Friday, October 06, 2006

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."

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