Is there a way beyond digging the past, and start from the future first or the best that our religions have to offer?
At this point, the who’s right and who’s wrong have ceased to matter. We have reached the point where they effectively cancel each other out. On the one hand, it seems clear that the Palestinians received the short end of the stick when the state of Israel was carved out of the land that was their home. On the other, their leaders have persistently chosen violence and rejection over any negotiated settlement offer that has come their way.
It seems that in this situation, the most basic of human — one might almost say animal — instincts prevail: territorialism, mutual distrust, hatred, rage. The veneer of civilization shows itself to be thin indeed when everything that separates us from the animal world is thrust aside in favor of brute vengeance, prejudice and inflexibility. (And there are good arguments to be made that animals are more humane than we!) As in most human discord, the assignment of blame matters less than the resolution, and the urgent question now is how to put an end to a cycle of violence that does no one any good.
My friend kept asking me the other night when we were listening to our Muslim friends plan for an event and we were invited to participate in some way – What is the end game? What are we trying to achieve? That would be the same question we would ask those in power in Israel and in Palestine.
Possibly one of the more sinister aspects of this tragedy is the clumsy attempt through media ‘spin’ to portray Israeli civilians as victims in this crisis. When we see on our TV screens and computer monitors the effects of Hamas ‘rockets’ on Israeli communities, compared to the sheer havoc wreaked by Israeli high explosives on the Gaza urban landscape and its civilian population, the educated and informed can safely put this fiction aside. As of a couple of days ago, in an TV interview with the BBC, Dr. Mars Gilbert at Dar el Shifa hospital in Gaza informed us that the overwhelming majority of casualties he had treated were civilians and that of the 900 casualties that they had so far cared for at Dar el Shifa, 25% of the fatalities and fully 45% of the wounded were women and children.
In an article that appeared January 7, 2009 in the UK, Avi Shlaim, a respected Israeli historian and Oxford University scholar, wrote that Israel had become a ‘rogue’ state, by definition a state that ignores and violates international law at will, has an arsenal of nuclear weapons, and practices terrorism (the use of violence against civilians for political purposes.)
In another BBC World interview with another noted Israeli historian, Tom Segev, when posed the question, "After the fighting is over, what should then happen?" answered, "We shall have to talk to Hamas – they may be a terrorist organization, but they are also a political party, a social welfare movement and the elected representatives of the Palestinian people."
These educated and informed Israelis are well aware of the fundamental truth of this situation, which is that Israel’s long term security, its very survival, relies on making a just and equitable peace with the Palestinians, making peace with the rest of the Arab World, and making the Arabs their best friends as quickly as possible.
This is an important initiative coming out from Christians in the USA.
Dear President-elect Obama,
As Christians of the Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox and Protestant traditions, we are united by a Biblical call to be peacemakers and a commitment to the two peoples of the Holy Land who yearn for a just peace. As Americans, we urge you, Mr. President, to make achievement of Israeli-Palestinian peace an immediate priority during your first year in office.
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has gone on too long. It has caused untold suffering for both sides, created economic hardships, and provided a rallying cry for extremists.
As people of faith and hope, we believe peace is possible. Majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians continue to support a negotiated solution based on two secure and sovereign states as the best way to end this tragic conflict.
In order to achieve a durable peace, your Administration must provide sustained, high-level diplomatic leadership toward the clear goal of a final status agreement. Building on past discussions, we ask you to encourage Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make historic compromises necessary for peace.
Your commitment to working for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel can help strengthen U.S. security and improve stability and relationships throughout the Middle East. We believe that Jerusalem – home to two peoples and three religions – has the potential to become a powerful symbol of hope and coexistence for people across the region and the world.
We know the work for a just peace will not be easy. It will require great courage and resolve, but the risk of inaction is even greater. Without active U.S. engagement, political inertia and perpetuation of the unbearable status quo will make achievement of a two-state solution increasingly difficult.
Moreover, we are concerned about the negative impact a further delay will have on the Christian community in the Holy Land, whose numbers continue to decline.
We call on all Christians and people of goodwill to join us in praying for the peace of Jerusalem and in supporting vigorous U.S. diplomatic efforts to secure Middle East peace. Mr. President, as you take up the many challenges facing the United States and the global community, we urge you to work for a better future for all the children of Abraham in the land that is holy to us all.
This is one petition that everyone can sign . . . the campaigns on this site also links us to other less front page paper news which we need some attention as well.
Petition to the UN Security Council, the European Union, the Arab League and the USA:
We urge you to act immediately to ensure a comprehensive ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, to protect civilians on all sides, and to address the growing humanitarian crisis. Only through robust international action and oversight can the bloodshed be stopped, the Gaza crossings safely re-opened and real progress made toward a wider peace in 2009.