Buddhist scholar, translator, teacher, and activist Bhikkhu Bodhi last week drew up a petition calling on US President Joe Biden to help bring about a ceasefire in Gaza. The petition was edited and shared on the website Change.org by Soto Zen priest and BDG contributor Hozan Alan Senauke. As of the time of writing, the petition had drawn 1,458 signatures.
The 2023 Israel-Hamas war began on 7 October, when militants from Gaza fired thousands of rockets toward Israeli towns. In response, Israel declared war on Hamas and initiated efforts to recover some 240–50 hostages taken during the Hamas-led assault. After clearing the militants, the Israeli military retaliated by conducting an extensive and ongoing aerial bombardment campaign on targets in Gaza, followed by a large-scale ground invasion of Gaza. The conflict has resulted in the deaths of more than 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and more than 11,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children.
The petition reads:
Dear President Biden,
As Buddhists living here in the United States, with utmost urgency we request you to use your authority as President to call on the Israeli government to adopt an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
To be clear, we absolutely condemn the barbaric attacks of Hamas on Israeli civilians that took place on October 7th. We lament the heartless murder of over 1400 Israelis and the abduction of some 240 people as hostages. At the same time, however, we hold that the reprehensible actions of Hamas cannot justify the relentless military campaign that Israel has unleashed against the Palestinian population of Gaza with more than 10,000 deaths. Our hearts are shattered by the horrific images we see daily of the carnage and devastation in that land. We insist that the bombing and blockade must stop!
As the President of this country, you have the most powerful voice in the world. In the name of compassion and human decency, Mr. President, please demand that the Israeli government adopt a ceasefire without delay. Proclaim that both Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy the same rights that we hold dear: the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Begin the process by which both peoples can live together in peace and mutual respect.
We know that the road to peace will be long and hard, but we must make a start now with an immediate and unconditional ceasefire on all sides, the release of all the hostages being held captive by Hamas, and the opening of a secure corridor for the safe passage of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
We also protest Israel’s longstanding military occupation of the West Bank. The resolution of this problem must also be part of an enduring peace package. The apartheid regime under which Palestinians live must end, so that Palestinians can be free from decades of harassment, humiliation, and violent displacement from their homes.
We know that, in your heart, you are a man of compassion who has endured painful personal losses in your own life. Please extend this compassion to our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the occupied territories, whose yearning for freedom and self-determination is as deep as our own. And thereby help free the people of Israel from fear and from further attacks. Your future legacy depends on how you respond to this bitter crisis, one on which the eyes of the whole world are focused.
Let’s heed the words of John Lennon from long ago: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”
Thank you for giving attention to this appeal.(Change.org)
In his comments on the petition, Bhikkhu Bodhi writes: “I’m deeply concerned about saving the lives of people on both sides of the divide, Palestinians and Israelis alike, and helping peaceful coexistence emerge between the two peoples, who are probably genetic cousins.” (Change.org)
In signing the petition, Buddhist teacher and activist Mushim Patricia Ikeda notes:
I voted for you, President Biden, and now urge you to take action to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the opening of a corridor for humanitarian aid, medical services, and the reestablishment of water, electricity, and phone and Internet service. Too many people including thousands of children have died in unspeakable ways. Nevertheless, let us speak their names and move swiftly toward stopping the bombing and attacks as a foundation for subsequent steps in a direction that recognizes human rights for all.(Change.org)
Roshi Joan Halifax, founder and head teacher at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, states, “Violence against Palestine must end now. Millions are protesting for this genocide to end.” (Change.org)
Signatures are still being collected and written responses from others who have signed can be found at Change.org.
Related news reports from BDG
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim Gives Keynote Speech at the 65th Ramon Magsaysay Awards
Soka Gakkai Council on Peace Issues Releases “Statement on the Israel-Palestine Situation”
Buddhists in Sri Lanka Lead Interfaith Protest against Israeli War in Gaza
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