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.
George Douglas

Why Is There a Conflict Between Gaza and Israel?

A friend passed along to me an electronic newsletter he received from a PC(USA) worker based in Israel who is currently visiting congregations in the United States. What caught my eye was a segment in the newsletter entitled “What everyone is asking: why is there a conflict between Gaza and Israel?” The answers given were striking and called for a response.

Jill Schaeffer

Pacifism may lead to violence

An 800 pound gorilla in the room of justice, particularly for some Christians, is a horror of taking any action that may be construed as violent.  To violate someone's personal space, whether physically, psychologically or spiritually and cause injury is simply not done among practicing Christians.  Only non-violent strategies are permissable, and the rule of thumb is to "follow Jesus," if need be, to the cross.

And yet, and yet.... Edmond Burke's purported sentiment of 1795, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men do nothing,"  raises a slew of questions regarding the use of force for the sake of saving lives rather than increasing the vulnerability of those put at risk if "good" men stand back and do nothing.

Mike Gizzi

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

The 221st General Assembly ended with mixed feelings. While I was profoundly disappointed in the divestment vote, which I viewed as well-meaning, but misguided, I was somewhat satisfied that I had convinced the GA to approve my commissioner's resolution declaring that “Zionism Unsettled" does not represent the views of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). My own perspective had been shaped by efforts developing interfaith discussions in my congregation last winter. The local rabbi taught a well-attended four-week class on “A Taste of Judaism.” I knew that upon returning home, I needed to reach out to her, explain what we did and did not do in Detroit, and build bridges towards an interfaith dialogue. Very quickly, it became clear that a group of us in the Presbytery of Great Rivers had similar views. We were disappointed in the divestment vote for various reasons, but wanted to turn lemons into lemonade. We wanted to find a way to build relationships, and develop interfaith dialogues, rather than create or exacerbate divisions.

The efforts initially began in a decentralized way. Throughout the presbytery, people began to reach out to the local Jewish community. A group of us drove to Springfield to have lunch with the Jewish Federation. I met with the local rabbi in Bloomington, and we decided that I would speak to her congregation at a Shabbat service about what we did and did not do in Detroit, and more importantly, how we might work together. Similar things occurred in Peoria and the Quad Cities. Inspired by the work going on to our north in Chicago, we moved to have the presbytery establish an interfaith working group.

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.