The PFMEP Blog

The PFMEP Blog focuses on advancing Middle East Peace.

Thoughtful comments on blog articles can provide additional insight and stimulate productive debate. We welcome comments from a diverse group of contributors.

Advancing Responsible and Effective Peacemaking Policies

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace

On San Bernardino and Paris

The tragic events in San Bernardino and Paris, perpetrated by self-described supporters of Islamic State, are dominating the headlines. Islamic State and similar jihadist movements represent a serious threat to the civilized world. At the same time, they do not reflect beliefs held by the vast majority of the world’s Muslims.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace categorically condemns the appalling anti-Islam rhetoric being uttered in this country, Europe and elsewhere. Lumping all Muslims together as fanatics is the same as trying to link all Christians to the white separatism of groups like the Ku Klux Klan or all Jews with the actions of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League. Today is not a time for people of faith to attack one another. It is a pivotal moment in human history when reasoned, reasonable people of faith need to come together and isolate the fanatics in our ranks---whether they be Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Islamic or any other type of religious fanatics.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Now more than ever our prayers are needed for the peace of Jerusalem. The violence that in recent weeks began in Jerusalem is spreading across Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Israelis are filled with fear, and Palestinians of good will are seeing their future disintegrate before their eyes.

What is needed to end this violence? The position of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace is that progress toward the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel is essential. There is only one path to peace, and it is the two state solution.  This has been the position of the PCUSA for decades and should remain the focal point of our peacemaking efforts. Political leaders on both sides, with help from the international community, must commit to this and demonstrate tangible progress to their respective peoples.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace

The Pillars of Peace

Peace requires a foundation, and organized efforts to promote coexistence, understanding, and cooperation are essential for building this foundation. Israelis, Palestinians, Jews and Arabs are engaging in a dynamic and growing group of organizations dedicated to such efforts. To learn about them visit the website of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP), a network of over 80 organizations committed to this critical work. Christians can and should support these efforts; they are non-political, build bridges, and advance the cause of peace.

These efforts are facing opposition from the international Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Movement. The term for this opposition is “anti-normalization”. As a case in point, one of the ALLMEP organizations is YaLa Young Leaders, a rapidly growing youth peace movement with almost 1 million supporters in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Last year YaLa hosted an online peace conference that attracted over 40,000 participants. YaLa has received statements of support from former president Bill Clinton and many other distinguished figures.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace

The Two-State Solution: New Study Documents Benefits

A new study by the Rand Corporation released this week illustrates the economic benefits of the Two-State Solution. The study estimates an economic benefit of $150 billion dollars for Israelis and $50 billion for Palestinians over a ten-year period, with both peoples benefitting. It predicts a 36% increase in per capita income for Palestinians over the same time frame.

The study also analyzes additional scenarios, none of which provide the economic benefit of the Two-State Solution. The Two-State Solution is based on a foundation of self-determination for Palestinians and security for Israelis. A second scenario analyzed in the Rand report is one promoted by the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, which calls for economic pressure on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank without a commitment of peace from Palestinians. Under this scenario, both Israelis and Palestinians suffer economic losses, as economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians disintegrates. By pursuing the economic pressure strategy, the losses for the Palestinians are even greater when viewed as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace

Netanyahu wins Israeli election and Palestinians lose in U.S. court

The recent Israeli election was a victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Although only 24% of Israeli voters cast ballots for Netanyahu's Likud party, it was enough to ensure that the incoming Israeli administration will likely be led by Mr. Netanyahu. The victory came with a cost. To attract votes from the Israeli right wing, the Prime Minister made deplorable statements widely understood to be an outright rejection of the two-state solution and implored Israeli Jews to vote because Israeli Arabs were voting in large numbers. These statements were condemned by many groups ranging from Jewish organizations in the U.S. to the U.S State Department. We at PFMEP join in condemning political rhetoric that hinders the cause of peace for nothing more than political advantage, and PM Netanyahu’s statements reside squarely in that category. Days after the election, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s seeming reversal of his earlier statement on Palestinian statehood and apologies for his comments about Israeli Arabs have failed to remedy the situation he created.

In such a milieu, it is hard to retain hope for a two-state solution, but we are people of faith, not people who pursue political expediency. We work over the long term, not for short-term political ends. A two-state solution is the only possible just peace. It is the only option that allows both Palestinians and Israelis to have self-determination. It is the only option that has widespread international support. This is not a time to abandon the strategy. It is a time to insist on the strategy.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace

Words of Peace and Freedom

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself...." 

                     Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19 

 

Our prayers today are with the people of Israel and Gaza as we all hope for an immediate ceasefire to the Hamas-Israel war. We also pray for a lasting solution that provides the people of Gaza with peace and freedom and the people of Israel with security and freedom from violent attack.  

The civilians of Gaza, the vast majority with no connection to Hamas or related groups, have suffered the overwhelming brunt of the pain and suffering from the conflict, yet have no voice in their path forward. This must change. The people of Gaza have a right to peace and freedom, and a right to freely choose those who lead and speak for them. The 221st Presbyterian General Assembly (2014) formally recognized this essential human right, approving a resolution calling for “measures to ensure free and fair elections within the Palestinian territories.”  

We believe the people of Gaza should have basic freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly, and the right to choose their leaders through a genuine democratic process. The international community has been almost completely silent on the rights of the people of Gaza to have fair and open elections, and this has been wrong. These freedoms offer no guarantee of peace, but without them it is difficult to see how prospects for peace can move forward. At Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, we also support an international program for reconstruction efforts in Gaza.