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WAWA/WeAreWideAwake is my Public Service to America as a muckracker who has journeyed seven times to Israel Palestine since June 2005. WAWA is dedicated to confronting media and governments that shield the whole truth.

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November 3, 2007
WAWA Blog:  November 3, 2007: Sisters, Brothers and Cousins in the Family of Father Abraham Speak  UPDATED 3:45 PM EST: "JC up against the empire"

In 1965, the Second Vatican Council issued a declaration on the relationship of the church to non-Christian religions, condemning anti-Semitism, and recognizing "the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham’s stock."

The Shalom Center


When Israel is an Issue, Speaking Out to Christian Ears: Boycott or Dialogue?


By Rabbi Arthur Waskow


On Tuesday, October 23, I got several calls, one from a Massachusetts rabbi and then from the pastor (Rev Nancy Taylor) of Old South Church, which is one of the great churches of Boston: UCC, United Church of Christ, descendant of the Congregationalist churches that founded the Massachusetts Bay colony. Old South was where the Boston Tea Party was planned. Now it is a strong, big, wealthy, and widely respected congregation with a young, vigorous head pastor. (More about her and the church later.)


So why was the church calling me? The bottom line is that a Jewish speaker they had invited and had accepted to speak on the coming Sunday, October 28, had just canceled. The church was inviting me to replace him. But this was a decision fraught with deep religious and political implications, which they explained to me - so that if I accepted I would not walk blind into a cauldron of anger and criticism toward the church and (if I accepted) toward me - anger and criticism from the official leadership of the central official Jewish institutional structures of Boston.


I understood, and I accepted.


So that's the bottom line. What had happened before? Why the anger, why the criticism? Here is the history:


First, a little "pre-history" of Rev. Taylor. She was last in Boise, Idaho, and was one of the people instrumental there in creating the Anne Frank Memorial - an amazing place that Phyllis and I saw when we spoke in Boise. Passages from Anne's diary act like a central text and in a circle around them are many passages of world literature and history affirming human rights, including the Universal Declaration. Similarly, in physical space the memorial on the ground holds exactly the cramped square footage of Anne's attic, but opens up to the universe.


The creators of the Memorial, including Rev. Taylor, began it because a huge cross had been erected by right-wing Christians over Boise that felt triumphalist and intimidating to Jews and other non-Christians and to many Christians as well. In contrast, the Anne Frank Memorial was intended to be both a direct rebuke to anti-Semitism and a holy place that was open to all and affirming of all faith traditions.


Idaho is not such a welcoming place for such views; it took courage and persistence to create this space. I tell you all this to give you a sense of Rev. Taylor, including her outlook on Judaism and anti-Semitism.


Now the more recent past:


1) The church had long ago arranged that on Friday and Saturday of last week, a Palestinian Christian organization called Sabeel could hold a conference at the church. Sabeel's politics are: "The Holy Land is God's gift to Palestinians and Israelis," affirmation of nonviolence, condemnation of terrorism, support for two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, on the 1967 boundaries (with a long-term hope that the two states might freely choose to federate), Jerusalem as capital city of both states, and affirmation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Sabeel uses as part of its rhetoric a version of Christian liberation theology that sees the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ as a model for the oppression and ultimate liberation of the Palestinians. For Sabeel's full statement, see


2) Sabeel invited Nobel Peace Laureate and former Archbishop Tutu of South Africa to be its keynote speaker. He has spoken of the situation of Palestinians vis-ŕ-vis Israel as akin to that of Black South Africans during Apartheid.


3) The church, which had had warm relationships with the official Jewish structures of Boston, realized that Sabeel's and Tutu's presence might be a problem for those Jewish organizational structures. So it planned a series of speakers under its own sponsorship, separate from the Sabeel conference, representing a range of religious views, and asked advice from the official Jewish structures about speakers for a series of their own, including one who might speak right after the Sabeel conference to "balance' the Sabeel presentations.


Two Jews acceptable to these Jewish officials were suggested,were invited, and agreed to speak. (The church had raised the possibility with the Jewish organizational officials that Elie Wiesel, a person of world stature similar to that of Tutu's, speak under the church's auspices. That suggestion never received a direct response.)


4) The person whom the Jewish officials did recommend for the day after the Sabeel conference was Dennis Ross, one of President Clinton's aides at the Camp David conference that sought to achieve a peace treaty between Israel and a nascent Palestine. Ross has laid practically all responsibility for Camp David's failure on Arafat and the Palestinians. He was invited, and accepted.


5) But then something went awry. The Jewish officialdom decided to demand that the church cancel its hosting of the Sabeel conference, on the ground that Sabeel was as far beyond the pale as, say, the KKK would be.


6) The church reexamined Sabeel's statements and positions, and concluded that although some they might well feel unpleasing, they were not beyond the pale of decent discourse. The church refused to cancel the conference.


7) So at that point Dennis Ross and a Boston rabbi who had agreed to speak later in the church's series on religious life both withdrew. And at that point, the Jewish officialdom organized a demonstration at the church. Though it focused on condemning Sabeel, one key Jewish official said the decision to hold it stemmed from being "tired of the constant criticism of Israel in the mainline protestant community without ANY attempt to hear the other side or provide 'equal time'." -- even though the whole point of Ross' speech had been precisely the church's effort to hear "the other side."


(The demonstration, held on the Friday when Archbishop Tutu spoke, was calm and respectful. Two hundred people took part in that rally on Friday -- far fewer than the number of Jews who took part in a demonstration of many thousands of people in Boston on Saturday, calling for an end to the Iraq war -- a call that no large Jewish organizations other than Reform Judaism have made, though 70% of American Jews call the war a profound ethical and practical disaster. Do you see why I insist on making a distinction between "Jewish officialdom" and "the Jewish community"?)


8) So when Dennis Ross withdrew, that was when the church called me, on the recommendation of a different Massachusetts rabbi who was distressed by the pressure from Jewish officialdom upon the church and thought I might be willing to speak from a seriously Jewish and pro-Israel perspective, though one quite different from that of the Boston Jewish officialdom.


9) I agreed to speak on Sunday, the day after the Sabeel conference ended. I named my talk "The Tent of Abraham: Peacemaking among Jews, Christians, and Muslims."


10) For the next two days I received a number of Email letters and phone calls from various Boston Jewish officials urging me to withdraw my acceptance. One of the reasons they gave was that the church had said that itself and the national UCC church body viewed Sabeel as a partner, and (presumably) I should not speak for such a church. Another was that my presence would make publicly clear that some Jews hold views regarding Israel other than the "official" ones. A third was that some people might think I was speaking for "the Jewish community."


11. Of course I spoke. There were about 200 people, unfortunately but expectably fewer than the 700 or so who had heard Archbishop Tutu. Most of them were Christians, with a sprinkling of Jews and at least one Muslim. What I said will have to wait for another day. There was a tape recording made, and we will try to arrange to put that on our website.


But two things I said, I do want to note now:


(a) It is true that now some of the Boston public knows that there are different views in the Jewish community - meaning real-life flesh-and-blood Jews, not just Jewish officialdom -- about how to protect and revivify Israel, many such views quite different from those espoused by many "official" Jewish institutions. This is a GOOD thing, and I wish the official Jewish world would celebrate and broadcast the fact, rather than try to hush it up.


(b) Of course I don't speak for the whole Jewish community - and neither does anyone else, including any appointed or elected official of any Jewish organization. It would be good for everyone to make the distinction I have been making in my choice of words here, between the Jewish "community" of real live Jews and the officialdom of Jewish institutional structures.


Now here are some further thoughts of mine about this whole controversy and the attempt to persuade Jewish speakers not to speak at the church:


Why was it not enough for the church to make an effort to present a speaker the very day after Sabeel's own conference who would take a different view? Why is public debate not enough? Why is not the cure for speech we think wrong, more speech? Who is it we believe cannot listen and then make sensible choices? Or is there a sheer desire, rising from stark fear that grows from an oft-repeated bloody past and a recent bloody summer - a sheer desire to use every bit of political power to coerce criticism into silence?


In the long run, it won't work, any more than forever depending on military domination works. I understand the desire, out of fear, to coerce critics into silence --- and even have compassion for that impulse as a response to fear. But my compassion does not mean condoning or bowing to that impulse.


To make the point most direct, why did Dennis Ross -- who at first thought it would make sense to speak the day after the Sabeel conference -- then decide not to ? Why did the Boston Jewish officialdom urge me also to withdraw? What changed?


What follows is my own hypothesis, my own hunch, and no more than that: That some right-wing elements of Boston Jewish life, like the David Project, put the heat on the centrist institutions. The David Project, for example, recently mobilized fear into an virulent campaign against allowing the construction of a new mosque in the Boston area. They failed, baruch haSHEM, hamdulillah, thank God, but they created deep tensions between some Jews and some Muslims that didn't need to happen - but fit their hostile hopes.


My guess is that they want to stir just such hostility between centrist Jews and liberal Protestants. From fear into rage. I understand the fear - we are all coping with the world earthquake in which every old pillar of reality is shaking, and one response to that is fear. But understanding the fear does not justify or condone turning it into rage and coercion and overreaching.


I also understand the overreaching of some who are oppressed, living under occupation, as also a response to fear and oppression. That does not mean condoning or bowing to that impulse to over-reach. When the over-reaching includes the use of violence, it should be condemned. And Sabeel does that. I don't agree with their call for a Palestinian right of return and I don't like the rhetoric of their version of Christian liberation theology in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I think that calls on us for debate and discussion, even for a protest, but not a boycott of the church for allowing them to meet.


The criticism of Israeli policy is rising. There are two basic responses: listen to the criticisms, acknowledge the justice of SOME of them, and ACT seriously, without dissembling, to correct the misdeeds. Or -- circle the wagons and get out the machine guns. Some actual machine guns, some rhetorical ones.


What would have happened if the Boston Jewish officialdom had said, "We think Sabeel is partly but not entirely mistaken. -- We think its opposition to terrorism is right, its call for two states is correct, its call for refugee return wrong.


"And we think it important to point out that applying liberation theology and all the vivid rhetoric about Jesus' crucifixion raises deep dangers in the Israel-Palestine context, strikes a deep nerve of Jewish pain from centuries when Christian charges that the Jews killed Christ, killed God, led to rivers of shed Jewish blood. We need you to hear and deeply understand how different that comes out from, say, Hugo Chavez invoking Jesus vs. the Roman Empire when he is facing the American Empire." (I did say that in my speech on Sunday, and urged Christians to say it to Sabeel.)


What would have happened if Boston Jewish officialdom had encouraged Ross or Wiesel to speak at the church, to discuss what is WRONG as well as what is RIGHT about Israeli policy? What if the Jewish officials had said proudly, "We welcome debate. We trust Americans to make sense out of the debate!"


Do we think the United Church of Christ is MORE willing to take Jewish criticism of them and Jewish defense of Israel more seriously after the tack the JCRC did actually take than if they had taken the tack I'm describing?


Do we think that Jewish boycotts and denunciations can forever frighten Jews and other Americans into silence?


When will Jewish centrists tell groups like the David Project and David Horowitz' Front Page and "Islamofascism Awareness Week" and people like Norman Podhoretz with his bloodthirsty calls to bomb Iran to get lost, instead of letting them drive Jewish fear into rage and unnecessary conflict?


When will Jewish centrists take a deep breath and decide -- instead of retreating to the past out of sheer fear in the world earthquake -- to move forward, , to realize that the other communities are also suffering in the earthquake and reach out to make new connections and create new possibilities?


In Boston, the leadership of Old South Church will be meeting this week with the Jewish officials. Thank God! (and I mean that.) May both take a deep breath from the Breath of Life and rethink how to strengthen, not shred, the threads of connection not only between Jews and Christians but also with Muslims as well. (Buying Jewish-Christian amity at the price of war with Islam would be the devil's bargain, and many deaths would seal the deal.)


I hope that a new effort at dialogue among ALL THREE of the Abrahamic traditions can come out of that meeting.


And more than dialogue. As I also said at the church, the human race is facing a supercrisis in the danger of global climate disaster. EVERY scrap of wisdom on the planet is going to be necessary to limit the damage and provide a decent earth to our grandchildren, not only for the sake of "earth" but for the sake of a decent human life.


No one of our traditions has yet bent anything like enough of our energy to deal with this profound concern. I urge, I plead, that when you meet this week, that be one of the concerns you address. It could be the grounding on which all three traditions can ACT together. And working together on that could open up new possibilities of hearing each other better in other areas.


Let us not only pray but act in accord with the way some of us nowadays chant the last line of the Kaddish (as we all did at the end of my talk at Old South):


Oseh Shalom bi'm'romav, hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu v'al kol yisrael v'al kol yishmael v'al kol yoshvei tevel -- v'imru: Amein.


You who make harmony in the ultimate reaches of the universe, teach us to make harmony within ourselves, among ourselves -- and peace for the children of Israel; for the children of Ishmael; and for all who dwell upon this planet.


And let us say: Ahmein, Amen, Ahmin.


With blessings of shalom, salaam, peace - Arthur


Rabbi Waskow edits The Shalom Report, a free weekly email newsletter and "thought-letter."
He is co-author of The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims (by Sister Joan Chittister, Murshid Saadi Shakur Chisti, & Rabbi Arthur Waskow)

Click here for more information on the book:

Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of all three faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour.

These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between all three branches in the Family of Father Abraham.

On October 13th 2006, one month to the day after Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address of September 13th 2006, 38 Islamic authorities and scholars from around the world, representing all denominations and schools of thought, joined together to deliver an answer to the Pope in the spirit of open intellectual exchange and mutual understanding. In their Open Letter to the Pope, for the first time in recent history, Muslim scholars from every branch of Islam spoke with one voice about the true teachings of Islam.

Now, exactly one year after that letter, Muslims have expanded their message.

In A Common Word Between Us and You, 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals have unanimously come together for the first time since the days of the Prophet to declare the common ground between Christianity and Islam.

Like the Open Letter, the signatories to this message come from every denomination and school of thought in Islam. Every major Islamic country or region in the world is represented in this message, which is addressed to the leaders of all the world’s churches, and indeed to all Christians everywhere.

The final form of the letter was presented at a conference in September 2007 held under the theme of “Love in the Quran,” by the Royal Academy of The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan, under the Patronage of H.M. King Abdullah II.

Indeed, the most fundamental common ground between Islam and Christianity, and the best basis for future dialogue and understanding, is the love of God and the love of the neighbor.

Never before have Muslims delivered this kind of definitive consensus statement on Christianity.

Rather than engage in polemic, the signatories have adopted the traditional and mainstream Islamic position of respecting the Christian scripture and calling Christians to be more, not less, faithful to it.

It is hoped that this document will provide a common constitution for the many worthy organizations and individuals who are carrying out interfaith dialogue all over the world. Often these groups are unaware of each other, and duplicate each other’s efforts.

Not only can A Common Word Between Us give them a starting point for cooperation and worldwide co-ordination, but it does so on the most solid theological ground possible: the teachings of the Qu’ran and the Prophet, and the commandments described by Jesus Christ in the Bible.

Thus despite our differences, Judaism, Islam and Christianity share the same Divine Origin, the same Abrahamic heritage and the same two greatest commandments.

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JC Up Against the empire:

Carter's Efforts To Mend Ties With Community Get Cold Shoulder

Nathan Guttman | Wed. Oct 31, 2007
The Jewish Daily Forward |

Washington - Jimmy Carter's newest efforts to repair relations with the Jewish community were rebuffed not once but twice last week ? and at the very highest levels.

Carter's first outreach effort came in an invitation to Jewish groups to discuss ways that the former president could help make the upcoming Middle East peace conference a success. While Carter invited most of the major Jewish organizations, the event was only attended by representatives of the Reform movement and by several smaller dovish Jewish groups.

"I didn't want to be used," said the Anti-Defamation League's national director, Abraham Foxman, one of the leaders who turned down Carter's invitation. "I didn't think anything constructive could come out of the meeting, except for him being able to say he met with Jewish leaders."

Carter has encountered similar difficulties in reaching out to Jewish lawmakers on Capitol Hill. A closed-door meeting he held with Jewish members of Congress turned into a passionate rebuke of the former president's views on Israel and the Middle East.

"He left the room less happy than Lincoln was when he left the Ford Theatre," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat who attended the meeting.

Carter has had strained relations with much of the organized Jewish community since the publication of his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" and his ensuing remarks regarding the Jewish lobby's influence on American foreign policy. The reception he received last week suggests that the resentment is still strong and that it may pose an obstacle for him as he attempts to offer his help in brokering peace in the Middle East.

His renewed appeal is part of his work with a group known as The Elders. Founded by South Africa's Nelson Mandela last summer, The Elders consists of 13 senior statesmen who attempt to use their international clout and their experience to deal with the world's most pressing conflicts. Along with Carter, members include Desmond Tutu, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan. The group's first mission was to Darfur, and it is now looking into taking an active role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The invitation to Jewish organizations, sent out by Elders liaison Mickey Bergman, stated that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways in which The Elders can help out with the Middle East peace process.

The invitation was not totally unrewarded. The Wednesday lunchtime meeting was attended by five Jewish members, including the Reform movement's Religious Action Center, which was represented by Rabbi David Saperstein. Other groups that sent representatives were Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek V'Shalom and the New Israel Fund. All are strong advocates of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Another participant in the meeting was Tom Dine, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who is also known for his dovish views.

"We did not raise the issue of the book in the meeting; it is old news," one participant told the Forward.

Another attendant, Brit Tzedek V'Shalom's new president, Steve Masters, said the atmosphere was good and that he sensed no tension between Carter and the Jewish activists in the room.

"We all recognized that he is one of the only people in the world who were successful in brokering peace between Israelis and Arabs," Masters said.

A Jewish organizational official speaking under condition of anonymity said that Carter invited "almost all major groups" but most of them turned down the invitation. This decision was criticized by those present.

"I think the refusal of Jewish groups to show up is offensive," said M.J. Rosenberg, Israel Policy Forum's policy analysis director, who was in attendance. "It is very unfortunate when a former president invites and people don't show up."

It was not clear if the decision not to attend was made by groups separately or was a result of consultations. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, did not return calls from the Forward regarding the meeting with Carter.

Foxman rejects the claim that turning down the invitation was improper.

"I don't disrespect him," Foxman said, adding that his reason for not coming to the meeting was Carter's refusal to apologize for arguing that Jews control the media and academia. "He is entitled not to support Israel, but he is not entitled to come out and fuel antisemitic canards."

Bergman, who accompanied Carter in his meetings with the Jewish leaders, would not comment on the talks, saying they were "off the record and private."

Carter's chilly reception by the Jewish organizations only got worse a few hours later, when he met with Jewish lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The event, hosted by California Democrat Tom Lantos, served as a forum for Jewish Democrats to vent their outrage at Carter's book.

"I told him that the Jewish community, that has great respect for his work around the world, is extremely hurt, disappointed and frustrated from his views and that he cannot serve as an honest broker," Ackerman said.

A similar message was also voiced by Lantos and three other Jewish lawmakers who attended the meeting: Henry Waxman, Howard Berman and Jane Harman.

The members of Congress told Carter that he needs to apologize, but the former president did not do so.

Another stop during Carter's day in Washington was at the State Department, where he met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss his views on the Middle East. Rice has recently conducted a series of consultations with former administration officials in order to "draw on the historical record and experiences of others," as described by spokesman Sean McCormack. The consultations included talks with former president Bill Clinton and several of Rice's predecessors: Madeleine Albright, James Baker and Henry Kissinger.

But a State Department official told the Forward that the meeting with Carter was not part of these consultations.

"She was not seeking advice from him," the official said, stressing that it was Carter who asked for the meeting and that Rice agreed "out of respect."

Wed. Oct 31, 2007


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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa

“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946

The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright

“Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” - Rev. MLK
Establishment of Israel
"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
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