As a religious person who holds progressive views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I have been subjected to polite and not-so-polite criticism from family members, friends, neighbors, and leaders of religious communities. With experience and focus, I have been able to withstand their accusations of being naive, anti-semitic, anti-Israel, self-hating, and a terrorist-lover. I don't mean to state that those names don't hurt, of course they do. What I do mean is that those words, generally, don't get me into pointless arguments, don't get me to doubt my religious and political views, and, most importantly, don't get me to stop advocating for a more just and equal resolution for the people of Israel and Palestine.
There are many people I know, however, who struggle with the negative reactions to their political and/or religious views within the I/P conflict. This causes many of them to shy away from getting involved in solving the problem. Through my posts, I hope to reach those people who have struggles between what they were taught and what they view with their own hearts and minds. It is my desire to educate them about about the D.C. related aspects to the conflict and help find a way to put their knowledge into constructive action.
It seems, to me, that many religious, political, business, academic, and media leaders with less progressive views of Israel and Palestine have been able to define religions and craft U.S. Middle East policy ideas by framing them within such direct narratives as the Holocaust, anti-semitism, radical Islam, Islamo-fascism, nuclear war, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Adolph Hitler. By repeating these emotional ideas in religious institutions, think tanks, the halls of governments (local, state, and national), and the media, they have successfully been able to convince many people that those ideas are religiously, morally, and patriotically righteous. After fearfully tapping into people's base feelings, they are able to get their followers to passionately advocate for these policies and donate to supportive candidates.
Since I view the policies of these groups to have been a failure in obtaining a just peace, I work for the advancement of more progressive I/P ideas. With the timeframe for a negotiated Isreal-Palestine peace down to 9-12 months, the time has come for me to use the model of the more traditional "status quo" groups to find those direct ideas that will emotionally resonate with progressive secular and religious (and those in-between) segments of the I/P community.
After questioning progressive I/P leaders about my concerns, I heard many understandable and legitimate ideas. Many of them focused on the academic and intellectual discussions about the conflict. I also noticed that there is a reactive and defensive nature to many of our comments. While I believe that these words and ideas are incredibly important, they are better left to those people in the Movement that are much more capable than myself.
Just when I started to give up hope in my potential contributions, a friend gave me a seemingly ordinary bookmark from Jewish Voice For Peace. It contained the simple and profound statement "Promoting a U.S. foreign policy in Israel and Palestine based on Peace, Democracy, Human Rights, and Respect for International Law". There it was!
Peace: the absence of war or other hostilites
Democracy: government by the people, in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
Human Rights: rights (as freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution) regarded as belonging fundamentally to all persons
International Law: a body of rules that control or affect the rights of nations in their relations with each other
After being inspired by these thoughts, I was able to come up with a few more:
Equality: the state of being equal (like in quality, nature, or status)
Justice: the quality of being fair
Compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it
Tolerance: sympathy for beliefs and practices differing from or conflicting with one's own
These ideas are emotional, straight-forward, form the basis of all world religions, and build the foundation for our own nation. Thanks to the good people at Jewish Voice For Peace, I have found a way to rebuff critics, as well as frame policy ideas and lobbying efforts. Even though there are tremendous horrors associated with the conflict, the end result has to be an optimistic push for something better. I will choose to follow those beloved religious and secular ideas to help move the discussion from hatred and fear to love and acceptance. I can only hope that there are enough people out there to join in this endeavor.
To those who want to find a way to create fear and promote hatred and bigotry, I ask you to please find somewhere else to peddle your pessimism. There is just not enough time to spend on those viewpoints.
For those who care about resolving the I/P conflict and who share in these ideals, please consider starting with one (or more) of these steps today:
- If you are in or around Washington D.C. this weekend, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is holding its National Conference. There will be panel discussions on the Middle East featuring Reps. Donna Edwards, Keith Ellison, Brian Baird, and John Conyers. In addition, Professor John Mearsheimer, Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and Israeli Knesset Minister Said Naffaa will speak. Also, late today it was announced that President Bill Clinton will deliver the keynote address on Saturday evening. For information on registering, please go here.
- Support J Street, the one year old pro-Israel/pro-peace organiztion, by donating to any or all of their endorsed candidates. You can go here to view their candidates from the 2008 election cycle. You can donate to these candidates at this page. Just put the name of the candidate(s) into the comment section and J Street will make sure that 100% of the contribution goes to that official.
- For those Democratic officials that do not appear on J Street's list, you can donate to their campaigns through the ActBlue fundraising page, A Dream Of Peace: Justice and Equality For The People Of Israel And Palestine.
- Sign up for action alerts from the following groups: J Street, Americans For Peace Now, Arab American Institute, ADC, Churches For Middle East Peace, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Jewish Voice For Peace
- This October 25-28, attend the First J Street National Conference: Driving Change, Securing Peace. Information and Registration can be found here.
- Contact the various organizations from my blogroll and encourage them to find their common ideals in order to effectively lobby as a large multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and inter-faith group. They each may have some different platforms, but they all share the humane and progressive ideas discussed in this post.
If there are any progressive I/P groups that I have left off, I apologize. Please offer recommendations and links in the comments section.