Across the United States, and much of the world, eyes are trained on the US presidential campaigns and forthcoming election. The web-sphere is rife with the latest gaffes, “reveals," polling data, competing opinions on the best and worst candidates. Engaging the non-stop media and opposing energies the election wears us down and tempts us to withdraw completely.
With the election in our sights, we at Millennial Voices for Peace want to take a longer view to engaging our future president, whoever that will be. During October, we have been promoting an advocacy opportunity through Churches for Middle East Peace: a letter to the presidential candidates urging them to be proactive for peace, recognizing the role of the US in perpetuating—and ending—the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
We’re discussing a few excerpts from the letter to highlight why this issue is important to us and the next American president.
"We ask that during the coming political campaign that you pledge, if elected, to take urgent and vigorous new steps to seek creative political solutions that will foster a just and lasting peace."
We want leaders who will engage complexity, who understand that the current situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories is not sustainable. Rather, it is harmful for all involved. We want an American president who not only recognizes her or his role in mediation, but values the political participation and representation of Israelis and Palestinians.
"We lament the violence perpetrated by both Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides have engaged in incitement. Both sides live in mutual fear.... This status quo is clearly contrary to global security interests, including those of the U.S., and a source of violent extremism throughout the region. In addition, the daily indignities and stresses of the Occupation foster human suffering and have led to emigration from the small but vital Palestinian Christian community."
Suicide bombs, stabbings, shelling of civilian areas, and violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians: all forms of violence must receive the same resounding condemnation from an American president. It is important for the next president to recognize the harms of the Occupation, but Millennial Voices for Peace also believes that it is crucial for American Christians to support an end to the Occupation. The Occupation perpetuates fear and discrimination, and Palestinian Christians are among those who combat its institutionalized violence.
"We hope you will speak forcefully and provide the leadership of your office, if elected, to call openly for an end of violence and settlement expansion....to support…the end of practices under the Occupation that result in major human rights abuses, such as home demolitions, systematic land seizures, travel restrictions, the blockade of Gaza, and indefinite administrative detention, including detention of persons under eighteen."
Not all violence is expressed through weapons. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict wages across society, in housing, education, infrastructure, and juvenile detention, a cause championed by DCI-Palestine’s No Way to Treat a Child campaign. An American president who seeks peaceful and just solutions must recognize all elements to the conflict, not just those represented by militaries or ambassadors.
“We pray that, as you look forward to the heavy burdens of leadership, you will find the wisdom, strength and persistence to seek new avenues toward a just and durable peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
As we consider how to leverage our votes in the coming weeks, we can also consider that--no matter who takes office--the next president shoulders immense responsibilities. No matter who takes office, the president’s office needs our intercession and deserves our input. Multiple American presidents have striven for the goal of a “just and durable peace” for Israelis and Palestinians. By raising our voices in this election year and during the next four years, we hope that vision is further grounded in reality.