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. 

I received an email today from Starhawk, born a Jew in the US and long-term peace activist who many times has been to Palestine to support the people there against constant Israeli state terror. In this mail she reflects not only on the homeland myth she was raised with but also on the need for Israel to atone rather then to continue to practice mass-murder, ethnic cleansing and contempt for another people. It’s a passionate piece written with honesty and compassion. (And follow one of the practical actions suggested at the end of the mail!)

[images inserted by me]


Dear friends,

All day I’ve been thinking about Gaza, listening to reports on NPR, following the news on the internet when I can spare a moment.  I’ve been thinking about the friends I made there four years ago, and wondering how they are faring, and imagining their terror as the bombs fall on that giant, open-air prison.

The Israeli ambassador speaks movingly of the terror felt by Israeli children as Hamas rockets explode in the night.  I agree with him—that no child should have her sleep menaced by rocket fire, or wake in the night fearing death.

But I can’t help but remember one night on the Rafah border, sleeping in a house close to the line, watching the children dive for cover as bullets thudded into the walls. There was a shell-hole in the back room they liked to jump through into the garden, which at that time still held fruit trees and chickens.  Their mother fed me eggs, and their grandmother stuffed oranges into my pockets with the shy pride every gardener shares.

That house is gone, now, along with all of its neighbors.  Those children wake in the night, every night of their lives, in terror.  I don’t know if they have survived the hunger, the lack of medical supplies, the bombs.  I only know that they are children, too.

I’ve ridden on busses in Israel.  I understand that gnawing fear, the squirrely feeling in the pit or your stomach, how you eye your fellow passengers wondering if any of them are too thick around the middle. Could that portly fellow be wearing a suicide belt, or just too many late night snacks of hummus?  That’s no way to live.

But I’ve also walked the pock-marked streets of Rafah, where every house bears the scars of Israeli snipers, where tanks prowled the border every night, where children played in the rubble, sometimes under fire, and this was all four years ago, when things were much, much better there.


And I just don’t get it.  I mean, I get why suicide bombs and homemade rockets that kill innocent civilians are wrong. I just don’t get why bombs from F16s that kill far more innocent civilians are right.  Why a kid from the ghetto who shoots a cop is a criminal, but a pilot who bombs a police station from the air is a hero.

Is it a distance thing?  Does the air or the altitude confer a purifying effect?  Or is it a matter of scale?  Individual murder is vile, but mass murder, carried out by a state as an aspect of national policy, that’s a fine and noble thing?

I don’t get how my own people can be doing this.  Or rather, I do get it.  I am a Jew, by birth and upbringing, born six years after the Holocaust ended, raised on the myth and hope of Israel.  The myth goes like this:

“For two thousand years we wandered in exile, homeless and persecuted, nearly destroyed utterly by the Nazis.  But out of that suffering was born one good thing—the homeland that we have come back to, our own land at last, where we can be safe, and proud, and strong.”

That’s a powerful story, a moving story.  There’s only one problem with it—it leaves the Palestinians out.  It has to leave them out, for if we were to admit that the homeland belonged to another people, well, that spoils the story.

The result is a kind of psychic blind spot where the Palestinians are concerned.  If you are truly invested in Israel as the Jewish homeland, the Jewish state, then you can’t let the Palestinians be real to you.  It’s like you can’t really focus on them.  Golda Meir said, “The Palestinians, who are they?  They don’t exist.”  We hear, “There is no partner for peace,”  “There is no one to talk to.”

PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/VIOLENCEAnd so Israel, a modern state with high standards of hygiene, a state rooted in a religion that requires washing your hands before you eat and regular, ritual baths, builds settlements that don’t bother to construct sewage treatment plants. They just dump raw sewage onto the Palestinian fields across the fence, somewhat like a spaceship ejecting its wastes into the void.  I am truly not making this up—I’ve seen it, smelled it, and it’s a known though shameful fact.  But if the Palestinians aren’t really real—who are they?  They don’t exist!—then the land they inhabit becomes a kind of void in the psyche, and it isn’t really real, either.  At times, in those border villages, walking the fencelines of settlements, you feel like you have slipped into a science fiction movie, where parallel universes exist in the same space, but in different strands of reality, that never touch.

When I was on the West Bank, during Israeli incursions the Israeli military would often take over a Palestinian house to billet their soldiers.  Many times, they would simply lock the family who owned it into one room, and keep them there, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days—parents, grandparents, kids and all.  I’ve sat with a family, singing to the children while soldiers trashed their house, and I’ve been detained by a group of soldiers playing cards in the kitchen with a family locked in the other room.  (I got out of that one—but that’s another story.)

It’s a kind of uneasy feeling, having something locked away in a room in your house that you can’t look at.  Ever caught a mouse in a glue trap?  And you can’t bear to watch it suffer, so you leave the room and close the door and don’t come back until it’s really, really dead.

Like a horrific fractal, the locked room repeats on different scales.  The Israelis have built a wall to lock away the West Bank.  And Gaza itself is one huge, locked room.  Close the borders, keep food and medical supplies and necessities from getting through, and perhaps they will just quietly fade out of existence and stop spoiling our story.

“All we want is a return to calm,” the Israeli ambassador says.  “All we want is peace.”

One way to get peace is to exterminate what threatens you.  In fact, that may be the prime directive of the last few thousand years.

But attempts to exterminate pests breed resistance, whether you’re dealing with insects or bacteria or people.  The more insecticides you pour on a field, the more pests you have to deal with—because insecticides are always more potent at killing the beneficial bugs than the pesky ones.

The harshness, the crackdowns, the border closings, the checkpoints, the assassinations, the incursions, the building of settlements deep into Palestinian territory, all the daily frustrations and humiliations of occupation, have been breeding the conditions for Hamas, or something like it, to thrive.  If Israel truly wants peace, there’s a more subtle, a more intelligent and more effective strategy to pursue than simply trying to kill the enemy and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity.

It’s this—instead of killing what threatens you, feed what you want to grow.  Consider in what conditions peace can thrive, and create them, just as you would prepare the bed for the crops you want to plant. Find those among your opponents who also want peace, and support them.  Make alliances.  Offer your enemies incentives to change, and reward your friends.

Of course, to follow such a strategy, you must actually see and know your enemy.  If they are nothing to you but cartoon characters of terrorists, you will not be able to tell one from another, to discern the religious fanatic from the guy muttering under his breath, “F-ing Hammas, they closed the cinema again!”


And you must be willing to give something up.  No one gets peace if your basic bargaining position is, “I get everything I want, and you eat my shit.”  You might get a temporary victory, but it will never be a peaceful one.

To know and see the enemy, you must let them into the story.  They must become real to you, nuanced, distinctive as individuals.

But when we let the Palestinians into the story, it changes.  Oh, how painfully it changes!  For there is no way to tell a new story, one that includes both peoples of the land, without starting like this:

“In our yearning for a homeland, in our attempts as a threatened and traumatized people to find safety and power, we have done a great wrong to another people, and now we must atone.”

Just try saying it. If you, like me, were raised on that other story, just try this one out.  Say it three times.  It hurts, yes, but it might also bring a great, liberating sense of relief with it.

And if you’re not Jewish, if you’re American, if you’re white, if you’re German, if you’re a thousand other things, really, if you’re a human being, there’s probably some version of that story that is true for you.

Out of our own great need and fear and pain, we have often done great harm, and we are called to atone.  To atone is to be at one—to stop drawing a circle that includes our tribe and excludes the other, and start drawing a larger circle that takes everyone in.

How do we atone? Open your eyes.  Look into the face of the enemy, and see a human being, flawed, distinct, unique and precious.  Stop killing.  Start talking. Compost the shit and the rot and feed the olive trees.

Act.  Cross the line.  There are Israelis who do it all the time, joining with Palestinians on the West Bank to protest the wall, watching at checkpoints, refusing to serve in the occupying army, standing for peace.  Thousands have demonstrated this week in Tel Aviv.

There are Palestinians who advocate nonviolent resistance, who have organized their villages to protest the wall, who face tear gas, beatings, arrests, rubber bullets and real bullets to make their stand.

There are internationals who have put themselves on the line—like the boatload of human rights activists, journalists and doctors on board the Dignity, the ship from the Free Gaza movement that was rammed and fired on by the Israeli navy yesterday as it attempted to reach Gaza with humanitarian aid.

Maybe we can’t all do that. But we can all write a letter, make a phone call, send an email. We can make the Palestinian people visible to us, and to the world.  When we do so, we make a world that is safer for every child.

Below is a good summary of some of the actions we can take.

Please feel free to repost this. In fact, send it to someone you think will disagree with it.


Updated Action Alert on Gaza:
We Need “Sustained, Determined Political Action”
December 29, 2008

As of this writing, a third consecutive day of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have killed an estimated 315 Palestinians and injured more than 1,400.  According to the UN, at least 51 of the victims were civilians and 8 were children.  Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has vowed ominously “a war to the bitter end.”

Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip are being carried out with F16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, and naval gunboats all given to Israel by the United States with our tax dollars.

From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16’s and more than $100 million worth of helicopter spare parts for its fleet of Apaches. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel and signed a contract to transfer an addition $1.9 billion worth of littoral combat ships to the Israeli navy. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and “bunker buster” missiles.

Make no mistake about it-Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip would not be possible without the jets, helicopters, ships, missiles, and fuel provided by the United States.


Ali Abunimah, of The Electronic Intifada, wrote, “Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action.”  In light of our country’s enabling role in Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip, it is the least we can do.  Here’s how:

1. Attend a protest or vigil. We’ve compiled a list of more than 60 emergency protests taking place in 25 states and the District of Columbia, many of which are taking place today or tomorrow. Find one near you and bring as many people to it as you can. If you know of a protest that isn’t listed on our website, please send us all the logistical details and contact information by clicking here. More events are being posted all the time-check back frequently for the latest updates.  

2. Contact the White House, the State Department, your Representative and Senators, and the Obama Transition Team to protest Israel’s war on Gaza and demand an immediate cease-fire.

3. Make your voice heard in the media. Contact your local media by phoning into a talk show or writing a letter to the editor. To find contact info for your local media, click here.

4. Tell President-Elect Barack Obama that ” We Need a Change in Israel/Palestine Policy. Join more than 200 organizations in 38 states plus Washington, DC and abroad and thousands of individuals by endorsing this letter which will be published as a full-page ad on Inauguration Day.  Let all your friends know by copying and pasting the graphic below into your email signature, blog, or website and by joining our Facebook group.

5. Sign up to organize people in your community to end U.S. military aid to Israel. We’ll send you an organizing packet complete with our brand new postcards featuring the icon below. If we’re going to change U.S. policy, we’ve got to go beyond agreeing among ourselves and educate and organize others as well. Sign up today and we’ll send you a package tomorrow by clicking here.

6. Join us in Washington, DC for Inauguration Day on January 20. Upwards of 4 million people are expected in Washington, DC for President-Elect Obama’s inauguration. This is a perfect time for us to reach out to and educate our fellow citizens about U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel. If you plan to be in Washington for the inauguration and would like to help us distribute information and get signatures on postcards calling for a cut off of arms transfers to Israel, please click here.

7. Join us again in Washington, DC for a Grassroots Advocacy Training and Lobby Day on February 1-2. Interfaith Peace-Builders and the US Campaign are organizing this exciting two-day event, featuring interactive, skills-building workshops and the chance to meet with your Representative and Senators to discuss U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. Spaces are filling up fast. For more details, and to register, please click here.

8. Forward this email to everyone you know and ask them to take action.

Thank you for doing all you can during this tragic time. US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation DONATE | SUBSCRIBE


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This is a great story – from war and oppression to building and living in a peaceful, sustainable community. It’s remarkable what people can achieve when they come together as collaborators and co-operators, with a yearning for peace on their minds and a sense of something bigger than their individual and even human-species existence. [images inserted by me]


Published in the
November/December 2008 issue of Orion magazine

NUEVO HORIZONTE, GUATEMALA —Nothing particularly remarkable strikes a visitor stepping off the bus and into the small village of Nuevo Horizonte in northern Guatemala. Clustered along a flat stretch of highway slicing through cleared rainforest, it appears to be a typical collection of cinder-block houses and dirt streets frequented by children and chickens—at first.

But soon, even an obtuse observer such as myself, strolling past the tightly clustered houses surrounded by fruit trees and flowers, notices something is missing. The streets are nearly devoid of trash as well as the advertising so ubiquitous throughout Latin America. Nor are there any cars other than a small pickup parked in the plaza. There are no police here. Even the dogs look healthy and content, a quality that seems to pervade the human population as well. Little more than a grassy field, the plaza hosts a community center where a lively meeting is taking place, a youth center where a teenager is giving a haircut to a younger boy, and a plain cinder-block church. Nearby a large mural depicts four women guerrilla leaders.

In 1954, a U.S.-initiated coup that overthrew the elected president of Guatemala served as the catalyst to a thirty-six-year civil war that pitted a succession of military dictatorships against leftist political organizations. The Guatemalan government’s response to community organizing was to label the opposition as “Communist” and send in the army. During the 1980s, the government began targeting the rural Mayan people, burning fields, razing entire villages, massacring men, women, and children, and assassinating priests. After years of suffering political oppression, economic injustice, and racial violence, many of the Mayan farmers organized an armed resistance movement using the jungles as a base. Finally, in 1996, the peace accords between the rebels and the government ended the war and provided an opportunity for the revolutionaries to continue their efforts, but without their guns.


Tono Figuero, a quiet, serious man in his late forties, introduces me to this cooperative community founded ten years ago. Hundreds of displaced refugees and former guerrillas came together and found an old ranch that had been cleared and burned. Arriving with nothing but the rags on their backs, they began to forge a community based upon their revolutionary principles of social equality and communal land ownership. Viewing machismo as a form of oppression, women had assumed positions of leadership in the resistance; one of those women guerrillas is now president of the co-op.

While each family owns their house and farm plot, the co-op retains ownership of pasturelands, the forest, the lake, and plantations of pine, pineapple, and lime trees. The co-op provides free day care, primary and secondary education, adult vocational training, and operates a pharmacy and clinic, charging as little as twelve cents per visit. Nuevo Horizonte also maintains two pickups and a minivan for anyone’s use.

The co-op’s explicit economic goal is to provide alternatives to the Central American Free Trade Agreement and demonstrate how communities can be less vulnerable to the negative effects of globalization. To this end, the co-op provides low-interest microfinancing. To encourage collective enterprises, the loans’ interest rates drop with every partner who joins. The community now boasts a welding shop and two corn mills, and maintains its own seed bank to counter efforts by corporations to control crop production.

The residents of Nuevo Horizonte seem particularly proud of their efforts to preserve a small, 250-acre chunk of intact rainforest. When the ex-guerrillas arrived ten years ago, they quickly recognized this remnant for both its ecological value in preventing siltation of the local lake, as well as its historical and cultural significance. Flashing a grin, Juan, a villager in his seventies, leads us into the forest. Every few hundred yards he stops and points out an edible palm, fruit, or nut tree. “Es historico,” he insists, because it provided food during “la epoca guerrilla.” One palm yields cooking oil, and another tree produces nuts that can be roasted and ground into flour. The jungle served as the guerrillas’ home for many years, providing food, shelter, and safety, and it is doing so again.

The revolution of Nuevo Horizonte is no longer being fought with guns, but with education, sustainability, and the integrity of the natural and human community. “The fight is not over,” Tono says.


The inscrription reads: “Many small people, in many small places, doing many small things….can change the world”

I found this marvelous manifesto at The Unapologetic Mathematician (thanks Harry!), and he/she also mentioned Terry Tao’s call for reasoned discussion (which unfortunately I couldn’t find), as well as Susan’s atheism post, including some thoughts on atheism vs. agnosticism.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism — 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!

People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to … you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for “balance” by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.

We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: “Sincerity is not enough.” We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it’s true doesn’t make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn’t mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.

Brother Gatling Gun of Patience notes that he’s pretty sure the world is out to get him because everyone laughs when he says he is a Unitarian. There were murmurs of assent around the room, and someone suggested that we buy some Congress members and really stick it to the Baptists. But this was deemed against Revolutionary Principles, and Brother Gatling Gun of Patience was remanded to the Sunday Flowers and Banners committee.

People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.