Random Links 304 (“Peace for Palestine and Beyond” Edition)

God Calls Us to Mutual Care, Respect

Brian McLaren so far is the only one from the “emergent”/”emerging church” scene or if you still see him closer to the “evangelical” spectrum that has been consistently highlighting the plight in Gaza. I’m quoting him in full:

I’m sickened when I hear that a person’s religion makes him unwilling to let other human beings live in dignity and peace. I’m disgusted when people make it sound like God plays favorites – loving their own kind and hating others. I’m repulsed when I hear people using God to justify holding children responsible for the supposed wrongs of their ancestors – as if God were for grudge-holding and revenge instead of forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation. Bigotry is ugly and ignorant to begin with – but when its justified by referring to God, it’s even more horribly reprehensible.

As a committed Christian, I’m also sickened when I hear Christian Zionists use strangely similar logic to push the plight of the Palestinian people off the table, as if God plays favorites and wants his favorites to have a safe land to live in, but when it comes to Palestinians, well, tough luck for them. The ancient Jewish prophets themselves said – and Jesus and the Qur’an agree – that we must love our neighbors as ourselves, and do to others as we would have them do to us.

The kind of God who calls us to mutual care, to mutual respect, to seek justice and the common good … that’s the kind of God worthy of our belief and worship. But the kind of God who calls us to mutual destruction, to mutual fear and prejudice, to seek revenge and the harm of others … that vision of God deserves to be repudiated by sincere people of good faith. Perhaps a time is coming when Jews, Christians, and Muslims will together stand up and speak with one voice about the line between good and evil that runs, not between, but through our respective religions. Then we will see that we all have some truth, beauty, and goodness … and we all have a lot of the opposite. That means that none of us can stand as superior before God, for we all need God’s grace and mercy. That humble acknowledgment, I believe, is the common ground God is calling us all toward … beginning with me, and I hope you too.

Status Quo vs. Solution for Middle East

Good rules coming from Eboo Patel:

If we are going to move from Status Quo to Solution, we’re going to need a whole lot of courage and a different set of rules. People are going to have to come up with the courage on their own, but let me offer a set of "Solution Rules" for Muslim and Jewish organizations regarding the Middle East.

Rule No. 1: Make your first phone calls to the people who disagree with you on the current situation, but who agree with you on the basic outlines of a long-term solution – two states, with security and dignity for all. That’s a Coalition for a Solution, creative and courageous enough to get people’s attention. This means, difficult as it might be, resist the instinct to use the current crisis to find more people who will wave signs for your side, show up at your rallies or sign on to your petitions. That logic serves mostly to further prolong the conflict. Instead, use the spotlight on the Middle East to reach out to those on the other side who have the courage to play for a long-term solution and say, "Look, the status quo is untenable for everybody. It’s time for a different set of rules."

Rule No. 2: Acknowledge the real issues on the other side. Minnesota U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress, models this in his recent press release when he says that he has been in Sderot and has "seen firsthand both the physical and emotional destruction caused by the rocket attacks". That acknowledgment doesn’t take away from something else that Ellison says – which is that conditions in Gaza are "unliveable". It merely means that Ellison has the eyes and the heart to imagine life on both sides of the fence.

In Status Quo Rules, recognizing the challenge on the other side makes you a traitor. In the Solution Rulebook, it makes you a true patriot, because it’s the fastest way to build trust with the people you have to build peace with.

Rule No. 3: Recognize that certain players who claim to be on "your side" are part of the problem. The truth is, you don’t want them on your side anyway. They are dangerous and destabilizing to your community. When peace is finally made with the other side, your first battle is going to be against them. Hamas is a destructive force to Israelis, and a destructive force to Palestinians. Muslims should feel no obligation to defend them. The militant settlers are murder to Palestinians, and also murder to Israel. No Jews should feel like they have to defend them either.

Rule No. 4: The politics of the Middle East is about where your family is. If your family is in Sderot, it is unbearable. If your family is in Gaza, it is also unbearable. Talking about whether scattered Hamas rockets are the equivalent of precision Israeli air raids, or whether Islamist rhetoric is as bad as Israeli occupation is logical but irrelevant. Logical because you can write press releases for your side using such talking points, irrelevant because it doesn’t build a bridge to the other side, which is the only way to a solution.

Civilian Voices: Palestinians and Israelis talk about how the conflict has affected their lives, and their hopes for the future.

I’ve always wanted to hear their voices over the ones in power. Let me pick out some:

VOICES FROM GAZA
Saber Abu Reesh, 40, from the Maghazi neighborhood of Gaza, whose brother was killed last week in an Israeli air strike:
I can’t forget the death of my brother but in order to stop more killing and bloodshed I would agree to reach a fair and lasting peace. The Palestinian Authority must do all it can to stop this war. We are human beings. We don’t like killing and we want peace, but this peace must achieve our goals to live in dignity and respect.

I was at home when I heard that Israel had begun bombing the Gaza Strip. I was afraid that something had happened to my brother, Osama, so I tried to call his mobile but he didn’t answer. I later found him dead in [a] hospital. My brother was married with 10 children. He didn’t belong to Hamas; he was just trying to look after his family. My brother is a victim of this crazy bombing in Gaza. Civilians are always victims and they pay the price of wars. What will we say to his sons when they grow up?

Abed al Fatah Ahmed, 52, Gaza City:
I voted Hamas hoping to change our bad situation and to get rid of corruption, but nothing changed and our lives have become miserable. I’m so scared that any time crossfire may hit the windows and kill one of my children. This is not my battle, and I don’t want to pay the price. The Israeli troops didn’t reach my home yet, but they may.

VOICES FROM ISRAEL
Tziona Peleg, 47, aunt of Irit Shitrit, killed by a missile on Ashdod last week:
In my work as a hospital nurse, I come into daily contact with Arabs, both patients and staff, and I have excellent relations with them. Of course a peace agreement is possible, I’ve always thought so. These people are my friends and my colleagues. Despite the fact that Irit is dead, I still say that there is a real possibility to reach a solution. But these are not the people who killed my niece. It’s the extremists who killed my niece, and they will stop at nothing right now. There are extremists on both sides and, as terrible as it sounds, maybe it should be the extremists that we talk to. Otherwise, where is the end to this bloodshed?

Ari Levy, 45, Tel Aviv, entrepreneur:
I’ve taken part in numerous demonstrations against Israel’s badly formulated policies. Even if it doesn’t help, I find it increasingly impossible to sit back and do nothing. We need to change people’s minds on both sides, and until this happens there will be no lasting solution. I am ashamed to be an Israeli because so many people are being killed just to prove that Israel is strong. It wouldn’t do any good, won’t stop the Hamas missiles coming into Israel and won’t win anyone more votes in the next elections. My own people have hatred in their eyes.

VOICES FROM EAST JERUSALEM
George Khoury, 40, security guard, East Jerusalem:
People everywhere are worried after seeing children and families blown up in Gaza. The Israelis are acting not just against Hamas but against Palestinians in general. Here in Jerusalem, life goes on despite everything. Israel wants us to shut down, to hide away but we’ll keep moving, we’ll keep going no matter what happens.

VOICES FROM THE WEST BANK
Nada Kiswani, 20, radiology student at Al-Quds University in the West Bank:
I don’t know anyone personally in Gaza, but I feel like the people in Gaza are my family and that they’ve been abandoned by the rest of the Arab world. Why don’t Arab leaders stand up and protest this? The Palestinian people badly need the support of Arab leaders in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. One hand can’t clap on its own.

About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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