Dear Friend of Israel,
Christians of the West have long been the unnamed third party to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Most obviously, the ancient Church assumption that Jewish exile from the Jewish homeland was a proof of claims for Jesus still casts its shadow. Similarly, European colonialism, with its Christsanctioned underpinning, spawned what Edward Said called "Orientalism," a permanent factor in Palestinian dispossession from lands on which they resided for centuries. In effect, Jews and Arabs confront one another in a corner, the walls of which neither created.
Recently, Fundamentalist Christians, championed by groups like Christians United for Israel, have been supplying uncritical support for Jews, while other Christian groups have emphasized the Palestinian narrative, readily casting all blame on Israel. Yet the burden on those of us who view this conflict from outside is to consistently affirm the rights of both peoples. Peace will come only when both stories are heard, both sets of grievances addressed--a process which Palestinians and Israelis themselves must lead.
This abstract principle is now, of course, a quite specific matter of territory, and no one has stated it more clearly than President Obama did last May: "The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."
The president here stated a formula long familiar to peace advocates, yet even with formal American and international support, the idea of a negotiated two-state solution, involving equitable land exchanges, is today an endangered consensus--and so is the hope for an outcome which both sides can embrace.
That is why the long proven commitment of the Israeli Peace Now movement (Shalom Achshav) is more urgently important than ever. I am writing to commend to you Peace Now, with its U.S. sister organization, Americans for Peace Now. Israel and Palestine--not to mention political hope and justice--need Peace Now more than ever.
Peace Now is a patriotic Israeli organization. Its well-known advocacy merits a renewed emphasis, especially after the recent period of political stasis and disappointment, when many other advocates of peace have become disillusioned and discouraged. Peace Now most emphatically affirms the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel. But that means, with equal emphasis, that Peace Now opposes the Occupation of the Palestinians, and absolutely rejects the continuing spread of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
For Peace Now, this is not a matter of mere rhetoric. The organization tracks and publicizes the ongoing Jewish settlement project in the West Bank. In 2011, Peace Now found:
- A 20-percent rise in construction starts over the previous year. Of these, 5 percent (650 units) were in isolated settlements east of the planned route of the Separation Barrier, in areas that will certainly not be annexed to Israel once it reaches a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
- The Israeli government recognized 11 illegal outposts as bona fide settlements.
- The highest number in a decade of new Israeli construction and the highest number ever of planned construction in East Jerusalem.
Peace Now also found that much settlement building, about one third, takes place on private Palestinian land in the West Bank. Such settlements also spring up amid hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem--often with American Jewish and Evangelical Christian financial backing. Peace Now believes that these unending encroachments amount to present injustices and future obstacles to peace. They must be noticed. They must be condemned. They must be reversed.
This is why I am writing to ask you to support Peace Now, and its sister organization in the United States. Americans for Peace Now provides nearly half of the funding for Israel's Peace Now and helps make possible the actions, research and legal advocacy that assist peace-seeking Israelis in taking back the middle ground.
APN's informative website (www.peacenow.org) offers a wealth of information and analysis for Americans to think more clearly--and pragmatically--about Israel's challenges.
The "app" that APN has released, an interactive map of the disastrous Israeli settlements in the West Bank, is accessible online http://peacenow.org/map.php and downloadable to iPhone or iPad devices.
I am writing this letter as an American, and as a Christian. I am aware that you are receiving it as the holy seasons of Passover and Easter approach--times when the echoes of history are heard, and when, as I began by noting, people like me can have no illusion of detached uninvolvement. Our texts, our doctrines, our End Time dreams, our habits of racial and religious contempt, even our too-innocent wishes for an easy peace--these are threads in the Holy Land's still untied knot. Historically part of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, we are obliged now to be part of its solution.
That is the invitation we have from Israel's Peace Now and its U.S. sister organization. Join me in supporting both Shalom Achshav and APN. Please make a generous tax-deductible contribution to Americans for Peace Now. This is how peace happens. Please commend Peace Now to everyone you know.
P.S. And here's hoping that this year's Passover/Easter seasons bring us all closer to peace.
James Carroll is a columnist for the Boston Globe, and Distinguished-Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk University. He is the author of ten novels and six works of non-fiction, his most recent being Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World, which was named a Best Book of 2011 by Publishers Weekly. He is also author of the National Book Award winning An American Requiem, the New York Times best-selling Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews, now an acclaimed documentary, and House of War, which won the first PEN-Galbraith Award. In 2012, he will publish the Introduction for Vatican II: The Essential Texts, and in 2013, his novel Warburg in Rome will appear.
Born in Chicago and raised in Washington where his father, an Air Force general, served as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Carroll attended Georgetown University before entering the seminary to train for the Catholic priesthood. He received BA and MA degrees from St. Paul's College, the Paulist Fathers' seminary in Washington, and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1969. Carroll served as Catholic Chaplain at Boston University from 1969 to 1974, then left the priesthood to become a writer.