There’s no question in my mind that the overwhelming majority of people everywhere would like nothing more than to live in a world where they can have the possibility of attending to what matters to them, caring and providing for their families, having meaningful relationships with others, and having a baseline of decency and dignity in human affairs.
Whether or not such a world is possible, and what could get us there are not as clear. Far too many of us have been led to believe that such a world can never be because of human nature which is purported to be selfish, greedy, or innately aggressive. Some of us have also, or instead, been led to believe that the only way to get to a beautiful future is to eliminate every last one of the “bad guys.” The sad irony of both of these worldviews is that they perpetuate the difficulties we are facing. If everyone is selfish and no one will care about us, then the only logical solution is for us to put all our efforts into promoting our own needs, or, at the very least, becoming resigned and apathetic. Similarly, if we must kill and punish the “bad guys,” then in the act we become like them.
What’s the alternative? Many of us like to believe that individual transformation, if enough people engage in it, is enough. Others believe that if those in positions of power are reached, either through their own transformation or through mass nonviolent resistance, then change will take place. Despite the elegant appeal of these approaches, I don’t quite see how any of them will bring about structural change. I wish I knew what would, and I don’t, like so many others. All I know is that collaboration is essential, both now and in any future, and hence my own joy in having found my own steps on the uncertain road to the future.
Students at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minnesota, reenact the slaughter.
Who is a martyr? The question comes to mind twenty-five years after what has become known as “the Jesuit massacre” in El Salvador.
On November 16, 1989, an elite battalion of the Salvadoran military forced its way into the Jesuit residence at the University of Central America, or UCA, in San Salvador. Most of the soldiers had received counter-insurgency training in Georgia, at the U.S. Army School of the Americas. They proceeded to murder six Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter.
Unlike the martyrs of ancient Christianity, these men were not killed simply because they professed the faith. They were targeted specifically for speaking out on behalf of the impoverished and against persecutions carried out by the U.S.-backed military. Still, in the view of many, they died for the faith no less than the martyrs of old.
This happens to be subject to dispute in some quarters. The argument has surfaced mostly in connection with the sainthood cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was gunned down by a paramilitary death squad while saying mass in the chapel of a cancer hospital in San Salvador in 1980.
by: Tikkun on November 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
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Credit: Creative Commons/U.S. Navy
“Go f-ck yourself,” Jon Stewart said in a moment of perceptible anger.
This wasn’t the usual, lighthearted barb during a satirical segment, nor a playful expression of ire diluted by audience laughter. It was sincere and seemingly raw, uttered during an interview with Canada.com’s Jon Dekel and directed toward those Jews who have called him anti-Semitic, self-hating, or a kapo for critiquing Israel on The Daily Show.
The verbal barb didn’t come out of left field during Dekel’s interview, conducted in advance of the release of Stewart’s movie, Rosewater. It came near the end of a series of focused questions posed to Stewart on the topic of attacks he’s withstood from the American Jewish community. Attacks he’s suffered for treating Israel honestly on his show, for having the temerity to highlight its misdeeds.
They are the same attacks I have felt repeatedly, both for my own critiques of Israel and for my reconciliation with a Palestinian family after an encounter with terrorism. They are the same attacks an increasing number of committed Jews are feeling – Jews invested in Israel who are willing to speak out about Israel’s misdeeds. Of course, anyone who critiques Israel these days is subject to such attacks, from Steven Salaita to Conflict Kitchen.
However, as a Jew, Stewart passionately focused on those attacks which have been made against him by fellow Jews. In doing so, he crafted a rebuttal so on-point that I felt as though he were speaking not just for me, but for the countless other Jews who have critiqued Israel and paid a price for doing so.
by: Aryeh Cohen on November 13th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Credit: Creative Commons/ Brave New Films
One of the earliest recorded labor actions occurred in Biblical Egypt. Moses demanded that Pharaoh let the Israelites slaves go into the desert to worship their God. Moses, in other words, demanded that Pharaoh treat the Israelites as people with spiritual and physical needs, rather than as construction machines useful for the raising of royal cities and monuments.
Pharaoh, as many a tyrant after him, refused to see the Israelites as full people worthy of respect and dignity. The only thing he could see was that they were “shirkers” who didn’t want to do a good day’s work. Pharaoh never dreamed that a rag tag people with a leader who stuttered and claimed to be speaking for an invisible God would ever be a threat to his rule and his country.
We all know how that turned out.
Nonviolent direct action has two goals. The first one, as my friend and teacher, and fellow CLUE-LA board member Jim Conn has said, is to turn the tables on the powerful. When the oppressed stop cooperating in a system of oppression, and start demanding dignity, respect, and just compensation, the system grinds to a halt. The only way to restart it is for the “powerful” to compromise, or accede to the “weak.”
by: Walter Feinberg on November 13th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
The Moral Deficit
The Israeli government is squandering much of the moral capital the country had at its founding. At the time of its founding most Western European countries and the United States agreed that a state where Jews could be reasonably safe, could defend themselves from aggression and could sustain their traditions as a single people was justified, especially in light of the Holocaust. At that time too there was also a legitimizing myth that Palestine was “a land without a people, just waiting for settlement by a people without a land,” a nice but false slogan serving to motivate the settlement of a harsh environment in a foreign land. This narrative was, of course, convincing for many Jews and for many others in the West. It was not convincing, obviously, to the vast majority of Arabs.
Credit: Creative Commons/TijsB
The Bad News? The current U.N. report on climate unequivocally states that global warming is happening, that we are causing it, that it will be much worse than previously projected, and that we need to reduce damaging emissions to near zero. Also, the U.S. has just catapulted into congressional and state leadership a political party committed to rejecting these scientific findings and expanding our use of fossil fuels. The Good News? Actually—right at the moment I can’t think of anything.
Forecasting the future is typically impossible. However, here are two scenarios of our future: as the oil eventually runs out, as the storms and droughts and social disequilibrium vastly increase, as so much of what we thought was guaranteed fades away, what will life be like?
Today is Veteran’s Day. I should be feeling proud and patriotic, but I’m not. Does that make me a bad American? Perhaps I should “go back to my own country” as someone calmly told me the other day. Except, I’m already in my own country, I’m proud and happy to be American, and my identity as American-Muslim is all the more stronger and faithful because of the hyphen. So what gives? Why can’t I explain Veteran’s Day to my children without feeling a bit uncomfortable?
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno accompanies former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg and other city officials during the Veterans Day Parade in New York City on Nov. 11, 2011. Credit: Creative Commons/ The U.S. Army
On Veterans Day, we pause in remembrance of those who have proudly served our country in the U.S. military. Originally known as “Armistice Day,” November 11 was chosen to annually memorialize the cessation of hostilities between the Allied powers and Germany ending World War I, which was then regarded as “the war to end all wars.”
In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first commemoration of what would become an official national holiday with the words:
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
Individuals and groups who stand up and put their lives on the line to defend the country from very real threats to our national security, as do those in our nation’s military, are true patriots. But true patriots are also those who speak out, stand up, and challenge our governmental leaders, those who put their lives on the line by actively advocating for justice, freedom, and liberty through peaceful means.
Imagine for a moment that President Obama, during the height of Occupy Wall Street protests, suggested that activists move to Canada. Better yet, imagine that he invited Ferguson protesters demonstrating against police brutality to leave the United States.
Such irresponsible, anti-democratic incitement from our nation’s leader would have had only one result: an intensification of unrest across the country.
This is precisely what has just occurred in Israel during a time of incredible volatility, unrest and violence. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has “invited” Palestinian citizens of Israel engaged in ongoing protests to move to the West Bank or Gaza during a meeting of Likud leaders.
“To all those who demonstrate against Israel and in favor of a Palestinian state, I say something simple: I invite you to move there; we won’t give you any problem.”
To give a sense of how irresponsible and wanton Netanyahu’s words are, consider this: for the past three days, Arab-Israelis across northern Israel have been protesting the police killing of a 22-year-old Palestinian citizen, a killing which was caught on video and shows officers shooting the man in the back while fleeing.
Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets on Sunday and clashed with police after video surfaced of the killing of a 22-year-old Arab-Israeli citizen in Kfar Kanna.