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Palestinian Candlelight Vigil
at the Damascus Gate
Sep 14, 2001
By Rev. S. Ross Jones

15 September 2001

Last evening Gwin and I joined a Palestinian Candlelight Vigil at the Damascus Gate in mourning for the victims of the tragedy in the USA and in condemnation of all terrorism. It was very moving as hundreds processed from the Gate to the American Consulate to pray and to place our candles outside the Consulate. (Photo attached) This is at least the second such event at the Consulate (plus others elsewhere in the City, including our own Cathedral) in the last few days, and there have been newspaper ads by many Palestinian leaders expressing condolences and solidarity with America. Both are dramatic testimony to a Palestine that is often over-shadowed by the attention given to suicide bombers or the jubilant reaction of a few to the initial reports from New York/Washington.

As we from this distance watch events unfold in the USA, there are several observations that need to be made. The first is that the USA is in danger of responding too quickly and rashly. No one would imply that the perpetrators of last week’s tragedy should not face justice, but that does not mean that the USA should make matters worse with its response. We need to learn from Israel’s counter-productive military methods rather than duplicating them, otherwise we will do no more than change the names and faces of the terrorists. A government that is forced to support a US plan does not mean the people of that nation endorse it. We need to deal with terrorism, but it cannot ultimately be done against a people’s will. Israel is still learning that the hard way. (Even last night there were extensive attacks throughout the West Bank. The IDF even killed an ambulance driver taking someone to a hospital. That will never bring peace.)

Secondly, everyone here assumes that Israel/Palestine will be a deep part of whatever long-range plans are developed. The conflict here has been a major element in the polarization of the whole region, and it must be settled. American support of Israel with weapons and money has destroyed its credibility throughout the region. For months I have supported the presence of an international peace-keeping team. Now I am ready to go further than that and propose that Israel/Palestine be returned to a Protectorate status—perhaps of NATO or the UN. I am convinced the governments on both sides are a huge part of the problem, and the people themselves want to live in peace.

Thirdly, let us always beware of stereotyping a people. Not all Americans think alike. Jerry Falwell may think God arranged last week’sJerry Falwell may think God arranged last week’s tragedy because of legalized abortion, but I do not think most Americans would agree. Yet Falwell made headlines over here and someone could easily assume he spoke for America. Israelis and Palestinians both are similarly divided, and the same would probably hold true of every culture.

Finally, it is not accidental that the World Trade Center was targeted—a symbol not so much of America as of globalization and modernism. America is Exhibit A of those trends, but is not alone. Fundamentalism in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity is rising because people accurately see their old way of life being threatened (read The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong). Unfortunately that trend is not going to change. Our whole world is in the birth pangs of becoming a global community whether we like it or not, and neither terrorism nor military might will change it.

All of this is simply a plea for the United States to look for ways to empower cultures/countries to deal with terrorism and its causes rather than to bully them. Terrorism must be dealt with and justice must be meted. I share both the sadness and the anger of most Americans as we respond to perhaps the greatest act of terrorism in history. Yet we need to respond both within the context of our own Christian values and the common sense of being sensitive to those not like ourselves. One of my great comforts is that those two almost always seem to coincide.

The Very Rev. S. Ross Jones


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