Excellent petition on the Stand Firm in Faith website:
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East ("Fair Witness") is greatly disturbed by the escalating violence in Israel and Gaza and the tragic loss of innocent Palestinian and Israeli lives. As many church leaders in the U.S. demand an immediate cease fire however, we challenge them to acknowledge not only the human suffering, but the political realities in the region.
"In November 2001, Hamas, which openly declares its commitment to the destruction of the State of Israel, began a terror campaign launching rockets from Gaza into civilian targets within Israel," says Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton, the Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College in Annandale, New York. "It was Hamas that chose not to extend the existing cease-fire on December 18, resuming hundreds of attacks on the civilian population in Southern Israel. It is Hamas that chooses, with the Israeli army sitting right outside Gaza, to continue to target civilian areas in towns behind the army."
"Maybe people don't realize what has been going on in Israel for the past seven years," says Rev. James Noland, Senior Pastor of Reveille United Methodist Church in Richmond, Virginia. "I was in Sderot in October 2007. Six Qassam rockets hit the town just before we arrived. We saw three blimps in the air that circulate 24 hours a day seven days a week to detect incoming rockets. When the sirens go off people have twenty seconds to get into a bomb shelter. Kids couldn't sleep, everyone was afraid to leave their homes, people died, people had their legs blown off. It was especially disturbing to see these Qassams up close -- they were built not to cause damage to structures, but to kill and maim human beings. It was terrifying. How many years are people supposed to live like that before putting a stop to it?"
Rev. Dr. Scott Ickert, pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Arlington, Virginia, says "I have to put myself in the shoes of the people of Sderot and ask if some foreign country started throwing rockets at the town where my family and I live what would I expect my government to do to protect me? I think only after we answer that question in an honest way can we presume to judge what constitutes an appropriate and adequate response to Hamas' provocations."
Rev. Dr. Peter Pettit, Director of the Institute for Jewish Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College says "Hamas has claimed its place as the liberators of Palestine and the implacable foes of the State of Israel -- not only of Israeli occupation, but of Israel's very existence. We do not condone or encourage violent resolution of political conflicts, but we question some church leaders who condemn only Israel's military action while ignoring Hamas' courting and conduct of this war. We have to question church leaders who condemn Israel for a disproportionate response, while failing to set this action in the context of a long-term course of violent struggle to which Hamas has committed itself in defiance of Israel's legitimacy as a nation."