Monday, October 30, 2006

ICPJ Hands Local Zionists Another Win

I apologize, dear readers, for not reporting on this matter sooner. I have communicated now with several persons who attended the meeting and three weeks ago, a majority of the members of the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) of Ann Arbor voted to disband the organization's Middle East Task Force (METF). Led as it was by Joe Summers and Chuck Warpehoski, this heinous betrayal of the very values for which ICPJ purports to stand was not unexpected. It seems that popularity and dollars (see comment of Ian Macgregor at bottom) figure more highly than interfaith, justice, or peace in the ICPJ. Healthy doses of ignorance, dishonesty, and cowardice on the part of other Board members also contributed to the decision. In any case, now that the 'liberal' Zionists have been assuaged the cash and cooperation can flow more freely.

In May, the ICPJ Board, then called the Steering Committee, decided "to suspend the work of our Middle East Task Force while we pursue mediation." No mediation ever occurred and after a couple of preliminary meetings all pretense of a 'pursuit' was abandoned and the METF terminated. With the apparent exception of ICPJ staff member Jason Crosby, all of the attendees (of which I was one) of the pre-mediation meetings found them to be positive and productive. Two mediators were selected and a mediation proposal put forward but despite solid member support for it, mediation was nixed before it ever got started.

Below are the meeting notes of Henry Herskovitz of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends.
Former METF'ers:

At approximately 1:05pm, Tuesday Oct. 10, 2006

Proposal: To disband the current Middle East Task Force and commit
ourselves to reconstitute a new group as soon as possible
By Lisa Dugdale
Second by Arlene Huff

Votes FOR:

1. Lynn Meadows
2. Joe Summers
3. Jan Wright
4. Lisa Dugdale
5. Tim Ziegler
6. Russ Fuller
7. Barbara Fuller
8. Irvin Green
9. Jason Crosby
10. Laura Spencer
11. Arlene Huff
12. Amy Rosenberg
13. Ruth Kraut
14. Chuck Warpehoski
15. Art Bublitz


1. Bob McMurray
2. Susan Jacobsen

Votes to ABSTAIN:

1. Odile Haber

These votes were recorded by Henry, and may not be the official tally. Irvin Green was asked his vote and confirmed his 'yea' vote.

Stream of consciousness note taking during the Go Around, prior to the vote:

Chuck: Describes Imagine group...lessons that didn't work before...Religious and ethnic diversity needed in new group. Quoted Wadad Abed: "Right people"... "don't fall into the same traps we've fallen into in the past"

Russ: We confess our failure... the time spent on this has been excessive ... there's no more time ... we should thank them and send them on their way [them = us - hh]

Irvin: If the new body is to be selected by the Board, then all Task Forces should be chosen like that ... groups should not be "hijacked"

Tim: new group needs to be truly interfaith... needs of the community - what are they? ... he "leans towards" Imagine

Laura: Way too much energy and time have been spent... likes Imagine ... should include other task forces in our decisions

Bob: favors mediation "very deeply"... ICPJ is a teaching organization ... tall order to be patient ... "faith" is what we can do together with God in the process ... METF is "OUR" name and ICPJ is identified with it

Arlene: Agrees with Russ' "failure" ... we should cut our losses ... Move on ... wants to terminate METF ... perhaps ICPJ is "not obligated" to deal with Israel/Palestine at this time

Amy: ...suspend (sic) METF

Ruth: End the METF ... to Russ: it's OK to fail ... if we mediate, who's on the 'other side'? ... people have "maligned me" ... "clean slate club" ... need breathing space

Odile: Reads from the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism [I had distributed that doc to all ...hh] ... I was maligned also, but still think we should mediate... the times now suggest that Divestment is an ok topic ... phyllis bennis says it is ... Gaza is desperate ... be practitioners of what we preach

Chuck: Mediation is driving people away ... it inhibits ICPJ ability to work on ME issues ... ad nauseum, let's refocus

Susan: My sister warned me to run away from ICPJ ... let's keep things clear

Jason: part of the mediation team "however"... practitioners of what we preach can also mean creating the space where people don't get hurt

Joe: Knew of the METF conflict before he joined ICPJ ... thought it would be an easy fix [laughter] ... I/P is core for me personally ... End METF and Reconstitute with "appointed members " on all task forces. I'm in favor of appointing members

Lynn: If we can't create peace here, how can we ever try to create peace in the world ... on the fence ... we need mediation ... but I like the Imagine Group

Lisa: need people to support each other ... METF can go out and do their own thing

Jan: "It's time to lay down the METF" ... don't have unlimited time and energy ... in favor of appointed members

Barbara: personal story of inital foray into Palestine issue way back when it wasn't on the burner

Art: We have a structure problem ... end mediation ... support appointing members

Henry: The issue has been framed thus: there's a problem dealing with ME issues, and people in the METF are the problem. The issue could have as easily been framed thus: Israel, the Jewish State, is supported by the local Jewish community. The Jewish community is part of the Interfaith community. I'm not arguing to throw them out - I identify strongly as a Jew - but instead use Bob's words to "own" the Jewish community, to recognize that they are acting badly in supporting Israel, and attempt to change that behavior. Shift the paradigm.

Bill: There has never been any communication between ICPJ and METF

Ian [Macgregor, the fund rasing expert]: The conflict with METF is affecting fundraising abilities. People are concerned about the conflict ... they ask what is the rift all about?

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

ICPJ Staff Suppress Embarassing Results

On Saturday, we published the results of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice's (ICPJ) survey on the future of the group's Middle East work. That same day we added a short comment mentioning the results with a link to this blog to the two ICPJ blog entries: "Middle East 'Imagine' results" and "Mediation sub-committee reports." Apparently, the inconvenient truth that ICPJ members strongly support mediation was too embarassing. Or, maybe, ICPJ staff don't want links to this blog on their site or, maybe, both.

In any event, after initially being displayed, the two comments were missing from the ICPJ blog when we checked it on Monday and the survey results were still nowhere to be found on the ICPJ web site. Well, we're not afraid to link to the ICPJ's site and we're not afraid to tell you that 65% of ICPJ members surveyed support mediation with the Middle East Task Force (METF) while only 46% of respondents supported "moving forward" with the proposed "Olive Branch Alliance."

Today is a moment of truth for the ICPJ Board of Directors as they are scheduled to "to act on the report" (PDF) of the "Imagine" group at today's meeting. We hope they do the right, honorable, and honest thing by supporting mediation but we won't be very surprised if a majority supports terminating the METF and moving ahead with the Zionist-approved "Olive Branch Alliance." If that is what happens then you can expect the perps to bleat about what a "difficult," wrenching, etc. decision it was for them to do exactly what they wanted to do all along.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

ICPJ Members Support Mediation with METF

You read it here first (probably ... because it's not in Chuck's 10/5 e-mail "Update" or on the ICPJ blog yet). Despite months of open hostility by some leaders of Ann Arbor's Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) it turns out that a solid majority (17-9) of ICPJ members responding to a recent survey favor mediation between the ICPJ Board of Directors (formerly known as the "Steering Committee") and the ICPJ's Middle East Task Force (METF).

The METF was ordered suspended by the Board in May of this year and the Board later empowered a Muslim-free group that came up with a proposal--the "Olive Branch Alliance"--that would eliminate the METF. A smaller plurality (12-9; with 5 neither agreeing nor disagreeing) supported "moving forward" with the Olive Branch Alliance proposal. The issues were discussed at a special ICPJ membership meeting on September 28. At that time, members were asked to complete a short survey on the future of the ICPJ's Middle East work--the quantitative results appear in the table below.

ICPJ's Middle East Program 9/28/06 Membership Meeting Survey Results

Strongly DisagreeDisagreeNeither Agree nor DisagreeAgreeStrongly Agree
I support ICPJ moving forward with [the Imagine Program/"Olive Branch Alliance"] (check one)72557
I think [the Imagine Program/"Olive Branch Alliance"] is likely to succeed (check one)727
I support ICPJ moving forward with [mediation] (check one)720
I think [mediation] is likely to succeed (check one)90593

In written comments to the survey, local Zionists were solidly opposed to mediation--no surprise there. One of them, Rebecca Kanner, openly played the guilt-by-association and collective punishment cards:
As for the discussion on the middle east, I believe more strongly than ever (and I had believed pretty strongly before!) that ICPJ needs to make a break with [the] current group of people who constitute the METF in exile. Now. Not later, not another chance for mediation to drain even more time and energy from the board members and others. I can no longer separate the METF members from the picketers or the blog "Zionists out of the peace movement" [glad you're reading it but this is not an METF-controlled blog] ... And I'm sure if these groups/individuals merge in my mind/feelings then they also do for others. I may be especially sensitive as a member of Beth Israel, but I believe as an active member of ICPJ, a former steering committee member and president, and as someone who believes that the "I" in Interfaith is key to the organization, my views should be considered with other views. If the organization can't make a parting with the METFers, [then] I will have to re-evaluate my relationship with ICPJ. ...
What our friend is really concerned about is the "Z-is-for-Zionists" in "Interfaith" but these racists don't belong in an interfaith group that also includes justice and peace in its name and mission. Then again, I don't think Christian Identity folks belong, either.

Addendum: The issue of "the 'I' in Interfaith" is a red herring. When ICPJ leaders suspended the METF in 2006 they occasioned the resignation of the only Muslim on their steering committee or in any position of leadership in ICPJ. Furthermore, in April 2006, the METF informed the steering committee, in writing, that at its "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." In any case, formal affiliation has, apparently, never been a requirement to join or participate in ICPJ.

See also: "ICPJ Staff Suppress Embarassing Results"

Revised 10/10/06 (thanks to A.R. for pointing out an interpretative error in the text)
Revised 3/20/ 10 to name previously unidentified comment author, expand quote, add addendum concerning people of faith on METF, add link to follow-up post

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Fourth Statement of the METF to the ICPJ Steering Committee


Approved by consensus of the Middle East Task Force at its regular meeting on October 3, 2006.

We wish to share our thoughts with you as you ponder the future of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice's (ICPJ) Middle East work. Although the mediation process that the Steering Committee committed itself to has barely begun, it nonetheless has begun. And, by all accounts—including the Dispute Resolution Center representatives, it is off to a promising start. Paul Versluis and Sheri Wander have agreed to serve as mediators and we are confident that they will be fair and honest.

We agree with Sheri Wander's statement in her proposal (PDF): "Unless ICPJ deals with both the presenting and underlying conflicts and issues of the current situation they can not truly move forward. The issues will continue to surface in the work of ICPJ, the relationships of members, and the relationship of ICPJ to the larger community." We also agree with the remarks of "Imagine Event" participant Arnold Stieber, who recently wrote to mediation committee members: "I agree with the 9/27/06 'Report from the Mediation/Conflict Resolution Committee' [PDF]. If the people from the METF are dismissed, and/or if the Olive Branch Alliance is a replacement for the METF, then nothing has been accomplished."

Also, as "Imagine Event" facilitator David Yamamoto notes (PDF):
It is my experience that good intentions often translate to premature implementation. I would caution against rushing into implementation. Careful planning and thoughtful action will-in the long run-increase the chances of a successfully [sic] implementation.

The challenge for ICPJ to initiate this new model rests, in my view, on two critical factors: The first, I have discussed in recruiting individuals who will carry out the spirit that founded The Olive Branch Alliance. The second, the engagement in a healing process that will allow everyone to move forward in a positive and supportive fashion in making the Alliance work successfully. [p. 17]
Thus, we urge you to support the mediation process and to postpone any action on the "Olive Branch Alliance" (OBA) proposal until after the mediation process has run its course.

We would also like to point out that the OBA is inconsistent with the traditions and core values of the ICPJ. The OBA proposal would shift the ICPJ's Middle East work from an open committee to one open only to those "appointed by the Steering Committee." We know of no precedent for such exclusivity in ICPJ history and note that this also conflicts with ICPJ core values of hospitality, generosity, peace, love, compassion, diversity, not using power to dominate, bringing people together, and finding common ground.

Furthermore, we note that the OBA proposal of a closed committee also violates the "Principles for Middle East Work (as adopted by [sic] board in August, 2005)." To wit, "ICPJ will work to create a framework for working for Peace and Justice in the Middle East that is welcoming to all wanting to work to end the occupation within our framework of respect and care for all" (emphasis added). The Middle East Task Force (METF) has always worked within a "framework of respect and care for all."

Some people seem to believe that because the METF, collectively and/or individually, has taken a stance against Zionism that this means we do not "respect or care for all." Respect does not mean only to hold one in high esteem, it can also mean to give one his or her due regard and consideration. We take the ideas, feeling, and actions of all people seriously and we can honestly say that we care deeply for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of all parties to the conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere—it is this concern that impels us to do this work. Justice and compassion—even for an oppressor—are not mutually exclusive values.

In closing, we note that members of the "Imagine Event" reportedly found fault with us for, among other things, making "polarizing, value judgments of 'good' and 'bad' " and for "Moral absolutism." We plead guilty and happen to think that values and morals are of vital significance to "people of faith and people of conscience"—the ICPJ's self-defined constituency. Some things are good and some are bad. We leave you with these quotes to reflect upon:

Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! … They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. … Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate … let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 5

… let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety:
Al-Maidah 5:8

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Matthew 5:6

We feel that love means inoffensiveness at all costs. …We may forget, in judging our own angers, that the love demonstrated by St. Paul and Jesus and Gandhi and Martin Luther King was a tough, firm, outspoken honesty that demanded the best from people, a love more accurately described by the Quaker injunction "speak truth to power" than by the passive acquiescence of "never make anyone unhappy."
Dorothy T. Samuel. "The Violence in Ourselves" in Peace is the Way:
Writing on Nonviolence from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.
Elie Wiesel. 1986 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech.

Let no one be deceived: There is no survival for humanity without global peace! ... Let no one be deceived: There is no global peace without global justice!
Parliament of the World's Religions. "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic."

… we have mediocre politicians, and the clergy is pretty mediocre also. But what’s honored in a country will be cultivated there. The greatest recession in this country is not economic; it’s spiritual. And so the great biblical mandates of pursuing justice and seeking peace are shortchanged.
William Sloane Coffin. Interviewed in "Advice to a Young Minister."

See also:

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Middle East Task Force Report for October

The Middle East Task Force (METF) of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) of Ann Arbor, MI, met at its regular time and place last Tuesday. There were twelve members in attendance. The Task Force adopted its fourth statement to the ICPJ Steering Committee and reaffirmed its September endorsement of the "The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism"--a statement by the Patriarch and local heads of churches in Jerusalem--with the recommendation that the Steering Committee (SC) of the ICPJ do likewise and publicize the statement among its members, the local faith community, and the media.

The METF also reaffirmed its September endorsement of the following resolution proposed for adoption by the SC:
Taking note of the Israeli government's recent decision to further expand its illegal settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, the Steering Committee of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice reaffirms its March 14, 2006, "Resolution On Withdrawal Of All Settlers From Israel’s Illegal Ma’ale Adumim Colony" and directs ICPJ staff to publicize the resolution among ICPJ members, the local faith community, and the media and to transmit copies of it to our local, state, and federal elected officials.
The METF decided to reaffirm its September actions because the matters were not brought to the SC at it September meeting as was requested by the METF.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

More Violence Against anti-Zionist Dissidents

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I wrote the "... ICPJ has consistently been silent about physical assaults against local anti-Zionist dissidents by Zionists and so-called peace activists. ... So far, none of [these assaults] have resulted in serious injury but if things continue as they have then it may eventually come to that and without the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) or Michigan Peaceworks ever having uttered a peep against it." Well, the very next Saturday a Beth Israel congregant/visitor perpetrated yet another assault for which he was arrested and, so far, not a word of protest or concern from ICPJ or Michigan Peaceworks even though the incident was reported on page B3 of the Ann Arbor News (text below). I have seen the videotape of the assault and arrest and hope to get it uploaded soon. The assailant didn't just try, he hit the camera hard while it was being held up to the user's face.
Sunday, September 17, 2006

Protester says man tried to hit camera

A man entering the Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor was arrested on an assault charge Saturday after a confrontation with a pro-Palestinian protester, Ann Arbor Police said.

Sgt. Matt Lige would not provide details of the incident, but said it happened in view of a police officer and that the person was arrested. Lige said the person was released pending authorization of charges from the city attorney.

The assault allegedly happened outside the synagogue at 2000 Washtenaw Ave., where pro-Palestinian protesters have conducted regular protests for three years regarding Middle East issues.

One of the protesters, Henry Herskovitz, a member of the Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends, said he witnessed the incident Saturday. Herskovitz said a man approached a member of his group who was taking pictures of people. The man said he didn't want to have his picture taken and tried to hit the camera out of the protester's hands.

Jeff Levin, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County, declined to comment.
See also:

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