Congressman Jim Moran
Addresses Al-Hewar Center

"It is time to demand a return to the vision of Jerusalem as a City of Peace"

Al-Hewar Center was extremely honored to host a conversation with Congressman James P. Moran (D-VA) on Friday, July 11. The Congressman came to discuss the recent congressional vote on Jerusalem. He was one of only 17 congressmen who voted against the misguided resolution to recognize the occupied city as the undivided capital of Israel which ignores the rights and plight of the Palestinian population of the city.

The Congressman was introduced by Mr. Abdulrahman Al-Amoudi, President of the American Muslim Council, who also moderated the discussion with audience members after the Congressman Moran’s speech.. The following is his address:

There is no city in the world today which better represents the world's hopes and the world's disappointments than Jerusalem. It's very name – City of Peace, City of Wholeness – offers a vision common to three traditions which call it home: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. And yet, from a time in history long before today, it has been a city divided. Within the walls built by the Ottomans around the ancient city are four quarters. Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Armenian Orthodox carefully marked off their territory, only tentatively crossing from one to another. This is not God's plan. How is it that the city of wholeness has become a city of partition? How is it that a city of holiness has become a city of desecration?

Depending on who you ask, you will get different answers. I have no doubt that mostly everyone in this room tonight would place the woes of Jerusalem at the doorstep of the Israeli government. But, I have no doubt that if I were speaking to a group of Jews, they would place those woes at the doorstep of Palestinians, or of Jordanians of a generation past. And I am sure that plenty of you would be inclined to hold the British responsible as well.

And there is at least some justification for each of these disparate perspectives. The evidence is compelling no matter where you look. The desecration of synagogues by the Jordanians is an undeniable shame. The restriction on human rights and freedom of expression by the Palestinian Authority, such as the recent arrest of Daoud Kuttab for simply broadcasting the actual sessions of the Palestinian Council, is documented and contrary to their own stated principles. The belligerence of the current Israeli administration, appropriating land for housing, denying Arabs many of their most basic human rights and the determined intimidation of non-Jewish citizens of Jerusalem is fundamentally wrong and in fact is a radical departure from the spirit of tolerance and respect which was the hallmark of the administration of Teddy Kollek.

The fact is that no people, no nation is completely blameless when it comes to Jerusalem. Everyone shares in the responsibility for the tensions which keep the city divided. And you know it is not just divided within the ancient walls, but divided between the Jewish western city and the Arab eastern city. Since everyone shares in that responsibility, the easy thing to do is to point the finger at someone else. And there are some very easy targets for finger-pointing.

It is not my intention to launch a personal attack on individuals, Palestinian or Israeli, Jewish, Muslim or Christian. Leaders with true political power, leaders who ascended to their positions of influence by promoting a vision of peace, have a responsibility to pursue that vision. But they betray the trust of their people when they pander to the elements of their constituencies who oppose the risks that one must take for peace.

I understand the need to be a politician. I am a politician. But when we are talking about what Jerusalem represents, when we are talking about a city of peace whose very name has the ability to bring brothers and sisters in faith together in expression of their devotion to their people and the same God they all worship, then the politician who seeks to stay in office at the expense of his vision does not deserve to retain that office.

I can show you two leaders who had the courage to rise above the politics of their office. You know them well and being people of good conscience you honor their memories. Anwar Sadat never for a moment relinquished his devotion to the Egyptian people and the great brotherhood of the Arab people. He went to Jerusalem. He stood in the city of peace and called for peace. His memory deserves to be honored here tonight.

Yitzhak Rabin never for a moment relinquished his devotion to the Israeli people and the great brotherhood of Jewish people. He came from Jerusalem. He was under the same pressure from radical groups as Netanyahu is. But he went out from the city of peace and called for peace. His memory deserves to be honored here tonight.

But you know why I have to honor the memories of these two leaders. You know why neither of them is here tonight. It is because they were assassinated, gunned down, stopped in pursuit of their vision. Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by a Jew. Anwar Sadat was murdered by a Muslim. Because they both believed in tolerance and in peace.

And the demented men who pulled the triggers had one thing in common – they used their religious faith as the justification of their crimes. And they had the support of religious leaders who provided them with that justification – religious leaders who have gained greater influence since those assassinations.

Can I tell you what the Jews in my district tell me about Jerusalem? Do you know what their number one concern is today about Israel? They are concerned that the extreme elements of Judaism are exercising undue influence on policy. They are concerned that they have used their religious practice as an excuse to exclude the majority of Jews from having a voice in the direction the government takes. They are concerned that deals are made to keep a government in power which serves the needs of those extremists.

I believe you have a good deal in common with these folks. I think many of you share the resentment that they feel when the path you follow, Islam, is associated with terrorists and extremists. I know and you know that the members of the American Muslim Council, the members of your families, the people in your communities who gather to offer praise to Allah want nothing more than for Jerusalem to be that holy city of peace. And I know that when those who seek peace thorough violence try to justify it through your sacred tradition, that it pierces like a sword to your hearts.

When a leader in the Middle East embraces those who use terror and extremism as their weapons, when he forms coalitions with those who seize property and deny rights and restrict movement and violate the human rights of those who dissent, then it is time for those who trusted that leader to call for an accounting. It is time for them to demand a return to the vision. And if the vision is not restored, then it is time for those good people to find a new leader, a leader who understands the meaning of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is a city sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews. Whoever holds the privilege of administering that sacred city has, first and foremost, the responsibility to the adherents of those faith communities to provide safe and free access to the sites which are holy to them. The Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Western Wall are magnets to the truly pious and inspirations to those of us, like me, who need the occasional reminder of the importance of the message of the City of Peace. If that message is not being heard by Jew, Muslim or Christian then the adherents of those faith communities have the responsibility to repudiate their leadership.

I cannot suggest a pragmatic, specific blueprint for lasting peace in Jerusalem and the Middle East. My own naive desire is that it be a multi-religious capital of the world, open to all faiths, whose children are taught in schools that appreciate and understand and communicate the great truths and principles and history of Islam, Judaism and Christianity – who could then go out into the world and preach brotherhood, tolerance and inclusivity to counter the hatred, intolerance and injustice that permeates the fabric of Jerusalem today. The beginnings of such a peace must be negotiated by honorable people who must live with the results. But I pledge to you that as long as I am privileged to serve in the Congress of the United States of America, I will use whatever influence I have to encourage all parties to break down the divisions, to unite the children of Abraham, to keep their eye on the prize – the City of Peace, the City of Wholeness, the City of Holiness – Jerusalem.

 

About Congressman James Moran

Jim Moran was re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for his third term on November 8, 1994. He currently serves on the Government Reform and Oversight Committee where he is the Ranking Minority Member on the Civil Service Subcommittee. Congressman Moran also serves on International Relations where he has a seat on International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee.

During his tenure in Congress, Representative Moran has shown leadership in his support of economic growth, women's issues, federal workers and law enforcement. He has introduced legislation to revitalize our economy, protect homeowners, improve Northern Virginia’s regional transportation system, and make our neighborhoods safer. He has also worked in support of legislation aimed at reforming the troubled banking industry, our health care system, and our schools.

Prior to his election to Congress, Moran served for five years as the Mayor of Alexandria, a city of 112,000 residents. He served as Vice Mayor from 1982-84 and as a member of the City Council from 1979-82. These years were marked by innovative programs in economic development, housing and criminal justice.

The Congressman's civic leadership positions include Chairmanships of the Regional Drug Summit; Public/Private Affordable Housing Task Force; Economic Development and Land Use Policy Committee of the Washington Area Council of Governments; the Human Development Policy Committee for the National League of Cities; and the Aging Committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Rep. Moran was formerly Chair of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

Congressman Moran graduated in 1970 from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs with a Masters in Public Administration. He received his B.A. in economics from the College of Holy Cross in 1967. He and his wife, Mary, reside in Alexandria, Virginia, with their five children.

 

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