a nonviolent presence is sometimes able to do is focus people’s attention and give faces they can identify with—and make their previous actions too costly in terms of moral support. But I would not want such people just going to towns in Southern Israel near Gaza, but in Gaza in front of Irsraeli ground forces, too. And I volunteer to be part of that if I can get finacing to get there.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 5, 2009

  13. Michael
    You wrote:

    “Hamas just thinks of the residents of these towns as names (I assume you mean nameless) Israeli oppressors. Likewise, Israel’s view of the citizens of Gaza.”

    I do not think that the situation is anywhere near as symmetric as you state. No one in Israel views all the citizens of Gaza as nameless oppressors. Israel only views Hamas terrorists as oppressors. Israel dropped (and continues to drop) millions of leaflets on Gaza warning the civilian population to leave neighborhoods that harbor the terrorists who continue to fire Grad and Katyusha missiles into Israeli cities and towns. While it is true that many innocent Arab civilians have been killed in the recent fighting, Israel has always viewed these casualties as unfortunate victims of the war, not as targets. Hamas, on the other hand, consistently views innocent Israeli children and old people as legitimate targets.

    Saul Stokar
    Raanana, Israel

    Comment by Saul Stokar | January 5, 2009

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