During the past week, the world has been witness to a frightening drama unfolding in the Middle East, as Israel and Hezbollah are locked in an escalating conflict that neither party seems willing or able to diminish, and at the same time Israel’s operation in Gaza is creating a humanitarian catastrophe.
Each time such a situation comes to pass, we at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship are reminded of the Buddha’s injunction that “hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love.”
These words are easy enough to say for those of us outside the conflict zone. We realize that life must feel quite different right now in a place like Beirut, Lebanon, where men, women, and children are under fire by Israeli bombers. Just today--July 19th--news sources report anywhere from 19 to 49 civilians have been killed by these air strikes, and more than 200 have died in the past week. And we empathize with the citizens of Haifa, Israel, and in other areas along the northern border where at least 30 people have been killed. There, wise words from any religious tradition may seem irrelevant with rockets landing in backyards and people injured or dying. For those of us who have never lived in a war zone, it may be impossible to realize just how stressful such a situation is and how easy to succumb to the practice of retaliation in the name of protecting one’s own people.
Still, it is up to all of us in the global community to speak clearly for sanity amidst this insane march toward destruction, and to hold up the truth that violence only perpetuates more violence. And we must take actions to support this belief and to support our sisters and brothers in Israel, Lebanon, Gaza, and the entire Middle East.
One action that those living in the U.S. can take is to contact the Bush Administration and Congress to demand that the U.S. take immediate action to help the conflicting parties declare a ceasefire and begin negotiations. We can also organize delegations of peace advocates to Congressional offices. Call the White House (202-456-1111), the U.S. State Department (202-647-4000), and the Congressional switchboard (202-224-3121), which will connect you to your Congressmembers' offices,
Click here for more information on actions you can take to support peace in the Middle East:
The Buddhist Peace Fellowship shares the perspective of the United for Peace and Justice coalition: “Just as in Iraq, there is no military solution to the current crisis. The only real and lasting solution is to resolve the source of conflict by negotiating a resolution based on freedom from occupation and equal rights for all as enshrined in international law… The Lebanese government is imploring the international community to press for an immediate ceasefire, for United Nations intervention, a negotiated settlement and release of all prisoners -- Palestinian, Lebanese and Israeli.” We at BPF and in the peace movement can and should add our voices to this call, as soon as possible. We join in making this call with friends from groups of all religious traditions, including Jewish Voice for Peace, Tikkun, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
We recognize that this is a complex issue, and the current situation has widening circles of involvement beyond Israel and Lebanon, with the U.S., Iran, and Syria all implicated. The weapons and financial aid these countries provide to Israel and Hezbollah fuel the fire of this conflict. All parties must be encouraged to see the utter futility of this approach.
BPF calls upon the U.S., as a world leader, to use its diplomatic influence to immediately help bring these parties together in dialogue and to make it clear that the current violent methods are unacceptable. We encourage the U.S. to support the efforts of the United Nations and the European Union to broker a cease fire.
While Hezbollah's attacks on Israel are unconscionable and we should certainly speak out against them, those of us who are Americans must recognize that we have some accountability for the acts of the Israeli defense force. Israel is our close ally, and Israel's weapons have been supplied by the U.S. government. The U.S. Senate has just passed a resolution endorsing Israel's military actions in Lebanon. So it is all the more incumbent upon us to raise our voices. Those of us who live in the U.S. need to pressure our government to withhold financial and military support from Israel when it violates international law by acts of massive retaliation such as the current offensives, and refuses to negotiate with the party the Palestinian people have elected.
Homeland security, in every sense of the word and for all people of the earth, depends on upon our participation in this process.