Friday, July 28, 2006

Zeal for Justice and Afif Safieh

The weekly Quaker-led peace vigil in front of San Francisco's Federal building on Thursday is unfortunately becoming more necessary with each passing day.

Because it makes me so angry, I have nothing intelligent or useful to say about Israel's infrastructure demolishing and mass murder in Lebanon.

Their behavior makes me sick, though not as literally as this young woman who stopped to vomit in front of the vigil while her friend steadied her at the curb.

There are some brilliantly scathing posts by James Wolcott, who writes a blog for "Vanity Fair," about the Israel apologists. One is entitled "Faster, Israel Kill Kill!" in an homage to the Russ Meyer masterpiece "Faster Pussycat Kill Kill!" (Click here to get to his site.)

My friend Willie has a great post up at his blog that tackles the Andrea Yates trial, Israel, and Arlen Specter with three caustic mini-essays. Check it out by clicking here.

Jan at the "happening-here" blog has an interesting bit of reporting on an Israeli-directed fundamentalist group lobbying at the recent Episcopal General Convention. (Click here to read the whole thing.)

She also has a wonderful quote from Fr. Naim Ateek of Sabeel, who "replied to the pressure generated by the Israel lobby within the church at an event at the Convention."
Those who demonize us think they are serving the security of Israel when they protect the unjust policies and actions of the government of Israel towards the Palestinians. They cannot serve Israel’s security when they protect lies and hide the truth. ... We must work for the sake of all of our peoples -- Israelis and Palestinians. ...

I believe that many Palestinians, though experiencing the oppressive measures of Israeli occupation, want to live in peace and to be reconciled and even offer forgiveness. Obviously, so long as the injustice persists the door to reconciliation and forgiveness is slammed shut. Justice is the key that opens the door.

When the door is opened, we might be surprised to find that people who have suffered torture, humiliation, oppression, and the loss of loved ones on both sides are open to reconciliation. Indeed, many times it is those who have suffered the most who are the first to forgive. They are willing to give and receive forgiveness.

Jan further adds:

"To the oppressor, justice looks like vengeance. But in the presence of justice, the category of oppressor dissolves and peace and reconciliation can grow. The Episcopal Church doesn't need lobbies. It needs zeal for justice, zeal for creating a context in which love can flourish."

Of course, Israel hasn't committed any atrocity in Lebanon that the United States hasn't already pioneered on a much larger scale over the last three years in Iraq, from phosphorous bombs that burn the flesh away, to the indiscriminate murders of civilians and medical workers and journalists and international peace activists, to institutionalized, fiendish torture.

Unfortunately, both Israel and the United States seem to be going off the same playbook, all designed to create the bloody "birth pangs" of a new Middle East, in the immortal words of that vile person who is our Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. (Check Princess Sparkle Pony's accounts of Ms. Rice's "let's get out of Lebanon and hightail it to Malaysia FAST!" by clicking here.)

At the end of Thursday's hour-long vigil, there was a celebrity visit by the current PLO Ambassador to the United States, Afif Safieh. Actually, he's the head of the Palestinian Mission in Washington, D.C. since the Palestinians are not recognized diplomatically in the United States.

The organizers of the vigil gave us handouts explaining his appearance:
"At this crucial moment with Lebanon, the Israeli and Palestinian governments at an armed stalemate, AFSC [The Quakers] wants you to know that we have arranged to bring Afif Safieh to speak on "Is There a Future for a Peace Process in the Middle East?" This is not a typical diplomat and these are not ordinary times. Afif Safieh was one of the early voices who reached out to the Jewish community to promote a "two-state" solution. Ambassador Safieh is a Christian from Jerusalem who served as the Palestinian General Delegate to the United Kingdom and to the Holy See from 1990-2005. Safieh is considered one of the most thoughtful, articulate Palestinian diplomats. We strongly urge you to hear him speak."

To read more about Mr. Safieh, click here for his Wikipedia entry. What totally impressed me was that he arrived completely alone, without an entourage or bodyguards or anybody but himself, and simply thanked us for the vigil.


janinsanfran said...

What a great day at the vigil! Glad you caught Mr. Safieh's visit.

I do need to say that I don't think the efforts of the Israel lobby within the Episcopal Church should be characterized as "Israeli-directed." We have in the United States a cluster of right wing organizations that are determined to get the mainline Protestant churches out of the justice business and they are using the volatile issues of Israel/Palestine as one more way to sow division among well-meaning persons who work for peace and justice. That is, this is a home grown eruption, I think -- no need to blame Israel.

We "the well-meaning" need to learn to be tough and smart as well as good. We can but try.

sfmike said...

Dear Jan: Distinction noted. I'd go back and change the wording but I've been having editing problems in Blogger lately. Plus, it would make your smart comment insensible.