Friday, August 11, 2006

Ex-Steering Committee Member Defends ICPJ

Ann Arbor News
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Interfaith Council has its own calling
[My comments appear in bold below]

I have read with respect Michelle Kinnucan's letter of July 19. I know her urgency to salvage the human and economic lifeline of Palestine, as I respect the unceasing effort of single-minded advocates such as Blaine Coleman and Henry Herskovitz.

As a former member of the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice steering committee and Mideast task force, I have heard determined presentations on these issues. Michelle states that the ICPJ sacrifices justice for interfaith unity. The ICPJ has its own calling: to lead nonviolent action which unites people of faith and others who subscribe to the peaceful resolution of conflict. Its guiding principles include freedom of worship and respect for persons holding opposing viewpoints.
In the last two years, Pat Schock has attended only one to three of the monthly meetings of the Middle East Task Force (METF). Actually, what Michelle said was: "... the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice sacrifices justice, peace, and its purported core value of 'Advocacy for the oppressed' on the altar of an expedient but immoral interfaith unity with supporters of Israel and 'suspends' its own Middle East Task Force."

The dissidents within the METF have no quarrel with the ICPJ's "calling," as Schock describes it, but just because you respect a person holding an opposing viewpoint doesn't mean that person belongs in the organization. For instance, would proponents of Christian Identity be welcome in ICPJ? Why are proponents of Zionism welcome? Is it because of misguided Christian guilt? Fear? If the "Interfaith" part of the ICPJ's name and mission trumps all else then for the sake of honesty "Peace and Justice" should be dropped from the group's name.

Picketing, even after sincere attempts at dialogue, aims to activate guilt and blame as tools. It disrupts the right of a person and a congregation to examine their soul and digest legitimate challenges, and so is incongruent with ICPJ principles.
This is an obvious reference to the Saturday morning protests of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends (JWPF) although it is unclear why Schock brings it up here as the matter and letter in question had little or nothing to do with JWPF or the synagogue protests. One implication is that Schock is asserting that the METF was suspended because of the actions of JWPF but what sense does it make to punish a separate body for the actions of another group; unless, of course, you're into collective punishment and guilt-by-association, as Schock and the leaders of the ICPJ apparently are.

In any case, just how does JWPF's once-per-week protest outside the Beth Israel Congregation disrupt "the right of a person and a congregation to examine their soul and digest legitimate challenges." It is ludicrous to suggest BIC are somehow deprived of this "right" on Saturday morning or that they cannot engage in the described activities at any other time of the week. In fact, BIC has a
Sabbath evening service every Friday.

Furthermore, I challenge Schock to show why "guilt" and "blame" should not be part of the ICPJ's tool box; those who are incapable of feeling guilt are known as psychopaths. Why is guilt verboten in the ICPJ? Merriam-Webster defines the word as follows:

Main Entry: guilt
Pronunciation: 'gilt
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, delinquency, guilt, from Old English gylt delinquency
1 : the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty; broadly : guilty conduct
2 a : the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b : feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : SELF-REPROACH
3 : a feeling of culpability for offenses
Supporters of Israel have every reason to feel guilty and those who are guilty should make amends and cease the actions or omissions from which their guilt stems. It seems likely that Schock is an exemplar of what William Sloane Coffin was referring to when he said, "I think the bright flames of Christianity are now down to smoldering embers, if not ashes, of feeling comfortable. The church is pretty much down to therapy and management." Doggone it, guilt and blame just don't make people feel good.
I also encouraged the dissolution of the Mideast task force because I observed that over the years this task force changed, recently accepting only statements representing Palestine's side.

Secular activists can work with the U.S. Committee to End the Occupation and groups advocating divestment of institutional cash from military investments. The ICPJ is not a secular group. Our limitations are like self-imposed gauze handcuffs. We believe that God sees our opponent as a person of value, and we hope to treat the opponent as God does. Our methods intend to reach to the hearts of those who now withhold justice.

Pat H. Schock, Ann Arbor
Who ever suggested ICPJ was "a secular group" and what has that to do with anything? Schock knows or should know that this is red herring. Some of the METF's opponents have tried to bludgeon the group with the assertion that its members are not "people of faith." This has never been a formal requirement of working with the ICPJ and, in fact, a majority of METF members are "people of faith." As the METF indicated in April:
In fact, at the April 4th meeting, nine of fifteen members indicated that they are "affiliated with a local faith community, i.e. a church, mosque, or synagogue" or other place of worship. In answer to a follow-up question, three of the unaffiliated Jews indicated that support for Israel is a key impediment to their joining a synagogue or temple.
At the July meeting, two-thirds of the members in attendance were part of some faith community and the remaining third consisted of Jews who had indicated in April "that support for Israel is a key impediment to their joining a synagogue or temple."

So, Schock is willing to tell "secular activists" to take a hike but proponents of the violence and injustice that is Zionism are welcome as long as they are "people of faith." Oy gevalt!
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