On November 8-11, liberals from across the southeast retreated to United Methodism’s Lake Junaluska Center for the 2012 Peace Conference. Though United Methodists comprised the majority of attendants, spokespeople from a wide array of faith traditions provided the coveted interfaith flavor.  A civil rights legend and a Nobel Peace prize winner added a historic dimension to the event. However, one workshop harshly condemned Israel and concluded, “We have to think in terms without an Arab state…there must be an end to a ‘Jewish state’…There must be complete equal rights and an end to this idea of a Jewish state.”

The Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette opened as the Thursday evening speaker. The Candler School of Theology Distinguished Scholar shared his insights and experiences as a prominent leader of the civil rights movement, where he proved to be a master strategist of nonviolent activism. He instructed, “First, the thing with nonviolence is you’ve got to work on yourself.” “I can understand not attacking your enemies, but love your enemies?” he rhetorically inquired, “The purpose is transformation…Once people become transformed, they join your movement.” Just as prominent was Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee. She inspired the audience with her account of how she helped end Liberia’s civil wars.

The lingering warm sentiments ceased with a Friday afternoon workshop by Miko Peled entitled “Non-Violent Resistance in Palestine.” “Americans are perhaps the most misinformed about this issue…, and they often pay the most into this issue,” he complained. Peled further warned, “My point of view isn’t balanced.” Indeed, his roots run throughout the modern nation of Israel’s short history. His grandfather signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence; his father, Mattityahu Peled, served as a high-ranking general before converting to peace activism and liberal politics. Miko has continued down the latter path. His latest book, The General’s Son, critiques Israel for its acquisition of territory, especially from war.

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