Women’s Division Okays Steps to Middle East Peace
Palestinian woman passing from Bethlehem to Jerusalem navigates a series of cages that form the separation barrier. Photo by Paul Jeffrey.
by YVETTE MOORE*
Directors of the Women's Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries called for comprehensive actions toward Middle East peace at their April 20-23 meeting in Stamford, Conn.
They adopted "Steps Toward a Just Peace in the Middle East" that include:
- Withdrawal of U.S. troops and U.S.-funded mercenaries from Iraq;
- Opposition to U.S. military action in Iran; and
- A demand to end to uncritical U.S. support of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian terroritories in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights.
The measure urges United Methodist Women members to study Middle East issues, reach out to families of military personnel and organize efforts to advocate for a just peace in the region.
"We're asking our membership to continue what we started in 2001 when the Women's Division urged the U.S. President to press for peace in the Middle East and in 2002 when we reaffirmed our opposition to war," said Judith Siaba, Women's Division vice president and chair of the division's Section of Christian Social Responsibility. "This is a more comprehensive resolution that provides action for the division and United Methodist Women members, especially with this summer's study of Israel and Palestine."
The measure opposes escalation of the war in Iraq and supports legislative efforts to end funding for the war while providing resources to guarantee the safety of troops as they withdraw. And it opposes U.S. military action against Iran. The action also:
- Supports an increase in funding for veterans benefits;
- Calls for the United States to provide humanitarian aid and reparations for Iraq, to close U.S. bases in Iraq, and to annul Iraqi laws and contractual obligations made under the U.S. occupation that undermine Iraqi sovereignty;
- Calls on the United States to observe the Geneva Convention, and to end the practice of torture, including systematic rape of Iraqi women by Iraqi police;
- Calls for the closing of Abu Graib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo in Cuba and release of prisoners being held without charges and without trial;
- Calls on the United States and Israel to support the clean up of unexploded cluster bombs in southern Lebanon;
- Supports United Methodist participation in peace delegations to Iran, such as those organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Before the vote, directors heard informational presentations on the Middle East from Phyllis Bennis, a fellow of the Institution for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., and author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict - A Primer, and Jenan Shafiq, a Iraqi Bedouin woman now living in Jordan who works on women's rights and social development as founder and president of al-Khuzama wah al-Nefel Safawi Women's Charity.
Ms. Bennis urged division directors to talk about Middle East peace issues with family and friends. Questions about what will happen if the United States withdraws from Iraq should not be viewed as hostile, but rather as questions asked by caring people, she said. She briefed directors on how to answer such questions.
"You remember Colin Powell's Pottery Barn analogy - `You break it you fix it'? Well that's not the right analogy," Ms. Bennis said. "Iraq is not a cup, and U.S. military troops are not crazy glue. The correct analogy is a bull in a china shop. If a bull is in a china shop, you don't let it stay there and keep on breaking up all the cups. You get the bull out the China shop and write a check for the damages."
Ms. Bennis said the U.S. Congress is not the peace movement, but rather a body governed by compromise. The peace movement's job is to present a clear call for an end to hostilities for Congress to address.
Ms. Shafiq shared what it was like growing up in a middle-class Baghdad family under the regime of Saddam Hussein and thoughts on what it will take to bring peace to Iraq now.
"Build trust by scheduling the withdrawal of U.S. forces," she said. "Dismantle the armed militias in Iraq and choose leaders that are not fanatics of any religion. Maintain diversity in political parties. Give a voice back to women who can make a very positive difference in the cause of peace and rational government."