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Sunday, July 25, 2004

The Worst, A New Low, Despiscable, Contemptible . . .

All the appropriate words and phrases have been used up, overused, have no meaning anymore. So what do you do when this appears in your local paper? under the title, Dare to dream of peace in Israel, no less.

Ever notice how the most vicious attacks on Jews appear these days in and around the word "peace"?

By Annette Langley  July 24, 2004

Recent United Nations data cited in The New York Times count 3,437 Palestinians killed and 33,776 wounded since renewal of violence in 2000. In the same four years, more than 864 Israelis also have died, and 6,399 have been wounded.

Both sides nourish and escalate ancient and new hatreds daily in a vastly uneven conflict. In half a century of violence, it's hard to conceive that there can be a single family that has not been touched. The crisis is now extremely personal and complex.

It was against this bleak political backdrop that Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi, an elder of the Jewish Renewal Movement and a religious studies professor at Naropa University, and Imam Ibrahim Kazarooni of the Islamic Center of Ahl Al-Beit in Denver presented "Peace in the Middle East" on Sunday at the Chautauqua Forum Series.

While anyone would say the concept hasn't got a prayer, Boulder's favorite rabbi and the imam prayed together, not for division or separate states, but that Palestinians and Israelis would live together with each other in harmony.

The crowd was not completely sympathetic. One member of the audience called out repeatedly to Kazarooni: "Do you understand what a Jewish state means to our people?"

"Palestinians are dying four-to-one to Israelis," he said. "What does that mean? There is no answer in that."

Kazarooni does not speak lightly. He began religious studies in Najaf, Iraq, where he was born. After being repeatedly imprisoned and tortured for his beliefs by the Baathist regime that killed his brother, uncle and cousin, he fled the country at age 15.

Subsequently, he lived and traveled throughout the Middle East, continuing theological studies in Iran. His journeys took him to England and Canada. He holds a degree in mining and petroleum engineering, and an MBA.

This experienced and educated man told us that peace could not prevail in the Middle East without trust. Without mutual confidence between the sides, winning and losing are the only options, he said. Zalman, himself a Polish Jew and a Nazi refugee, concurred.

The ensuing dialogue between the two religious leaders touched on commonalities in beliefs instead of differences, and focused on ways people rebuild their faith in each other.

The rabbi and the imam ironed out a formula for rebuilding trust:

Know what the other needs. Do the little things that recognize and respect the dignity of the other. Honor the other as a divinity. Be kind. Practice these things with "patience, diligence and persistence."

These ideas may be easier to practice in the intimacy of our own families, but are they too simplistic for international situations? Among the complications for applying these principles in the Middle East, on July 17, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its foreign operations bill for 2005.

Our country's largest appropriations next year, more than 13 percent of the total, $2.56 billion, will be made to Israel. The bulk of that sum, $2.2 billion, is earmarked for military financing.

Monday's program was convened by Barry Erdman, a local psychotherapist and president of Interface, a community forum dedicated to studying the connections between spiritual and mental health. Erdman said that we all care about the conflict in the Middle East and came to the idea for the evening when he asked himself: "What can we do about it from comfortable Boulder?"

Our tax dollars provide much of the muscle sustaining this conflict, but could influence a different process. Yet at every violation in the region, our country's representatives fail to stand for peace and fail to uphold human rights, disregarding the constitutional principles we claim to live by.

The United States was among only six dissenters against 150 world powers, when on Tuesday the U.N. General Assembly voted for Israel to obey a World Court order to dismantle the wall it is building on the West Bank. Earlier this year, following targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders by Israel, the United States was silent and repeatedly failed to condemn the murders.

What are we to think when the United States leaders will not stand up and call for law? Have we the courage of our convictions?

We — each of us — are the United States. No better time exists to exert the influence each of us can wield — some more than others — than in these months prior to November.

Real change, the kind of heart change that Zalman and Kazarooni talk about, often comes to individuals only prompted by grave and serious loss. In regard to the Holocaust, we heard "never again," only to witness at least five genocides since, in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Burundi and Srebrenica.

We have suffered the losses of 9/11. What more will we have to endure as a nation, what more will we inflict on others, before we unbend, and as a nation place our principles before our economic self interest?

Can trust exist between Palestine and Israel?

Zalman says: "Allow yourself a dream."

Annette Langley lives in Boulder.


I should have known when I saw references to the UN and the NY Times right there in the first sentence. . . By the second paragraph, my blood pressure was through the roof: "a vastly uneven conflict". . .   

Would Ms. Langley suggest that Palestinians should have some nukes, to make the conflict more evenHey, give 'em state! and some nukes to go with! 

Or perhaps she would suggest that Israelis disguise themselves as religious Muslims, go into a falafel joint in the terror-tories, and blow themselves up next to  baby carriages?  

I know, how about Israelis bursting into Palestinian homes and shooting five-year-olds in the head

Then it would be a "vastly uneven conflict" no more.