PPF Statement on Mid East Crisis

Once again we hear Jesus’ cry:
If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!
Through tears we grieve and pray for those in Lebanon, Israel and Palestine

who live in fear for their lives
who are shelled by bombs or rockets
who are captured for bargaining
who are imprisoned without trial

and for all those who have lost loved ones.
We pray for those who take the ways of violence to address the violence they have experienced, that they may find the ways that make for peace.

We reject all those actions that violate human rights or international law. We do not enter into the debate about who has violated more human rights or international laws, or who started the present cycle of violence. We call upon all parties to find ways to preserve the lives of all people, all who are created in the image of God.

We commit ourselves to prayer for justice and peace for all these children of Abraham. We further commit ourselves to work in all ways possible in seeking cessation of violence and toward bringing about reconciliation of all sides.

By way of background analysis, we agree with these comments by National Committee member, Dr. Henry H. Bucher, Jr., Adjunct Associate Professor Emeritus in Humanities, Austin College, written as a letter-to-the-editor of the Dallas Morning News.

Since the end of WWII, the US policy in the region, beyond support for Israel, was to fund generously selected Islamic movements, especially the conservative ones because they were the most anti-communist. We also backed monarchies for similar reasons though they needed our money less. The last example was our funding and arming the Taliban to oust the USSR in Afghanistan—now they use our arms against us in alliance with militant Islamicists elsewhere.

If the US media could move beyond the battle babble and political science analysis, the most obvious aspect of the long dance of death going on in the area is that the militant Islamicists now have the upper hand thanks in part to US policy. Whether we end up with a democratic Iraq or civil war, the majority Shia will have the upper hand and their religious leaders are trained in Shia Iran (who thank us for defeating their enemy Saddam Hussein).

In the West Bank, we snubbed the duly elected secular Arafat thus strengthening the Islamist Hamas. Then Israel and the US disregarded the election results pushing more and more moderate Muslims in the region to choose between a US/Israeli hegemony in the area, or the growing power of militant Muslims who do not think in terms of post WWI political boundaries.

Hezbollah was created in the early eighties as a response to Israel’s invasion; and now has the real power in Lebanon that their brother Islamic movement Hamas (first encouraged by Israel to be an internal enemy of the PLO) has in Palestine. Not all are Shia, but Iran (95% Shia) and now Shia-dominated Iraq are on a roll and have mostly Washington and Tel Aviv to thank. The recent move of Hezbollah on behalf of prisoners in the region can best be understood in terms of pan-Islamic solidarity.

Israel’s present military actions are less to save a few soldiers and more to stop the successes of militant Islam in the entire area, including the most recent success in Somalia. Not to have invaded Gaza would have meant to ultimately deal with Hamas.

Events will get worse before they get even “more worse”, unless the US decides to reconsider our failed policies based on raw power, and on whom we want to win democratic elections in the Middle East.

To take action, everyone is encouraged to contact Churches for Middle East Peace (www.cmep.org); their suggestions as of July 20 are to contact the White House and Congress with this message:

I am grieved over the tragic loss of life and suffering among the peoples of Israel, Lebanon and Gaza and am concerned about the dire humanitarian crisis that is unfolding as a result of the violence.

I support intensive US diplomatic efforts, in cooperation with parties in the region and the United Nations, to bring about an immediate cease-fire that will:

* end the escalating violence
* protect civilian lives and prevent their further displacement
* prevent the further destruction of infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza
* secure a safe return of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers and
* begin a political process that ends the current crisis and paves the way toward a comprehensive Middle East peace.

In addition, we think that Congress should conduct hearings about Israel’s use of weapons in Lebanon that may violate international law or US laws that govern the sale and use of US weapons. Hearings that would deal with violent actions by either Hezbollah or Hamas should not be allowed to exclude hearings related to how Israel makes use of US tax dollars that are provided as part of economic or military aid.

We reiterate our conviction that violence does not lead to a just peace; and we pray and work so that Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Middle East, and we in the US, may follow the paths of justice that lead to peace.

Congress and the White House should be urged not to extend the military actions in the Middle East by attacking Iran. The crisis in Lebanon and the issue of Iran's nuclear program should not become the occasions for increasing lethal attacks by the US or Israel; diplomatic activity that emphasizes broad principles, such as the whole region becoming a nuclear-free zone, should be diligently followed.