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Church Leaders Appeal for Cease Fire in Gaza

Washington – U.S. and global Christian leaders are calling on Israel to implement an immediate cease-fire in the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip, while U.S. Jewish groups have largely defended Israel’s military campaign.
Gaza officials say nearly 400 Palestinians have been killed, and more than 1,600 injured, in Israel’s five-day air campaign targeted to destroy the military capabilities of Gaza’s ruling Hamas political movement.
Pope Benedict XVI has called for an immediate cease-fire and said violence “must be denounced in all its forms.” The Rev. Samuel Kobia of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches said the mounting deaths “are dreadful and shameful and will achieve nothing but more deaths and suffering.”
In Washington, several groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the umbrella group Churches for Middle East Peace, have urged the White House and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to push Israel to immediately halt the attacks. White House Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Johndroe said Wednesday (Dec. 31) that Hamas must first stop firing all rockets in Israel before any cease-fire can be implemented.
“A cease-fire and humanitarian relief are indispensable initial steps on the road to a two-state solution — a secure Israel living in peace with a viable Palestinian state — with justice and peace for both peoples,” Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., wrote to Rice on behalf of the U.S. Catholic bishops.
Church groups on the ground reported a devastating humanitarian crisis as Palestinians grapple with dwindling levels of food and medical supplies. U.S. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani said the Anglican-run Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza would remain open.
“Innocent lives are being lost throughout the land we call holy, and as Christians remember the coming of the Prince of Peace, we ache for the absence of peace in the land of his birth,” Jefferts Schori said on Monday.
At the same time, U.S. Jewish groups defended Israel’s response to Hamas rockets that have been repeatedly fired into Israel, especially the border town of Sderot. “We steadfastly urge Israel to continue these operations until Hamas, the terrorist organization, is destroyed,” said Morton A. Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America.
The Rabbinical Council of America, an umbrella group of Orthodox rabbis, said `Israel has every right and obligation to respond as it has, with the force it deems appropriate and necessary to fully eliminate the terrorist threat.”
Richard S. Gordon, president of the American Jewish Congress, blamed Hamas for the death of Palestinians, who he said were placed as “human shields” near civilian locations that were used to hide weapons. “While any civilian casualties are regrettable, the culpability and responsibility for their deaths is attributable to Hamas,” he said.
By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • jestrfyl

    People who are determined to kill other people don’t care what any religious leaders say. It is a great gesture, and one that may even get some international attention. But when one person believes any other person is beneath them, unworthy of divine grace, and not even human, they believe they are justified in murder. If it is done in the name of religion, then you can understand why folks like Bill Maher are so down on any religious group.
    Sad, sad, sad
    Well, Happy Gnu Ear folks!

  • frinak

    In my opinion, The Pope and Catholic Church have very little credibility regarding this issue. Let’s not forget, its a matter of historical record that Pope Benedict XVI was a Hitler Youth; and the Catholic church stood idlely by throughout the Holocaust.

  • Henrietta22

    Israel has even bombed the passages that the Palestinians have used to get food, etc. from Egypt. Egypt won’t allow the families to escape to their country, they are just sitting ducks for bombing attacks. Appealing to their compassion doesn’t work, what will ultimately work? They are destroying every Palestinian in order to kill terrorists it seems. Will the UN step in and stop this?

  • Nate W

    So the fact that young Ratzinger, like so many other German boys his age, was pressured into the Hitler Youth (and turned himself in to the Allies the first chance he got) somehow disqualifies him, sixty years later, from taking a moral stand on anything, frinak? I’m glad that most people are more forgiving than you.
    And the extent to which the Church “stood idlely [sic] by,” and the reasons for doing so, is shrouded in mystery, but most historians of European Catholicism believe the story is much more complicated and ambiguous as I’m sure you think it is.

  • Maccabees 62

    It is no good telling Israel to stop bombing unless you get the same agreement from HAMAS, they are the ones continually breaking ceasefires – it is not reasonable to expect one without the other.
    Hamas claims to accept nothing other that the complete destruction of Israel – this attitude defies any possibility of permanent ceasefire or ceasestion of hostilities – therefor the correct prayer should be for a change of heart on HAMAS to allow all to live in harmony.
    The militant muslim belief and culture is contrary to everything we believe so they need to live and let live – they are not God just as we are not and should not try to force the hand of God.
    The passages that Israel bomb bring in far more weapons than food and aid, how else are they getting bigger and better missiles

  • frinak

    Ratzinger and his family had a choice. He and his family could have been contientious objectors, like many other Germans. However, the larger issue, is the fact that the Catholic Church chose a Hitler Youth to be the leader of Christendom. No matter what the circumstances behind Ratzinger’s affiliation with the Hitler Youth, the fact remains that he was. And, the Catholic Church seems to have no problem with this fact. This is a horrible message to send. It reopens the old wounds inflicted by the church during Hitler’s reign. The Catholic Church chose to ignore evil incarnate. There is nothing complicated about that. The church is supposed to embody “good”. Without doubt, Nazism embodies “evil”. Seems like an easy decision.

  • Nate W

    The Church is meant to embody grace and forgiveness, too, frinak, but you can’t seem to get over the fact that some kid 65 years ago got caught up in a movement that so many found so difficult to resist. Thank God that Ratzinger, and not some legalist like you, is the one who has been given the position of influence.

  • Henrietta22

    Maccabees 62, didn’t think of weapons coming in in the passages. Are they from the Egyptians? Do the Egyptians want to kill the Israelities, too?

  • Liz

    It’s interesting that the same groups that are now suddenly denouncing violence after Israel finally decided to defend her citizens were all silent for the last seven years while Hamas rained rockets down on innocent Israeli men, woman and children.

  • frinak

    Now, Nate – aren’t you capable of having a discussion without resorting to personal attacks? I’m expressing an opinion and supporting that opinion with historical fact. In return, you attack me personally.
    We’ve gotten a bit off track. My original comment was that the Pope and his Church are out of line telling Israel not to defend her security. The Vatican gave up the right to counsel the Jewish Nation when it turned a blind eye to the extermination of six million Jews. I find the Pope and his Church to be insensitive and audacious in making any statement critical of Israel’s right to security.

  • frinak

    Kudos Liz! That’s a great point!

  • nnmns

    Israel has a problem, no doubt. But the Palestinians have larger, more pressing problems; the rockets hitting Israel were killing maybe a hundredth as many Israelis as the Israeli jets and artillery kill Palestinians. And who started it? That’s a pointless discussion. It’s been tit for tat for decades. (Oh, and Israel doesn’t exactly observe cease-fires if they get their sights on a Palestinian they think caused an attack, even if he’s among a bunch of other people).
    Israel has decided they can shock and awe and kill their way out of this. It’s like their attacks on Lebanon that left hundreds of thousands or millions of mines in Lebanon for civilians to stumble over and children to find. Their immoderate use of force has not worked in the past and there’s no reason to think it will now. It creates more sworn enemies than they can kill.
    A poll showed 71% of US citizens favor our taking neither side in this yet the Israeli lobby is so strong politicians fear doing the right thing and disengaging us from this mess. We need to put Israel on its own, to protect ourselves and in hopes they would get serious about working with the Palestinians to find a way to peace. We are doing no good there.

  • Nate W

    Personal attacks, frinak? Last I checked, you’re the one who said the Pope isn’t allowed to express a moral opinion just because he somehow got caught up with the Hitler youth over 60 years ago when he was teenager; I fail to see how accusing you of legalism is any more a “personal attack” than that. And you haven’t backed up your argument with much historical fact, either. When I commented that most of the top historians of Catholicism dealing with the topic of Pius XII and the Holocaust think the issue was pretty complex and feel there’s not enough evidence to make a clear moral judgment in any direction, you didn’t respond with historical facts, you responded by expressing an unwillingness to look deeper into the facts, as if the facts don’t really matter to you if they might get in the way of making legalistic moral judgments.
    You’re going to have to try harder than that, my friend.

  • Your Name

    It doesn’t matter how many Israelis vs Palestinians get killed. Once the Palestinians commit a true act of war (shelling Israeli towns, which they did month after month and Israel just sat there waiting patiently, trying to get a cease-fire to work)… once they do an act of war, Israel has the right to go in with a mission objective of ending Hamas and ensuring the dangers to Israel are GONE. You don’t count bodies and say that just because ‘n’ number of Israelis died, thus only ‘n’ number of Palestinians may die. You allow Israel to do what it needs to do in its mission of responding to the acts of war.
    Everyone is absolutely right that Israel can’t be heavy-handed in its actions. But when you look at all the news estimates that of the hundreds of Palestinians who are killed, about 10 (maybe 20) percent are civilians — the rest are all estimated to be Hamas officials and soldiers. Now, THAT indicates that Israel is taking extraordinary pains … even the U.S. in Afganistan or Iraq had far, far worse figures than that. So I simply don’t see how Israel can be criticized — either on the justice of going after Hamas with the goal of obliterating it, or the methods by which Israel is doing it.

  • nnmns

    Well YN you ignore the fact most of the Palestinians who are suffering from Israel’s attacks had nothing to do with those attacks. And you ignore Israel’s persistent attacks on Palestinians (often described in our press as terrorists with only Israeli press releases as proof) and those who happen to be around them. So in fact neither side ceased firing.
    It’s a mess and we need to get ourselves out of it; stop supporting either side.

  • Chad05

    It’s amazing to hear some of the logic on the Israeli side.” Hamas has been firing rockets at us for years”.Israel encamps Palestinians, deprive them of their freedom, dignity and the most basic needs, never mind stealing their land all over, and expect them to do nothing about it. no country or human beings should tolerate that, nor should the Palestinians.

  • nnmns

    Yes if someone (say Canada) had taken the bulk of the land in the US and deprived us of our freedoms to travel and do business and cut our standard of living to a small fraction of theirs I dare say we’d be fighting for our freedom however we could. But of course if Palestinians do it, it’s only because they are bad people.

  • Corey Mondello

    Oh wow.
    I wonder if these Bishops contacted Rome and others in power about the child sex abuse that ran rampant in the Catholic Church for so many years?
    Corey Mondello
    Boston, Massachusetts

  • nnmns

    A very good place to get current information and actual informed comment on the Middle East is at

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    Same old, same old. Palestinians launch attacks from within their own civilian centers — a direct violation of the Geneva Conventions — and the pseudoliberal pseudoprogressive pseudointellectuals cry “Genocide!” when Israel retaliates. There IS a war to fight and win, but it is not Israelis vs Palestinians or Jews vs Muslims; the real war is between rational people and fanatics WITHIN each nation and each culture. Until that fight is won, people will keep dying, needlessly, in the meaningless fighting BETWEEN nations and cultures. There will be peace in the middle east when the rational people of the region muzzle and marginalize the fanatics within their own national and ethnic groups.
    Israel is not blameless, but no nation in the world is blameless. And as for the pseudointellectuals’ charge that Israel is an illegal state because it was created on land previously held by others, every nation was created in that manner. I am waiting for those who make this argument to announce that they are moving from America because America was formed on lands held by native populations who were nearly exterminated through genocidal programs — not the rhetorical “genocide” that the pseudointellectuals accuse Israel of committing, but the real thing.

  • Fred Goodwin

    Where was all this righteous indignation from the compassionate Christian Churches when Hamas was launching missiles from Gaza into southern Israel?
    I guess in the minds of white liberal Western Christendom, its OK for Israelis to die, but Lord help us if any Arabs die in this conflict . . .

  • Peter Clare

    There will be no ceasefire unless the US or UN begin to talk to Hamas without asking for ceasefire as a precondition, there is no trust between the two antagonists in Gaza, somewhere along the line someone has to break in to the cycle of violence to seek a solution, and quickly. Trust can only be built if people start to listen to each other

  • Nahum

    These fine princes of the church have never lived under the threat of missiles like those that have paralyzed southern Israel for years.They have never suffered months of interrupted sleep at night. They have never seen their children suffer from trauma.
    They are also apparently unaware of the persecution of Christians in Gaza.
    Their selective moral sensitivity is below contempt. When will other well meaning fools realize that the key to peace in the area is an end to Arab terror and agression? Hamas must be vanquished!

  • Your Name

    The body count is irrelevant. While Israel attempts to avoid civilian casualties (often at the expense of the safety of its own soldiers), Hamas (who were democratically elected by the Gazans) aims at centers of civilian population. No country can permit terrorists to act unchecked.
    These fine princes of the church have maintained their silence in the face of constant missile attacks against southern Israel. Their retecince regarding the persecution of Arab Christians in Gaza is equally remarkable. Where are their demands regarding the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas – or at least a visit from the Cross?
    Their selective moral sensitivity is beneath contempt. When will they and other well-meaning fools realize that peace will only come to the region when an end is put to Arab agression?
    Hamas must be totally vanquished!

  • nnmns

    Fred Godwin: “Where was all this righteous indignation from the compassionate Christian Churches when Hamas was launching missiles from Gaza into southern Israel?”
    I don’t know if they happened to say anything then or not but the level of killing was about one one hundredth what it is now. Does that impact your sensibilities at all?
    H4C, the effective difference between what our more distant ancestors did to the native Americans and what the immediate ancestors of the Israelis, and living Israelis, are doing to the Palestinians is that the Palestinians obviously have to be reckoned with. And unless you want brute force to be the default answer to all international disagreements, some other answer needs to be found.
    And I’d point out the world needs the Jewish people to survive but it doesn’t need them living in the middle of a bunch of Arabs they can’t get along with. Just possibly mass relocation is the best answer. Certainly it’s better for us to find places for those Jews in the US than to get involved in any war over there. And in the longer run it could easily be the cheapest solution.

  • nnmns

    “The body count is irrelevant.”
    To you while far more Palestinians are being killed than Israelis. Should the tables become turned I suspect it will stop being irrelevant.
    “When will they and other well-meaning fools realize that peace will only come to the region when an end is put to Arab agression? Hamas must be totally vanquished!”
    That’s a fool’s dream. When Israel makes more enemies every hour by its shelling and killing than it can kill, it’s helping Hamas more than it hurts it. It’s so easy to think you can kill your way out of a problem but barring genocide it just doesn’t seem to work. And hopefully the world won’t allow genocide. Hopefully.

  • nnmns

    Oh by the way, let’s remember each and every Palestinian is just as much a human being as each and every Israeli.
    Some people here don’t seem to realize that. Or maybe they never knew.

  • nnmns

    Report on casualties as of yesterday:

    “The number of martyrs has reached at least 500, including 87 children, and more than 2,450 have been wounded,” Moawiya Hassanein, the head of Gaza medical emergency services, told AFP.

    “The number of the dead can be much higher, since there are many martyrs and wounded in the streets, but we have not been able to get to them,” he said.

    Not everyone will agree on the term “martyrs” but many will.

  • nnmns

    Here’s an article from today’s NYT largely about conditions in one Gazan hospital. From that article:

    The casualties at Shifa on Sunday — 18 dead, hospital officials said, among a reported 30 around Gaza — were women, children and men who had been with children. One surgeon said that he had performed five amputations.

    “I don’t know what kind of weapons Israel is using,” said a nurse, Ziad Abd al Jawwad, 41, who had been working 24 hours without a break. “There is so much amputation.”


    Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian who was allowed into Gaza last week to give emergency medical aid, and who has worked in many conflict zones, said the situation was the worst he had seen.

    The hospital lacked everything, he said: monitors, anesthesia, surgical equipment, heaters and spare parts. Israeli bombing nearby blew out windows, and like the rest of Gaza, here the severely limited fuel supplies were running low.

    but an Israeli official assures us there’s no problem

    Oved Yehezkel, the Israeli cabinet secretary, said Sunday that from the information at Israel’s disposal, “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

  • jestrfyl

    This is not a new problem. There have been tensions since Joshua invaded Canaan. Even David as a youth had his famous fight with the Philistines champion (Philistia is modern Gaza for the most part). When Israel was created in ’48 I am not sure how much the needs of the current and longtime residents/citizens were taken into consideration then. That these ancient battles continue to be fought tells me that whatever consideration was given was not enough.
    Until there are greater allowances for non-Jews to play a significant role in governance and administration these battles will continue. Appealling to ancient agreements is folly at every turn. There needs to be an entirely new approach not based on any previous patterns or agreements. Without it the missles will get lobbed from one side to the other like a horrific tennis match with no possible victor.

  • eastcoastlady

    While the conflict is indeed terrible, what the AP and Al-Jazeera present have often been shown to be outright lies.
    Go to (Middle East Media Research Institute) for accurate information. can’t vouch for the website juancole listed in an earlier post…

  • nnmns

    Wikipedia has an article on MEMRI. In it you can read of their funding (a significant part is apparently from right wing sources) and claims they are biased against Arabs and defenses claiming they are not.

  • Charles Cosimano

    Why is it I’m hearing the line, “Why can’t they get along like good Christians?”
    After all, the Israeli’s are supposed to be sitting ducks that can’t shoot back, aren’t they?

  • methodistsearching

    It’s not a question of whether or not Israel has a right to protect itself. Of course they do. But exactly what are they doing here that will yield any protection?
    The use of the term “martyr” by the Palestinians to describe the dead makes it clear what their intention is. They know that their rockets will not cause the destruction of Israel. They will only cause Israel to destroy itself by engaging in these useless invasions, destroying their own standing in the world and continuing to flame Arab hatred. They’ll kill a generation of current bombers, only to give rise to the next generation. And that is exactly what Hamas wants them to do.
    Far from suprising Hamas by fighting back, Israel is acting exactly as Hamas had hoped and predicted.
    As a civilized nation, Israel is loathe to actually go in and totally wipe out every single living Palestinian in Gaza, which is just about what would be required to accomplish this goal of “deterrence”. And as other civilized nations, we are loathe to watch this happen.
    But, since no one seems to want to come up with another solution, we have the same old tired story…kill some people, look tough, get some short-term satisfaction, and sleep with your eyes open because you can never have peace.

  • cknuck

    400 dead in response to 4 dead that’s inhuman, Israel should be ashamed of itself doing the very thing it makes claim that others have done to it.

  • Henrietta22

    Nnmns and jestrfly, have you read “Under News and Politics Latest Blog Posts”—-Steve Waldman’s, “Did Israel’s Blockade of Gaza Prompt the Hama’s shelling?”
    Under post by Gerald’s comment, read it and Article 13 and Article 22 of the Palestinians Articles to Israel. Way out.

  • nnmns

    Thanks Henrietta.
    Here’s Steve’s blog and here’s the Juan Cole article Steve mentions. It’s long but eye-opening.

  • jestrfyl

    After reading both pieces I remain firm in my belief that this continues on a massive and horrible sacel the playground defense, “He hit me first”. This goes back so far that even though the authors of the peices did a fine job tracing the offenses, as they know them, they do not go back far enough. Neither side is just, neither side will “win” (in the traditional sense), and neither side is going to stop until the other stops first – and on -and on.
    Look, this politics as we have always done it will not work – it has not worked for centuries. Someone has to grow up just a bit more and try something new. Otherwise the missles will continue to fly, people will die, and the children will learn valuable lessons in murder and mayhem.
    And now b16 wants to go visit. Does this not have the making of a thriller novel/movie?
    And God said, “Behold, I make all things NEW”. We/they/somebody has to do something new, cus what’s been goin’ on ain’t workin’.

  • cknuck

    I agree jest the children will learn what the grown ups will teach, and in this case….no end to murder.

  • nnmns


  • jestrfyl

    ck, nnmns, and I agree on something – it must be a special day. It’s no major miracle, but it proof that there is hope even that even in the midst of some disagreements, there are places where we can sit together with ease and comfort.

  • cknuck

    Feels good.

  • Hossein

    US and European people pay tax and their governments give it to Israel to kill women and innocent children. Hamas was selected with Palestine nation vote. Why Israel surrounds Gaza and don’t let wounded persons receive food and drug? Isn’t Israel a occupier?? Isn’t this an unfair war? Who has equipped Israel with F16 fighter plane?
    I think Democracy and Human right is a big lie in West.

  • mohammad

    it is very hard to war against soldier that become stronger and stronger.
    but hamas is battling with israel now.
    a shep wars aginst a tiger . laike that

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