Category Archives: Israel as a threat to peace and democracy

How to create peace on earth

In my last post, “Creating peace on earth,” I tried to arouse your desire to take the peace you’re hopefully creating within out into the world. Saying I thought that together we could transform the hellish aspects of life on planet Earth in the early 21st century into comparative heaven, I promised some ideas on how to do this “in the coming days.”

This post is at least a beginning on that.

The first thing we have to do to create peace in the “outer” world is to cultivate it within. Because if we don’t bring real peace, real love, and real calm to our brothers and sisters in desperate, conflicted situations, we’ll just end up increasing the misery. If our motives are egoistic or based on an entrenched point of view, we need to go home and do some inner work. Are we bringing more anger, blame, and judgment into the world? That’s counterproductive. Are we just trying to make ourselves feel better, heal our own confusion? We need to own that and be aware of how it can hurt rather than help. We’re human beings, not angels, so we can’t wait to be perfect, but we need to be honest with ourselves and others about where we are in any given moment.

Going out into the world, we may encounter people who are angry and desperate enough to kill or otherwise grievously hurt themselves and others. Can we meet those people, or others lacking in skill and/or understanding where they are, with acceptance and compassion? Sometimes yes, if, as I said in my previous post, we’ve been “cultivating peace within – following a spiritual path and meditating or having quiet moments of just being – open to messages from that part of our intuition that’s a spark of the divine, our connection with everything and everyone else.” Sometimes no, because we’re human, and we fall back easily into a narrow, egoistic perspective. Sometimes, as noted above, the best we’ll be able to offer will be our honesty, admitting that we’re frightened or confused, wanting to be able to (fill in the blank), but having trouble doing that, because (fill in the blank).

We’ll be constantly moving between the inner and the outer, recharging alone and going back out. And we’ll need to strive as much and as often as possible to give ourselves the same understanding, love, and compassion – “empathy,” as Nonviolent Communicators call it – we want to be able to offer others. Feel the love and acceptance in the air, with no boundaries, because – and here comes another #1 – we are really one. What hurts others hurts me. As long as one of my brothers and sisters is in prison, I’m not free. Isn’t that why you want to do this work in the first place?

The third #1 that I want you to be aware of is – full disclosure – a belief of mine that you may not agree with; but I want to share it with you because of the urgency of solving the problems that concern us – also because I’d rather see you/us experience success and avoid frustration. It’s this: our current global and national political and economic system is fundamentally flawed, untruthful, and can never solve the problems it continues to create. I’m talking about the United States, in my eyes the most violent terrorist entity ever, and capitalism, whose profit motive prevents us from solving problems like environmental catastrophe, poverty, and war, to name a few. Gun control in the wake of the killing of little children in Newtown, Connecticut is, thankfully, a big issue right now, but we can’t have a clear discussion about it because of the gun lobby, the people who profit from the sale of automatic and other weapons and ammunition.

You can read my ideas about these kinds of issues, based on the third #1, elsewhere on this blog (and there’ll be more in the future) – basically, what I’m saying here is that I think working within the system and expecting our “leaders” to solve problems is a pipe dream, a waste of time. We have to take matters into our own peaceful but determined hands, and create alternatives that will eventually replace the forces, practices, and institutions that run things now.

So, there you have it – my three #1s:

  • A spiritual practice that keeps you in touch with and accepting of what’s true for you and others in each successive moment;
  • Love for yourself and others, including all life, because we’re one; and
  • (this one’s optional) a realization that the current political and economic system won’t solve the problems that most concern us.

Once you have these primary goals/ideas/practices as a base to start from, you can work on whatever kind of problem draws you in most strongly. Do you want to be a peacemaker between struggling humans? Between humans and the environment? Work on the welfare of animals? The list could go on forever – there’s plenty to choose from.

Maybe I should have added a fourth #1 to the list, because something else to remember is that, as I said in my previous post, our individual acts can inspire others. “But we also need to get together – to organize and form affinity groups for both mutual support and planning actions and campaigns. Getting together multiplies our power exponentially, and history shows that when we’re steadfast in it, not even the mightiest government can stand against us. Hitler and Stalin are no more, and the American ‘evil empire’ won’t last forever either. Another world really is possible.”

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, it will come as no surprise that my area of interest is world affairs, especially – because I’m a U.S. citizen – U.S. foreign policy. I feel partially responsible for trying to halt the U.S. death machine – the killing of innocent people (and, really, they’re all innocent, in the sense that violence never solves anything, and we’re all capable of causing harm) to create and maintain an empire and advance capitalist business interests.

I’ve also been big on ending injustice all my life, and one of the many epitomes of injustice for the past 60 years has been the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government, supported by the United States government. Which brings up a corollary to the third #1: Never take any government’s propaganda, perpetrated these days via the mass media, at face value. You have to look deeper, because governments are always lying, at least in part, to cover their real motives. The latest example of this, which I have yet to fully unravel, is the “need” to fight Islamic terrorists in northern Mali. Something funny’s going on between the United States and Algerian governments here (bearing in mind that Algeria is a dictatorship), and you can bet that the regular, real people on the ground (Tuaregs and others) have a different story to tell. But I digress…

What tools and resources can you find to help you and your group(s) with the work you want to do?

For basic support and understanding of principle #1, read Miguel Ruiz, Erhart Tolle, Byro Katie, or Adyashanti – a lot of what they’ve written is online (videos, too). The Zen Peacemakers have a website, as does the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Starhawk is a favorite resource of mine – read her novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, or her books on pagan spirituality, or find her website online to see what she’s doing and blogging about.

Also, if you haven’t already, check out the work of Marshall Rosenberg and others in Nonviolent Communication. (Rosenberg has a book with that title, and others, and there’s much online, including videos.) We’ve learned a violent (separated) way of looking at the world and communicating with each other that we don’t even recognize as such. Communicating the NVC way (When I see/hear…, I feel …, because I need …Would you be willing to (specific action)?) can seem stilted when you first try it, and it takes years of practice to make it a habit, but you need this tool in your kitbag.

For your specific interest(s), ask others, read books and periodicals, and look online. Because of my specific interest(s), the tools I’d focus on – if I were doing more than, to be honest, just reading and writing this blog – would be things like tax resistance, the International Solidarity Movement, the Global Nonviolent Peace Force, and Witness for Peace (Google these terms to find out more). Queued up on my bookmarks to explore further this week are Naomi Klein on capitalism and climate change (a Moyers and Company video), open source ecology, A Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution, and the 2012 Global Peace Index.

The works of Gene Sharp, available on the Albert Einstein Institution website, are invaluable for the kind of world peace organizing I’m interested in. I have much of Sharp’s work in hard copy and will let you know more when I’ve had a chance to read it. (Or you can let me know more when you have a chance to read it!)

Remember the story I told you in my previous post about David Hartsough, one of the founders of the Global Nonviolence Peace Force, and what he said to a white racist attacker when he (David) was sitting in at a lunch counter helping to desegregate it? Go back and read it if you haven’t yet. I said I was going to tell you more about David, but I still haven’t had time to research him. You can though – he seems like a leader in what we’re trying to do.

I’ll keep offering ideas, examples, and models…How about you? What do you have to offer, even if it’s just a question. Or a disagreement. Let’s start a conversation, and maybe form some partnerships or affinity groups.

Killing can’t bring security

The death toll in Gaza now stands at 81 and rising; Israel’s score is still 3 in this deadly, uneven match. An Israeli “defense” spokesman has spoken of “beating Gaza back into the Middle Ages.” Everyone probably has a reaction or an opinion — this isn’t the kind of thing you can ignore. What are you feeling?

I’m feeling intense sadness and grief.

Isn’t it obvious by now that this kind of violence — any violence, really —  isn’t the way to peace or security? It’s the opposite of the way. The way to peace is peace; it’s love, or at least respect.

However much the Israeli government, and perhaps the Israeli people, would like to eradicate or frighten away those they’ve come to see as a not-really-human threat, millions of Palestinians will remain, suffering the imprisonment, indignity, and deprivation of Israeli occupation. That kind of “othering” can lead to no good.

How can killing another man’s child, his wife, or his mother make you safer? Palestinians aren’t another species — they feel the same stunned and painful grief, the same helpless rage you’d feel. And their unnecessary deaths and woundings are as important and wrong as any suffering they’ve inflicted on you.

There will always be those who lack the wisdom to see this and the courage and patience to act on that seeing. Real leaders must dig deeper. What goes around comes around.

Only making all our children safe — security for all, no exceptions — will bring peace. Equality and dignity for all, too. We are different, but, like it or not, we have to live together.

Understanding the current fighting between Israel and Gaza

One of the purposes of this blog is to try to help busy friends understand what’s happening in the news, and fighting between Israel and Gaza has again taken over the headlines. Some day I’ll put a full-scale analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including its history up under “Realities,” one of the static pages you can access at the top of this website. For today I’ll just say that many of the Israeli government’s actions and policies with regard to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are violations of international law — violations that would never have been tolerated so long without US support.

I don’t condone any violence, “justified” or “collateral,” against civilians, but context is important here. Since 2005, when Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from the Strip, Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade that amounts to creating prison walls and restricting the prisoners to bread and water. It’s a desperate situation, and desperate people, especially men trying to provide a good life for their wives and children, are capable of desperate acts. Resistance of an illegal occupation is also a right, according to international law.

Finally, Israeli violence against Gaza is totally disproportionate. Palestinians rockets are mostly homemade, have a relatively short range, and rarely find a human target. Israel, on the other hand has all the latest weapons and military technology, thanks its comparative wealth and massive US military aid and arms sales. Casualty statistics bear these differences out. Israel’s previous massive attack on Gaza killed 1,166 to 1,417 Palestinians, compared to 9 Israelis killed by Palestinian rockets. This was Operation Cast Lead (2008), which involved a land invasion as well as bombing. So far in the current operation there have been 40 Palestinian and 3 Israeli deaths, figures that will probably have changed by the end of the day.

I searched for quite a while this morning to find good information on what’s happening, finally settling on an editorial by Uri Avnery on the Counterpunch website (counterpunch.org). Here it is, edited for brevity:

Another Superfluous War by Uri Avnery, counterpunch.org, 11-16-12

How did it start? Stupid question. Conflagrations along the Gaza Strip don’t start. They’re just a continuous chain of events, each claimed to be  “in retaliation” for the previous one. This particular event “started” with the firing from Gaza of an anti-tank weapon at a partially armored jeep on the Israeli side of the border fence. It was described as retaliation for the killing of a boy in an air attack some days earlier. But probably the timing of the action was accidental – the opportunity just presented itself.

The success gave rise to demonstrations of joy and pride in Gaza. Again Palestinians had shown their ability to strike at the hated enemy. However, the Palestinians had in fact walked into a trap prepared with great care. Whether the order was given by Hamas or one of the smaller more extreme organizations – it was not a clever thing to do. Shooting across the fence at an army vehicle was crossing a red line. (The Middle East is full of red lines.) A major Israeli reaction was sure to ensue.

It was rather routine. Israeli tanks fired cannon shells into the Gaza Strip. Hamas launched rockets at Israeli towns and villages. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis rushed to their shelters. Schools closed. As usual, Egyptian and other mediators went into action. Behind the scenes, a new truce was arranged. It seemed to be over. Just another round.

The Israeli side did everything to get back to normal, it seemed. The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister went to the Syrian border to show that Gaza was off their minds.

In Gaza, everybody relaxed. They left their shelters. Hamas’s supreme military commander, Ahmad Ja’abari, climbed into his car and drove along the main street.

And then the trap closed. The car was blown up by a missile. Such an assassination isn’t carried out on the spur of the moment. It’s the culmination of many months of preparation, gathering of information, and waiting for the right moment, when it can be executed without killing many bystanders and causing an international scandal. This particular assassination was due to take place a day earlier, but was postponed because of the bad weather.

Ja’abari was the man behind all the military activities of the Hamas government in Gaza, including the capture of Gilad Shalit and the successful five-year long hiding of his whereabouts. He was photographed at the release of Shalit to the Egyptians. So this time it was the Israelis who were jubilant. Much like the Americans after the Osama bin-Laden assassination.

The killing of Ja’abari was the start of the planned operation. The Israeli military has long planned a major operation to destroy as many of Gaza’s missiles as possible from the air. This is the purpose of the “Pillar of Cloud” operation. (“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to show them the way.” Exodus 13:21)

This will not be Cast Lead II. The Israeli army is rather good at discreetly drawing lessons from its failures. Cast Lead was celebrated as a great success, but it was a disaster. Sending troops into a densely populated area is bound to cause heavy civilian casualties. War crimes are almost inevitable. World reaction was catastrophic, the political damage immense. The Chief of Staff at the time was widely acclaimed, but in reality he was a rather primitive military type. His successor is of a different caliber.

How will it end? It would be foolhardy to guess. Wars have their own logic. Stuff happens, as the man said. Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, the two men in command, hope the war will wind down once the its aims are achieved, so there will be no reason to employ the army on the ground, enter the Gaza Strip, kill people, lose soldiers. Deterrence will be restored. Another truce will come into force. The Israeli population surrounding the Strip will be able to sleep soundly at night for several months. Hamas will be cut down to size.

The basic situation will remain unchanged. Ja’abari will be replaced. Israel has assassinated dozens of Arab political and military leaders, with no real positive results.

Will this operation stop the advance of Hamas? Probably not – perhaps the opposite. Hamas has already achieved a significant breakthrough: the emir of Qatar (owner of Aljazeera) paid Gaza a state visit, the first head of state to do so, and others are bound to follow. The Egyptian prime minister arrived in Gaza in the middle of the operation. Operation “Pillar of Cloud” compels all Arab countries to rally around Hamas, or at least pretend to. In the battle for Palestinian opinion, Hamas has gained another victory over Mahmoud Abbas, whose security cooperation with Israel will look even more despicable.

Like Cast Lead, Pillar of Cloud takes place on the eve of Israeli elections. Two of the leading candidates had hitched their stars to social issues, blown away now as frivolous and irrelevant. Netanyahu and Barak appear multiple times a day on the TV screen, looking responsible, sober, determined, and experienced: he-men, saving the nation.

Was there an alternative? Yes. First of all, you can abstain from “reacting.” Just cut the chain. Then, you can talk with Hamas as the de facto government of Gaza, which Israel did when negotiating the release of Shalit. Why not look for a permanent modus vivendi, with the involvement of Egypt? A hudna can be achieved. In Arab culture, a hudna is a binding truce, sanctified by Allah, which can go on for many years. The Crusaders concluded hudnas with their Muslim enemies.

The day after the assassination, Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in mediating Shalit’s release, disclosed that he’d been in contact with Ja’abari up to the last moment. Ja’abari had been interested in a long-term cease-fire. The Israeli authorities had been informed.

The remedy is peace with the Palestinian people. Hamas has already said it would respect a peace agreement concluded by the PLO (Mahmoud Abbas) that would establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, provided the agreement was confirmed by a Palestinian referendum.

Without such an agreement, the bloodletting will just go on, round after round. Forever.

 

Uri Avnery is an 89-year-old Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. Gush Shalom – literally “the Peace Bloc,” is an Israeli peace activism group founded and led by former Irgun and Knesset member Avnery in 1993. The American Friends Service Committee has described the group as “one of Israel’s most influential peace organizations.” Since the Irgun was a Zionist paramilitary group that operated in Palestine between 1931 and 1948, we can see that Avnery’s thinking has evolved over the years.

Occupy enthusiasm overshadowed by new worries

As the Occupy movement shifts into a new stage, its effectiveness yet to be determined, I find myself losing a bit of my “Occupy high,” and succumbing to some of the same negative emotions about the current system that I’ve had in the past. I believe current nation-states and their governments are irrelevant to what needs to happen, and that in the long run they won’t withstand the tides of mass protest and economic stagnation caused by energy descent. But they can cause a lot of unnecessary damage and suffering in the short run.

Two things in the news have evoked the old anger and worry in me: provocative US and Israeli policies toward Iran and the legislation just signed by President Obama that allows the military to detain US citizens indefinitely for aiding the country’s “enemies.” The aggressive posture of the former and the totalitarian nature of the latter should be mind-boggling (parallels with Nazi Germany anyone?), but, for now anyway, it seems that people are just accepting both and going on with business as usual.

I hesitate to even mention the word “Israel,” because, supported by the US, it does so many awful things (particularly against the Palestinians) that I could go on all day. But for now, I’ll just address its apparent efforts to provoke a war with Iran. The good news, according to an Inter Press article by Gareth Porter and Jim Lobe posted on the Asia Times website yesterday, is that a “massive joint United States-Israeli military exercise” that looked like preparation for war with Iran has been postponed. Apparently, Israel’s actions and possible actions in the future on this score are or would be so egregious that, for once, the US feels the need to disassociate itself from them. “The exercise, called Austere Challenge 12, originally scheduled for April, was to have been a simulation of a joint US-Israeli effort to identify, track, and intercept incoming missiles by integrating sophisticated US radar systems with Israeli anti-missile defense systems. US participation in such an exercise, obviously geared to a scenario involving Iranian retaliation against an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, would have made the US Israel’s partner in any war following an Israeli attack on Iran. Obama and US military leaders apparently decided that the US couldn’t participate in such an exercise unless Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured the administration that he wouldn’t attack Iran without prior approval from Washington.”

The article shows that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey pulled Obama back from all this after the president whined to him that he had “no say” in Israel’s policy.”  In November and December, US neo-conservatives aligned with Netanyahu’s Likud Party and what is sometimes called the Israel lobby engineered legislation that forced [??] on the Obama administration a unilateral sanctions law aimed at dramatically reducing Iranian crude oil exports and ‘collapsing’ its economy. The administration’s reluctant embrace of sanctions against the oil sector and Iran’s central bank led to an Iranian threat to retaliate by closing off the Strait of Hormuz, and the risk of a naval incident exploding into actual military conflict loomed large. Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak are widely believed to have hoped to provoke such conflict with a combination of aggressive sanctions, sabotaging Iranian missile and nuclear facilities, and assassinations against Iranian scientists associated with the nuclear program. Amid tensions already reaching dangerous heights, Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was assassinated in Tehran in a bombing on January 11th. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor immediately condemned the assassination and vehemently denied any US involvement in that or any other violence inside Iran.”

Israel’s Mossad (the equivalent of our CIA) has apparently assassinated other Iranian nuclear scientists prior to this, often just as negotiations on Iran’s alleged nuclear program look like they might bear peaceful fruit. The latest assassination was apparently inspired by the fact that there have been diplomatic efforts to lay the groundwork for another meeting between the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany and Iran.

What else is Israel doing to provoke war? “A major investigative story published on Friday on the website foreignpolicy.com quoted former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials as saying that Mossad operatives had been impersonating CIA personnel for several years in recruiting for and providing support to the Sunni terrorist organization Jundallah, which operated inside Iran.” That Israeli policy,” Porter and Lobe say, “also suggests a desire to provoke Iranian retaliation against the United States.”

In his signing of the Defense Authorization bill that includes the further elimination of our civil rights, Obama also appears to be weak and spineless, saying in his signing statements that he didn’t really wanna do it. In a recent article on Common Dreams political columnist and author Chris Hedges says he’s suing the administration over the legislation, which authorizes the military to carry out domestic policing for the first time in 200 years. Under this bill, Hedges says, “once a group is deemed to be a terrorist organization, whether it’s a Palestinian charity or an element of the Uighur independence movement, the military can pick up a U.S. citizen who supported charities associated with the group or unwittingly sent money or medical supplies to front groups” and either send them to Guantanamo or have them ‘extraordinarily renditioned’ to a country that tortures political prisoners.

Hedges says he suspects “the real purpose of the bill is to thwart internal, domestic movements [like Occupy] that threaten the corporate state. Dissent is increasingly equated with treason in this country.

The threat and reach of al-Qaeda are marginal, despite the attacks of 9/11. The terrorist group has been so disrupted and broken that it can barely function. So why, a decade after the start of the so-called war on terror, do these draconian measures need to be implemented? Why do U.S. citizens now need to be specifically singled out for military detention and denial of due process when under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force the president can apparently find the legal cover to serve as judge, jury and executioner to assassinate U.S. citizens, as he did in the killing of the cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen? This law is a a huge leap forward for the corporate oligarchs who plan to continue to plunder the nation and use state and military security to cow the population into submission.”

According to Hedges, “the FBI, the CIA, the director of national intelligence, the Pentagon, and the attorney general didn’t support it. FBI Director Robert Mueller said he feared the bill would impede the bureau’s ability to investigate terrorism by making it harder to win cooperation from detainees. But it passed anyway, because the corporations, seeing the unrest in the streets, knowing that things are about to get much worse, worrying that the Occupy movement will expand, don’t trust the police to protect them. They want to be able to call in the army. And now they can.”