As the Administration of President George W. Bush begins, Churches for Middle East Peace offers this general guide for advocacy work on a range of Middle East issues. More specific action alerts will become available as legislation is introduced and in response to current events. If you would like to receive the more frequent and timely alerts, available via E-mail, please notify CMEP at
The outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence appears to have brought an end to the Oslo peace process that dominated diplomacy during the Clinton Administration. While there will be a readiness for fresh initiatives when the climate improves, the foreseeable future will be extremely discouraging and challenging. CMEP encourages you to transform discouragement into action – through advocacy for just U.S. policies, educational organizing in your community and prayer services in your church.
The following prayer was offered at a prayer vigil for peace in the Middle East in Washington D.C.
Give us ears to hear, O Lord
to hear the cries of a people living under occupation,
of farmers whose land has been taken,
of parents whose children have been killed or wounded,
of faithful Christians and Muslims barred from worshiping in the Holy City.
Hear our prayers for justice and peace for the Palestinians.
Give us ears to hear, O Lord,
to hear the voices of those who bear the scars of the Holocaust,
of mourners grieving the deaths of those killed in recent conflicts,
of those who seek new ways of bringing reconciliation,
of those whose bright hopes for "a promised land" have ended in despair.
Hear us as we pray for security and peace for the people of Israel.
The principle of sharing Jerusalem between the two peoples and three religions should be a central component of U.S. policy. The member churches of CMEP urge the U.S. government to call upon negotiators to move beyond exclusivist claims and create a Jerusalem that is a sign of peace and a symbol of reconciliation for all humankind. While CMEP regards U.N.S.C. Res. 242 as the essential guidepost for the sharing of Jerusalem, it views the proposal that was discussed in recent negotiations for placing the entire Old City and Mount of Olives under some form of international sovereignty as a creative measure that could be widely accepted. The Patriarchs and Bishops of the Christian communities in Jerusalem have called since 1994 for a special judicial and political statute for Jerusalem to be established in common by local political and religious authorities and guaranteed by the international community. CMEP appeals to U.S. policymakers to honor the views of Christians throughout the world, and especially those of the Palestinian Christian community, in matters related to Jerusalem's status. Clearly, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem prior to an agreement with the Palestinians would be an extremely provocative action.
The mode and level of U.S. economic assistance to Israel should be restructured. Promises of increasing military aid to Israel into the future should be opposed. CMEP is encouraged by the decision of Israel voluntarily to accept an annual reduction of its economic assistance. U.S. economic aid to Israel should be administered and made accountable consistent with the rules and procedures that are applied to every other recipient of U.S. aid. CMEP urges the Administration and Congress to direct that economic aid toward economic and human development programs for Israel's most needy people, including Israeli Arabs, and toward projects that promote reconciliation within Israel and the implementation of peace agreements made by Israel with its neighbors.
CMEP further requests that the Administration and Congress reconsider the Clinton Administration's promise to provide for the next eight years an annual increase, equal to one-half of their economic aid reduction, in military assistance grants to Israel. Each Administration and Congress should be able to determine the levels and uses of U.S. foreign assistance. The use by Israel of U.S. supplied attack helicopters and ammunition against Palestinian civilians during the current conflict as well as against the civilian electrical grid in Lebanon has been strongly criticized by the member churches of CMEP. CMEP calls for the suspension of the sale to Israel of Apache and Blackhawk helicopters that was announced in October 2000.
Economic aid to the Palestinians should continue and be increased. It is in the interests of both the United States and Israel that the neglected and recently destroyed Palestinian infrastructure be developed. For the realization of Palestinian readiness for democratization, Palestinian civil society and Palestinian governmental institutions must be strongly supported. The emerging Palestinian state will require significant assistance in order to become economically viable and to absorb Palestinian refugees.
ISRAEL AND THE ARAB STATES:
The Administration should give increased attention toward the establishment of peace agreements between Israel and Syria and Israel and Lebanon. Such agreements are necessary for the security of Israel and for those states as well. Coordinated with these agreements must be the fulfillment of Lebanon's independence from Syrian intervention. The developing inclusive governance of Lebanon, with its multi-religious population, enhances regional stability and deserves encouragement from the U.S. government.
The peace agreements between Israel and Jordan and between Israel and Egypt should be bolstered, not put at risk by United States' actions, policies and rhetoric. The issues of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and the unwillingness of the United States to insist on Israeli compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions are matters of great concern to Arab peoples, and to the member churches of CMEP as well. The leaders of Jordan, Egypt and those Arab countries which have agreed to limited relationships with Israel should have their popular support enhanced by the actions and policies of the United States. CMEP insists that the U.S. government promote the tenets of democratization within Jordan, Egypt and the other Arab nations friendly to the United States and not press their leaders to take positions that require the autocratic rule and repression of their peoples.
U.S. RELATIONSHIPS WITH ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
The close relationship and deep bonds between the peoples of the United States and Israel and their governments should be expressed in the context of broader U.S. interests and the application of American values and international standards to the region. A core principle for the CMEP member churches and organizations is that security for the state of Israel and its neighbors can come only through peace achieved by negotiated agreements between the parties. For each, CMEP supports the democratic expression of self-determination within internationally recognized borders.
United States' toleration, in the midst of peace negotiations, of the unrelenting settlement and road building by Israel on occupied Palestinian land has undermined those negotiations and fostered a region-wide perception of duplicity on the part of the U.S. government. CMEP urges the Administration to insist that Israel stop further confiscation of land, house demolitions, widespread closures, destruction of trees and agricultural fields, settlement expansions, and other policies that undermine peace negotiations.
CMEP further urges that U.S. policy toward the Palestinian Authority should combine criticism of its authoritarian excesses, cronyism and corruption with encouragement of its emerging democratic practices. Too often U.S. insistence upon strong security measures has encouraged Palestinian repression of dissent, arbitrary arrest and execution, and grave violations of the rule of law. While condemning Palestinian misconduct, anti-Israeli incitement, and failure to protect human rights, the U.S. should seek ways to nurture democratic impulses and institutions in the evolving Palestinian political process.
PEACE FOR CYPRUS
Seeking the negotiated resolution of long-standing conflicts must be a mainstay of U.S. policy. The importance and timeliness of negotiating a peace agreement in Cyprus are evident. Putting an end to this conflict which has divided Cyprus along Christian-Muslim religious and Greek-Turkish ethnic lines would complement the goals that CMEP and the U.S. government share for conflict resolution and reconciliation in the Middle East.
SANCTIONS ON IRAQ AND IRAN
The use of broadly applied sanctions, especially when carried out unilaterally, to punish nations or to cause changed behavior has proven to be ineffective and is now damaging to wider U.S. interests and relationships. CMEP agrees with Secretary of State Colin Powell's comment during his confirmation hearing that sanctions "show(s) a degree of American hubris and arrogance that may not, at the end of the day, serve our interests all that well." CMEP asks that the Administration consider taking actions to end or restructure the economic sanctions imposed on both Iraq and Iran.
CMEP encourages the Administration to reassess the hostile relationship between the United States and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Consideration needs to be given to the internal struggle between the forces of reform and those who would repress the dynamic of Iranian democratization. United States engagement in the development of Iran's energy sector would benefit both countries.
The growing condemnation by many U.S. citizens of the humanitarian consequences and diminishing support internationally for the U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq compel the United States to reexamine its position. CMEP encourages the Administration to identify alternative, nonmilitary policies that encourage the Iraqi regime to conform to international standards of behavior.
The threat posed by weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East should be dealt with from a regional perspective. The current U.S. policy of providing highly sophisticated armaments, by sales and grants, to U.S. allies while seeking to prevent weapons development by those governments seen as adversaries is counterproductive to regional security and threatens U.S. interests. CMEP appeals to the U.S. government to revisit the 1991 initiative of the previous Bush Administration to curb the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the Middle East, and the missiles that deliver them. That initiative was designed to complement the U.N. Security Council's plan to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction beginning with a moratorium on arms transfers to the region by supplier nations, including the United States. The Middle East Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) talks, that took place from early 1992-1995, need to be revived. Egyptian President Mubarak's proposal for creating a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone should become an integral part of the the administration's regional peacemaking policy. The U.S. commitment to curb Iran's and Iraq's potential to develop such weapons cannot sustain international support until it is coupled with a U.S. commitment to bring Israel's nuclear program under international supervision as well.
The highly valued commitment of the United States to promote religious freedom in the Middle East and elsewhere demands the encouragement of more open, more inclusive governance throughout the region. All too often in the Middle East, popular calls for the reform of repressive governments and economic inequality are expressed by factions who link protest against their regimes with protest against American influence. The U.S. government should give more consideration to the growing and just demands for the promotion and protection of human rights in those countries where we have close relationships with the regime.
The exercise of discrimination against religious or ethnic groups must be discouraged wherever it occurs. President Bush's expression of support for an end to airport profiling and secret evidence, which so often are used against Arabs and Muslims, and his outreach to American Arabs and Muslims is be commended. The U.S. quest for religious freedom globally requires persistent efforts to rid our own country of religious and ethnic prejudice and favoritism. The discriminatory practices of Turkey in favor of its secular citizens and against the peaceful exercise of religion in public life should not be supported by the United States. Nor should the discriminatory practices of Israel in favor of its Jewish citizens be supported by U.S. policies or financial assistance. The troubling examples of religious intolerance in the education of young people throughout the region deserves and requires the ongoing attention of the Administration. This must be carried out in responsible ways, in consultation with those indigenous populations the U.S. seeks to protect.
CONTACTING THE ADMINISTRATION AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
The letter is the popular choice of communication. Whether you send a letter or an Email message or post a comment on the Web site of your member:
- Address the member of Congress properly
- Be courteous and to the point
- State your purpose in the first paragraph of the letter
- Include the bill number of legislation when appropriate
- Address only one issue and keep the length of a letter to one page
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
202/456-1111 comments line
Dear Mr. President:
The Honorable Colin Powell
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
202/647-6575 comments line
Dear Mr. Secretary:
The Hon. (First name, Last name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator (Last name):
The Honorable (First Name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative (Last name):
202/224-3121- US Capitol switchboard will connect you to any office.
For information on members of Congress and to send comments to your Members' Web-sites go to www.senate.gov and www.house.gov
For information on Congressional committees and legislation go to the Library of Congress web site www.thomas.loc.gov
Churches for Middle East Peace is working with its member churches to launch a church-wide movement in support of Middle East peace comparable to those which worked to bring down apartheid in South Africa and solidarity with Central Americans struggling for justice. We believe this movement must take root in congregations across the country. The way to begin is by initiating in your congregation, and community, a Prayer Vigil for Peace in the Middle East. Guidance can be found at CMEP's website, www.cmep.org. )