Interfaith Peace Initiative





Votes in the U.S. Congress have a tremendous impact on the people of the Middle East.   They can provide encouragement to those working toward peace, or they can create despair and drive moderates into the arms of militant groups.  These outcomes are too often ignored as political considerations at home frequently determine America's policy around the world. 
Call Congress; Urge Statements in Support of a Ceasefire
~January 6, 2009~

"Members of Congress are being urged to issue one-sided statements supporting "Israel's right to defend its citizens from terrorism" with no mention of the urgent need for a comprehensive cease-fire that will end the human suffering on both sides. Legislation making a similar point is expected in both the House and the Senate.

It is important that your Representative and Senators hear from you now on the need for U.S. diplomatic leadership to help achieve an immediate cease-fire that ends the violence, addresses the humanitarian situation and leads to concrete steps toward a two-state peace agreement.

Several Members have made constructive statements (click here to view these statements), but many more have not. They need to hear from American Christians that expressing sympathy for only one side of the conflict is not compassionate or smart policy. What is needed now is strong U.S. leadership that pulls Israelis and Palestinians back from the brink and puts them on to a path toward an agreement for creation of a viable Palestinian state that will enhance Israel's security....."

From Churches for Middle East Peace\

Congressional Action on Appropriations for Israel in 2008.

President Bush proposed and Congress enacted $2.55 billion in FMF for Israel in 2008. This is the first
of many anticipated increases under a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding signed between the United States and Israel in 2007. This agreement would provide $30 billion in FMF over the next decade, a 25% increase over current levels of military aid to Israel.

The Interfaith Peace Initiative challenges this increase, not because we wish harm to Israel, but because Israel is using our tax dollars to violate international law and human rights. Segregated roadways, segregated housing built on stolen land, collective punishment, theft and destruction of private property are not activities US taxpayers should fund.

Please write a personal letter to your members of Congress. Fax and mail it, as e-mails can be easily overlooked. Include articles found at the web sites listed below on Israeli efforts to drive Palestinians from the Holy Land. In the letter, express your dismay that our tax dollars are going toward the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Christians and Muslims from their homes. Stress that the people who are being persecuted include families whose ancestors have lived on this land for hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years.

Say that you do not want to be a party to violations of international law that lead to the dispossession of people from their homes. At a time when Americans are being forced from their own homes by the ongoing financial crisis, our government should not be using our tax dollars to support a regime of apartheid and racism widely condemned around the world.

Tell your representatives that many of the most vocal critics of Israel's policies are Jews, including Israeli Jews, but their voices are not often heard in this country. We can no longer shut out voices of reason acting to prevent further bloodshed in the region, while listening only to those who advocate domination by one group over another.

Remember, your Congressional delegation will only act on these issues when enough constituents contact them and publicize the impact of increasing military aid to Israel. They need to hear from you now!

Below are excerpts from recent articles confirming Israel's goal of removing Palestinians and Israeli Arabs from their homes. All are direct quotes. As you read these, remember that one fifth (20%) of Israel's citizens are of Arab descent. They have long been discriminated against in areas ranging from employment to housing to education. Now their fears of being driven out have been validated.

Israeli Arabs should live in Palestinian state: Livni
Agence France Presse, December 12, 2008
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israeli Foreign

Minister Tzipi Livni, a frontrunner in the race to become premier, said on Thursday that Arab Israelis should move to a Palestinian state when it is eventually created.

"My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two distinct national entities," she told a group of secondary school students in Tel Aviv in remarks broadcast by army radio. "And among other things I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Arab Israelis, and tell them: 'your national aspirations lie elsewhere.'"

The remarks drew an angry rebuttal from Arab Israeli MP Ahmed Tibi and from the Palestinian Authority of president Mahmud Abbas. "She must decide whether she means to leave a million Arabs without political rights or a national identity, or whether she really intends to transfer a million Arab citizens to the Palestinian state that will be established," he said...."

ANALYSIS / Hebron settler riots were out and out pogroms

By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz

An innocent Palestinian family, numbering close to 20 people. All of them women and children, save for three men. Surrounding them are a few dozen masked Jews seeking to lynch them. A pogrom. This isn't a play on words or a double meaning. It is a pogrom in the worst sense of the word. First the masked men set fire to their laundry in the front yard and then they tried to set fire to one of the rooms in the house. The women cry for help, "Allahu Akhbar." Yet the neighbors are too scared to approach the house, frightened of the security guards from Kiryat Arba who have sealed off the home and who are cursing the journalists who wish to document the events unfolding there.

The cries rain down, much like the hail of stones the masked men hurled at the Abu Sa'afan family in the house. A few seconds tick by before a group of journalists, long accustomed to witnessing these difficult moments, decide not to stand on the sidelines. They break into the home and save the lives of the people inside. The brain requires a minute or two to digest what is taking place. Women and children crying bitterly, their faces giving off an expression of horror, sensing their imminent deaths, begging the journalists to save their lives. Stones land on the roof of the home, the windows and the doors. Flames engulf the southern entrance to the home. The front yard is littered with stones thrown by the masked men. The windows are shattered and the children are frightened. All around, as if they were watching a rock concert, are hundreds of Jewish witnesses, observing the events with great interest, even offering suggestions to the Jewish wayward youth as to the most effective way to harm the family. And the police are not to be seen. Nor is the army.

Ten minutes prior, while the security forces were preoccupied with dispersing the rioters near the House of Contention, black smoke billowed from the wadi separating Kiryat Arba and Hebron. For some reason, none of the senior officers of the police or the army were particularly disturbed by what was transpiring at the foot of Kiryat Arba. Anyone standing hundreds of meters away could notice the dozens of rioters climbing atop the roof of the Abu Sa'afan family home, hurling stones. Only moments later did it become apparent that there were people inside the home...."

Olmert condemns settler 'pogrom'

"Outgoing Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has compared the violence used by Jewish settlers against Palestinians in Hebron to bygone anti-Semitism in Europe.

He told Cabinet he was ashamed by recent scenes in the West Bank city, which he said amounted to a pogrom. The settlers shot and wounded three Palestinians and set fire to property after Israeli security forces evicted a Jewish group from a disputed building.

Correspondents say Mr Olmert's use of "pogrom" has particular resonance. It is usually associated with the anti-Semitic violence Jewish people experienced in Europe and Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries.
"As a Jew, I was ashamed at the scenes of Jews opening fire at innocent Arabs in Hebron. There is no other definition than the term 'pogrom' to describe what I have seen," he told Cabinet members, according to public radio. "We are the sons of a nation who know what is meant by a pogrom, and I am using the word only after deep reflection." ......"

I am ashamed
By Hadassa Ben-Itto

Editor's note: This is an important article by a courageous retired judge who is honorary president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

".....I have watched on television as young Jews in Hebron assaulted their neighbors, including defenseless families - vandalizing property, destroying, burning and defacing sites holy to others. And my words in Bern are ringing in my ears. I told myself: I, too, am keeping silent. And I was ashamed.

Therefore, I am breaking my silence. Because I believe that the individual is also obligated to make his voice heard - his personal voice, not a political voice - in order to warn against atrocity.....

I am ashamed of my silence. I saw the uprooting of olive trees, the overturning of market stalls, the attacks on property, and sometimes on innocent people, and I kept silent. I heard the words of incitement, I identified the messages and I was ashamed, but I kept silent...."

Israeli blockade of Gaza amounts to occupation

Darlene Wallach, San Jose Mercury News, Dec 15, 2008
"On Nov. 18, the Israeli military kidnapped me - a Jewish American leaving behind the comforts of San Jose - and 17 others from three Palestinian fishing vessels plying Gaza's coastal waters. Two other international human rights workers and I were accompanying 15 Palestinian fishermen to provide witness to and documentation of the frequent harassment and attacks by the Israeli navy. Our seizure belies Israel's claim that it no longer occupies Gaza and its 1.5 million people.
Israel's military occupation of Gaza did not end with the withdrawal of its soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005. Israel still controls access of people and goods into and out of the Strip. It controls Gaza's airspace, borders and, as my capture attests, territorial waters.
Last year, Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza, hoping to turn Gazans against Hamas. In early November, it tightened the blockade and is denying an entire population access to trucks laden with humanitarian provisions, food and gas...." 

Israeli Settler Pogrom Against Palestinians; CFR/Brookings Report Suggests Linking U.S. Aid to Settlement Freeze
by Daniel Levy
December 4, 2008

"A week of Israeli settler outrages against Palestinians and against Israel's own security forces reached a crescendo over the last 24 hours with settlers opening fire on Palestinian civilians and unleashing violent disturbances across the West Bank. Israel's Justice Minister, Daniel Friedman, has just called the events a "shocking pogrom", journalists have described how their presence saved Palestinian residents of a home near Kiryat Arba from a lynching, and IDF sources described how the right wing activists "want to spark a religious war that would inflame the entire region." The belated IDF action in upholding a court order to evict settlers from a home that they illegally occupied in Hebron, led by Defense Minister Barak, was at least effective, although the same cannot be said of the limp-wristed measures taken in the face of settler rampages against Palestinians, and of the general approach to settler lawlessness.

While the Israeli press is full of graphic descriptions of the settler outrages, there has been remarkably little coverage in the American mainstream media..... Settler extremism has become a strategic issue with implications for American policy, American private funding of settlements, and how to manage the security dynamic in the West Bank.

The litany of settler actions over this week makes for particularly bleak reading on a Friday night. On the walls of home and in mosques in the West Bank villages of Yatma, Sanjil, Turmus Ayya, and Isawiyya, graffiti has been scrawled reading "Mohammed the pig" and "Death to the Arabs", elsewhere cemeteries have been desecrated, Palestinian homes set on fire, olive trees uprooted, tires punctured, and yesterday two Palestinians were shot and seriously wounded by settler fire. Israeli security forces overseeing the evacuation of the Hebron house and sometimes trying to bring order were stoned and assaulted by settlers, along with the customary hurling of choice abuse, notably the word "Nazi". According to the Israeli Yedioth Ahronot newspaper, Ethiopian IDF soldiers "enjoyed" their own variation on the abuse theme, being told "niggers don't expel Jews"..... "

Civil rights group claim Israeli occupation is "reminiscent of apartheid"
By Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem
Sunday, 7 December 2008

"Israel's leading civil rights organisation yesterday broke a taboo by describing Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank as being “reminiscent of apartheid” in South Africa.
Alleging an intensification of human rights abuses against Palestinians, the respected Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) made the comparison in an annual report that described the existence of separate legal, planning and transportation systems for Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank....."