Together for Peace in the Middle East
An American Jew and Lebanese American's call for peace in the Middle East
War in Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine: A Heartfelt Attempt to Understand our Role as American Individuals in this Current Time of Crisis
by Elijah Emily Nella and Gregory Richane
As an American Jew and a Lebanese American, we are saddened, frightened, and outraged by what has been happening in the past week in Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and in the American media. Both of us feel affinities towards the land of Israel, the land of Palestine, the land of Lebanon and all of the people contained within those borders. We are also grateful for our opportunities and class privileges as middle-upper class American citizens living without the constant threat of bombs dropping on us, with access to clean water, the ability to use our voices, etc. Precisely because of who we are as Americans, we feel it is our duty to stand up to the escalating violence in the land of our ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This escalation must end IMMEDIATELY. The U.S. has immense power to influence political actions in the Middle East, especially over Israel. Because Hezbollah has been responding to actions of the Israeli Defense Force (many of which are violating International Law), we believe that if Israel makes the first move to de-escalate the violence and to begin to compassionately treat Lebanese and Palestinians as humans (mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters) that deserve basic human rights, then peace will be possible. The Israeli Defense Force's continued act of killing innocent civilians in Palestine or Lebanon will not lead to the safety of the state of Israel; it will only create more anger and anti-Semitism in the friends, families, and sympathizers of those murdered, and these people will want to exact revenge against Israel and the Jews. This is the most absurd attempt at trying to create long-term security for the Israelis and the nation of Israel.
What is happening in the Middle East right now is typical of war. Israel says it is targeting the terrorist group, Hezbollah, yet the majority of the people that are dying from the air raids and shellings are innocent Lebanese civilians. As of today, the Associated Press reports that 307 Lebanese have died since July 12, 2006. 29 Israelis have died, mainly innocent Israeli civilians. Yesterday, July 19th was the deadliest day yet with 70 people who died - 63 Lebanese (1 Hezbollah fighter, 62 innocent civilians) and 7 Israelis (number unknown of IDF vs. civilians).
Today the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz reported the following:
On Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces said that aircraft dropped 23 tons of explosives on the target in the Bourj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut. Soon after, Hezbollah issued a statement saying that, "no Hezbollah leaders or elements were killed in the strike," but a building under construction to be a mosque was hit... Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the IDF has "as much time as [they] want to complete the mission."
Like so many others, we stood against the United States government when it chose to start a war with Iraq. We opposed the war because it was pointless, dangerous, and morally wrong. Now, we are beginning to see a few of the geopolitical results of that War: renewed violence in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon during another spasm of violence and chaos in Iraq. Just as in Iraq, a minority of terrorists has grabbed power through pseudo-nationalist attacks, causing great pain for an entire country. Just as in Iraq, a militarily powerful state believes it can punish an entire country with impunity. The American aggression in Iraq has provided a blueprint for misery in the Israeli/Palestinian/Lebanese conflict, and could very well spawn violence in other parts of the world in the same manner.
We recognize the complexity of the current state of the Middle East and how the people of Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine are all unsafe and threatened by their shared state of war. The recent requests from the leaders of Hezbollah and from Israeli's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert make it unmistakably clear that both parties plan on continuing with their violence without any care for the sacredness of human life. This means only that more innocent people will die while instability and insecurity escalates for all Israelis, Palestinians, and Lebanese.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan made this statement: "While acknowledging Israel's right to self-defense," he accused Israel of an"excessive use of force. Whatever damage Israel's operations may be doing to Hezbollah's military capabilities, they are doing little or nothing to decrease popular support for Hezbollah in Lebanon or the region, but are doing a great deal to weaken the government of Lebanon," Annan said.
Tonight, Kofi Annan and Condoleezza Rice are meeting for dinner in New York City to talk about the war in the Middle East.
On Wednesday, the NY Times reported "American officials signaled that Ms. Rice was waiting at least a few more days before wading into the conflict, in part to give Israel more time to weaken Hezbollah forces. The strategy carries risk, partly because it remains unclear just how long the rest of the world, particularly America's Arab allies, will continue to stay silent as the toll on Lebanese civilians rises."
From the bottom of our hearts, we ask you to use your voice as Americans to let the US government know that you want them "to urge Israel to stop the excessive use of violence on the people of Lebanon and Palestine - to stop the massive air raids, the shellings, the proliferation. To listen to Kofi Annan." Call and email your Senators and Representatives. (Visit http://www.congress.org and type in your zip code at the top left corner to get the phone numbers and email addresses of your representatives) Call and email the Department of State (Office Phone: (202) 647-4000 To email Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, click on http://www.congress.org and type in your zip code at the top left corner to get the phone numbers and email addresses of your representatives) Call and email the Department of State (Office Phone: (202) 647-4000 To email Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, click on link to www.congress.org ) Hold candlelight vigils in your community for the innocent people that are dying in the Middle East, and for the blow to Middle East security for ALL people. Send press releases to local media so your voices, bodies, and hearts resonate louder.
We will leave you with an excerpt from email Elijah received yesterday from an American friend who is in Beirut studying poetry:
"I can tell you that people here don't want to fight - that people say, 'Yes. Hezbollah has captured Israeli soldiers, but Israel has over 4,000 Lebanese and Palestinian people in prison, at least 1,000 of which received no charges at all,' but that you know. I can tell you that when people here hear about Hezbollah firing back, we say 'No, no. Both sides, please stop.' Yet, this country also is saying we need somehow to be defended.
Imagine foreign helicopters flying over the U.S. so slow because they knew that the U.S. could not shoot them down, and that the U.S. just had to watch as they fired shell after shell after shell and did very little. There are so many complex and contradictory views, but the one that prevails is: please make this stop, and also that giving back the soldiers isn't a simple answer because people here care for their friends and family who are in the prisons, too. I'm not an expert on politics here and don't really want to get into it, and don't know anything that hasn't already been said. People just want this to stop - for nobody else to get hurt. Everywhere, so nobody gets hurt anymore."
Elijah Emily and Greg
For more info on the whole situation, we encourage you to read the following articles at:
link to www.tikkun.org
link to www.tikkun.org
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