Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Response to Name Calling In Letters

Understanding; Reconciliation
Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 10:59 AM CST

For the past several years, I have read many letters to the editor pertaining to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. As I recall, most of the pro-Palestine and pro-Israel letters have focused on aggressive Israeli policies and actions toward Hamas and other Palestinians, and Israel’s right to live within safe and secure boundaries.

The exchange of views offered by Betsy Mayfield (Dec. 31) and James Eaves-Johnson (Jan. 6) suggested to me that Mayfield’s comments were, in part, directed at what she referred to as “members of Congress” who support Israel no matter what that government does, and Eaves-Johnson, who suggested that Mayfield “trades in thinly veiled anti-Semitism.” Attacking Mayfield for being anti-Semitic and, as I read him, anti-Jew, postpones a search for truth and perpetuates antagonism at the expense of seeking common ground.

I also have experienced how difficult it is to engage in civil conversation with Central Iowan Jews, Christians, Muslims and other people of goodwill on the topic of Israel and Palestine. I am reminded of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ insights in “The Home We Build Together” (pages 72-23). “Those who seek to build bridges find it difficult to make their voice heard. Eventually they give up trying, for in the current climate, the risk is great. In a polarized atmosphere, peacemakers are seen by their own side as betrayers.”

Rabbi Sacks speaks from experience, and he speaks the truth. Another great teacher, St. Paul, once wrote: “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9.) I encourage people of goodwill within Judaism, Christianity and Islam to seek understanding and reconciliation as, together, we pursue the elusive goal of peace.

Russell Melby

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