Friday, February 13, 2015

Thoughts on coexistence...

Almost every day I read three or four on-line resources reporting events from the
Middle East. I have no illusion of personal expertise, nor do I think that my very middle of the road perspective is unique - or even helpful. Mostly I am an artist-theologian  in search of ways to build common ground, strengthen peace and justice on the ground in small albeit creative ways and learn from those far wiser than I what is useful and what is not. To that end, here are the links I read - and pray over - as part of my commitment to God's elusive peace. Each one is imperfect, of course, and carries its own baggage and perspective:  

+ Churches for Middle East Peace: ( A liberal Christian effort to learn and listen to Israelis and Arabs and change US policy.

+ Middle East Forum: ( A conservative think tank under the leadership of Richard Pipes dedicated to opposing Islamism and supporting Israel.

+ Al-Monitor: ( A Washington based media site that synthesizes the reporting of established journalists from the wider Middle Eastern region.\

+ The Daily Jewish Forward: ( A slightly left-of-center Jewish publication from NYC whose senior correspondent, J.J. Goldberg, brings analysis to the politics of Israeli.

Let me confess a few other truths for me: while I have beloved family, friends and colleagues with fierce commitments to one side of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or the other, I tend to believe that each side shares more than enough cause for blame for no one's hands are clean. As I read the history of these two people who share one land, albeit in unfair and unjust ways at the present, I lament the many times that fear, duplicity, violence, revenge and deep cultural misunderstandings destroyed the lasting peace that might have been secured from the creation of Israel through the present day. I cannot completely demonize Israel nor ignore the nation's moral and political offenses. Nor can I turn a blind eye to Palestinian terror despite the profound injustices being inflicted upon the innocent now and in the past. To be sure, the balance of power, resources and land are controlled by Israel while most Palestinians languish in poverty and social collapse. Simultaneously, as Professor Amy-Jill Levine once said during a lecture at my church, "We cannot hold Israel to higher moral standards than other nations." There is a sad and ugly historical context for this tragedy that I feel called to honor - even when it makes me uncomfortable.  

I know there to be dignity and passion at the heart of Palestinian resistance to the occupation even if there are no clear current solutions. I know, too, that there are modest experiments in cooperation  and coexistence that are alive and strong in Israel. Jordan and Israel quietly work together to address water issues in their shared border. There is the Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel where fiive schools in Jerusalem, Galilee, Wadi Ara, Jaffa and Haifa "are proving on a daily basis the viability of inclusion and equality for citizens of Israel. Current events threaten to pull Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel apart. Fear, anger and violence are undermining shared living. But this is not the case at Hand in Hand. Our schools and community activity continue unabated in our five schools and communities. As we begin 2015, and as our network of bilingual schools and communities expands, so does our message to Israeli society: THERE IS ANOTHER WAY." (check it out @ 

These efforts - and others - are why no matter the frustration or impotence I feel about peace, I cannot support the boycott, divest and sanction efforts of my own denomination. I value many of those who do support BDS and don't question their integrity or analysis. At the same time, my heart and head lead me to a different set of commitments. I could be wrong, yes? It has happened before - and will happen again. But as Dr. Omid Safi, Director of Duke's Islamic Studies Center, recently said: "Knowledge is more luminous than ignorance, justice is more beautiful than tyranny, and love is more divine than hatred." And so I seek the path of common ground in a bleak and broken time.  If you have other insights and perspective born of love, please share them with me? 

No comments:

summertime is half over...

A gentle rain is falling in the Berkshire hills this morning. Already it feels like a day of contemplation and quiet rest. There was a Fac...