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January 08, 1993 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-01-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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New York (JTA) — Chris-
tian, Muslim and Jewish re-
ligious leaders returned re-
cently from a first-ever joint
trip to the Middle East con-
fident that they gained a
newly nuanced understan-
ding of complexities in-
volved in the peace process.
According to Al Vorspan,
the recently retired senior
vice president of the Reform
movement's Union of
American Hebrew Con-
gregations, "We knew each
other before from public
stereotypes and now we
know each other personally.
Before this trip I would not
have made the distinctions I
make now," he said.
The trip to the Middle
East, which took place Nov.
29-Dec. 11, was organized by
the U.S. Interreligious
Committee for Peace in the
Middle East, a Philadelphia-
based group.
The 24 participants visited
Israel, the West Bank,
Egypt, Jordan and Syria,
meeting with government
officials at each stop.
Their reactions to Israel's
recent expulsion of 415
Muslim fundamentalists
reflected their new-found in-
sight into the complexities of
the Middle East.
The National Council of
Churches' General Secre-
tary the Rev. Joan Brown
Campbell and its Middle
East director, Dale Bishop,
both participated in the 24-
member delegation.
The NCC is an umbrella
group representing 32 Prot-
estant and Orthodox church
denominations.
In a letter to negotiators in
the peace talks and to Presi-
dent-elect Bill Clinton short-
ly after returning, the NCC
called on the Palestine Lib-
eration Organization to
"unambiguously condemn
violent acts by extremists,"
and on Israel to "revoke its
expulsion of Palestinians."
The NCC letter also urged
direct talks between Israel
and the PLO, "thus stripp-
ing away the facade of non-
recognition."
The letter contained
understanding of the Israeli
desire for official Palestinian
condemnation of the
violence, reflecting a bal-
ance that had not generally
found its way into NCC
statements about Arab-
Israeli problems in the past.
"The trip made a big dif-
ference in how we'll ap-
proach" a statement about

-sli11.11111111111110111

11104.

the deportations, said the
Rev. Campbell several days
before issuing the letter. She
pledged that it would not be
"a knee-jerk reaction to
headlines."
"NCC's was a very bal-
anced announcement," said
Avi Granot, the Israeli Em-
bassy's counselor for church
affairs.
He met with represent-
atives of several church
groups before they issued
statements.
"We appreciate that they
are committed and concern-
ed about the peace process. It
is not the criticism we are
concerned with, but it is
when the criticism is off-
balance that we start to
worry about it," said Mr.
Granot.
Rabbi A. James Rudin, di-
rector of interreligious af-
fairs at the American Jewish
Committee, also applauded

14

-•

The NCC is an
umbrella group.

the fairness of the NCC
letter.
"There is some clear at-
tempt at balance," he said.
"It's encouraging to see this,
despite the sharp attacks
against Israel."
This country's 57 million
Catholics were represented
on the trip by the Rev. Ray-
mond Helmick, who was
sent by the U.S. Catholic
Conference's Office of Inter-
national Justice and Peace.
On his return, the Rev.
Helmick said that "Hamas
and rejectionist factions are
interested in preventing set-
tlement.
"We need to develop a pro-
cess in which the parties can
express their common, prac-
tical opposition to the
violence. It's in the interests
of the U.S. to promote that."
The U.S. Catholic Con-
ference opted not to issue an
official statement about the
expulsions, but referred to
the issue in a general fash-
ion in the Christmas state-
ment of Archbishop John
Roach, chair of the Catholic
Conference's Committee on
International Policy.
"We earnestly pray for a
speedy and just conclusion to
the Arab-Israeli peace
talks," said his statement.
"With close ties to the Jew-
ish community and with our
Arab Christian brothers."

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