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On February 9, 2005, our website and its content became the object of a letter-writing campaign.  The campaign's focus was that the inclusion of Israel Shamir's "Handwriting on the Wall" on our site is evidence of anti-Semitism on our parts.  Others allegations assert that the inclusion of the International Solidarity Movement on our links page points to the same conclusion.  Our response is below.

February 9, 2005

While we feel free to - or rather called to - raise our voices against the injustices we see among the people with whom we lived and served during our time in Zababdeh, our message is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Jewish.  Hatred and bigotry of any sort is abhorrent to us and to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  The insinuation that we profess and publish such views is both professionally and personally offensive.

In the current highly charged and sensitive atmosphere, it is more difficult (and we believe more necessary) than ever to assert that criticism of the political and military actions of the nation-state of Israel is fundamentally not the same thing as anti-Semitism.  In fact, many observant Jews (and many secular ones, too) argue that such criticism is necessary for the good of Israel.  Our links page includes webpages for several Jewish (both Israeli and other) groups engaged in constructive critique of the political and military strategies of the state of Israel.  These sites (and articles we occasionally include) do not necessarily or always reflect our views or those of our supporters or partners, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  But they do provide an important window onto movements and perspectives not always seen in the general media.  One such commentator, whose essay "The Handwriting on the Wall" we saw fit to put on our website, was Israel Shamir.

We found his article "The Handwriting on the Wall," which we included with our February 16, 2001, update, to be prophetic words of Israeli Jewish self-criticism.  His sentiments expressed in this article are in keeping with critiques expressed by other Jewish Israeli individuals and organizations (a selection of which can be found on our links page).  He is an Israeli of Jewish descent - that is clear from his own origins, from the stories he tells, and the scripture and history on which he draws.  As such, he is a Jew speaking to Jews.

When we posted his message, we had found some of Israel Shamir's writings to be more provocative than we are comfortable with, and we never listed his website on our links page.  As time passed, Shamir's writings and statements changed.  As commentator Nigel Parry says about this change, "an increasing amount of the tone and content was observed by more than a few to fall into what could - if this hadn't been an Israeli Jew writing it - best be described as a classic anti-Semitic repertoire."  We have made clear our abhorrence of anti-Semitism (see one of our updates as an example), and are distressed and disappointed by this change toward hateful and dangerous opinions.

We encourage you to read an engaging, articulate perspective on this issue, as well as the Shamir piece we had posted ("Handwriting on the Wall") by visiting Electronic Intifada's website.

The assertion that ISM is an anti-Semitic organization is, as far as we are concerned, baseless.  Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals of all stripes are involved in this organization which advocates non-violent resistance to the injustices of the Occupation.

We do remain in hope that the future of Israel and Palestine is one in which violence gives way to coexistence and that Israelis and Palestinians are able to live lives of security, diginity, and peace.

In Hope,
Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders