“I stand here today because I can no longer stay silent about what Israel does to Palestinians in my name as a Jew,” says Marty Levine, Former Director, Chicago-area Jewish Community Centers (JCC) (pictured above)
Chicago, IL–(ENEWSPF)–August 3, 2017. “Did you know that Gaza once had a thriving strawberry industry?” Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders posed this question to shoppers at today’s Daley Plaza Farmers’ Market in Downtown Chicago, as they participated in the American Friends Services Committee’s #GazaUnlocked campaign. This followed a brief press conference addressing Israel’s responsibility for the escalating crisis in Gaza and the violent crackdown at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“Last week, U.S.-based Jews, Muslims and Christians were banned from entering Israel to participate in an interfaith delegation in solidarity with Palestinian human rights,” said Rabbi Michael Davis of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, “so we’re engaging in Interfaith cooperation right here in the heart of Chicago.” (pictured below)
The gathering took place the week after hundreds of Chicago-area Palestinian-Americans and allies protested Israel’s violent suppression of peaceful mobilizations by Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. These were sparked by anger at the installment of “security measures” that, in the context of the ongoing military occupation of the West Bank, are meant to extend Israel’s control of the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam.
“We want our voice to be heard – what we stand for should concern all people of faith,” said Abdullah Mitchell, Executive Director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, “It is a matter both of religious freedom and of recognizing people’s basic right to exist.”
Israel’s brutal policies toward Palestinians have led to a particularly acute moment of humanitarian crisis and instability.
“Palestinian sumud, or steadfastness, forced Israel to remove the obstacles in Al-Aqsa, but it is important to note that the Occupation of the West Bank and the military blockade on Gaza are still firmly in place,” said Izabella Banka of American Muslims for Palestine, “the latest round of power cuts in Gaza announced by Israel is turning an already extreme humanitarian situation into a complete disaster.” (pictured below)
Israel is currently limiting access to electricity to four hours a day for the two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Together with a decade-long military blockade on essential goods and multiple devastating attacks on civilians, this has led the United Nations to declare that the “unlivability threshold has been passed quite a long time ago.”
“Israel’s blockade and shutoff of electricity is devastating,” said Reverend Lisa Lopez of Christ Presbyterian Church in Hanover Park, “it’s not just a faith issue, it’s a human issue and people need to speak out.”
Participants urged Chicago-area faith leaders to move beyond dialogue efforts and address the issue of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians head-on.
“I am committed to interfaith dialogue with Christians, Muslims and all other faiths. My Muslim dialogue partners tell me they are tired of interfaith dialogue where they are instructed what they may and may not say. Jews and Muslims may talk about music and the arts, religious ritual and books, cuisine and holidays….but a blanket of silence is thrown over one issue,” said Rabbi Davis, “This rule of silence is very simple. It is just two words long: “No Palestine.” It is unwritten – yet strictly enforced. ‘No Palestine.'”
“Interfaith dialogue that is predicated on excluding Palestine from the conversation reinforces the idea that violence is the result of an intractable religious conflict, as opposed to Israel’s brutality toward Palestinians as a means of maintaining total control over the land,” said Rev. Donald Wager of Friends of Sabeel – North America.
After the press conference, the group split up and approached shoppers at the Daley Plaza Farmers’ Market to educate them about the devastating impact of Israel’s blockade on Gaza’s once thriving strawberry industry, as a means of illustrating the crushing humanitarian crisis that has developed.
Participants pledged to continue working to build an interfaith voice in solidarity with Palestinian rights.
JVP-Chicago is the local branch of Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jvp.org), a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace has over 200,000 online supporters, over 60 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.
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