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Why isn't this news in the U.S.? U.S. Rabbis for Gaza Cease-Fire

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Today on page 17 of the New York Times, a group of prominent liberal rabbis and other religious and cultural leaders called for a cease-fire in Gaza. They were backed by over 2,800 American citizens. Because they could not get their opinion presented in the major media they had to buy a full page ad. That's right. Rabbis, ministers, writers who want a cease-fire are not news, but have to buy an ad.

Haaretz considered it news. So far no U.S. media have considered it news. Why not? This is a great puzzle to me. I hope you will consider it news and will sign the ad here, send it around to all your firends, and get this ball rolling until it can't be ignored.

This is a story about Gaza but also about the way that liberal Jewish voices (shared by many other interfaith and secular people) are being shut out of the U.S. media. No American rabbi has a longer or more substantial track record as a liberal on Israel/Palestine than Rabbi Michael Lerner, who convened this group and raised the money from small donations for the ad (he started Tikkun magazine 23 years ago as a counter to Commentary and the Jewish right) but he could not get his views into any oped pages of major newspapers despite valiant efforts since the Gaza invasion. He did however have this in the Times of London.

The text of the ad in the NY Times can be read here. Our press release, sent widely to the U.S. media and ignored, is below.

Rabbis and other religious, cultural and community leaders, heading an interfaith list of 2800 people, call for an immediate Cease-Fire in Gaza and an international conference to provide international pressure to facilitate a lasting and just settlement for all parties, in the New York Times, Wednesday, January 14, 2009.

“We have had to buy space in the New York Times to make this call because the major national newspapers will not give room for this perspective,” says Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor of Tikkun magazine, who convened the group. He is joined by Sister Joan Chittister, and Professor Cornel West, Co-chairs with Lerner of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), and over 2,800 others, including Rabbi Brian Walt (North American Chair of Rabbis for Human Rights), Rabbi Arthur Waskow (chair of the Shalom Center), Rabbi David Shneyer (past president of the Rabbinic organization Ohalah), Rabbi Mordecai Leibling and other rabbis, writers such as Ariel Dorfman, Annie Lamott, Deepak Chopra and Fritjof Capra, movie director Jonathan Demme, Richard Falk (the UN representative on Human Rights in Palestine), Christian ministers, academics and activists.

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“The essential difference between our point of view, which is widespread but underreported, and the opinions being presented in the mainstream media,” said Rabbi Lerner, “is that we believe it is unrealistic to expect violent and hardline tactics, however well justified by the other side’s violence, to build the psychological grounds for peace. Each side has to learn empathy for the wounds suffered by the other side, and has to practice generosity in promoting peace, the basic conditions for which are already known and are laid out in our statement. We are appealing to president-elect Obama to lead the international community in applying significant pressure to both sides to accept a mutually generous approach, whether each side feels that generosity yet or not. We spell out the terms of a lasting settlement in the New York Times ad. Given the political clout of the Israel Lobby in the U.S., as manifested in the one-sided coverage that has made invisible Jewish opposition in Israel and the U.S. to Israel's war in Gaza, it is unlikely that President Obama would be able to muster significant pressure on Israel to accept a settlement that would be just to the Palestinian people (and hence would last). For that reason, we are urging him to convene an International Conference in which other countries could play an important role in pushing both sides to make significant compromises for peace."

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Dave Belden, D. Phil, is the Managing Editor of Tikkun Magazine, in its 23rd year as a bimonthly journal of spirituality, politics and culture.

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