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Sunday, 4 January 2009

Remembering the shedding of a Palestinian's blood 2000 years ago.

Today was communion Sunday at St. Andrew's United Reformed Church in Gerrards Cross, England. As I lifted the communion cup to encourage all gathered to drink out of tiny cups containing juice representing the shed blood of Jesus, I suddenly realized we were "drinking" the shed blood of a Palestinian. Many Palestinians have been dying in the last few weeks and many I fear will die today as Israel's ground offensive into Gaza has begun.

I have always found communion to be powerfully BOTH a somber rememberance of the tragedy of humankind's penchant for killing the innocent and trampling on the bearers of peace AND a celebratory foretaste of the Kingdom of God. It was no less this morning. I am filled with such sadness at the lack of imagination of those in leadership in this crisis, and so wish that those committed to peace and justice for Israel and Palestine would be heard and their wisdom heeded.

Among the wise Jewish voices I have come across recently is the rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin. He is the director of George Mason University's Center on Religion, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution and a senior researcher at the Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy's Institute for Human Security. He is in Jerusalem right now meeting with religious and political leaders on all sides of this conflict. I listed to a podcast of a recent phone conference he participated in on the crisis. He said several things which I found enlightening.

He cited a statistic that 2/3 of Israelis think there should be negotiation with Hamas. We as Americans know only too well of late that the average person in a country is not necessarily in favor of the options his/her government chooses. Gopin further added that the best way to create fragmentation in Hamas is to invite Hamas to the table. Some Hamas members/leaders will be anxious to come to the table and others will not, thus creating more division within the movement. He reminds listeners that in any organization, even one labeled a terrorist organization, there are people who want to negotiate and engage in diplomacy and those who want to attach violently.

Gopin reminded listeners that Israel and its allies often use a group or nation's unwillingness to recognize Israel's right to exist as a reason to refuse to negotiate with them. He looks back at history and points out that countries in conflict with the US did not make this demand as a condition of deescalation. He argues, you will see from the quote below, that a long term ceasefire and the opening of commerce for the Palestinians is much more likely to lead to this recognition and that insisting on this from the outset is fruitless and unrealistic. Here is a section of his comments:

"My intuition when it comes to the issue of the recognition of Israel and their charter, is that the great agreements of history, that prevented a catastrophe in the 20th Century, and it saved the United States from its own civil war were with Vietnam and with the Soviet Union. In neither case, did either Vietnam or the Soviet Union say, we need you to recognize our right to exist. If they had said this, if the Soviet Union had said, we will not de-escalate the nuclear conflict, unless you recognize our right to exist, then we would have to recognize their illegal and forceful occupation of half of Europe. And we couldn’t possibly do that....

....My reason why I’m so convinced of that is that if we indeed have a ten year hudna, a long term cease fire, where these Islamists are not required to say that they will recognize Israel’s right to exist, in ten years a full normalization of relations and commerce, I assure you the resilient middle class on the Palestinian community in Gaza, will not go back to a suicide bombing in Intifada. This is a process of easing a terribly wounded community out of a desperate embrace of Hamas. And I think it’s possible, with pragmatism, with care, and with a realist verification of the conditions of that treaty and that this is the most clever, and most intelligent way to pull us back from the brink of a Jihadi war, which if it escalates, will be a global Jihadi war against Israel where Jihadi will be coming from everywhere to this location. "
He leaves us with a chilling warning.

Gopin is one of those thinkers who reminds us that supporting Israel may involve trying to keep Israel from provoking even greater animosity, and finding those who are creating relationships across the Israeli-Palestinian divide of hatred and praying, supporting, speaking up for and sending money to them.

To listen to the podcast with Dr. Gopin:

other sites of interest:

Pray for the peacemakers.


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