Thursday, March 29, 2007

METF: Setting the Record Straight

The following statement with minor changes was read to the audience at the recent annual meeting of Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice:
My name is [redacted], I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor and I have been asked by the Middle East Task Force to read the following statement:

Dear Friends,

Last October, the Steering Committee dissolved the ICPJ's Middle East Task Force. Nevertheless, the task force has continued to meet, primarily to pursue mediation with the ICPJ. Over the last many months, the Steering Committee and ICPJ staff have used the ICPJ's website and newsletter to tell their side of the story, we are grateful for the few moments granted to us tonight to tell our side.

In last month's newsletter, ICPJ members were told that the decision to disband the METF came "After two and half years of trying to resolve conflicts." Yet, last March an Executive Committee proposal referred only to "a year-long process of seeking common ground." Where the extra year came from we do not know. However, as we stated in April of last year: "We would welcome such a 'process;' however, from our perspective nothing resembling that has taken place, so far." In that same written statement we said:
We have acted in good faith all along and we affirm our willingness to continue to do so and also to seek common ground. We are also willing "to sit at the table together" with anyone who shares, as we do, the ICPJ's core values. Thus, we feel that mediation or some form of structured dialogue is the option that the SC should pursue concerning the METF at this time. We remain hopeful of the good faith of the SC, on this point.
In May 2006, the Steering Committee voted "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 the METF was terminated. With the apparent exception of ICPJ staff member Jason Crosby, all of the attendees of the pre-mediation meetings found them to be positive and productive. Two mediators were selected and a mediation proposal put forward. At a special ICPJ membership meeting held on September 28th a solid majority (17-to-9) of ICPJ members polled by the ICPJ staff favored mediation. However, despite real progress and solid member support mediation was nixed before it ever got started.

Also in last month's newsletter it was asserted that the METF was disbanded because its members "did not share a number of ICPJ's core values including honoring diversity, taking an Interfaith approach to our work, and being committed to non-violence." These claims are all patently false. When they first emerged last year we responded to the SC immediately in writing noting that, for example, at our April 4, 2006 meeting, nine of fifteen members in attendance were "affiliated with a local faith community, i.e. a church, mosque, or synagogue." In answer to a follow-up question, three of the unaffiliated Jews indicated that they would be affiliated with a synagogue or temple if they could find one that was not Zionist.

Also, at that time, the METF was headed by the only Muslim member of the ICPJ Steering Committee--a man who resigned in protest after the METF was suspended. The truth is that before it was disbanded by the Steering Committee, the METF was probably one of the most diverse ICPJ task forces in terms of religion, ethnicity, and gender. Concerning non-violence, in our first response to this charge last year we affirmed, in writing, "our commitment to the core values of the ICPJ, which include nonviolence." The METF has never endorsed or condoned violence and only supported nonviolent efforts for justice and peace. We leave it to you to ponder why some ICPJ leaders continue to traffic in falsehoods.

Finally, we are committed to honoring and working with difference but we part paths with those who would compromise or abandon the ICPJ's core values of justice, advocacy for the oppressed, and honesty out of racism, greed, or cowardice. In his book Israel and Palestine: Out of the Ashes, Jewish theologian Marc Ellis describes Constantinian Judaism as: "militarized Judaism and Jewish life ... where Jewish energies, creativity, wealth and political power in Israel and the U.S. are placed in service to the [Israeli] state." The members of the METF--Jewish and non-Jewish--support justice and peace for all Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others in the Middle East and we, therefore, oppose Constantinian Judaism and its project of Jewish supremacy in Palestine. We see Constantinian religion, i.e. "militarized religiosity" in any form as incompatible with the core values of ICPJ.

This is the crux of the matter, this is why the METF was disbanded and we urge all ICPJ members to take steps to see that the ICPJ becomes faithful to its mission and core values. Just as people of good faith opposed Constantinian Christianity in the service of South African apartheid we believe today they must oppose Constantinian Judaism in the service of Israeli Zionism. Neither faithfulness nor justice nor peace is to be achieved by sacrificing advocacy and justice for Palestinians on the altar of interfaith unity with Constantinian Judaism.

We leave you with the words of Elie Wiesel and William Sloane Coffin. First, Elie Wiesel: "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere." This is from his 1986 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. In his book Credo William Sloane Coffin wrote: "Hope criticizes what is, hopelessness rationalizes it. Hope resists, hopelessness adapts." Thank you for your attention.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

JWPF Global Vigil on 4/7

At 9:30 AM on Saturday, April 7, 2007, Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends, in conjunction with Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR) will be holding a first ever “Global Vigil” outside Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Daniel McGowan, founder of DYR and Paul Eisen, of its London (UK) branch will be on hand that morning and will also give a presentation at 3 PM that afternoon in the Anderson Room of the Michigan Union on the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus.

For more information concerning housing, etc. , contact Henry Herskovitz at Click here for a Google map to Beth Israel Congregation.

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In Memory of William Sloane Coffin

William Sloane Coffin died a year ago on April 12th. Here are few of my favorite sayings by him:
Q. ... Do you have much hope for the future?

A. I think that hope reflects the state of our soul rather than the circumstances that surround our lives. So hope is not the equivalent of optimism. Its opposite is not pessimism but despair. So I'm always hopeful. Hope is about keeping the faith despite the evidence so that the evidence has a chance of changing.

As I wrote in my book Credo: Hope criticizes what is, hopelessness rationalizes it. Hope resists, hopelessness adapts.

Source: Interview with Chuck Currie: William Sloane Coffin Talks About Bush, Iraq and Leadership. Apr. 29, 2004.

MOYERS: You once said it was, I heard you somewhere say, that faith is being seized by love.

COFFIN: Yeah. That's a good definition.

MOYERS: Well, it's yours.

COFFIN: And there are a lot of people who were responding to God's love. Even though they may not say they believe in God. I mean I've worked so much in the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement. And, most recently trying to bring some justice to gays and lesbians. I worked with people who were not believers as I am a believer, you know?

But, if God believes in them, those are the people I wanna work with. You know?

Source: NOW with Bill Moyers, March 5, 2004.

"Now, suppose you hear and you believe the prophet Isaiah," Coffin said, referring to Isaiah 43:1, when God says to Jacob: "I have called you by name, you are mine."

"Among other things, it means you never have to prove yourself," Coffin said. "God's love doesn't seek value; it creates it. It's not because we have value that we are loved, but because we're loved that we have value. So you don't have to prove yourself -- ever. That's taken care of."

However, Coffin said, you do have to express yourself. "Indifference to evil is violence," Coffin said, quoting Tolstoy. ...

"The world is full of gentle cowards who think their gentleness offsets their cowardice. It doesn't," he said.

Compassion frequently requires confrontation, he continued, citing the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the gay and lesbian movement.

"So don't let money tell you who you are. Don't let power tell you who your are. Don't let enemies and -- for God's sake -- don't let your sins tell you who you are," Coffin said. "Don't prove yourself. That's taken care of. All we have to do is express ourselves. It's difficult, but we're a lot more alive in pain than in complacency."

Source: Jon Sanford. "The Rev. William Sloane Coffin: 'Who tells you who you are?' " Stanford Report. March 14, 2001.
Truth is above harmony. Those who fear disorder more than injustice invariably produce more of both.

Source: The Rev. Philip Zaeder. "Recollections of William Sloane Coffin." WNET's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. August 27, 2004.

Because we love the world, we pray now, O [God], for grace to quarrel with it, O Thou whose lover's quarrel with the world is the history of the world ... Lord, grant us grace to quarrel with the worship of success and power ... to quarrel with all that profanes and trivializes [people] and separates them ... number us, we beseech Thee, in the ranks of those who went forth from this place longing only for those things for which Thou dost make us long, [those] for whom the complexity of the issues only served to renew their zeal to deal with them, [those] who alleviated pain by sharing it; and [those] who were always willing to risk something big for something good ... O God, take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire.

Source: Patricia Farris. "Be Happy (Micah 6:1-8; Matthew 5:1-12)." This article appeared in The Christian Century, January 26, 2005, p. 18.
Let's start by recognizing that there is a fundamental, unacceptability about unpleasant truth. We all shield ourselves against its wounding accuracy. Not only do we do this as individuals, but we do this as a people, as a nation. Twenty-seven hundred years ago, as some of you may remember, not because you were there, but because you read the Bible, the priest Amaziah said of the prophet Amos, "... the land is not able to bear all his words."

Every prophet has realized that nobody loves you for being the enemy of their illusions. Every prophet has realized that most of us want peace at any price as long as the peace is ours and somebody else pays the price. That is why the prophet Jeremiah said, "'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace," and why Jesus said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

... I find this [a] tough text, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword," is a wonderfully honest statement about the need for the sword of truth, Christ's sword of truth, that heals the wounds it inflicts.

Source: William Sloane Coffin: "Not to Bring Peace, But a Sword." Sermon first broadcast on February 16, 1992. Chicago Sunday Evening Club.

"Justice, not charity," was one of Coffin's constant refrains, which I now try to teach to a community service-oriented college generation that often seems politically unaware and inactive.

Coffin's contention was: "Many of us are eager to respond to injustice, as long as we can do so without having to confront the causes of it. There's the great pitfall of charity. Handouts to needy individuals are genuine, necessary responses to injustice, but they do not necessarily face the reason for injustice. And that is why so many business and governmental leaders today are promoting charity; it is desperately needed in an economy whose prosperity is based on growing inequality. First these leaders proclaim themselves experts on matters economic, and prove it by taking the most out of the economy! Then they promote charity as if it were the work of the church, finally telling us troubled clergy to shut up and bless the economy as once we blessed the battleships."

... "The churches have to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. But they have also to remember that the answer to homelessness is homes, not shelters. What the poor and downtrodden need is not piecemeal charity but wholesale justice." He taught that they need political action and structural change in society, not just a warm meal and a bed in a church basement.

Coffin quoted the biblical prophet Amos regularly: "Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground. You who trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate." Justice, not charity. Not trickle-down economics or faith-based social services, "but," in Amos's words, "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream."

Source: Scotty McLennan. "The Legacy of William Sloane Coffin." Boston Globe. April 15, 2006.

Asked by a church group why he found himself getting arrested so frequently, Coffin replied, "I can only reassure you that I don't like to go around picking fights. Some fights pick you."

Source: Eric Alterman. "Three Liberal Lives." The Nation. May 29, 2006.

Q. What should churches be doing in the face of what's going on in [the United States] right now?

A. 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. There's really little prophetic fire. And the poor rabbis have a problem being critical of Israel because the congregations don't want to hear it so much. The only people who could save the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are American Jews. If they said to Bush, "We have to change," that would be it. But they're not saying it audibly, and not in concert, that's for sure.

The churches are a reflection of the truth of Plato's statement, "What's honored in the country will be cultivated there." ...

... 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.

Source: Paul Raushenbush. "Advice to a Young Minister." Interview with William Sloane Coffin on June, 2004.

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Local Greens Adopt Resolution on PFC Israel Boycott

Huron Valley Greens
a local chapter of the Green Party of Michigan
548 S. Main St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104 ph. (734) 663-3555

Resolution on the Boycott of Israeli Goods by the People's Food Co-op

Adopted by consensus at the regular business meeting of the Huron Valley Greens on March 12, 2007.

WHEREAS on July 9, 2005, 171 Palestinian political parties, unions, associations, coalitions and organizations called upon "international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts ... against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era" until "it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights;" and

WHEREAS in Resolution 190 of 2005, the Green Party of the United States calls upon all civil society institutions and organizations around the world to implement a comprehensive boycott program against the State of Israel until such time as the full individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people are realized; and,

WHEREAS on June 12, 2006, and July 13, 2006, respectively, the Huron Valley Greens and the Green Party of Michigan adopted resolutions affirming their solidarity with the Palestinian people and endorsing the July 9, 2005, call by Palestinian civil society organizations "for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel;" and,

WHEREAS the People's Food Co-op (PFC) "promotes a healthy world and closer connection to food sources by managing its economic power with community-focused, cooperative values;" and,

WHEREAS the PFC "values mutually supportive relationships among members of our local and global communities;" and,

WHEREAS according to the Economic and Social Development Center, a Palestinian NGO: "The roots of the cooperative movement in Palestine [go] back to the year 1933" and "the number of active cooperatives in Palestine is around 400 cooperatives with more than fifty thousands members representing 300,000 families."

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Huron Valley Greens urge the members of the PFC to adopt a policy that the PFC will neither purchase nor sell goods produced in part or in whole in Israel or Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories of East Jerusalem, Gaza, Golan Heights, and the West Bank until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling its "security barrier" within the West Bank and far from the "Green Line;"
2. Respecting the fundamental rights of the Arab citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194; and,

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that copies of this resolution together with copies of the Palestinian call of July 9, 2005, Resolution 190, and Huron Valley Greens resolution of June 12, 2006, shall be hand-delivered to the PFC Board of Directors by the Recording Secretary and/or a Co-Chairperson at a regular Board meeting.

For a printable PDF version of this resolution click here.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

JWPF Forum

Open Forum: Synagogue Vigils

Ann Arbor District Library

Downtown Branch

Come meet the folks who have held peaceful vigils outside Beth Israel Congregation every Saturday morning for over three years. Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends (JWPF)
will be represented at the AADL's Downtown Branch by five panelists who will give short introductions as well as answer audience questions in a moderated discussion.

Contact: Henry Herskovitz, ph.: (734) 663-3649
or write

The Ann Arbor District Library neither sponsors this event nor endorses JWPF's point of view

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Scenes from a Cop Riot

Ann Arbor physician and a friend of this blogger, Dr. Catherine Wilkerson, has a new article out in CounterPunch entitled "Don't Come to Ann Arbor." The article is her eyewitness account of the violent repression of free speech at the University of Michigan last November. Elsewhere on this blog there is a video link and four posts on about those events (see links below). I've also taken the liberty of providing a couple of links related to Dr. Wilkerson's article.

It is clearly the case that the prosecution by Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie's office of at least three of the anti-Zionist defendants--including Dr. Wilkerson--is purely politically-driven. Meanwhile, Mackie's office declined to bring charges against Beth Israel Congregation member Eli Avny despite the Ann Arbor Police Department's recommendation that Avny be charged with Assault with a Dangerous Weapon. Funny how that works.

See also:

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