Thursday, May 9, 2013

To Persist in Conciliation!

Dear Friend,

This is the spirit that will "win" in the end. Persistent, rational, dogged determination that the forces of extremism will not prevail. JRK

Former Palestinian fighter now battles for a middle path

By Christa Case Bryant, Staff writer / May 8, 2013 (Christian Science Moniter)

Palestinian Mohammed Dajani's staircase in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina is a literal paper trail of his family and career, from an Ottoman sultan's decree that gave his relatives custodianship of David's tomb to the photos just behind him of then-Senator Barack Obama visiting his Al Quds University classroom.

East Jerusalem

By his own admission, Mohammed Dajani was “extremely radical” as a young man working for the Palestinian militant group Fatah in Lebanon.

His family was forced to leave their stately Jerusalem home during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Following the example set by his grandfather, who ripped up the refugee card given to his wife, Mr. Dajani has refused to label himself a refugee: “We are citizens and human beings and we have to earn our way,” he says.

But as a young man he saw no other solution than taking back all of historic Palestine from the Israelis.

“I believed that it was us or them and that the only solution was to liberate our land,” he says. “And if we did not have the power to do that, we should do what Samson did and bring down the temple on everyone’s head,” he says, referring to the biblical story of a Hebrew prisoner who killed 3,000 people, including himself, when he removed the central pillars of a Philistine temple.

After that, however, he went to the US to get a PhD; getting some distance from the conflict changed his outlook dramatically and he began working for peace.

Those efforts crystallized into a new initiative after he witnessed a standoff at an Israeli checkpoint near his home. Palestinians who wanted to pray in Jerusalem amassed at the checkpoint, but Israeli guards initially refused to let them pass. Eventually they worked out a deal – the Palestinians were allowed to pass in exchange for leaving their essentially indispensable identification cards at the checkpoint, virtually guaranteeing they would return.

The 2006 incident showed him that despite the strong feelings and distrust on both sides, there is also pragmatism, and convinced him there was a need to a middle path for Palestinians who were devout and committed to pressing for their rights, but also willing to negotiate.

“They [were] not jihadi Islamic guys … because those people would have refused to negotiate with Israelis,” he says. “They were able to negotiate their way to go to Jerusalem, and to convince Israelis that they are not there to put bombs, that they are just going there to pray.”

“And the Israelis, because of the multitudes and the pressure and all that, instead of dealing with it with force, dealt with it more with the mind, with rationality,” he adds.

“Who represents those people? No one. So I started Wasatia.”

The movement, founded in early 2007 and named after a Quranic term for “moderation” or “balance,” aims to give a voice to what Dajani considers a majority of Palestinians who want to work for statehood through nonviolent means but get drowned out by increasing radicalization on both sides. It hasn’t gathered a lot of momentum; he has difficulty obtaining grants for his work, and he has been maligned by more religious Muslims who chafe at his ideas of moderation.

But his faith that the conflict will be solved remains strong and is perhaps best symbolized by the chess sets at the center of his Wasatia office and his classroom. He provides them, he says, to cultivate a skill he considers crucial to resolving the conflict: rationality.

“That’s why I feel that this problem will be solved … that rationality will prevail in the end,” he says. “It is stupidity to kill each other.”

Monday, May 6, 2013

An Act That Changed History

Dear Friend,

I'm posting comments by our friend Salim Munayer (MUSALAHA), who suggests that crimes need to be addressed, then forgiven, if progress is to be made in relationships.

If you wish to read a study paper I did on the close connection between Joseph the son of Jacob and Jesus the son of Joseph, request it at , should you wish to see the parallels more closely than those mentioned by Salim.

It seems a travesty to talk about forgiveness. Yet, Joseph, the son of Jacob, had to learn to forgive those who betrayed him, trampled him under foot, sending him to Exile away from his own family and country. Yet, he learned it, extended it to his brothers and his people (and all nations) were eventually blessed.

Justice was sought in South Africa. It was won. Then the Truth and Reconciliation project was carried out by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Atrocities done to each to each other were addressed, confessed, forgiven, and the parties moved on.

Without addressing terrible wrongs, repenting, asking for forgiveness, extending it, and making amends, there will only be constant recriminations, bitterness and destruction. Yours for justice, love, forgiveness, and Shalom/Salaam. JRK


Salim Munayer (MUSALAHA Director)

Dear friends,

Over the past several months we have been working to update some of the chapters in our curriculum of reconciliation.Some of the issues we have been researching further are the meeting of justice and reconciliation (there can be no reconciliation without justice, and no justice without reconciliation), and how forgiveness relates to the public and political spheres.I have been going through Donald Shriver, Jr.’s book An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics. While forgiveness sounds like a religious concept to many people, justice often does not, something that Shriver attributes to theologians.Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the most politically oriented contemporary theologians, has advocated for justice as a political virtue while downplaying the importance of forgiveness, relegating it to the sphere of sentimentalism, outside of realpolitik.Shriver argues for the importance of forgiveness in public discourse, avoiding the common misconception of forgiving as forgetting.Instead, he advocates the slogan “Remember and forgive.”[1]

When we turn to the Scriptures, we can easily find many examples and calls to forgiveness in the New Testament, but it is not as dominant a theme in the Old Testament.Shriver discusses the story of Joseph as a model for forgiveness, and we know that Joseph prefigures the Messiah . . . .

In the book of Exodus we look to God as the deliverer of a suffering people from the crimes of Pharaoh and the injustice he inflicted upon the people of Israel. But we overlook the story leading up to this – Joseph’s story in Egypt.The story of Joseph shows the great crimes that are behind the formation of the people of Israel, from prejudice, betrayal, and slavery.Featured in this story and twenty-five year old wound, we see fear, suspicion, guilt, judgmental truth, forbearance of revenge, empathy and compassion.[2]When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and forgives them, he invites Jacob’s family to settle in Egypt.“A new nation has begun, but it could not begin until something decisive was done about evils that threatened the unity of a family apparently bent on destroying itself.That decisive something was a long-drawn-out process of forgiveness.”[3]Without reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers, the people of Israel might not exist. Joseph’s forgiveness gave birth to a nation, and it is this story of family unity that provides the background and context for the Exodus.

Like Joseph, Jesus left his favored position with the father and became as a slave, suffering injustice.Jesus was also betrayed, and his obedience and forgiveness gave birth to the kingdom of God.

In our lives, we face injustices, fear, betrayal, and revenge.These need to be addressed, but we cannot move forward as nations and communities without the hope of forgiveness.If we take the example of Joseph and the commands of Jesus into consideration in our respective situations, it can heal our peoples and give birth to something new and exciting, just as it did in the story of Joseph and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.As we address our contexts, we echo the words of the prophet Micah that may we seek to “do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” And, many we follow Jesus’ example of obedience and forgiveness and bring a change to the course of our histories . . . .

Salim J. Munayer and the Musalaha Staff