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Stand Up for the Power of Peace: Middle East

Stand Up for the Power of Peace
by Nadine Hoover, October 2015

A Friends Peace Team met Hashem Azzeh in Hebron, Palestine. The head of the Jewish Defense League moved into a home just above Hashem’s home. They station children on the balcony over Hashem’s home to throw food refuse and stones down on Hashem’s home all day and into the night until about 3:00 am so that he and his family cannot sleep at night. They park their cars so that he and his family cannot enter the sidewalk to their home without crawling down an embankment. They pour poison down the hill to kill their fruit trees. They spray painted “Gas the Arabs” on the door to the Palestinian elementary school. It is so sad and so intolerable. This goes on every day. How can we make this stop. How can we live in our comfortable homes when our tax dollars are used to violently harass families with children every day, day after day after day? They cry, “Stop! Please, stop!”

Israeli friends told me they were sad that I was so swayed by Palestinian propaganda, but I said they had to visit Hebron to see what is going on. Their media makes them afraid of the Palestinians and the occasional terrifying missiles and attacks, but the greatest threat to Israel that I saw was abuse of Israeli power by Israelis. In the outer settlements, Israelis are reenacting the atrocities perpetrated on their last generation. We must stop this cycle of violence.

The Quaker gift to peace work in the world is to see every person as the child of God s/he is. Our hearts go out to everyone caught in this tragedy. Hashem stood on the hillside by his home pointing out houses in his neighborhood and telling stories of generations of Jews, Muslims and Christians who lived together peacefully for hundreds of years. Are we not at least as capable as our former generations?

As New York Yearly Meeting Friend, Andy von Salis pointed out, “Our response must consistently be like FCNL’s: War is not the answer, regardless of which “side” is more right or more wrong – or both at once. For the $4 billion a year in aid the US now gives Israel, Palestine could rebuild and even prosper, taking away seeds of war (and any “need” for $4 billion in arms with which to contain and/or punish Palestine). The more proof accumulates to show that military escalation simply makes world crises more violent and intractable, the more frustrated our foreign-policy leaders get. Their response is to escalate more… Easy platitudes like the familiar “definition of insanity is …” or “Give peace a chance” seem to have lost impact, true though they may be. I’m convinced that we need to stay faithful, stand by our Truth publicly and privately, and persevere with all the new creativity and Light we can find.”

Hearts are breaking about this among Jews in the U.S. as well. As Jewish Friend, Naomi Paz Greenberg of NYYM, says, “There are Jews in the US, and I am one, whose hearts are breaking about this as well. These are our families committing these atrocities. We protest, we sign petitions, we vigil, we grieve. Not all of us are on the same page, but it is less easy for politicians to pander to the Jewish vote by repeating the old formulas. Take a look at this:

Karen Reixach, Friends Peace Teams Asia West Pacific sustainer, noted: “Pragmatically the billions in aid comes back to the US on purchases of our military materiel by Israel. Tragedy upon tragedy. Thanks for the invitation to hold this situation in our hearts and attend to it actively.”

Please sign the American Friends Service Committee petition and sharing our faith that peace is possible and the only promise of the future we have. The time has come to make war illegal; it is an unnecessary evil. Acts of war should be treated as crimes. Please consider becoming a conscience objector to paying for war and seek counseling from you yearly meeting, NWTRCC, or contact us if you need counseling support for this.

A group of Acehnese once were allocating small bits of money to promote peace in their region. They said, “And here, take this $120 back to the U.S. for that movement of conscience there.” I said, “Well, it was meant for work here. Maybe you could save it until a need here becomes clearer.” Surprised, they replied, “There is nothing in the world that would promote peace here more than a movement of conscience in the U.S. Where do you think all these weapons and training are coming from?”

Please Friends, we can and need to speak out and act. Break the myth of redemptive violence, stand up for the power of peace as the only promise of a future for us all.