The Pasadena Star News just published a very truncated version of an op ed piece I sent them a week ago. I have mixed feelings about the letter because it leaves out crucial information, such as the fact that Hamas has not persecuted Christians in Gaza the way ISIS has in Iraq. But at least, they published something that will get the attention of our elected officials since I deliberately included the names of Feinstein and Chu (their aides cull any letters mentioning their names and share them with bosses).
It is very very hard to get anyting critical of Israel in the Star News or in any newspaper here in the US (it is easier in Israel). It took a visit to their office with my Presbyterian pastor friend Rev Darrel Myers to get the newspaper's attention.
After my visit to the office, I wrote Larry Wilson, their editorial page editor, the following letter:
We went to your office on Colorado Blvd and were graciously received by Sarah Favot who suggested we contact you. Darrel and I were part of the delegation of twenty five religious leaders and activists who went the offices of Senators Feinstein and Boxer two weeks ago, hoping to meet or talk with them to express our concern about US support for bombing Gaza--a massacre costing over 2000 lives, including over 500 children. I was one of four people arrested for not leaving Feinstein's office when she refused to talk with us. We spent the night in Van Nuys jail. See http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2014/08/i-have-justreturned-home-from-night-in.html
I am a retired college professor, Quaker magazine editor, author and peace activist who cares deeply about the situation in Israel/Palestine. In 2004 I visited the region with the Compassionate Listening project and met and listened to a wide range of people. (I even published a book called "Compassionate Listening.") I feel a heart connection with Israelis as well as Palestinians and want to see this conflict resolved in a just and peaceful way that honors the humanity of all parties. That's why I am very disturbed that your newspaper has published Tim Rutten, a columnist who vilifies Muslims and makes false and misleading statements about what is happening in the Middle East. I don't mind people expressing different opinions, but I feel that they should at least be truthful.
I devoted one of my blogs to addressing some of the false and inflammatory statements that Rutten made in the first op ed piece you published ("Hamas Causes the Tragedy but Israel Gets Blamed"). See http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2014/08/truth-and-reconciliation-in.html
As I point out in the op ed I sent you earlier this week in response to Rutten's second op ed piece ("Do we remains silent about anti-semitism, attacks on Christians"), Rutten's allegation that Muslims are committing ethnic cleansing of Christians in Israel/Palestine is utterly false. It is true that Islamic extremists are persecuting Christians in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, but not in Israel/Palestine. Rev Darrel Myers has been to Israel/Palestine 25 times, met with hundreds if not thousands of Palestinian Christians, and never once has he witnessed or heard of such alleged ethnic cleansing. He works with Sabeel, an organization of Palestinian Christians committed to nonviolence who see Israeli occupation, not Muslim persecution, as the real problem in this region. The voice of Palestinian Chrisians deserves to be heard by your readers.
I hope you will take seriously my op ed piece and try to present a fair and balanced view of what is happening in Israel/Palestine and the Middle East.
Who Would Jesus Bomb?
Christians in Israel/Palestine and the Middle East
By Anthony Manousos
How do we end the violence in the Middle East? The bombing of Gaza, and the bombing of Muslims in other parts of the Middle East, is not the answer.I, along with eleven other religious leaders and activists (including a rabbi and pastor), went to the office of Senator Feinstein with this message on August 18. We made a simple request to talk with the Senator by phone, and she refused. After we waited four hours in her office, her staff called the police, had us arrested, and we spent the night in jail. (I am pleased that Representative Judy Chu has agreed to meet with us and have a conversation about the Middle East.) Estee Chandler of Jewish Voices for Peace interviewed us in KPFK's "Middle East in Focus," one of the few places where you can hear alternative views about what is happening in this region. The Star News published two op ed pieces by Tim Rutten, who is not only vehemently pro-Israel and anti-Muslim, he also makesmany false and misleading statements, such as the claim that Muslims have engaged in “ethnic cleansing” of Christians in Gaza and throughout the Middle East.
Rutten alleges: “The Palestinians, in whose cause so much of Europe now speaks with such vitriol toward Israel, are as guilty of ethnic cleansing as the rest of their Islamic brethren.” (Star News: 8/7/14)
It is true that ISIS, an extremist group with around 15,000 members, is brutally killing not only Christians, but fellow Muslims they disagree with. Before we invaded Iraq, however, Christians and Muslims got along fairly well under the Baathist regime. Our brutal invasion and "shock and awe" bombing of Iraq unleashed extremist violence that drove tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians into exile. Many fled to Syria, where they received a much warmer welcome by President Assad than the children crossing the border received here in the United States. Millions of Christians are now living in exile in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Their situation is not ideal but it is better than that of many Latin Americans who have come to the US for refuge.
Rutten presents no evidence showing that Muslims in Gaza have engaged in “ethnic cleansing”of Christians and that the decline in the Christian population in Israel/Palestine is the fault of Muslims.
The truth is that most of the 1,500 Christians currently living in Gaza have a close relationship with their Muslim neighbors and most Palestinian Christians see Israeli occupation, not alleged Muslim ethnic cleansing, as the biggest threat to their lives and livelihood.
For example, the Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza has become a haven not just for Christian but also hundreds of Muslim families seeking shelter there as the offensive drags on.“The church has been our hosts for the past two weeks, offering food, clothes and whatever we needed, their loss is our loss, their pain is our pain,” says 45-year-old Abu Khaled. At the memorial service for a Christian mother named Jalila killed by the Israeli attack, Archbishop Alexios said: “Another human being, an innocent one, has lost her life." In something that surprised local journalists, Jalila’s body was carried by both Muslims and Christians to the grave. “The world must realise that Israel’s missiles don’t differentiate between Christians and Muslims,” said Abu.
George Ayyad, a relative of Jalila, rejects the idea that Christians will leave Gaza after this incident. “This is exactly what the Israelis want, but where should we go?” he questions, before he continues “This is my homeland and we are Christians here in Gaza for more than 1,000 years and we will remain.”
The same is true throughout the West Bank and occupied territories. Many Palestinian Christians feel that Israelis are trying to drive them out of their ancestral lands. They cry out to the United States and the international community, asking for justice and an end to the occupation.
Sabeel, an organization of Christians in Israel/Palestine, is committed to nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation. In his statement on behalf of Sabeel, the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, expresses the views of many Palestinian Christians:
1. The international community needs to empower the UN to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
2. International law unequivocally gives occupied people the right to shake off the yoke of the occupier through various means including the armed struggle. While this is true and needs to be remembered in considering this situation, Sabeel has always stood for the moral right of liberation through nonviolent means.
3. The Palestinian rockets from Gaza have an important message that Israel refuses to understand and the western powers, especially the United States, are unwilling to comprehend. The message of the rockets addresses the core issues and the root causes of the problem – STOP THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION AND FREE PALESTINE.
4. Our plea is to all people of conscience in Israel. You need to become engaged. The present political course is driving Israelis and Palestinians further apart and is leading us to an impending disaster worse than we are witnessing today. We all must stop nurturing extremism. Israelis and Palestinians have to live together in this land. God has put us here, we need to share it. The alternative is untenable.
5. A stable peace can only be realized when justice, in accordance with international law, is achieved for both Israel and Palestine.
If we want to help the Christians of Israel/Palestine, we need to listen to what Palestinian Christians are asking for: an end to the siege of Gaza, an end to Israeli occupation, and equal rights for Israelis and Palestinian. If we want to stop violence against Christians in the Middle East, we must stop bombing Muslims. Every cycle of violence perpetrated by the US--from bombings to drone strikes killing innocent civilians--leads to blow back and retribution against Christians. We would do far better if we acted like Christians in the Middle East and took seriously the question I once saw on a bumper sticker: "Who would Jesus bomb?"
See Why do we remain silent about anti-Semitism, attacks on Christians? Tim Rutten
What is most remarkable about the deepening crisis emanating from the Middle East is not the deadly sounds of gunfire and rocketry, but the appalling and equally deadly silences concerning things the Obama administration and the West’s other democratic leaders ought to be addressing at the top of their lungs.
As the philosopher Bernard Henri Levy has observed, the “spirit of Munich” is once again abroad in the world. It is important to remember, though, that while the Munich spirit ended in appeasement — as it still may do in the Ukraine — it built on the Western democracies’ years of deceit, denial and self-deception concerning what was happening around them.