Violence in Lebanon Stifles Interfaith Dialogue in the US

August 8, 2006

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

On August 8, 2006 the San Francisco Chronicle reported, "As the carnage has mounted in Lebanon and Israel, it has become a rallying cry for Bay Area Jews and Muslims, leaders of each faith say, but it also has deepened the chasm between the faiths, spurring rhetoric and exacerbating long-standing antagonisms. Locally and across the country, each side has organized rallies, raised money, lobbied politicians and trotted out war refugees to dramatize its cause. The nation's most prominent Muslim groups, several of whose leaders are in the Bay Area, urged all Muslim nations last week to cut off ties to Israel and to declare it a 'terrorist state.' And mainstream Jewish groups have been unflinching in their support for Israel. 'What this has done is create a polarization,' said Rabbi Stephen Pearce of Temple Emanu-El, a San Francisco reform congregation that is the Bay Area's oldest, largest and most influential synagogue. Pearce said many in his congregation have criticized Israeli tactics and policies during other conflicts -- and Pearce himself has come under fire for giving a forum to such views. But now, Pearce says, people 'have really swung over to the point of view that Israel has to do everything it can to defend itself. This will be the first time in many years that there is such unanimity and agreement.' The domestic religious divide is a blow to leaders of the Bay Area's active interfaith movement, who view this region as a model for cooperation between religions."