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May 25, 2001
Time for Decisive Action

By Rev. Thom Saffold



Because the situation in Palestine has worsened, many American allies of the Palestinian cause want to do more than write letters, demonstrate, present programs, or send humanitarian aid. They want to do something more dramatic to stop Israeli attacks on Palestinian neighborhoods and people, with bombs and bullets, or closures and curfews, and to stop the United States from massively rewarding Israel for its brutality and protecting its occupation of Palestine.
If this describes your feelings, this call is for you.

Plans are underway to create an international citizen's peace-making force. This is an invitation to join that campaign, or to support it financially.

You have read that some governments have suggested a UN or other NGO-type peacekeeping force, but it is not happening. There was similar talk in 1992 about sending a force to war-torn Bosnia, but, again, there was no action.

In August of 1993, a thousand young Italians organized themselves and almost a thousand others from around the world to journey to Bosnia as a peace army. I was one of 54 Americans who heeded the call. That experiment in peace making helped bring the world's attention to that conflict, and led to military intervention to bring the massacres there to a halt. If we had had thousands more volunteer "peace warriors," we could have brought the fighting to an absolute end, without military intervention.

The West Bank and Gaza are much smaller than Bosnia. If we had even 500 people, trained and committed to putting ourselves in between Palestinian civilians and the Israeli army and say "In the name of humanity, STOP!" how could the Israelis resist?

An Israeli woman, Neta Golan, did that very thing to protect Palestinians from her own nation's troops and settlers, as they picked olives. As the Christian Peacemaker Teams motto says, Neta "got in the way" by putting her life on the line for true peace.

What if 500 people from the United States and other countries did the same thing as her, and as 2000 people did in Bosnia?

I teach the history of the Civil Rights campaigns of America. The Palestinian cause is as just as was the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The forces of Martin Luther King, Jr. did not cakewalk their way to the degree of freedom Black Americans now enjoy. They had to risk their lives by facing police dogs, fire hoses, billy clubs, bullets, beatings, arrests, abuse in jail, etc. In that struggle, people like Dr. King and many people most of us have never heard of put their lives on the line, not just for Black Americans in the 1960's, but for humanity, to show our species a different way of resolving conflict, the way of nonviolent direct action.

Friends, the Palestinian struggle is a Civil Rights Struggle, and just as Dr. King challenged people all across the nation to join him in places like Birmingham and Selma, the spirit of that cry is calling many of us to go to Palestine.

Imagine that the year is 1939 or 40 instead of 2001. We know that the German government is waging war against Jews. They have not yet developed their Final Solution at Wannsee, but will. We have a chance to take decisive action, even though a war wages, action that will save the Jews from their holocaust.

People like us failed then. The failure of the world to care enough about the Jewish people then created some of the very attitudes and worldview that motivate nationalistic Jews to wage war on Palestinians;they do it, they think, for their own "security."

We owe it to Israeli Jews, as well as Palestinians, to put our bodies on the line and in the name of whatever we consider holy or ethical to put an end to the fighting and provide truly democratic (people power) leadership to bring the conflict to a just conclusion. The war the Israeli government is waging is not only against Palestinians, but also against humanity and, I say, against their own faith and against their own security. If they continue along the present path, I fear, they will provoke only escalating violence.

Although this idea has been floated on this and other e-mail lists, no one has taken concrete action. I am making it a project through the Direct Action Center of Washtenaw County.

I have been in contact with Neta Golan and other Jewish Israeli and Palestinian activists who will support this campaign. Several people have already volunteered, and the Italians who helped organize the Bosnian campaign appear to be interested, as well.

Please send me your name, if you are at all interested in exploring the possibility of joining such an audacious group. If you want to send money, send it to:
2084 Pauline Blvd.
Apt. 2-B
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
and make the (tax deductible) check out to ICPJ (or Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice), and put DAC (or Direct Action Center) in the memo line.
Please respond, and spread the word!

Rev. Thom Saffold
Ann Arbor, MI

"The first step is to penetrate the clouds of deceit and distortion and learn the truth about the world, then to organize and act to change it. That's never been impossible and never been easy."-- Noam Chomsky

"We in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam [or, now, Palestine]. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible...Every [person] of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his [or her] convictions, but we must all protest."--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "A Time to Break Silence," April 4, 1967