A Difficult Decision

UPDATE: Since this decision, a separate organization, the “Middle East Task Force of Ann Arbor” has formed. This group is entirely separate from and has no ties to the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice.

At our May meeting, the Steering Committee of Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice the Steering Committee came to the difficult conclusion that we needed to suspend the work of our Middle East Task Force while we pursue mediation and other means to determine how we want to approach our Middle East work.

Though work on Middle East issues is exceptionally difficult, for many years the Middle East Task Force did important work on behalf of ICPJ. They have organized many educational events, coordinated delegations to meet with Israeli and Palestinian peace groups, and brought relief aid to Iraqis suffering under the sanctions regime. Though it has always been challenging to keep everyone working together in this area, we had a task force that strove to bring together diverse communities that often had major differences in their views.

However, beginning about two years ago, this reality began to change.  So in May the Steering Committee took the step of suspending the Task Force because it became evident that the spirit and vision of many of the members of the task force were at odds with the Steering Committee’s understanding of how we are striving to live out such core values as being an Interfaith organization that works non-violently for peace and justice.

For the past year, the Steering Committee has worked to fulfill its duties as the democratically-elected governing body for the organization by trying to find a way beyond this impasse.  We have held member forums to hear from the membership at large, clarified our core values, identified areas of interfaith common ground on Middle East peace, and laid out our vision for appropriate methods for interfaith organizing on this issue.

Rather than seeing tensions reduce, we saw a spirit of contentiousness and combativeness grow within the Task Force.  Over the last six months, we have seen many long-time members of the Task Force leave in despair due to the hostile atmosphere.

At our May meeting, we decided it was time to take a step back, to suspend the Middle East Task Force for six months while we pursue a 2-track process to determine how to approach interfaith Middle East work. Track one is a mediation process with the Middle East Task Force, and track two is to appoint a committee to recommend future directions for our Middle East programming.

We remain committed to mobilizing an interfaith voice for peace in the Middle East, in particular in Israel/Palestine.  We look forward to finding a way to move together on this issue, either through the track one mediation or the track two recommendations.

If you have questions about this process, or suggestions for how ICPJ can organize a multi-religious response to this important issue, please contact Chuck Warpehoski, the ICPJ Director, at 734-663-1870 or [email protected], or Joe Summers, President of the ICPJ Steering Committee, at [email protected].

One Response to “A Difficult Decision”

  1. Chai Montgomeryon 07 Oct 2006 at 8:00 am

    Greetings all.

    I am not an active member of the ICPJ, but my family and I have supported the group (both financially and as occasional participants at events) for many, many years, having lived in Ann Arbor for more than four decades.

    Recently, I’ve been following developments within the ICPJ around the Middle East Task force. I read this website as well as the website.

    I disagree with the steering comittee’s decision to suspend the METF. It was a mistake, and a concession to Zionists within the Beth Israel congregation. I think that mediation is key now to reinstating the Task Force, despite some members’ discomfort with the situation in in the middle east, which simply must be confronted honestly, and dispassionately (I’m referring to those who would refuse to recognize Israel’s historically “imperialist” aggression in the region, and it’s consistantly destabilizing –and genocidal– effects.

    Peace demands recognition, repentence and atonement.

    Te Task Force itself should be free to draw criticisms of Israel in its effort to make political sense of the situation. In situations like ‘Israel/Palestine’ its crucial that analysis move beyond slogans like “cease hostility on both sides” which fail to get at the roots of the hostility and are therefore unable to stop it. The Task Force should also include Arabs and Muslims, as it has in the past.

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