Friday, September 17, 2010

Affirm this Letter!

Dear Friend,
Read the enclosed text of the letter sent to our President by the CMEP (Churches for ME Peace). It deserves to be disseminated and supported by you and others.
Written on August 30, it still expresses the hope that the parties will act in the best interests of each other.
It isn't just what they "say" (about settlements, e.g.). It is that the Israelis are actually refraining from adding to the settlements, perhaps even after the September 26 deadline passes (despite what is being reported in the press today).
Israel has been reluctant to add to the settlements ever since the Obama "team" made such a Big Deal out of it this spring; AND because Clinton, Mitchell and Obama are continuing to MAKE a BIG DEAL out of continuing the "freeze" RIGHT NOW.
This letter is gaining support, even among "evangelicals", (Jim Wallis, Lynne Hybels (Willow Creek Church), Gradye Parsons (PC-USA), Wes Granberg-Michaelson (RCA) and Tony Campolo.
There are so many ways for this current series of "negotiations" to "FAIL". We need not enumerate them.
But here is what is needed now: Right thinking. Courage. Moderation. Persistence in the face of serious distractions. Considering what is best for "the other"; not being deterred by the violence and counter violence even now taking place, in Gaza, e.g.
If Abbas can get this "done", it will be a blow to the rejectionists (HAMAS); and Netanyahu will be able to restrain the extremists in his Likud base (the settlers).
There are still many "ifs" that need definition and action. There is risk for our President as well, and a challenge he must face: The Israeli lobby.
We have been quick to criticize Palestinians "violence" and withhold support; we must also be ready to keep criticizing Israeli settlement resumption, and be ready to withhold support for it--something it will be hard for Obama to do politically as well. Yet with our support, he will be able to stand up for what is "right".
President Obama has correctly "framed" the issues: 1) Security for Israel (peace); and 2) Sovereignty for Palestinians (justice). Each demands the other.
There is no peace without justice; there is no justice without "concern for what is best for the other". Persistence in making the right choices, again and again, until we get it right. These times test the character of the American, Israeli and Palestinians soul. We need to grow up. All of us.
Pray and work as if your life depends on it; Pray and hope as if all depends on "God". And you'll get it right. JRK

August 30, 2010

Dear Mr. President,

As leaders of American Christian faith communities deeply concerned with the need to end the long-standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, we are pleased with the success of your diplomacy in bringing the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority together in Washington September 1-2 to restart direct negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement on final status issues within the coming year. We fully support your goal of ending the occupation that began in 1967 and achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace with a viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.

At the same time we have no illusions about the difficulty of the task ahead. Both sides hold deep convictions contrary to those held by the other. Although many issues have been clarified in past negotiations, major compromises by both sides will be needed at considerable political risk and cost. Without your help it seems unlikely that an agreement can be reached. Time is short. If an agreement is not reached within the coming year, it may not be reachable at all.

For that reason we call on you and your negotiating team to continue your vigilant efforts to help the parties find acceptable solutions. We are heartened by the statement of Senator George Mitchell that he will remain closely involved in the negotiations. The U.S. will need to empower both sides to take risks for peace and when necessary to make proposals to bridge remaining differences. The United States must be clear that actions or words by either side in the coming year that undermine confidence in the negotiations, incite disrespect or prejudge the outcome of final status issues will not be tolerated.

In support of this effort, we pledge to maintain and expand our dialogue on this issue with American Jewish and Palestinian communities and to assure them of our steadfast support for achieving the aspirations of both Israel and the Palestinian people for peace and security.

Mr. President, we are praying for you as you seek to bring God's justice and peace to a place torn by walls and weapons. We are convinced that with your vigilant support this dream can be fulfilled, and the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, as well as U.S. national security interests, can be transformed for the better.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Hopeful View of the Negotiations

Dear Friend,
Well-known leaders like Gershon Baskin cast the right vision. Will "leaders", the current P.M. and President and their entourage "make it happen" and carry their constituents along with them?

The situation is NOT insoluble. Israeli "security" and Palestinian "sovereignty" are not mutually exclusive. But it will take "work", making room for "the Other". Pray that we may all make room for "the Others" in our midst.

Palestinians are making headway with "infrastructure" and economic viability, inspite of the oppressive atmosphere. What if the creative energies of both peoples could be even more greatly unleashed? Side by side, in cooperation instead of conflict? For this we must fervently hope (and work)! Faithfully yours, JRK

Gershon Baskin
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
September 14, 2010 - 12:00am


Yes, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is right – why should Israel continue the settlement freeze; after all, everyone knows Gilo will never be Palestinian. Ramot Eshkol will not be part of the Palestinian capital of al-Kuds, nor will Pisgat Ze’ev? Palestinians should understand that there are certain facts that will not be undone. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any peace agreement; without this, there can be no peace and certainly the Palestinians should realize this by now.

Yes, but Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also right – why should the Palestinians enter new negotiations while Israel continues to build settlements on land which will become part of the Palestinian state? Haven’t too many Israeli facts already been created on the ground? The last time Netanyahu was prime minister, Har Homa didn’t exist, but now look at it – another Israeli city built on Palestinian land. The whole need to find land to swap comes from the facts that Israel has created, illegally by international law.

YES, BOTH sides are right. Palestinians and Palestinian-supporters will argue that there is no moral equivalent in the above claims. Israel has acted illegally and settlements were explicitly built by some former (and current) politicians to prevent the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.

There are two defining elements of Palestinian identity – the nakba (catastrophe) and dispersal of 1948 and settlements. For 43 years, Palestinians have watched their land get swallowed up as their dream of liberation, freedom and independence has withered with each new home built in the West Bank.

The settlement presence has meant land expropriation, bypass roads, usurping of water reserves, confiscation of natural resources such as stone quarries, and the entire system of controls – fences, roadblocks, barriers, walls and lots of IDF soldiers.

There is no way for any Palestinian to have any sympathy for settlers or settlements.

Their very presence is a daily reminder of their lack of freedom in their own land.

It is equally impossible for settlers, I imagine, to feel any sympathy for the Palestinians. Almost no settler will understand that Palestinians believe they made their most painful compromise already when they accepted the two-state solution within the 1967 borders. Settlers cannot see that when the Palestinian national movement officially accepted the idea of two states in November 1988 it was giving up 78 percent of what it believed to be its birthright – all of the land that was the State of Israel prior to June 5, 1967.

Palestinians sincerely believe that all of Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean legitimately belongs to them (as many Israelis believe that the entire land from the river to the sea belongs to them), and that the creation of the State of Israel was an historic injustice to them as they had nothing to do with the Holocaust. The Palestinians cannot see and accept what I do – that the birth of Israel was a moral imperative and that the Jewish people had the same right as all other peoples to a state of their own in their historic land.

And yes, so do the Palestinians. The creation of a Palestinian state today is a moral imperative for both Jews and Palestinians, and the Jewish people should be the most vocal advocates of the rights of the Palestinian people.

THE CLASH of the rights of these two peoples is the greatest wrong to both of them. The lingering bloody and tragic conflict must come to an end. Those leaders who cling to excuses to foil the chance of finding a way out of this mess are criminally negligent and dangerous.

Those Israeli and Palestinian citizens who encourage their leaders to provoke an early death to the new negotiations are nothing less than traitors to their own people.

There is a way out of this conflict. We are not destined to live by the sword forever. There are solutions to the issues. Israel can be secure and recognized; Jerusalem can be our eternal capital, recognized by all the nations of the world. Israel can be the magnet, the just and model society that will attract more Jews to come here to live. Israel can continue to shine in the field of hi-tech communications, biotech, agrotech and more.

Palestine too can prosper and shine. Palestine can be the first truly democratic Arab state, with the most advanced education system in the Arab region, the highest use of renewable energy, modern technology in industry and agriculture, a new and prospering hi-tech sector rapidly developing in cooperation with Israeli companies. The entrepreneurial spirit which has enabled the Palestinians to survive from one disaster to another can be the fertile ground on which a new economy of Internet-age Palestinians can be built.

We need to let loose the energies in both societies that are locked up by the continued conflict. This is much truer about Palestine than Israel, but in Israel as well, too much energy is improperly invested in the survival mode necessary to sustain us in conflict rather than in the creative mode which is sparked by security and liberation. We must let that energy loose. We can all be so much more than we are today.

This is not romantic kumbaya. Make no mistake, our spirit and our belief in our own abilities is the essence of our life, hope is the fire of our souls and the realization of our most noble dreams is the goal that we must achieve. There are those of us, maybe the majority, who cry woe about the horrible fate that has been bestowed on us. There are those of us who see that real peace is a real possibility and that the enormous amount of energy and money that has gone into fostering conflict can now be diverted to education, health care, science, discovery, the environment, the arts, and not just the fact of our existence.

The rights of both peoples do not have to be mutually negating; they can be mutually sustaining and fulfilling. The only way for that to happen is for us to end the blood feud, recognize each others’ rights to this land and make real peace.

Monday, September 13, 2010

This Film Casts the Right Vision

Dear Friend,
LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM is a 77 minute tour through violence to nonviolence, showing the determination of a Palestinian Christian, a Palestinian Muslim and a Jew, to live out Martin Luther King's and Gandhi's vision of nonviolence. Here is the website for the "trailer":
To find, or organize, a local screening visit, where trailers and other videos are also available to view, or email

Sami, Ahmad, Yonatan come from radically different backgrounds in a land of unending war. Yet, against all odds, including some within their Israeli and Palestinian communities, they are able to find common ground. They walk a path of nonviolence struggle in lockstep with Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. For them courage is found not in taking up arms, but setting them down once and for all and extending a hand in peace.
From the award-winning team that brought you End of the Spear (2006) and Miss HIV (2007) comes director Jim Hanon’s latest documentary, Little Town of Bethlehem. Unscripted and unrehearsed, discover the humanity lurking behind an ancient cycle of violence.
Featuring: Sami Awad, Ahmad Al’Azzeh, Yonatan Shapira. Music Produced by: Kirk Whalum. Film Design by: Mike Galloway and Mark Arnold. Produced by: Mart Green. Written, Directed and Filmed by: Jim Hanon. Feature running time: Approximately 77 minutes. This film is rated PG-13, Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13, for some violent and disturbing images.
As an opinion maker, you can schedule this film for your constituency. People with the right mindset will eventually get it done. There is no peace without justice; there is no justice without love. JRK