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Reflections from Jerusalem: The Murdered Teens, Hebron, and the Future of Israel/Palestine


by: Cherie Brown on July 1st, 2014 | 3 Comments »

At four in the morning on Tuesday, I find myself wide awake. The devastating news that the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers were found just came in last night. I had been attending a Teachers’ and Leaders’ class in co-counseling taught by the leader of the Israeli co-counseling community, so we didn’t hear the news until we were in a car on our way back to Jerusalem.

A candle light vigil for the three murdered Israeli teens

Credit: Creative Commons.

Soon after hearing the awful news, a screaming fight broke out in the back seat of the car I was in between two co-counselors. One is a long time peace activist. The other is an ultra Orthodox woman who knew many people in the Yeshiva where the three murdered boys had studied. Each was screaming at the top of their lungs at the other, “You don’t understand anything.” One claimed the other had no sympathy for the murdered Israeli teenagers but only cared about Palestinians. The other screamed back, “You don’t see the outrageous things being done to Palestinians under the Occupation. You have no ability to listen to the other side.” And here I was in the front seat; it’s almost midnight and they are non-stop screaming at each other. The news that the bodies had been found brought up such painful, raw emotion that even these two seasoned co-counseling leaders temporarily could not use their own co-counseling listening skills. I kept thinking how much harder it must be in crisis moments like this for those who don’t even have these listening tools.

There are three events of the last few days I want to write about. All three are deeply etched in my heart as I continue to be confronted by the realities here and search to think through new ways to view what I am learning.


Tragedy and Humanity in Hebron


by: Michael N. Nagler on July 1st, 2014 | No Comments »

Hills of Hebron. Credit: Creative Commons

A little over a week ago I stood in the South Hebron Hills not far from the spot where, we now know, three Israeli teens had been put to death, assumedly by operatives of the Palestinian organization Hamas (though that is far from proven at this time). I was visiting a prominent nonviolent Palestinian activist from the village of At-Tuwani, where successful actions have been carried out against various provocative measures of the Israeli police and soldiers, just as I had visited their counterpart some days earlier, Rabbis for Human Rights, in Jerusalem.

Not only my host, Hafez, but many of the Palestinians I met and many whom I knew from one connection or another before are of like mind with their Israeli counterparts: strong, peace-loving, generous. Why can they not prevail against the madness that inflames the region now? Why, on the Israeli side, does the “tail” of settler fanaticism wag the “dog” of Israeli society, as one of my rabbi friends put it? Why does the fanatical group Hamas so easily drag Palestinian society as a whole into the maelstrom of violence?


Dead Young Men in Mississippi, Israel, and Palestine: Spirals of Violence and Nonviolence


by: Rabbi Arthur Waskow on July 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Freedom Summer Anniversary

Activists take part in the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer in Mississippi. Credit: Freedom50.org.

I spent several days last week in Mississippi:

  • Mourning the murders of three young men fifty years ago;
  • Celebrating a Mississippi that today is very different;
  • Facing the truth that Earth and human communities – especially, still, those of color and of poverty – are being deeply wounded by the Carbon Pharaohs’ exploitation and oppression;
  • Talking/working toward a future of joyful community in which Mother Earth and her human children can live in peace with each other in the embrace of One Breath.

And then, a few days later, came the news of the murders of three young men just weeks ago – three Israeli youngsters, their bodies, like those of Mickey Schwerner, Andy Goodman, and James Earl Chaney, hidden while the search went forward for them.

But not only them. The violent deaths of young Palestinian boys and men as well, during the Israeli Army crackdown on the West Bank. Their mothers also mourning. As the New York Times reported the day before the three Israeli bodies were discovered:

Most Israelis see the missing teenagers as innocent civilians captured on their way home from school, and the Palestinians who were killed as having provoked soldiers. Palestinians, though, see the very act of attending yeshiva in a West Bank settlement as provocation, and complain that the crackdown is collective punishment against a people under illegal occupation.

Is there a danger of “moral relativism” in mentioning these deaths together? Is the cold-blooded murder of three hitchhiking youngsters morally equivalent to killings carried out by angry, frightened soldiers faced with a protesting mob? At the individual level, No.

But at the level of public policy, there is also no moral equivalence between a cold-blooded military occupation and the impotent rage of the occupied.

Above all, there is no “relativism” in the tears of mothers.


How to Create the Ideal Government and Society


by: Roger Copple on June 30th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

This article is not specifically about the exploited working class, the disappearing middle class, or the still-controlling ruling class. Instead, it is about describing how local, state, and the national governments can be improved, preferably under a new national constitution. It is not just about government; it expresses my worldview on several topics.

Some hardcore pragmatists and realists think it is foolish to contemplate ideas that may take 100 years to implement. But to idealists–visualizing the actual goal or dream is what energizes us. In the first half of this long article (I apologize), I identify some of the major political and religious groups in the United States; and then, in the second half, I propose a fair system that levels the political playing field among these diverse groups.


Personal Reflections from Jerusalem


by: Cherie Brown on June 28th, 2014 | 12 Comments »

I traveled to Jerusalem this summer to spend a month living in Israel and to learn as much as I could about the on-the-ground realities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, I wanted to offer my support and resources to the co-counseling community in Israel.

Co-counseling is a process whereby people are trained to exchange counseling help with one another to free themselves from the negative effects of unhealed grief, rage, and fear. One of the goals of co-counseling work is to identify and heal from past experiences of trauma and group oppression to be able to think freshly about all current situations.

There are communities of people in all different parts of the world that do co-counseling with one another. Co-counselors in Israel are using the tools of co-counseling to heal from any feelings of powerlessness, discouragement, or isolation that can make it difficult to sustain leadership over time and with others on Israeli-Palestinian peace work and all social justice work.Upon arriving in Jerusalem, my husband and I settled into an apartment right next to the Machaneh Yehuda – an incredible open-air market with streets of stalls and all kinds of produce. Our apartment was on the 14th floor, giving us a panoramic view of the Old City from our window. Each morning we woke to a spectacular view of the Old City before us. After having been in Jerusalem for a week, I settled into the daily rhythms of life and led a gathering for the co-counseling community in Jerusalem.

I kept finding how eager people were for contact, for connection, and for breaking the isolation of being Israeli – with the current separation of Israel from so much of the rest of the world. For example, the husband of one of the co-counseling leaders who came to my gathering had just had a life-threatening stroke, soI gave her counseling time, including giving her the space to heal about her incredible grief at the very real possibility that he might not make it. A Mizrachi woman initially was furious with me, saying how dare I ask this woman to look for even one minute at giving up hope about her husband. The Mizrachi woman went on to say, “We here in Israel are the walking dead, and we can’t afford to allow one another one second even in a co-counseling session to feel any feelings of hopelessness.” After screaming at me, she fell into my arms sobbing, and afterwards everyone present said how helpful it is for allies to offer a place for Israelis to be able to express the deep feelings of hopelessness that sit right under the recordings of forced hopefulness.


Chance, Fate, Luck: How the History of the World Turned on the Randomness of a Sunny Morning, 100 Years Ago


by: Howard Cooper on June 28th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

I want to take you back to just before 10 o’clock in the morning, exactly 100 years ago: the 28th of June, 1914. What happened in the next hour affected every one of us alive today. A series of quite random incidents, chance moments, that unfolded that morning has meant that if any part of that hour had gone differently, some of us might be living in a different country, some of us might not have been born, some of us might be part of a very different family. Our world might look very different.

An American lieutenant general pauses at the Sarajevo street corner where Gavrilo Princip assasinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand 100 years ago, an event widely believed to have precipitated World War I, and one that happened due largely to coincidence. Credit: Creative Commons/jim.greenhill

Because although it was an ordinary morning, the 28th June, 1914, it was also an extra-ordinary morning – and its anniversary gives us the opportunity to think about chance, randomness, fate, contingency, luck – the awesome and awful reality of how our lives are bound up with forces much larger than our own individual will. The events of that hour, that morning, show us – transparently – that nothing in life is predictable, or even inevitable: we are all bound up in something larger and out of our control. We might not like this idea, but it just happens to be the case.

As 10 o’clock drew near, a royal couple arrived by train in a distant European town, Sarajevo. A town that has seen, during the 20th century, more than its share of drama, and bloodshed. Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie – the William and Kate of their days, for those familiar with the British pre-occupation with royalty – had come to Sarajevo to open a hospital. That’s what the royalty do, then and now. At the station, which was just outside the town, they got into a car and were driven into the city center. Those were innocent times, as they still were in Dallas fifty years later, and the golden couple were driven in an open-top car: the top was rolled back in the sunshine so that the crowds could get a good view of its special occupants. So, first random factor: the weather. If it had rained that day, history would have gone in a different direction.


Keeping Care of All Our Brothers (and Sisters)


by: Maia Hallward on June 24th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

As a Quaker, I was raised to believe that every life is sacred, regardless of gender, national origin, race, or creed. I was taught to believe we should look for that of the divine in everyone. As a teacher and scholar of the Middle East and of international peace and conflict resolution, I endeavor to honor this practice by listening for the T/truth and bearing witness to the experiences of Israelis and Palestinians of all walks of life.

Young Palestinian Boys Pouring Tea as a Sign of Hospitality

I recently returned from a two week delegation to Israel/Palestine that included visits with nonviolent activists within Israel and the Palestinian Territories, as well as with more mainstream Israeli Jews and a Jewish settler in Hebron. Many of the places where we visited with Palestinians, unfortunately, are now under siege by the Israeli military in an operation ironically entitled “Brother’s Keeper”. The naming of this operation reflects a theme that was emphasized repeatedly by the Jewish Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers we met with: that the Israeli government values the lives of Jews above all other forms of life; just today Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that the killing of Palestinian youths engaged in nonviolent protest was “necessary” for “self defense” although video recording demonstrates otherwise. Although I hope the three Israeli youths are returned safely to their families, does the search for them require shutting down, shelling, and raiding all of the major cities in the West Bank? The mothers of the Palestinians who have been killed, injured and imprisoned (in the hundreds) as a result of this operation feel the loss of their children just as deeply as the Israeli mothers.


Struggle for Racial Justice is Local


by: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on June 23rd, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Since Michelle Alexander publishedThe New Jim Crowin 2010, communities of color across America have been talking about the need to dismantle America’s system of mass incarceration. As with the old Jim Crow, the problem is institutionalized racism (not just “a few bad apples,” but a system that corrupts the best of people). The language of “law and order” many have replaced “segregation forever,” but the result is the same: black men are subject to a system of control that cannot be questioned because it is the law.


At the World Cup of Debt, the World Lost


by: Andrew Hanauer on June 18th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

For Argentina, so far so good at the World Cup in Brazil.

At the Supreme Court in Washington, however, Argentina suffered a catastrophic defeat that no soccer metaphor can accurately capture.

Debt campaigners hold protest against vulture fund attack on Argentina (Credit: Jubilee Debt Campaign)

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would not hear Argentina’s appeal of a lower court ruling in favor of a group of hedge funds suing the country for more than $1 billion.

The dispute is rooted in Argentina’s 2001 debt default. When the country defaulted, amidst economic and political turmoil, nearly 93% of its creditors accepted a deal and took less money than they were owed. But a small group held out. The hold outs included hedge funds that have been nicknamed “vulture funds.” The nickname derives from the funds’ strategy of buying up the debt of economically distressed countries for pennies on the dollar and then suing, targeting debt relief money for collection. That money, of course, is often earmarked for social services like AIDS prevention and school construction.

The court’s decision is a huge blow for Argentina, but it’s also a huge blow to the rest of the world. Here’s why.


The Choice Is Nationalism or Human Rights


by: by Abba A. Solomon and Norman Solomon on June 16th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

A few points regarding Dr. Milton Masur’s critique of our article “The Blind Alley of J Street and Liberal American Zionism“:

* Masur attributes to us the assertion that “without the uprooting of the Palestinians a Jewish state would not have arisen here.” But that quote comes not from us but from our direct quotation of a 2004 statement by Benny Morris, the pioneering historian of Israel’s birth, who is currently a defender of the actions taken. The full quote presented in our article is:

“Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.”

* Masur presents two arguments: He disputes the intentionality of the driving away of non-Jews from now-erased villages in Israel. And he also contends the population transfer wasn’t that bad of an idea.

In our research, we found Louis Brandeis was reported in November 1939 by Isadore Breslau as objecting to a planned visit to the United States by Chaim Weizmann: “He believed the whole thing was a mistake. He was afraid Weizmann would press his plan for political action, based on a future re-shuffling of populations.”