Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Pro-Palestinian Voices Heard in Des Moines

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Pro-Palestinian Voices Heard in Des Moines

Article excerpt

Waging Peace

The Middle East Peace Education Coalition brought Sabeel founder Rev. Naim Ateek and Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies to First Methodist Church in Des Moines, IA on Sept. 30 for a day-long conference, "Unheard Voices from the Heart of Palestine."

Imam Ahmed Elkhaldy, president of the Iowa Chapter of the Muslim American Society, participated in a panel discussion with Ateek on the topic "Faith Perspectives on the Land." Ateek and Bennis presented keynote addresses to an audience of more than 60.

"Let's have the two-state solution," declared Ateek, noting that not all his friends would agree with a proposal he has been considering.

"I don't want to do to them what they did to us," said the Anglican priest, referring to Israel's violent expulsion of Palestinians and the destruction of Palestinian towns and villages in 1948 and again in 1967. "We would give [Israeli settlers living illegally in the West Bank] a choice. We would say, if you would like to stay, you are living in Palestine. Either you will be on a visa, or you have to become a Palestinian citizen," explained Ateek. They would pay their taxes to the Palestinian state, exactly as Palestinians who are citizens of Israel pay taxes to the state of Israel.

"This is the quickest way for them to get out," said Ateek to general laughter and applause, "and we will make the settlements home to many of the refugees who will be coming back."

"That is my simple, logical solution to this whole problem," said the Palestinian religious leader, whose family became refugees and relocated to Nazareth when their village of Beisan was destroyed by Israeli forces in 1948.

"We are at a moment when the issue of Palestinian rights is being mainstreamed across this country. And our job, as activists, as church activists, secular activists, is to take advantage of that moment," Bennis said. …

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