Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

AMGPJ Press Conference on Middle East Crisis

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

AMGPJ Press Conference on Middle East Crisis

Article excerpt

As Israel began stepping up its invasions of Palestinian towns, American Muslims for Global Peace and Justice (AMGPJ) called a March 8 press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Perhaps because of the last-minute nature of the conference--but more likely because of the unyielding U.S. media stance on the situation--the audience barely outnumbered the panelists. Nonetheless, after a welcome from Raeed Tayeh of AMGPJ, the conference convened with Dr. Phil Wogaman, pastor of the United Methodist Church and spiritual adviser to former President William Clinton. Wogaman began his talk with disclaimers to the effect that he was not speaking on behalf of President Clinton or any group, but only for himself. He also cautioned the audience that he was not an expert, just enough acquainted with the Palestinian-Israeli situation to be very concerned.

Wogaman then addressed four key issues. First, he remarked that the human carnage had become unspeakably evil and that both parties bore the responsibility for seeking peace. Second, he called on Arab countries to endorse the Saudi peace plan, contending that the U.S. and the EU would then also endorse the plan, thereby pressuring Israel into accepting it. Wogaman's third point was that the U.S., as the leader of the war on terrorism, must exercise more leadership, greatly expanding peace brokering efforts in the Middle East. Finally, he argued that Palestinians and Israelis alike have everything to gain from peace and everything to lose from not achieving peace. Wogaman cautioned, however, that both sides must be more willing to compromise and that Americans must support and encourage compromise.

Next to speak was Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, the Muslim chaplain of Howard University and the chair of government relations of the Muslim Alliance of North America. Also offering a disclaimer, that he did not speak for Howard University, Abdul-Malik subtly reminded the audience of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, the tenured University of South Florida professor fired allegedly for not making such a disclaimer. He added that the Howard dean had told him to say that. Abdul-Malik pointed out that the current conflict had been initiated by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon because it was in Sharon's strategic political interests to create a crisis--"a police insecurity state," as Abdul-Malik termed it--to make people rally 'round the flag before fanning the flames. …

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