published Monday, February 21st, 2011

Jewish speaker to suggest Israel 'tear down that wall'

IF YOU GO

* "The Role of the Faith Communities in Achieving a Just Peace in the Holy Land," 7 p.m. Wednesday, Hixson United Methodist Church, 5301 Old Hixson Pike

* "The Path to Peace in Israel/Palestine: A Jewish American's Journey," 12:15 p.m. Thursday, UTC University Center, Raccoon Mountain Room

* Reading of selections from Mark Braverman's "Fatal Embrace," 5 p.m. Thursday, Books-A-Million, 5230 Highway 153, Hixson

* "Toward a New Theology of Land: Faith Communities and the Quest for Peace in Israel/Palestine," 7 a.m. Friday, Friends Meeting House, 335 Crestway Drive

An American Jew who calls himself "the most pro-Israel guy you'd ever want to hear" says justice for Palestinians is necessary for a lasting peace between the two peoples.

Mark Braverman is a psychologist who now devotes himself full time to the cause of peace between the two.

"Israel's whole policy of the West Bank under its present government is based on the assumption that if we do not keep building walls and keep [the Palestinian people] under tight control, these people will come and try to drive us into the sea," Braverman said in an interview.

The Washington, D.C., resident will speak on the issue in Chattanooga three times this week.

Michael Dzik, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, said the fence along the border with the West Bank is not something Israel wanted to do, but what it had to do following an outbreak of violence in 2002.

The fence, he said, has kept violence to a minimum since then.

"[Within] some time," he said, "it's everybody's hope that such structures, whether they're physical, political or religious, will slowly go away."

Braverman said the United States faith community is "an extremely powerful political force" and needs to see peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as akin to the U.S. civil rights movement or the end of apartheid in South Africa.

Those movements found roots and support in faith communities, he said, "and the message is they're being called to do that again."

Christians, for instance, "feel they don't have the right to be unfriendly to Jewish people," Braverman said.

"Our job is to reframe that and [say] citizens have a right to exist in peace and freedom," he said. "Now, they're going straight over a cliff. The Palestinians are getting a raw deal. It's Israel's fault, and people have to rise up and say 'enough'."

Dzik said the churches, synagogues and mosques are worthy places to have conversations about peace and justice between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"We don't have to agree, but just understand and respect each other," he said.

Larry Ingle, a leader with Chattanooga Friends (Quakers), which will host an all-faiths breakfast on the issue Friday, said Braverman will be "climbing a high hill" to convince especially the Christian community to tone down its support of Israel.

"He's trying to tap onto a contingency that's solid on Israel," he said.

In a Gallup poll earlier this month, 68 percent of 1,015 Americans rated Israel favorably. That percentage ranked it seventh among 21 countries in the poll. Only 19 percent of respondents rated the Palestinian Authority favorably.

In a separate poll released this month by the nonprofit, nonaffiliated Israel Project, 55 percent of Americans think the United States should support Israel in "the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Middle East." Only 6 percent supported the Palestinian Authority, and 16 percent responded that the U.S. should support neither.

Braverman was raised in the United States, but his grandfather was born in Jerusalem and was a fifth-generation Palestinian Jew. On a trip to the West Bank in 2006, he said, his thinking on the peace process was transformed by seeing Israel's continuing building and by encounters with Jews, Christians and Muslims working for peace.

Braverman said he found a people who want to "work with Israel, to be partners in building a society."

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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