Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May/June 2006, page 61

Waging Peace

Sabeel DC Conference Calls for Nonviolent Actions

Sabeel Vice President Jean Zaru (Staff Photo M. Horton).

SABEEL, THE ECUMENICAL Liberation Theology Center based in Jerusalem, held a conference March 3 and 4 at Washington, DC’s New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. In her opening keynote address to the conference, the theme of which was “Pursue Justice, Seek Peace,” Sabeel Vice President Jean Zaru noted that times were very hard in Palestine, as Israel continues to build more settlements and its wall, U.N. resolutions and international law gather dust, and humanitarian aid is used like a playing card without regard for ordinary Palestinian families just trying to earn their daily bread.

Some Palestinians have opted to withdraw from society, Zaru said, others have chosen to comply with or manipulate the system, but most have chosen to resist as the only way to transform the structure of oppression. Focusing on nonviolent resisters, Zaru said Palestinians need to engage more of the world community in the struggle, and urged building a global movement for peace and justice with a vision including diversity and excluding exclusivity. The only possible peace, she emphasized, was one based on justice.

Interestingly, when asked how she—as a woman and a Quaker—felt about the recent Hamas electoral victory, Zaru answered that she did not see a problem for either women or Christians based on prior experience and the fact that Palestinians form a pluralistic society.

In an afternoon plenary address, Jeff Halper, coordinating director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, emphasized the need to globalize the movement to resolve the Palestine/Israel issue, because of its impact on the world. The issue can be seen, Halper said, as a battleground for human rights and international law involving Muslim and Jewish communities, the U.S. and, in fact, the entire global community. Discussing the foreign policy ramifications of the role played by Israeli-centric neocons in the U.S., Halper said he regretted U.S./Israel’s policy effects: a “Crusader Empire,” massive power vs. ordinary people, and the erosion of Jewish life due to policy toward Israel.

Halper described Israeli strategy as based on controlling the entire land area in three stages: creating facts on the ground for a matrix of control, securing U.S. approval for annexation of said facts, and unilaterally declaring permanent borders and the “end of occupation.” With the first two points accomplished, Halper noted that the “element of Zionism that ruined everything was the doctrine of exclusivity.”

A just peace was possible, according to Halper, if civil society mobilized in an urgent and effective campaign, calling for the use of boycott, divestment and sanctions He concluded with a brief outline of his vision of a broad federation of Middle East states, including Israel and Palestine.

A number of workshops and open plenaries followed on topics ranging from Plymouth Congregational Church’s Rev. Graylan Hagler’s talk on “The Black Church, Liberation and Palestine” to Boston University School of Law Prof. Susan Akram’s presentation on “The Right of Return: A Framework of International Law.”

—Sara Powell

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