Though the recession and other pressing domestic issues are the prime focus of the Obama Administration it has been an active week for foreign policy issues as well. Moving with dispatch to show that his administration has turned a page on how America engages the world, Obama has made some important moves to show the global community of nations a different face of power.
During the week, Obama signed orders to close the Gitmo internment camp. He has asked the military to develop an exit strategy from Iraq. He has appointed retired Sen. George Mitchell as a special envoy to the Middle East to revitalize the art of diplomacy in the region for the US. He has instructed Mitchell to listen and not to dictate. Most significantly, in his first post inaugural interview, Obama spoke directly and plainly to the Arab world through the Al Arabiya network. President Obama seems intent on becoming an arbiter of peace in the clash of civilizations.
It is a new day and a new way in Washington DC. The trains at the station. We hope everyone gets on board this train.
As Salaam Alaikum
You Tube Video: Yusef Islam, Peace Train
There is a large controversy concerning the BBC’s refusal to air an appeal by relief organizations trying to get aid to the suffering inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. We understand the BBC’s reasoning of trying to maintain its neutrality in the political morass of the Israeli / Palestinian war. But we also understand that the unending agony of the people who live in Gaza needs to be addressed.
We publish an appeal for devotions and aid from the Religious Society of Friends, Friends United Meeting (FUM) that operates a School in Ramallah in the West Bank.
Hope will never be silent. ~ Harvey Milk
Because “the job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open.” ~ Gunter Grass
The following message from Joyce Ajlouny, Director of the Ramallah Friends School, came to us from FUM today. It gives details about what is actually happening on the ground in the Gaza strip that we have not encountered anywhere else.
We are grieved at the violence that has permeated Israeli-Palestinian relations for so many years, and are horrified at this most recent chapter. Let us all pray for peace in this region and continue to work for peace there and around the world.
Christopher Sammond, general secretary
Ernestine Buscemi, clerk
From: C D Williams
Sent: Tue, 30 Dec 2008 8:18 am
Subject: [FUM Devotions] Prayers for Palestinians in Gaza
I hope this finds you well and ready to receive the New Year. Let us hope 2009 will be the bearer of good news for all!
I know that you’ve been hearing the horrific news from Gaza. We are doing fine here on the West Bank – at least physically. Our hands are tied as well feel so helpless seeing our people suffer. It is a blood bath in Gaza – a real massacre against a people who have been living under siege for months on end. Over 360 people are dead so far (many are civilians including children) and over 1700 injured. The humanitarian conditions were catastrophic even before Israel waged its present offensive. I just spoke to a friend in Gaza who said that there is no electricity, no water, no food, no candles, no medical supplies, no oven gas… where do we start. She also said that there is hardly a house left with windows intact and families are scraping plastic sheets to shut their windows to protect themselves from the cold and that hospitals are overflowing with the injured lying in the hallways. Gaza is the home of around 1.5 million.
I am working on a humanitarian appeal targeting our parents. We hope to raise some funds and send to Gaza soon.. From our families to theirs. I know we can at least succeed in this act of solidarity, knowing that the needs are too grave for our efforts to make a huge difference. We are thinking of going through reputable humanitarian fund in Gaza and ask them to prepare care packages for some of the neediest families. The question is the availability of goods… I am not sure what is available anymore since goods have been prevented from entering for a few months now. The market is probably depleted – nonetheless we are trying.
Anyhow, this is a short note, to ask for your prayers that the Israeli leadership will find it in their hearts to stop this act of severe aggression on an already impoverished and imprisoned population. Pray for justice and peace in Palestine and all other war-stricken regions around the globe.
Blessings to all,
PS – The school is still on break until the 10th but I am working along with the school engineers on our construction projects – there is so much going on ( I feel I am living on a construction site). With all of what is going on the being preoccupied with work is a welcomed distraction.
A short Eyewitness Article from The Guardian can be seen at
You Tube Video: Randy Weston: Blue Moses
Risk: ambililence, silence, turning a blind eye
As I witness this mornings bombings of Gaza I cannot help but think of John Donne’s Meditation XVII. The Palestinian-Israeli war is an intractable conflict whose seemingly ceaseless nature confounds understanding almost to the degree of our revulsion for the blood lust of the combatants. This conflict is not confined to the walled in inhabitants of Gaza. The victims and complicit accomplices of this conflict is all humanity. As in Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia et al, this is happening on all of our watches. We can pretend we don’t see, politically justify it or roundly weep in the condemnation of our failure as humans to cease and desist our endless propensity and voracious appetite for genocide.
The bombing of Gaza must stop.
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind…
This war diminishes us all. It is slowing killing our respect for life and our common shared humanity. It is hardening our hearts and threatens to make us less human and less divine. As a Christian I believe that these conflicts denigrate the Holy Spirit. Threatening to reduce it to a ghostly apparition of stale dogma. The Holy Spirit envelops everyone as one. An injury or assault on anyone wounds us all. The slaughter of innocents must stop.
Why do we respond with abhorrence and not positive action? Don’t we hear the call to our humanity. Everyday we bemoan the state of human kind and the diminishing respect and love we show for one another. Donne’s meditation also speaks of the opportunity borne from our shared human afflictions and wounds. Our infirmities help us to understand the sickness that we see in others. It makes us excellent physicians to diagnose our shared illnesses and proscribe the appropriate medicine to heal our common malady. Eye for an eye justice blinds everyone.
Words fail to express our shared grief and despair as we witness combatants extract blood from one another. We pray for an end to hostilities in Gaza. We pray that the passion for war will dissipate and a reverence for life grows. We pray that combatants will lay down their arms and find a way to peace.
Perchance he for whom this bell tolls, may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me…may have caused it to toll for me…and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
John Donne, Meditation XVII
You Tube Video: John Lee Hooker, Carlos Santana: The Healer
Risk: war, psychology
Israel is marking its 60th anniversary as a country today. Established by the UN Mandate for the
Partition of Palestine in 1947, Israel has been embroiled in a constant state of conflict with Palestinian Arabs and the neighboring Arab and Persian nation states since its inception. The founding of Israel was seen as one of the better fruits borne from the trauma of World War II. Part blessing, part curse Israel’s establishment in Palestine is small consolation for the nightmare of the Jewish Holocaust and desire to exorcise the stain of Nazism from the collective soul of modern civilization.Unfortunately, Nazism as a political expression of a modern civilized state is a telling oxymoron that continues to play itself out in today’s world as the hope and promise of tolerance and the uncertainty of secular democracies battle the intolerance of fundamentalism and theocratic certainty. Israel’s founding provided hope that the pedagogy of the oppressed would not be lost on hardened hearts of civilized nations. Israel is living evidence that world powers could be trusted to rectify and eradicate problems through decisive action. Some might say a modern day metaphor of Solomon’s wisdom. Israel’s founding was a moral hope of the global community and evidence that out of horror and hate something good, just and enduring could be borne. But history and the geopolitical realities of scarcity, the complex web of political interests and the resourcefulness of the power elites to protect their privileges continues to conspire against a right and just course of action to follow a roadmap to peace in Palestine.
More of Solomon’s wisdom is called for today. Solomon’s judgment precluded the use of the sword. Today we cannot distinguish plaintiffs from defendants. Both sides are victimized by their own intractability. The sword is the only way. The blessed baby is bleeding to death.
We pray that Israelis and Palestinians will beat their spears into pruning hooks to mend and stitch the shroud of permanent and lasting peace.
You Tube Video: Theme from Exodus
Risk: Political, War, Peace, Religion, Poverty, Death, Life
Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are a study in contrast. Both are big risk takers. Each motivated by different agendas and each pursuing radically different goals. Today Jimmy Carter.
I’ll never forget the time I saw Jimmy Carter in the flesh. It was a Friday afternoon, late August in NYC and Roselyn and Jimmy were strolling through the heart of the garment district on 7th Ave about 3 blocks south of Times Square. It was past 5:00PM and the sidewalks were absolutely deserted save the 5 or 6 common looking street folk eagerly chatting away with the Carters. Two Secret Service agents trailed the posse looking totally at ease and not in the least concerned about any potential threat to the safety and well being of their protective charges.
The same could be said for the Carters. From across the street I could see the aura of Jimmy’s beaming smile and Roselyn’s affability. As the couple strolled arm in arm the desire of the surrounding people to engage and to be in the couple’s presence and the Carters joy of the moment created a floating cloud of positive karma. Jimmy and Roselyn are the living embodiment of good positive karma.
Jimmy and Roselyn have been busy educating, building, promoting and performing good works to alleviate suffering, promote democracy and witness for peace and justice all over the world. He is an inspiration and a child of God.
We cheer Mr. Carter’s latest of many initiatives to end the conflict between Israel and Palestine. He is a tireless and consistent worker to repair the breach. We join in hopeful expectation and an optimism borne solely by faith that his work will begin a process of reconciliation for a region where recrimination is drowning all parties in a sea of blood.
Mr. Carter’s efforts have been scoffed, condemned and shunned by involved parties. His mission is fraught with much risk to his reputation, his legacy and his well being. But Mr. Carter knows the greater risk lies in the continuation and potentially broadening of the Israel / Palestine conflict. I believe he knows that the personal risk he is assuming is inconsequential to the risk of doing nothing and witnessing the region self immolate in the continued flames of war.
God bless you Mr. Carter. You take personal risk to build peace. By your actions you encourage dialog and reconciliation. You are a repairer of the breach.
You Tube Video: Duke Ellington and Mahalia Jackson, Come Sunday
Risk: Personal, Political, War, Religion