Posts Tagged ‘peace’

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A truly moving video by the ‘Never Before Campaign’: in the midst of the struggle, and the dust of battle, many people still don’t realize what this is all about … it is not only about land and rights …

stop caterpillar

CHICAGO, Illinois – June 9 – As Caterpillar shareholders gather on June 10th at the Northern Trust Bank Building in Chicago, to discuss falling profits, they will be met by representatives of Jewish, Christian, and human rights organizations calling on Caterpillar to build the U.S. economy, not destroy Palestinian lives and livelihoods.

Human rights groups will urge Caterpillar shareholders to vote yes on proposal #5, a shareholder resolution which calls for a review of Caterpillar sales to countries with poor human rights records, including Israel. The resolution is sponsored by an interfaith coalition including Jewish Voice for Peace, the Mercy Investment Program, and 16 Catholic orders. Jewish Voice for Peace will personally deliver thousands of lettersasking the Caterpillar Board of Directors to end military sales to Israel. These shareholders will be supported outside by a public gathering calling on Caterpillar to “Build America, Not Destroy Palestine.”This effort is organized in part by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and local groups, Chicagoans Against Apartheid in Palestine and the Arab Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East. Events are also planned for June 10th at Caterpillar dealerships across the country.

According to Katherine Fuchs, National Organizer for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, “It is possible for Caterpillar to turn a profit, employ Americans, and rebuild the U.S. economy without destroying Palestinian livelihoods. Investors need to understand that supporting the violation of international law and the destruction of Palestinian homes, land, lives, and livelihood is not good business. The recent divestment decisions of the Church of England and Hampshire College show that there is a price for destroying instead of building.”

The dissent inside and outside of the Caterpillar shareholder meeting comes in the midst of a growing movement to divest from Caterpillar until it ends its material support for Israel’s military occupation and apartheid practices. Caterpillar equipment, including armored and weaponized D-9 bulldozers, are used by the Israeli military to destroy Palestinian homes, lay waste to thousands of acres of Palestinian agricultural land, and build illegal Israeli settlements, which are opposed by the Obama administration. Most recently, unmanned Caterpillar D9 bulldozers were used to destroy houses during “Operation Cast Lead” in December-January. Additionally, the Israeli military has killed dozens of people using Caterpillar equipment, including American peace activist Rachel Corrie of Olympia, Washington.

“Ultimately, Caterpillar is contributing to the destruction of any future for the Palestinian people,” notes Bill Chambers of Chicagoans Against Apartheid in Palestine. “We challenge Caterpillar to contribute to building, not destroying, Palestine.”

The movement to hold Caterpillar accountable has received a recent boost from decisions by the Church of England and Hampshire College to divest. These institutions held a combined total of more than $3 million in Caterpillar stock before their decisions to divest in December 2008 and February 2009, respectively. More recently, a group of 20 Israeli human rights organizations have petitioned the Norwegian government to divest its pension fund from a list of companies providing support for Israel’s military occupation, including Caterpillar.

The pressure on Caterpillar is part of a larger effort to promote accountability for companies that profit from Israel’s military occupation. Human rights groups, students, and faith organizations have joined forces to put pressure on these companies. The US Campaign and its member organizations plan to continue pressuring Caterpillar by organizing divestment efforts in cities, campuses, and churches across the country.


The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a national coalition of more than 280 organizations facilitating responsible U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine and responsible consumer choices to support human rights, international law, and equality for all Israelis and Palestinians. For more information about the US Campaign, please click here.


The biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse. These are the key concepts of an article in this month’s Scientific American:

  • Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos.
  • Such “failed states” can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees.
  • Water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures from global warming are placing severe limits on food production.
  • Without massive and rapid intervention to address these three environmental factors, the author argues, a series of government collapses could threaten the world order.

To read the full article, click on this link.

Conversations on peace education

Posted: April 21, 2009 in society
Tags: ,

peaceTwo Global MindShift volunteers, Carolyn Mycue and Larry Adamson, have each created a conversation on a subject they care deeply about, and think you may too.

I’m Awake…Now What? Consciousness Practice in Everyday Life

is an opportunity to explore our different experiences of putting the tools for enlightenment to daily use. Says Carolyn: “Sharing what we’ve learned about cultivating an environment that’s ripe for Life’s purpose to unfold is a great way to serve life and at the same time deepen our own practice.”

Peace Education in K-12 Public Education

is an exploration into what type of education promotes the things that really matter: learning to truly listen and respecting differences. Says Larry: “The information and opinions developed in this conversation will be used as part of a teacher education class being taught this summer.”

About Global MindShift conversations…

Global MindShift offers a safe, small-group (8-12 people) environment for respectful and thoughtful conversation. Every conversation is a week or more in length, and is “asynchronous”: rather than being online at the same time, each participant goes online at whatever time is most convenient for them.

Because space is typically limited, the conversation you want may be full. If so, send us an email at and we’ll put you on a waiting list should it be offered again.


Contested Terrain: Obama’s Iraq Withdrawal Plan and the Peace Movement

By Phyllis Bennis
Phyllis Bennis’s ZSpace Page / ZSpace

The meaning of President Obama’s Iraq withdrawal speech, and its influence on real U.S. policy in Iraq, will not be determined solely by his actual words. The import of the speech – and whether its promises become real – will be determined by a fluid combination of what Obama says, his own definitions of what he says, AND the disparate ways his speech is heard, perceived, described and contested by others – the mainstream media, Congress, the military, other centers of elite power, and crucially, the peace movement.

obama-speechThe words of the speech were quite amazing: “And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home.”

After eight years of reckless slaughter proudly justified in the name of a “global war on terror,” it was stunning to hear the president of the United States announce what he called “a new strategy to end the war in Iraq.” That moment was something we should celebrate. It was ours. The statement was a recognition of the powerful antiwar consensus in this country, a consensus that helped define the powerful constituency so key to Obama’s election. Obama may not acknowledge, even to himself, that it was the organized antiwar movement that helped create and build and strengthen that consensus – but still his speech reflected the new political reality that requires him to speak to the demands of that antiwar community.

Ending the War: A Definition

From the vantage point of the peace movement, the speech was and remains insufficient, and shot through with wiggle room and loopholes. We know that President Obama’s definition of “ending the war” is not ours. Our definition has not changed:

  • Withdraw all the troops and bring them home (don’t redeploy them to another illegal and unwinnable war in Afghanistan).
  • Pull out all the U.S.-paid foreign mercenaries and contractors and cancel the remaining contracts.
  • Close all U.S. military bases and turn them over to Iraq.
  • Give up all efforts to control Iraq’s oil.

world-not-my-gas-pumpWhile he laid out partial versions of some of these issues (withdrawal and oil), others (mercenaries and bases) were left out entirely. And at the end of the day, President Obama did not make a single real commitment to meeting our definition of ending the war. As the New York Times columnist Bob Herbert described Obama’s plan for Iraq and Afghanistan, “we’re committed to these two conflicts for a good while yet, and there is nothing like an etched-in-stone plan for concluding them.”

Understanding all the problems, limitations, and dangers of President Obama’s speech is crucial. (For a fuller analysis of the dangers in Obama’s speech, see my February 26th talking points –

But understanding those limitations does not tell us how to respond to this new moment, a moment when the president of the United States is telling Americans that he is ending the war, that he intends to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq, telling Iraqis that the U.S. “pursues no claim on your territory or your resources,” and telling the world that the U.S. plans to engage with everybody in the region including Iran and Syria.

We may – we must – understand all the reasons that those words don’t constitute a firm commitment. But the reality is that the vast majority of people hearing those words, who already believe in what those words should mean, will assume President Obama means the same thing they do. That perception provides a huge opportunity for the peace movement. And it is for that reason that the assertions in his speech remain contested terrain.

Who Opposes, Who Supports?

Leading Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid, criticized Obama’s plan for leaving 50,000 or more U.S. troops in Iraq after the withdrawal of “combat brigades.” Their critique was powerful, public, and their first substantive break with the president – breaking to his left. Although they will likely back down, indeed they have already gone silent on this issue, their initial response opens the possibility for their greater HECHY22_PH1engagement with more progressive members of Congress whom they had consistently dissed throughout the Bush years, and perhaps ultimately with the peace movement directly. The “speak with one voice” posture of the Democratic Party may be eroding with a Democrat in the White House.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, it was key Republicans – including Senator John McCain – who voiced immediate support for Obama’s withdrawal plan. Clearly they understand the huge loopholes inherent in the “withdrawal” strategy. They recognize the limited character of Obama’s pledges. But what they have officially endorsed, on the record, is a strategy that includes the language of “remove all U.S. troops from Iraq,” “our combat mission will end,” etc. They will never be our allies – but they are stuck with those words. Certainly they can – and surely will – reverse themselves if partial withdrawal moves threaten to turn into a real end of U.S. occupation. But they will pay a high political price when they do – and risk being dubbed flip-floppers on the Iraq War.

Military leaders, including top U.S. generals in Iraq and the region, heads of the joint chiefs of staff, and the Republican secretary of defense, have also expressed support. Of course they are the most familiar with all the wiggle room in the plan. They know the likelihood of renegotiating with a compliant Iraqi government virtually any or all of the terms in the U.S.-Iraq agreement – on which Obama based his intention to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq. But whatever their understanding, the fact that the military brass is standing publicly behind what is being touted as a complete withdrawal plan strips an important weapon away from those who oppose any withdrawal at all.

On its February 28th front page, the New York Times referred to the speech as “the beginning of the end of one of the longest and most divisive wars in American history.” The Times went on to describe how Obama “announced that he would withdraw combat forces from Iraq by August 2010 and all remaining troops by December 2011.” Not that he “intended,” but that he “would” withdraw all troops. The San Francisco Chronicle headline was “Obama Makes it Plain: Troops Out by End of 2011.” The Washington Post headlined “Obama Sets Timetable for Iraq.”

We have to recognize that even reports accurately depicting the too limited withdrawals, the too long timelines, the continuing occupation by U.S. troops, etc., will still be widely understood as consistent with what President Obama called “a new strategy to end the war.” And while it’s vital that as a movement we harbor no illusions, and recognize all the loopholes and wiggle room and pitfalls, our most important job is not to convince the people of this country that there is no way President Obama will end the occupation of Iraq. Our job will be to convince people that the only way President Obama will be able to overcome the powerful pro-war opposition inside and outside his administration and among his congressional allies, the only way he will be willing to even try to accomplish what he has promised, is if we all mobilize to demand it, to hold him accountable to his pledges, his promises, his speeches, and even his intentions.

Our Job: Make Him Do It

waging-peaceIt’s the story of FDR who, at the height of popular mobilization by trade unionists, communists, community activists and a host of others, finally told his demanding supporters, “okay, I get it. I know what we have to do. Now get out there in the streets and make me do it!” Our job is to constantly hold President Obama and his administration accountable to what appear to be promises: withdraw all the troops, respect Iraqi sovereignty, give up Iraqi oil…even as we ratchet up our push for a faster, fuller troop withdrawal, closure of bases, and more.

At the same time our movement must take on other challenges as well.

We need to oppose Obama’s call for expanding the military. If he were really worried about the stress on military, the best solution is to bring them home – not ship them from Iraq to another illegal and unwinnable war two borders away. And at this moment of economic devastation across the U.S. and around the world, the issue of the financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan must be addressed directly; those hundreds of billions represent perhaps the largest single pot of money to pay for the health care/environment/energy priorities of the new administration. If things continue as they are, Stiglitz’s Three Trillion Dollar War in Iraq will turn into a $4 trillion dollar set of wars, as Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to swallow more troops, more bombs, more lives. We need to demand replacement of the war budget with a people’s budget that cuts the military budget by eliminating the Pentagon’s network of foreign bases that cost billions and destroy lives and environments around the world, getting rid of all our nuclear weapons, and eliminating all the giant weapons systems that have been obsolete for years.

Afghanistan: Not a “Good” War

And, perhaps most urgently, we must mobilize powerfully to oppose and reverse Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. That war was never a “good war,” and it turns out that most Americans no longer think it is. Military leaders from NATO to the Pentagon have already acknowledged that there is no military solution; escalating the war with 17,000 new U.S. troops, with plans for a strategy discussion after their deployment, is completely backwards. We troops-outmust reclaim Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s lonely, brave, and prophetic opposition to authorizing force in response to the terror attacks of 9/11. The problem in Afghanistan, then and now, was never insufficient troops. It was the creation of the so-called “global war on terror,” that shaped a militarized framework for responding to every problem in the world (as well as here at home – remember the “war on poverty,” the “war on drugs,” the “war on crime,” etc?).

Obama gave us hope that a new foreign policy, based on negotiations and diplomacy, not military force, was possible. He said he would talk to everyone. Our job now is to mobilize stronger than ever – no post-inauguration vacations! – to demand that this new administration make good on the promises people heard. If the perception of tens of millions of people in this country is that President Obama promised to withdraw all troops, it doesn’t matter that we know his “intention” is not a commitment. That perception is a starting point. If everyone assumes complete U.S. troop withdrawal is already official U.S. policy, it will make renegotiating terms of the U.S.-Iraqi agreement much harder for the Pentagon – because people will believe they’re trying to reverse a promise. It makes our job easier.

After the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, our movement began immediately to mobilize against the war we knew was coming. Organizations like the Center for Constitutional Rights moved quickly to challenge the “global war on terror” framework as illegal, and to demand that the attacks be dealt with as international crimes, rather than war. The first national demonstration was held October 7, led by the people who would soon form 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, those who had lost loved ones three weeks before, and by those who would soon create United for Peace and Justice. The war began the same day, with the bombing of Kabul launched just as the antiwar rally began in the streets of New York. We have been working ever since. But most of our movement left Afghanistan more or less in the background as we tried to stop the U.S. invasion and then mobilized to end the war and occupation in Iraq.

It’s time to come back. We hear accusations that the war in Iraq was a “distraction” from the “real war,” the “just war,” the “good war” in Afghanistan. Not everyone believes it was a “good war” anymore. But we have a lot of work to do to stop them both.

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Her most recent book is
Ending the Iraq War: A Primer. If you want to receive her talking points and articles on a regular basis, click here and choose “New Internationalism.”

I’ve found this letter on YNetNews. The Israeli-American film director, writer, visual artist and activist Udi Aloni, creator of the 2006 film Forgiveness (Mechilot, winner of the Woodstock Film Festival Audience Award), replies to  an open letter by Israeli singer Noa (Achinoam Nini), in which she asked Palestinians in Gaza and the diaspora to relinquish ‘fanaticism’. If the majority of blinded Israeli’s could see the world through Aloni’s rather than Noa’s, their government’s or military’s eyes, there probably would be no war between them and the Palestinians.

Dear Achinoam Nini, 

udi-aloniI chose to answer you, and not the entire raging Right, because I believe that the betrayal of the peace camp, at this of all times, exceeds the damage caused by the Right a thousand fold. The ease with which the peace camp gives itself over to the roars of war hinders the creation of a meaningful movement that could a true resistance to occupation.

You roll your eyes, use your loving words in the service of your conquering people and call upon the Palestinians to surrender in a tender voice. You bestow upon Israel the role of liberator. Upon Israel – that for over 60 years, has been occupying and humiliating them. “I know where your heart is! It is just where mine is, with my children, with the earth, with the heavens, with music, with HOPE!!” you write; but Achinoam, we took their land and imprisoned them in the ghetto called Gaza. 

We have covered their skies with fighter jets, soaring like the angels from hell and scattering random death. What hope are you talking about? We destroyed any chance for moderation and mutual life the moment we plundered their land while sitting with them at the negotiation table. We may have spoken of peace, but we were robbing them blind. They wanted the land given to them by international law, and we spoke in the name of Jehovah. 

Who are the secular people of Gaza supposed to turn to, when we trample on international law, and when the rest of the enlightened world ignores their cry? When enlightenment fails and moderation is seen as a weakness, religious fanaticism gives a sense of empowerment. Maybe, if you think about the mental situation of the people under siege in Masada, you could get a better sense of what’s happening in Gaza.  

The seculars in Gaza find it hard to speak against Hamas when their ghetto is being bombarded all day and all night. You would probably say that ‘we would not need to shell them if they held their fire,’ but they fire because they are fighting for more that the right to live in the prison called Gaza. They are fighting for the right to live as free citizens in an independent country – just as we do.  

“I know that deep in your hearts YOU WISH for the demise of this beast called Hamas who has terrorized and murdered you, who has turned Gaza into a trash heap of poverty, disease and misery,” you write. But Hamas is not the monster, my dear Achinoam. It is the monster’s son. 

The Israeli occupation is the monster. It and only it is responsible for the poverty and the sickness and the horror. We were so frightened of their secular leadership, which undermined our fantasy of the Land of Israel, that we chose to fund and support Hamas, hoping that by a policy of divide and conquer were could go on with the occupation forever; but when the tables have turned, you choose to blame the effect instead of the cause. 

You write, “I can only wish for you that Israel will do the job we all know needs to be done, and finally RID YOU of this cancer, this virus, this monster called fanaticism, today, called Hamas. And that these killers will find what little compassion may still exist in their hearts and STOP using you and your children as human shields for their cowardice and crimes.” It is the same as if your Palestinian sister would write: “Let us hope that Hamas does the job for you, and rids you of the Jewish Right.” 

So maybe, instead of ordering around a people whose every glimmer of hope we have surgically eliminated, you could help your brothers and sisters in Palestine rid themselves of the
oppression and
the arrogant
colonialism inflicted by your country. Only then can you urge them to fight democratically and return Palestine to the mental state it was in before we pushed it into the corner of the wall that we built. 

And if your brethren in Palestine choose Hamas, you have to respect their choice, just as the world’s nations respected Israel when it chose the murderous (Ariel) Sharon. Hamas is theirs to fight, just like you fought him. That is what democracy is about. Only then can you and your brethren in both Palestine and Israel share – as equals – the joy of the land, the sky and the music; only then can we fight for equality together, for every man and woman living living in our holy land. Amen.