August 22, 2002

To:        Churches for Middle East Peace E-mail Network
From:    Corinne Whitlatch
Re:        Humanitarian Crisis is Topic of CMEP Letter to President

A delegation from Churches for Middle East Peace will be meeting with US Agency for International Development staff on August 29 to discuss the dire situation of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. This letter to the President has been faxed to officials at the State Department, National Security Council and USAID. The letter urges the President to support the deployment of an international peacekeeping force.  I ask that you make use of this letter in your advocacy and education efforts.

The letter as printed on Churches for Middle East Peace letterhead:

August 21, 2002

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

As representatives of national churches and organizations in the United States with strong ties to the Middle East, we urge the U.S. government to seize the opportunity to lead the region into a new era of peace and democratic transition. Along with many moderate Israelis and Arabs, we stand ready to support a credible peace process that will fulfill the vision we share with you and Secretary of State Colin Powell of a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with the state of Israel. However, at this time the continued violence between the Palestinians and Israelis and the humanitarian crisis of the Palestinians living under Israel's military occupation are foremost in our minds and are the subject of our letter and appeal to you.

Let there be no doubt of our deep and abiding compassion for the Israeli people who live with fear, suffer appalling wounds, and die from Palestinian attacks.  We condemn such attacks and believe as you do that the people of Israel rightly demand and deserve security from attacks on civilians and the state itself.

The Palestinian people, as well, deserve security from attacks on civilians. We know from fact-finding trips and reports from Palestinian Christians of disproportionate attacks with heavy weapons, killings, collective punishment, closures and curfews, blockades, demolitions, land seizures, mass arrests.  The Lutheran Bishop of Jerusalem observed, "It seems that this is not a war against terrorism.  This seems to be a war against the hope and future of the Palestinian people." Moreover, the close ties between the governments and peoples of Israel and the United States give the impression to some that the United States supports, and is complicit in, Israel's actions. Israel's use of U.S.-supplied weaponry against Palestinians living under occupation, such as took place in Gaza City on July 23, further increases this impression.

We urge you to act on the appeal you made to Israel on April 5 that, "Israel should also show a respect for and concern about the dignity of the Palestinian people who are and will be their neighbors."  When your demands of Israel -- to be compassionate at checkpoints and to spare innocent Palestinians daily humiliation, to ease closures and allow people to work, to withdraw its forces from reoccupied areas and to stop settlement activity -- are disregarded or met with token response, we urge you to follow up with the same intensity as in your public exhortations to the Palestinians.

The reoccupation of Palestinian land and lives by the Israeli military has led to a humanitarian crisis of shocking dimensions.  The USAID reports released on August 5 confirmed information from agencies affiliated with CMEP member churches -- of emergency levels of malnutrition in children and anemia in women, a curtailed availability of food and a lack of money for families to purchase food.  The damage done to medical and educational service delivery are both heartrending and profound beyond measurement. Even the buildup of garbage in the blockaded cities and villages poses a serious health problem. We fear that the humanitarian crisis is deepening a sense of desperation among Palestinians and contributing to the ongoing cycle of violence.

This disastrous situation cannot be allowed to continue. Churches for Middle East Peace urges you to support, with immediacy and vigor, the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to separate the Israelis from the Palestinians and restore hope to each. Such a move would not only fundamentally change the stalemated dynamics on the ground, but would also set the stage for a third party role during the troop withdrawal, negotiation and implementation phases of a fresh peace process.

This moment is tragic, as both peoples and their leadership remain caught in a cycle of vengeful violence.  However, this is also a time of unprecedented opportunity and readiness, as shown by the Arab League endorsement of the Saudi Crown Prince's proposal, for a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace -- an objective of every United States president since Israel's founding.

While the human and political dimension of the Israeli-Arab conflict are sufficient cause for our concern and appeals to you, its profound religious dimension sustains our hopes and prayers for peace. We pledge ourselves, as did the signers of the Alexandria Declaration on January 21, "to continue a joint quest for a just peace that leads to reconciliation in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, for the common good of all our peoples."  We pray that you will join us and the leaders of these three faith communities in Israel and Palestine in that quest.

Sincerely,
 

James H. Matlack
Washington Office
American Friends Service Committee

Stan DeBoe, OSST
Director, Office of Justice and Peace
Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes

Greg Davidson Lazakovits
Director, Washington Office
Church of the Brethren

Lisa Wright
Associate Director
Education and Advocacy Program
Church World Service

Jere Myrick Skipper
International Policy Analyst
Episcopal Church, USA
 
Mark B. Brown
Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Jim Kofski, MM
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Maryknoll Missioners

Brenda Girton-Mitchell
Director Washington Office
National Council of the
    Churches of Christ in the USA

Elenora Giddings Ivory
Director, Washington Office
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Eugene Heideman
Representative to CMEP
Reformed Church in America

Jack Edmondson
Representative to CMEP
Unitarian Universalist Association
            of Congregations

Peter E. Makari
Common Global Ministries Board of the
United Church of Christ and
    Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Jaydee Hanson
Assistant General Secretary for
  Public Witness and Advocacy
General Board of Church and Society
United Methodist Church

Peggy Hutchison
General Board of Global Ministries/
Mission Contexts and Relationships
United Methodist Church

Mia Adjali
General Board of Global Ministries,
Women's Division
United Methodist Church