The Beyond Blame Project
A Middle East Peace Initiative
"Despair is not a justifiable response to any situation. Nothing seems like it is going to change until it has, and then we soon forget that it did."
Dan Nickerson, Maine, USA
"Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field.
I'll meet you there."
Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)
"We would change the discourse from the 'for or against' model, pro-Israeli/anti-Palestinian
or pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli. This kind of inadequate and restricted thinking would be appropriate
if we were rooting for a football team, but we are not playing a game any more. "
Terry Greenblatt, director of Bat Shalom (Daughter of Peace), to the UN Security Council, May 7th, 2002
"One thing that's gratifying to me about an event like this is it brings all of these people from different cultures together to help understand the common heritage."
While the New York Times reports that "as casualties in the Middle East mount, so have the voices for each side," a third voice is emerging that refuses to support one camp over the other. This site is dedicated to those voices committed to moving beyond the blame game and fully backing both Israeli's and Palestinian's common aspirations for peace.
From a Hummus Contest for Peace! [Read the article]
Whether on their own or in coalition, the individuals and groups below are articulating balanced statements advocating for the interests of all parties in the Middle East conflict. Whether through deeds or words, they model the sense of true power, cooperation, and hope that will be necessary to bring these ongoing conflicts to a close.
It is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. For that reason the Beyond Blame Project sets its scope on the larger picture, celebrating differences of opinion about, and creative approaches towards, our common goals. This site highlights people, actions, organizations or statements that reflect the spirit of the following goals or practices:
Going beyond the "blame game" politics that squash any hope for productive discussions about the Middle East,
Backing the existence of both Israel as a Jewish nation and the Palestinian's aspirations for their own state,
Attempting to recognize but move through our anger and despair to operate from a state of generosity and hope,
Refusing to be pitted against either the Palestinian or Israeli people,
Interrupting both anti-Semitism and anti-Arab racism, in other and in themselves, and
Allying themselves with others who feel the same.
This site is for those voices who are speaking beyond the limited confines and interests of their own individual communities. There are many internal struggles going on within Jewish, Muslim & Christian Arab, and allied communities to find an accurate and moral voice on these issues. Those struggles are important, but not the subject of this site. Instead of helping a community in their time of reflection, these internal struggles once made public can play further into the blame game. Again, these internal discussions are significant, but they have a place elsewhere online.
Finally, we all feel an urge to blame. But blame is just a feeling, albeit a powerful one, often confusing us into demonizing those who may hold the same goals in common. We want to support a more sophisticated and effective approach to the horrors and heartbreak produced through this conflict. The Beyond Blame Project is not about avoiding tension, but working through our differences in a spirit of cooperation. We need to look back at our hard history, take pride in our people, and learn from everyone's mistakes. We need to accept the past, move through our desire to point fingers, and go beyond blame.
If you come across someone or something that belongs on this page, please email all relevant info to Barry Joseph at: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Interfaith Coalitions:
Chicago Jews and Palestinians:
Two Chicago area organizations, Jewish Peace Forum of Chicago & the
Palestinian American Women's Society of Chicago, worked together to create the joint statement "Jewish-Palestinian Declaration For A Just And Lasting Peace".
At the University of Washington, there is a new organization of pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students, called UDoves. Read about one of their peace vigils. Read about another college gathering at DeAnza College, in Sunnyvale, California.
International Quaker Working Party on the Israel-Palestine Conflict:
This group is composed of members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) along with Jewish and Muslim members who have traveled together to the Middle East from 11 to 30 June 2002. They set out on this journey under a strong concern for the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the rise in the level of violence, and the suffering being experienced by both peoples. Read their report.
The Eugene Middle East Peace Group:
Hummus for peace!!! This Oregon group held an event that gathered 300 Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, Christians and others to eat together, dance to live music and discuss ways to end the bloodshed under a banner proclaiming, "We refuse to be enemies." And they ate hummus. Read more in their press coverage.
Israeli - Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace :
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190 Israeli and 140 Palestinian parents, whose children were sacrificed to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have joined together in a unique partnership to advance peace, tolerance, and democracy.
Read a profile or an online interview from a visit to Washington, D.C.
Philadelphia Area Jews and Arabs for Israeli/Palestinian Peace:
Leaders from the Progressive Zionist Alliance, together with leaders from the Philadelphia Arab American Association, Philadelphia Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Philadelphia Muslim Bar Association have formed a coalition of Philadelphia Area Jews and Arabs for Israeli/Palestinian Peace. Read their petition, go to their site, or Read the article.
The Jerusalem Link :
Bat Shalom (a feminist peace organization of Israeli women) together with The
Jerusalem Center for Women (a Palestinian women's peace organization) comprise The
Jerusalem Link. "As Israeli and Palestinian women of The Jerusalem Link, we work together toward a real peace - not merely a treaty of mutual deterrence, but a culture of peace and cooperation between our peoples."
- Read their founding The Jerusalem Link Declaration or their more recent "Palestinian and Israeli Women Demand Immediate End to Occupation".
- Maha Abu-Dayyeh Shammas (Jerusalem Center for Women) and Terry Greenblatt (Bat Shalom) gave keynote presentations at A Day of Dialogue - A World of Women for World Peace.
An Ad-hoc Coalition of NYC-based Anti-racist NGOs:
The following letter was written and signed by an ad-hoc coalition of diverse New York City-based NGOs who met through the United Nation's World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). It was sent to Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson in May 2002.
The Campaign to Break the Silence:
The Campaign to Break the Silence is currently raising funds and support from across the religious spectrum for a new ad under the banner "In The Name Of God, Seek Peace And Pursue It". It was developed with major Christian leaders and will be sent out with their endorsement to others in their communities. It first ran in the New York times with over 500 signers (including 73 Rabbis and the heads of a number
of Christian denominations and organizations) on May 31st, 2002
Read their statement here.
Here is an amazing flyer from a May 11,2002 NYC rally by MERETZ USA, Hashomer Hatzair, Habonim Dror & Labor Zionist Alliance
in solidarity with The ISRAELI PEACE COALITION (phew) (not interfaith, btw, but I was not sure where to list them). Download the flyer, read the text, or view the graphic. Also, you can read their press release about the rally. Finally, here is their open letter, presented to both the Israeli Consulate and the PLO offices, as well as the speech by Moran Banai.
The MidEast Web :
MidEast Web was started by people active in Middle East dialog and peace education efforts. Their goal is to weave a world-wide web of Arabs, Jews and others who want to build a new Middle East based on coexistence and neighborly relations. Their members and staff include distinguished educators, engineers, Web designers and other professionals experienced in dialog, peace education projects and in promoting dialog and coexistence using the Internet.
The Democratic Socialists of America:
The Democratic Socialists of America have issued a statement to "reaffirm its long-standing support for the rights of self-determination of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, and the right of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to live in peace, each within their own state, with secure and recognized borders." Read the rest of the statement.
National Coalition Building Institute:
The National Coalition Building Institute, amongst other things, trains prejudice reduction leaders on 65 college campuses. Here is a beautiful report from a training in which Jewish and Arab students were able to hear each other, for perhaps the first time.
Tikkun magazine is both a magazine and a movement. Led by Rabbi Michael Lerner, his magazine, and the development of something new called the Tikkun community, have been a tireless advocate for Israel and Palestinians, as well as critics of Israeli's human rights abuses and Palestinian's use of violence.
Read the copy of their newspaper ad | Flyer: Word Format | PDF Format | Statement on 5.7.02 Suicide Bombing | City Council or Board of Supervisors Resolution
The Campaign to Break the Silence:
The Campaign to Break the Silence is a loose network of more than 1200 US Jews, including more than 120 rabbis, who have agreed on a statement about making peace between Israel and an emerging Palestinian state.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation:
The FOR, described as the the Largest, Oldest Interfaith Peace Organization in the United States, issued one of the first statements that inspired this site. We lost it, but here is a more recent statement. Check out their site and read their editorial about the Israeli/Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace who are described elsewhere on this site .
Brit Tzedek V'Shalom --A Covenant of Justice and Peace:
This is the latest additional to the Jewish U.S. peace movement: "Brit Tzedek v'Shalom is a U.S. Jewish organization working toward a just, viable and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. As a Jewish organization, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom is deeply committed to the well-being of Israel and all of its neighbors. We are guided by the mitzvah, or obligation, rooted in both secular and religious Jewish traditions, to pursue peace and justice."
Read their founding principles.
Rabbis For Human Rights:
An Israeli organization of... you guessed it... Rabbis for Human Rights. Read their statement on the current situation.
Rabbinical and Cantorial Students for a Just Peace:
This is a leaflet from an ad-hoc group that came together for the large April, 2002, pro-Israel rally in D.C.
International Peace Camp :
The International Peace Camp is a project of Tamera , which they describe as a "peace project in Southern Portugal, a cooperative of workers for a future worth living." Read their plan for the camp, designed to bring together Israeli and Palestinian youth here and here. I must say, as a Jew I find much of their analysis highly problematic, defended in their assertion that "It can be difficult to not offer such a one-sided judgment but in this case it is necessary." However, as an example of one committed to supporting Jewish and Palestinian youth the best they can figure out, it is useful to include their attempt, both for where it succeeds in moving Beyond Blame as well as where it falls short.
The Democratic Governors Association :
While there aren't many elected officials saying anything we can post on this site, we offer the following in the hope that doing so might encouraging them in the right direction. The following statement is from the Democratic Governors Association on the Middle East which, in at least one line, offers support for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Inspiring words from Jesse Jackson. "Instead of comparing and measuring wounds, we
should aid in healing them. Rather than
concentrating on the failures of war, we should
focus on the possibilities of peace."
My Letters to the New York Times advocating for coverage of this third voice.
Letters to a Rabbi: from a Jewish Buddhist to her Rabbi in New York City.
A statement from a 14-year old Muslim girl in Missouri.
An article from Alternet by a Jew struggling to support both sides.
Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group
This remarkable California group, approaching its tenth year, has been remarkably active. They report that "after 122 meetings and nine years, we have moved from caution to integrity, from alienation to familiarity, from
ignorance to understanding, from confrontation to collaboration." But this group is active outside their living rooms as well: read their ongoing list of achievements at their web site. Their frequent email updates have played a larger role in the material collected for this site.
University of California, Berkeley:
"Salaam Shalom is a group that aims to build peaceful relations between Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs, and Jews on campus. 'People say dialogue is easy, but it's not easy to tear your soul inside out,' says group member Judy Gussman."
The NY Dialogue Project:
The New York City Dialogue Project brings together adult Palestinians, Jews/Israelis, and interested others (Christian, Muslim, humanists, secularists etc.)for conversation and learning about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from each other's perspective. Read a report about their members gathering to observe prayer services in each other's sacred places, go to their web site, or read an article about them.
They are called Jewish Arab Dialogues in Atlanta. Read an article about their Tapestry project.
A San Diego group
This San Diego group represents Arab-Americans, Palestinian- and Israel-Americans, and American Jews, Christians, and Muslims who are members of 6 Dialogue Groups in San Diego. They "have no option but for peace, no agenda but speaking out for peace; no strategy except working towards peace." One of their dialogue groups was started two years ago by Doris Bittar and James Rauch, an interfaith North Park couple; an article about this dialogue group appears on their website.
A new Austin group, Dialogue for Peace, joins two other Texas Dialogues -- the Tri-faith Dialogue and the Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue (both in San Antionio).
This is a small story about Starhawk, a leader in alternative spirituality communities, working in Nablus to bridge gaps between Israeli Soldiers and the residents in Nablus.
This is a report entitled "Peace is around the corner" about a joint Palestinian and Israeli peace walk organized by a Vipasana meditation group in Israel. Frankly, I have no idea what that means exactly, but this is a wonderful piece about this woman's encounter with an angry Palestinian woman and the transformation that took place between them.
An awesome poem from a flyer created in Amsterdam by the Committee for Rational Solutions in Israel and Palestine.
Oppositional Stanford University protestors find common ground and merge to sing peace songs. Really! View the photo.
A story about a Zionist and a Pro-Palestinian activist seeking common ground on a New York City subway.
FILM/ VIDEO/ TV
Justine Shapiro and B.Z. Goldberg, with Carlos Bolado, produced PROMISES, the Academy Award nominated Best Documentary about Palestinian and Jewish youth around Jerusalem -- the difficulties and possibilities of them meeting face-to-face to begin changing their relationships. Go to their web site.
IN THE PRESS
Activists: Peace for Arabs and Jews
Leaders from the Jewish, Arab, and Muslim communities in Philadelphia have formed a coalition of Philadelphia Area Jews and Arabs for Israeli/Palestinian Peace. Read the article.
Diverse views, one quest: end of Mideast fighting
"UDoves, a University of Washington organization of pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students, held a peace vigil yesterday at the university's Red Square. About 40 people watched their candles flicker as names were read of some of those who have died since September 2000." Read the article.
Student alliance builds bridges among faiths --
UOP group hosts Palestinian-Israeli Awareness Week
"When you pick a side and have strong feelings, all it does is alienate people. Talking rationally will always get you further." Read the article.
Talking With 'The Enemy' -- Fledgling Jewish-Arab dialogue struggles through intifada's violent reality.
"At a recent session, in the back room of a Brooklyn Middle Eastern restaurant, a small group of Jews, Muslims and Christians, including Israelis and Palestinians, engaged in one of today's thorniest - and most elusive - endeavors: talking to 'the enemy.'"Read the article.
S.F. class takes Mideast conflict personally --
Israeli, Palestinian girls help Lincoln High students connect human faces to suffering
"Since their first meeting two weeks ago, the girls have spent hours in the class talking about the politics of the peace process, forging a new bond and personalizing the conflict for their classmates."Read the article.
Group Dialogues Aim to Pave a Hopeful Path to Israeli-Palestinian Peace
An article about "one of several organized, grass-roots Jewish-Palestinian dialogue circles in San Diego County, whose members aim to educate each other and promote peace." Read the article.
Diversity Day aims to promote dialogue "Despite the recent escalation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, members of each culture met and engaged in cordial dialogue Monday at Piedmont High School." Read the article.
Hummus for peace! That's not the headline, but it should have been, about this wonderful Oregon collection of Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, Christians and others who gathered under a banner proclaiming, "We refuse to be enemies." Read the article.
An interesting new poll from an organization I am not familiar with finds that, "Most Americans believe that the United States needs to be even-handed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while only 22% believe it is actually doing so." Read more of their findings (from May, 2002).
The article from the Jerusalem Reporter from the protest that inspired this site. Read all about the creator of this project, who is said to be "confused". :-)
Aussie Jews Aid Muslim Immigrants:
"Jews who have become [Muslim] refugee activists are helping to break down animosities. Can't we see that sooner or later we have to learn to live together?" Read the article.
Details of how a Massachusetts peace group lobbied their congressman.
These are slogans for rallies and flyers that have actually been used. I will mention the background of the sign-holder and of the intended audience to give context to the words. For example, something a Muslim might hold amongst Arabs might not read the same when held by a Jew amongst other Jews.
Held by Jews at Rallies Supporting Israel:
"Stand By Israel And End The Occupation"
"The Real Security Of Israel Is A Two State Solution"
"I Love Israel; Let Us End All Violence"
"I love Israel and Palestine. Peace is possible"
"Coexistance requires moral courage. Pro Israel, Pro Palestine"
Held By Jews at the NYC "Salute To Israel" Parade:
"Two Peoples -Two States-One Future"
"Israeli And Palestinian Women Say: No To Violence"
And now for a cartoon:
All right, one more cartoon: