I am writing to to those who are outraged by Israel’s attack on the humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza, to those whose support for Israel is unflinching, to those who seek a just peace among all nations and to all who are affected by the political instability and cycles of violence in lands that are revered as holy by billions of people around the world.
I begin this statement with an affirmation of the right of the state of Israel to exist and to act in its own defense. I begin with this affirmation because many of our desired Jewish and Israeli conversation partners interpret all critique and dissent as ant-Israel and anti-Semitic. It is my desire to promote peace and justice between, among and for all peoples including and particularly Palestinians and Israelis, Arab and Jewish Israelis, Christians, Muslims and Jews in Arab and Persian nations and around the world.
I write as a committed partner in theological education with Jewish faculty and seminarians and inter-religious dialogue with Turkish and other Muslim communities who seek to further understanding, respect, compassion and peace between all peoples.
I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries among the Turkish-led international humanitarian coalition attempting to supply the long-suffering people of Gaza with relief supplies. And I am saddened by the injuries sustained by the members of the Israeli Defense Forces. I am deeply concerned with the plight of the people of Gaza, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
I recognize the complexity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And I recognize the deep pain of the Israeli people and Jews around the world as a result of the Shoah, tho Holocaust, and continuing anti-Semitism in the world. I respectfully submit that the legacy of those horrors had led some Israeli politicians to adopt a policies that permit any action against any person or people including those deemed immoral and unethical as legitimate defenses of the Jewish state. I want to call our Israeli and Jewish friends, colleagues and conversation partners to our shared scriptural mandate of love of neighbor and stranger.
Specifically, I call for an end to the blockade of Gaza, and all policies that subject Arab Israeli citizens to apartheid-style governance, particularly in East Jerusalem. I caution that there can be no peace build on a foundation of occupation, segregation, ethnic reservations or apartheid. I urge the nation and people of Israel to work with the legally elected leaders in the West Bank and Gaza to work for a true and lasting peace between the two, sovereign and secure peoples.
I recognize that there is justifiable fear and anger on all sides and that there is no solution that will please everyone. I acknowledge the substantial and enduring sacrifices and losses that have occurred on all sides and know that they cannot be compared or sorted into a hierarchy of suffering. I know that all those who have already sacrificed, and lost and grieve those losses will have to sacrifice even more. I hope that the next round of sacrifices are intentional, peace-making and corporate.
I pray that we will live to see peace in my lifetime.