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December 15, 2006

No Change of Heart

A coalition of prominent Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders calling itself the National Interreligious Initiative for Peace in the Middle East issued a statement titled "Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace: From Crisis to Hope" earlier this week.

This statement is much more conciliatory than the statements about the Arab-Israeli conflict typically issued by mainline Protestant churches. The conciliatory tone is probably due to the involvement of Roman Catholic Bishops and Jewish leaders in the coalition that authored the document, not on any change of heart on the part of the mainline Protestant leaders who signed the document. In fact, on one key issue -- Israel's security barrier -- the document actually contradicts resolutions passed by two denominations whose leaders signed the document.

To be sure, the document includes an explicit call for Palestinian leaders to acknowledge Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and reform their society. While this call may seem naive, it suggests that some religious leaders in the U.S. are starting to think about problems in Palestinian society that make it difficult, if not impossible for the Palestinians to live in peace with their Jewish leaders.

Unlike resolutions passed by the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) asking Israel to take down the security barrier it is building to stop suicide attacks from the West Bank, this statement implicitly acknowledges Israel's right to build the barrier while expressing concern over its location. The legislative bodies of the UCC and Disciples of Christ, whose leaders both signed the statement, explicitly denied Israel's right to build the barrier and insisted that it be taken down in resolutions passed in 2005. These resolutions have yet to be repudiated by the legislative bodies or by the leaders of these churches.

In any event, most of the signatures on this document are followed by an asterisk stating that the organizations are included "for Identification Only."

That helps to explain the presence of Rev. John M. Buchanan's signature on the document. Rev. Buchanan is editor and publisher of the Christian Century, a magazine that will print corrections when its writers misreport the names of book publishers and songwriters, but will not correct repeated errors by its star columnist, James. M. Wall when his errors help portray Israel as an intransigent aggressor nation.

Signing a petition along with a few dozen others is one thing, but taking resonsibility for the information your magazine provides about the Arab-Israeli conflict is another matter.

Posted by CameraBlog at December 15, 2006 12:58 PM

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