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Churches for Middle East Peace protests US arms delivery to Israel

[Episcopal News Service]  The New York Times reported August 11 that the US State Department is considering speeding up delivery of short-range antipersonnel rockets armed with cluster munitions to Israel for possible use in Lebanon.

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a coalition of 21 Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic denominations and organizations -- of which the Episcopal Church is one -- immediately sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice protesting the possible delivery, Maureen Shea, director of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, said.

The Times story noted that Israel used these weapons in Lebanon in 1982 but the US then enforced a moratorium on them, because of the number of civilians killed, until it was lifted late in the Reagan administration.

The full text of the CMEP letter follows:

August 11, 2006

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
United States Department of State

Dear Secretary Rice,

I write on behalf of Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of 21 Orthodox,

Catholic and Protestant churches and church-related organizations. It is with great distress that we read this morning that the United States is considering speeding up the delivery of M-26 artillery rockets to Israel. These are the very same munitions that were found to have killed Lebanese civilians in 1982, prompting the US to maintain a moratorium on sending them to Israel for some time -- a moratorium which unfortunately was lifted.

We are grateful to those in the State Department who have raised concerns about this possible course of action. We again say, as we did in our letter to you of July 24, that adding additional arms to this conflict will only serve to inflame the violence. Moreover, sending cluster munitions, which are known to cause severe civilian casualties, undermines US statements expressing concern about the loss of civilian lives, whether in Israel or Lebanon. It will also make more difficult your efforts to find a diplomatic solution through the United Nations Security Council, which is so urgently needed. It appears that when we and many others around the world have urged the President to actively engage in efforts to diminish the violence, the United States is doing just the opposite.

We are all painfully aware of the need to defeat terrorism as we all saw so dramatically yesterday in London. To do so, however, we must take those actions that will support those who would join us in fighting terrorism, not make their and our jobs even more difficult by being party to greater violence. Delivery of cluster bombs to Israel now would only serve to further weaken relations with Arab moderates.

We reiterate our July 21 appeal to the President for an immediate ceasefire, an intensive diplomatic initiative for the cessation of hostilities and the pursuit of a comprehensive Middle East peace, including a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Corinne Whitlatch
Executive Director

Maureen Shea
Chair of the Board