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What the Bishops have done and said:

"No peace without justice . . . ."

For the past two decades, at least, there has been a notable tendency for the so-called "mainline" Protestant denominations - such as the Episcopal Church of the United States (and its Anglican counterpart in England), the Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ, and others - to identify the Palestinians as the victims of the Mideast conflict, and Israel as the aggressor. This tendency is not always - in fact it is seldom - stated as bluntly as this.

But the argument that the "illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories" is the fundamental cause of the "plight of the Palestinians" - and sometimes of the entire conflict in the Middle East - has acquired official status among many Protestant leaders.

" . . . our Palestinian brothers and sisters . . . ."

Church leaders, and the secular liberals who agree with them, denounce Israel's "expansion into Palestinian territories," its "oppression" and "humiliation" of the Palestinians, its "excessive" use of military force against terrorist outposts in West Bank and Gaza communities, and who argue that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is as culpable in the current tragic violence as is PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. A recent PBS Frontline special on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict sometimes made the entire phenomenon seem like nothing more than a grudge match between Sharon and Arafat: two old men who had outlived their time.

Acting on the basis of a similar understanding, the three Episcopal bishops - Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE; Suffragan Bishop Barbara Harris; and Bishop Roy F. Cederholm, Jr. - staged a demonstration outside of the Israeli consulate in Boston on October 30, 2001, holding signs proclaiming a "Muslim-Christian Alliance" and denouncing "Destruction in Bethlehem". (The Israeli Defense Force had recently entered Bethlehem in search of the assassins of an Israeli cabinet minister.) At the time, Bishop Shaw explained his understanding of what has been going on in the Middle East: "Today and every day we stand with our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are suffering violence in West Bank towns occupied by Israeli forces. There can be no peace without justice, and the Palestinian people are victims of an injustice that cannot be allowed to continue" (Boston Globe, 31 October 2001, B1).

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Bishop Shaw with Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and President of the Palestinian National Authority.
Bishop Thomas Shaw with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.


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