Follow-up to Church leaders meeting with Secretary of State Powell on June 7

From the The Episcopal News Service
A letter to PM Sharon and President Arafat
Episcopal PB Griswold's June 21 letter to Secretary Powell

Church Leaders Plea to Prime Minister Sharon and President Arafat

June 2001

We write to both of you today to express our support for the current efforts to bring a cessation of violence in Israel, the West Bank/ East Jerusalem and Gaza. We are deeply disturbed by the loss of life and injuries sustained during these past months. We plead for continuing public statements and actions from both of you to end the bloodshed and urge you to act and speak in the spirit of reconciliation.

The end of violence must mean from you, Mr. Prime Minister, the end of disproportional responses to the violence, especially the use of attack helicopters and F-16 fighter jets. Further, we call upon you to end the destruction of Palestinian homes and trees and the restriction of travel between Palestinian towns. Such practices make life insufferable for the Palestinian people. Far from preventing violence, these measures incite it. We further implore you to end the single most provocative behavior of all, settlement building and expansion, including "natural" expansion and the building of settler roads. Finally, we urge you to contain provocative settler behavior. We believe you have the greater number of options allowing you to do more to end the violence than you have chosen so far. We call upon you to rise to the mantle of courageous leadership for peace and security that your current position demands.

The end of violence must mean from you, President Arafat, the strongest measures within the confines of human rights, to contain those who encourage and resort to terrorist actions such as suicide bombings and the use of mortars to attack civilians. While we understand the rage of the Palestinian people, we are also aware that many Jews live in fear of these terror tactics as well as the inflammatory rhetoric that comes from some Arab sources. These heinous acts of violence are counter productive to any hope for a just peace. We understand the right of the Palestinians to resist the Occupation, but implore you to emulate other great leaders who used nonviolent action to bring about change. We know such leadership requires great courage and statesmanship and see in you the qualities necessary to succeed. We are preparing to join those who will accompany the Palestinian people during the months ahead, including Israeli Jews, physically and spiritually, people from many places who stand for an end to the Occupation but who also embrace the principle of non-violence.

Our plea to stop the violence is but a cry to stop the suffering and end the siege of fear and anger that now grips both of your communities. No good purpose is served by continuing this vicious cycle that dehumanizes your people as well as the other. We look to you both to take courageous steps forward to negotiations that can promptly establish a sovereign Palestine free from Occupation and an Israel at peace and security with her neighbors.

Bishop Dimitrios of XanthosEcumenical Officer
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

The Very Rev. Brother Stephen Glodek, S.M.
Catholic Conference
of Major Superiors of Mens' Institutes
and Provincial, Marianist Province of New York

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Bishop Donald J. McCoid
Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod
Chair, Conference of Bishops of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director
Church World Service

Bishop William Oden
Immediate Past President
The Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

___________letter from PB Griswold to Powell follows____________


June 21, 2001

The Honorable Colin Powell
Secretary Of State
Department of State
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:
I write with my deep thanks and to convey to you the gratitude of my colleagues for the opportunity of our recent meeting with you. We are grateful for your hospitality, candor and willingness to listen to our concerns. The representation of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Protestant voices in the meeting, as well as those who signed the letter, was an extraordinary demonstration of a deep common concern. We hope we have established the beginning of a helpful conversation with you.

As a consequence of our meeting and in response to your request, we will shortly issue a statement in support of an end to the violence from both sides. We want to support your careful efforts on this agonizing issue while carefully articulating what we believe our faith requires of us. We hope we might be able to continue to share with you the perspectives informed by our faith as we work to promote an Israel at peace with security and a Palestinian state free from Occupation.

There are particular moments when we are acutely aware that our current actions will later have to stand the judgement of history. Our government's largely uncritical support for Israel will mark this as one of those moments. While we adamantly support Israel's right to exist and to be accepted by its neighboring states, we support with equal vigor a just outcome for the Palestinians who are now the victims of Israeli Occupation. Our government's role in rectifying the Occupation will test its resolve to end this conflict that cripples the region's development and threatens its future.

I would like here to offer some reflections on our conversation. You noted that peace was almost achieved with the offer of 95 percent of the territories to be given over to the Palestinians, including parts of Jerusalem. I share the disappointment in the outcome of the negotiations. However, we know that had Mr. Arafat accepted the terms offered by President Clinton and P.M. Barak, there would have been a violent rejection by the Palestinian people. Many of us familiar with the peace effort felt that the Camp David summit was convened prematurely and without adequate preparation of either the Israeli or Palestinian publics. There was a belief among a number of Middle East watchers that Israel and the United States thought the Palestinians would be more ready to agree to deep compromises to UN resolution 242 than was just or fair to expect.

You observed quite rightly that some Israelis point to the collapse of the negotiations to "prove" that the Palestinians really only want to "push Israel into the sea." Our careful listening gives us confidence that the majority of Palestinians have recognized the state of Israel as established by UNSC resolutions 181 and 242. We have also heard many Palestinians say they believe Oslo was an attempt by Israel and the United States to gain additional Palestinian land, and strait jacket the Palestinians into a surrogate, second-class state totally dependent on Israel. We hope both sides can set aside blame and motive for the collapse of the peace talks. Neither side was prepared to compromise as much as the other expected, and therefore the process needs to continue.

We are heartened by your expression of support for the Mitchell Report and the emerging cease fire. We urge your full support of the committee's caution that this security cooperation cannot for long co-exist with settlement activity.

I must add a note of disappointment that President Bush will receive Prime Minister Sharon but not extend an invitation to President Arafat to visit. I fear this decision will be interpreted as confirmation of a further shifting U.S. bias in favor of Israel which can only undermine U.S. credibility in the peace process. I urge the Administration to invite President Arafat for a meeting as soon as possible in order to demonstrate U.S. resolve to treat both sides fairly.

Mr. Secretary, I am most particularly grateful for your comment that none of us can give in to discouragement and despair but rather, we must hold up hope. We give thanks that you, given the burdens you carry, are imbued with this quality of mind and heart. I am also grateful for your own faithfulness which has been made manifest over many years of public service. Please know that we are pledged to walk this difficult road of peacemaking to which Christ calls us. I look forward to our continuing conversation.
Sincerely yours,
Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate