It is important to remember that "many people in Israel belong to the peace movement", a group that should not be forgotten, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said - writes Peter Kenny.
"I don't believe that ordinary Israeli[s], if they knew what was happening could support a policy that did this to people," Tutu said while speaking in support of a World Council of Churches-led action week for peace in Israel and the Palestinian territories from 4 to 10 June 2009.
Tutu referred a visit he made to the area in 2008. "I was part of a [UN] fact-finding mission. We went to Gaza ... It was one of the most agonising visits I have made anywhere."
After that mission, in which Tutu and his party were prevented from visiting areas in Israel, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town became a signatory to a letter calling on the United Nations to open a war crimes inquiry into alleged abuses of international law during the 2009 Gaza conflict.
"We have seen at first hand the importance of investigating the truth and delivering justice for the victims of conflict and believe it is a precondition to move forward and achieve peace in the Middle East," Tutu and 15 other international investigators and judges said in a 16 March letter.
Israel launched a three-week military offensive in Gaza at the end of 2008, saying that it was necessary to halt eight years of rocket attacks into Israeli civilian populations by Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement that controls the Gaza strip.
The South African cleric said that it had become clear that of almost all the global issues, hardly any of them - including the nuclear threat - "will [not] be resolved until this one is".
Tutu noted, however, in his 7 June speech at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey near Geneva, "One of the things we've go to remember there are very many people on the Israeli side who belong to the peace movement - who have sometimes been forgotten."
He cited a group called the Parents' Circle started by a South African woman married to an Israeli, whose son was shot by a Palestinian sniper. "She wanted to be in touch with the family of the sniper," noted Tutu explaining that the meeting led to the formation of a group that brings together people from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide.
Tutu praised US President Barack Obama for making a "courageous" speech about Islam in Cairo in early June and he said the world could get inspiration that a seemingly hopeless situation under apartheid in South Africa could be resolved by supporting peace.
"So its a wonderful thing that you have this week of prayer for peace in Israel and Palestine," said the archbishop.
You can listen to Desmond Tutu's comments here: http://www.oikoumene.org/fileadmin/files/wcc-main/sounds/2009/tutu_middl...
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]