As Peace Promoters, let’s not be Partisans.

The following was my response to the immediate preceding post, about the Palestinian Authority.   The North American promoters held a telephone conference and shortly thereafter I published the following response in an effort to avoid being partisan between the people of Israel and Palestine.  The point is made here:

22 June 2010

Memorial of St. Thomas More

Thank you, Sr. Farnan, for the opportunity to participate in the telephone conference on June 16th on behalf of many of the lay people in the Western Dominican Province.  It is important that we engage issues as men and women of good will in the hope of improving our dialog.  Due to the fact that there may be a lack of clarity on my part on that date, it is proper to carefully articulate my position on the Israel-Palestine matter.  It is helpful to those interested in that perspective and in an effort to further any reasonable debate.  I am hopeful this will help us foster community by welcoming the diversity of viewpoints held by the promoters.

Both sides of this conflict can legitimately claim atrocities, terrorist acts, breaches of law, etc., inflicted upon them by the other party.   Any such claim depends upon the precise time over the last 60+ years that is being studied and focused on.  Nevertheless, the intransigence of the Palestinian leadership’s refusal (and in turn the leadership’s propaganda) to accept Israel as a nation leads to violence, not peace.  Further, Israel must live up to its promise as a modern constitutional republic to uphold and bear the responsibility under law for the right to life, liberty, and property of its citizens and neighbors.  Both parties to this conflict need to face problems constructively and with eager hearts.  Neither party is innocent.  The leadership of both Israel and Palestine—as well as other nations that surround that area—must uphold and recognize the dignity of each person that arises from nature and ultimately from God.   Violent action and like reaction over time has spilled too much blood!  This is not a test of balance to determine which party or nation has committed the greatest number or kind of atrocities, as in missile lobbing, terrorist attacks, bus bombs, violence, helicopter attacks, raids, and the like; but this effort must be based on what can be done to establish peace and justice in truth. 

It starts with all parties and states to recognize the dignity of each human person and to establish respective governments that recognize and uphold human rights insofar as possible in this world.  The continued history of endless war and reprisal is intolerable.   The governments and leadership of these peoples should not carry on the most recent ethnic or political propaganda, but must “guarantee the right of each person to a human and civic culture ‘in harmony with the dignity of the human person, without distinction of race, sex, nation, religion, or social circumstances.’”  [Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, ¶ 557].  Toward that end, if peace is to thrive, any government must embrace right reason and good order.

In other words, as promoters of peace and justice, it is my hope we can carry the Gospel to all sides—not pick sides.  It is enough that we preach in whatever way possible, in whatever forum possible, by speaking to all concerned, with Gospel conviction yet in charity, that there are certain principles at law and at reason that will lead to peace, grounded on justice and firmly in truth. 

If the promoters pick one side or the other—depending upon the issue of the day—then we become unwitting activists providing cover for propaganda.   In effect, the promoters become little more than a political party.   Of course, that is not what the promoters are about!

Whenever the promoters speak with universal truth, it will touch the hearts and minds of people of good will on all sides; and the promoters should not trumpet any position but the truth.  Why should this be done?  Ideas matter, especially ideas that are grounded on truth.  Ideas can change the world.   After all, we need to look no further than our Master because His ideas, dedicated in love, changed the world.

As far as the respective governments of Israel or Palestine are concerned, the rule of law must be respected, a rule of law that recognizes and upholds every person regardless of status, that respects international borders, and that maintains right order among nations.  Such governance must recognize the rights of life, of liberty, and of property; protected and reinforced by a vigorous and free judiciary founded on a constitutional system.   Necessarily connected to such governance, is a free people, who are politically and economically free to pursue their own lives and cultures, and to reap the benefits of personal hard work and industry.   This expression of confidence in the Israeli and Palestinian people testifies to the universal truth that each man and woman is free; and should not be the subject to the whims of governmental and group ideas and forces; but on the universal truth that every person is created equal in dignity by God in nature.  These ideas will impress the minds and hearts of a free people of good will. 

It is these principles that we as promoters can demand: (1) that Israel not treat the Palestinians as objects of war, of violence, and as pawns, and (2) that the Palestinian leadership abandon its claim that Israel does not have the right to exist and the violence that accompanies that claim.   Once these peoples grasp the idea that the equality of each person is based on a law that is above every human law; then their leaders will end this long and tedious levy of war and cultural strife.

 It is toward this end that I write and petition that we not take the path of partisanship that abets the status quo of strife and the partisan organizations and committees with their hollow slogans and catchphrases; but that we demand of all parties that they act with right reason, good order, and prudence, with the object of peace.

Thanks kindly. 

In St. Dominic,

John Keenan, OPL, Lay Promoter of Peace, Justice & Care of Creation, Western Dominican Province


The Propaganda of the Palestinian Authority.

Received from a member of the North American Dominican Promoters of Peace & Justice on June 6, 2010 regarding the Palestinian Authority.  Note the use of terms of advocacy and propaganda.  The abiding concern here is that there are two sides to this story, as both the peoples of Palestine and Israel have suffered greatly.  I, for one, support taking the sides of the oppressed and downtrodden but in doing so, we must not inadvertently take sides in partisanship [Note the entry that follows]:

Besieged Gaza, Palestine


One-and-a-half years after Israeli army perpetrated a massacre upon the population of Gaza, Apartheid Israel commits another crime against partisans of Palestine in international waters.  The world is moved at the plight of Palestinians and their supporters.  All of the seven crossings between Gaza and Israel, including the Rafah Crossing—the only access Gaza has to the external world—remain hermetically sealed.

We request that the citizens of the world oppose this deadly, medieval blockade. We no longer rely on governments. The failure of the United Nations and its numerous organizations to condemn such crimes proves their complicity.   Only civil society is able to mobilize to demand the application of international law and put an end to Israel’s impunity. The intervention of civil society was effective in the late 1980s against the apartheid regime of South Africa. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have not only described Israel’s oppressive and violent control of Palestinians as Apartheid, they have also joined this call for the world’s civil society to intervene again.

We, therefore, ask people of conscience and civil society organizations to put pressure on their governments until Israel is forced to abide by international law and international humanitarian law.  Without the intervention of the international community which was effective against apartheid in South Africa, Israel will continue its war crimes and crimes against humanity, as articulated by the Goldstione report.

We call on civil society organizations worldwide to intensify the anti-Israel sanctions campaign to compel Israel to end to its aggression.

Besieged Gaza,


Signatory Organizations: 

The One Democratic State Group

University Teachers’ Association

Arab Cultural Forum

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info

Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements

International Solidarity Movement

Palestine Sailing Federation

Palestinian Association for Fishing and Maritime

Palestinian Network of Non-Governmental Organizations

Palestinian Women Committees

Progressive Students Union

Medical Relief Society

The General Society for Rehabilitation

Gaza Community Mental Health Program

General Union of Palestinian Women

Afaq Jadeeda Cultural Centre for Women and Children

Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children

Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children

Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth

Ghassan Kanfani Kindergartens

Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah

Rafah Olympia City Sisters

Al Awda Centre, Rafah

Al Awda Hospital, Jabaliya Camp

Ajyal Association, Gaza

General Union of Palestinian Syndicates

Al Karmel Centre, Nuseirat

Local Initiative, Beit Hanoun

Union of Health Work Committees

Red Crescent Society Gaza Strip

Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre

Al Awda Centre, Rafah

Protecting Minorities (Christian) in Iraq.

From Sr. Stella Goodpasture, OP

Dear Supporter,

On June 20, people across the globe observed World Refugee Day.   Two days earlier, the UN Refugee Agency announced that over 100,000 Iraqi refugees have been referred for resettlement since 2007.  Of those, a little over 50 percent have actually been resettled in a new country.

Minority rights in Iraq must be protected.

For Iraqi asylum seekers, the news is not so good. Over the past month, several European countries have deported or forcibly returned asylum seekers to Iraq, raising concerns for their safety once they return. Because of the threat returned asylum seekers face, this practice goes against established UN guidelines for the protection and treatment of asylum seekers.

Minorities are particularly vulnerable if they are forcibly returned to Iraq, as they are still threatened with targeted violence every day. In the three months between July and September 2009, Amnesty International documented the deaths of 155 minorities in attacks targeted at minorities.

Turkmen, Yazidis, Shabak, Iraqi Christians of various denominations, and other religious and ethnic minorities have a long history in Iraq.   Today, they are disproportionately driven from their homes due to violence.   In fact, while significant security gains have been made throughout Iraq since 2008, in the disputed northern territories and cities like Mosul, violence against minorities is still a daily occurrence.   Minorities have been forced to flee their homes at gunpoint.  

In attacks against the Chaldo-Assyrian Christian community in 2008 that killed 40 people, Human Rights Watch reported “graffiti in Christian neighborhoods with messages such as ‘get out or die,’ and anti-Christian messages disseminated by loudspeakers mounted on cars, threatening Christians if they did not leave.”  

Read the Human Rights Watch report on beseiged minorities under attack


The Brookings Institution estimates that only 500,000 Iraqi Christians remain in Iraq of the 1 to 1.4 million that lived there prior to 2003.   The rest have fled and now live as refugees or asylum seekers.   For the religious and ethnic minorities who cannot return to Iraq, they must be resettled in new countries without fear of deportation.    In Iraq, steps must be taken to ensure minorities are protected, legally and physically.   Attacks on minorities cannot go unpunished.  

The United States must urge the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to investigate alleged human rights abuses against minorities.   Ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq must not be forced to choose between their lives and their homes.

Sincerely, Lauren Jenkins

EPIC: Promoting a Free & Secure Iraq 

900 Second Street NE, Suite 216
Washington, DC 20002