Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Osama, Obama, and my cousin Daryl

Hello all,
As my greatest hope for my blog is to share the things I've been thinking about - which are some times humorous, some times exciting, some times meditative, etc. So, I thought for today's entry, I would share a couple letters from my cousin J. Daryl Byler who is living with his wife in Jordan working on many things, but ultimately peace in the Middle East. One of the greatest things I've learned from Daryl and people like Daryl is that stories always have two sides and the more we tend to polarize ourselves towards one side- liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, superpower or terrorist - the more we will find ourselves swimming in ignorance.
Tonight for instance, I was watching the news and saw a clip of Osama Bin Laden's final slams against Bush and call for Moslems to attack Israel. Everyone in America knows that Osama Bin Laden is "the bad guy," but I found myself thinking, "huh, I can really relate with what he's saying here. Israel is basically slaughtering a cornered group of scared people on the grounds that there are 'terrorists' in the mix. And yet, considering the pain, suffering, and loss these guys have gone through, who can blame them?" Actually, that's not quite true. Of course, I wouldn't advocate a holy war like Bin Laden is doing, but I do feel that Israel's recent attack is unjustified and horribly unethical. Anyway, I was very impressed when I found out that Daryl is going on a liquid fast (he will not eat any solid food) until Israel ceases their attack. I'll let you read his words though- the first is a short email I received from him today, followed by a longer letter that he wrote President Obama a couple days ago.
This is the 11th day of my fast. We are increasingly concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The death toll crossed 1,000 today. If you have friends who would be willing to call their Senators' or Representative's office that would be great. This is a politically charged issue to be sure. I did an open letter to President-Elect Obama on the blog yesterday that summarizes what I think U.S. political leaders need to understand about this issue. It's fine to post my letter if you like. Also, MCC also has a Gaza Crisis section on its homepage with a link to "Palestine Update" -- a daily blog written by MCC Palestine staff.
Warm regards,Daryl

You can find more news and Daryl's letter to the Israeli Prime Minister at:
January 13, 2009
Dear President-Elect Obama:

My prayers are with you as you prepare to assume the Office of President of the United States one week from today. May God give you wisdom and courage for the many difficult challenges you will face. Obviously, one immediate foreign policy test will be the current military and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. I am a U.S. citizen working for a Christian humanitarian organization in the Middle East. The state of affairs in Gaza is urgent. It has immense implications for the region and for the United States. Today is the 10th day of my fast for peace, which I began at the time of Israel’s ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. I plan to continue fasting until this unconscionable situation ends. Hopefully, by the day you take office, a ceasefire will be in place. But even if it is, there will be much work ahead to assure a just and durable peace that will lead to long-term security for both Palestinians and Israelis. You campaigned on a theme of change. I plead with you to change the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
For too long, the United States has looked at this issue primarily through the lens of terrorism – specifically, that Israel is the victim of Palestinian terrorism. For example, with the current crisis in Gaza, the Bush administration has taken the position that Hamas is the sole provocateur and that, if Hamas would only stop firing rockets into southern Israel, peace would prevail and all would be well. Israelis should not need to live in fear. Acts of terror by Hamas and other groups are unacceptable and should be soundly condemned. Still, Hamas is not the whole picture or the sole problem. Ironically, Israel once supported the development of Hamas as a counter-balance to the PLO.

It is time to re-frame this issue. I encourage you to read American-Israeli author Jeff Halper’s book, An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel. One cannot understand the current reality in Gaza without understanding Israel’s 18-month-long suffocating economic siege of Gaza; or Israel’s 42-year-long occupation of the West Bank; or Israel’s dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 and again in 1967; or Israel’s ongoing violation of international law by constructing settlements, by-pass roads and a massive separation wall on Palestinian lands. And yet, the United States seemingly turns a blind eye and continues to heap praise on Israel as a shining democracy.

I beg you to take a fresh look at this issue and chart a new course. The current approach is not working. It is making Israelis less secure. It is causing Palestinians to suffer. And it is badly damaging the U.S. image throughout this region. Failure to constructively resolve this issue will make it impossible to address other issues in the region that I know are important to you -- Iraq and U.S.-Iranian relations. Of course the United States will remain a strong friend of Israel. But what good friend fails to challenge behaviors that are self-destructive and harmful to others?There will be powerful forces that seek to stop you from altering the U.S. approach to this conflict. I pray that God will give you courage to do so in spite of strong opposition.
J. Daryl BylerAmman, Jordan

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