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Archive for the ‘War & Peace’ Category

How the Wars-for-our-Freedoms Narrative Stifles Debate and Undermines Democracy


by: Andy Heintz on February 23rd, 2018 | Comments Off

While the political climate in Washington is extremely polarized, on one issue there is near universal agreement: When a soldier dies in a U.S. war they died for our freedoms. Despite the constant claims that progressives are anti-American, a significant number of mainstream progressive pundits and politicians support this nationalistic viewpoint. For example, when President Donald Trump tried to prevent transgender Americans from serving in the military, progressives chastised him because these soldiers are willing to die for our country. These statements are admirable in a way, and I have no doubt that most of them are genuine. But what is troubling about the all-wars-are-for-our-freedom narrative is that it’s near universal acceptance severely limits the spectrum of debate in this country, thus undermining our democracy. Questioning the morality of U.S. wars should never be confused with dishonoring the bravery and sacrifice of American soldiers. However, it’s extremely difficult to have a serious discussion about the pros and cons of war when the supporters of said war can use the freedom narrative like a cudgel to verbally bludgeon critics.

“Commentary on the Vietnam War ranges from ‘noble cause’ to ‘blundering efforts to do good’ that became too costly to us – Anthony Lewis, at the dissident extreme,” famous dissident writer Noam Chomsky said in an interview I conducted with him.”And it generalizes far beyond the US. Why? It’s close to tautology. If one doesn’t accept that framework, one is pretty much excluded from the category of ‘respectability.’”

It’s hard to think of anything more unpopular than questioning if soldiers are really dying for our freedoms. The only worse offense in politics is perhaps questioning if every soldier who has participated in physical combat should be considered a hero. The latter question will cause such a firestorm of controversy that the journalist, pundit or politician will either have to offer a heartfelt apology or will be forever excluded from serious discussions about our nation. Interestingly, some famous Americans like Mark Twain and Henry Thoreau did manage to survive their criticism of the war in Philippines (Twain) and the Mexican-American war (Thoreau) without being banished from mainstream opinion. However, these two famous figures are generally beloved by the public for reasons other than their anti-war bona fides.

In a perfect world, American politics would be an exercise in rationality, and rationality demands we acknowledge the complexity of the world and the duality of U.S. history. If someone makes the claims that all wars are fought for our freedom, then every war and/or foreign conflict the U.S. has been involved in should be scrutinized to see if this claim has any basis in fact. A cursory glance at U.S. history makes clear this claim collapses under close examination. Even the most militaristic historian would be hard pressed to make a reasonable argument that past U.S. interventions in Vietnam, Mexico, The Philippines and several Latin American countries were fought to preserve American’s personal freedoms. In other words, none of these invasions were undertaken because these countries posed any sort of threat to the inner workings of American democracy. More recent wars and foreign conflicts in Libya, Afghanistan, Panama and Iraq yield similar conclusions.

This isn’t to say that supporters of the war in Afghanistan couldn’t make the case the country needed to be invaded to root out al Qaeda after the barbaric terrorist attacks of September 11th. That is a plausible claim, but it differs from the claim that the U.S. had to go to war with Afghanistan to defend the freedoms of ordinary Americans. Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization that operates in many countries, but it’s presence was especially abundant in Afghanistan where it was protected by the Taliban, so a war to find the planners of September 11th and weaken al Qaeda has merit because a damaged al Qaeda could plausibly make future terrorist attacks on American soil less likely. But it’s much harder to make the case that al Qaeda posed a threat to the inner workings of American democracy. Despite having nowhere near the same military strength as the United States, neither al Qaeda or the Islamic State has been able to take over a country in the Middle East other than in Afghanistan. To make the case that any terrorist organization has the capacity to overthrow a country with the strongest military in the history of the world is absurd. Of course, the Bush administration didn’t say this directly, but this is what saying the war in Afghanistan was fought to preserve our freedoms implies. If the Bush administration would have made the case that we had invade Afghanistan to make it less likely that we would be attacked on our own soil again, that would have been more honest and reasonable argument.


Patriarchy: A major obstacle to world peace


by: Dr. Adis Duderija on February 16th, 2018 | 4 Comments »

Discussions on peace are central to humanity since they force us to deal with some fundamental issues regarding our human existence, its purpose and nature. As we all know, world-peace is much more than just the state of ‘absence of war’. The voluminous literature on ‘just peace’ and ‘just war’ testifies to this fact well. My purpose is not to engage with this literature directly but to offer some reflections on what I consider to be the major impediment to world peace today.

Today, we live in an incredibly interconnected world that one or two generations ago was simply unimaginable. Things we do and choices we make on a daily basis often can have significant impact, both positive and negative, on people who live on different continents, who come from different religious, cultural, ethnic or racial backgrounds and whom we will never meet in person. How our actions impact upon others are often not always easy to discern or to understand. Nevertheless, given our state of interconnectedness, it becomes ethically incumbent upon us to try our utmost to understand how our place in the world and things that we do (or not do) impact upon others no matter where they live or what their backgrounds are. This state of unprecedented interconnectedness offers to us a tremendous opportunity to do good. However, it is also a potential burden for if we fail to take full advantage of this opportunity history and future generations will judge us harshly. Rightly so, I think.

So what are the main impediments to world-peace today? In this brief article I will discuss one that I consider to be the most prevalent and most damaging-patriarchy. Patriarchy is a major obstacle to world -peace because the underlying philosophy and worldview behind it permeates all other impediments I will mention in the course of this article.

Patriarchy is a dual system of domination of a small percentage of privileged men (mainly white, rich men living in the Global North) over other men, women and children. Patriarchy as a system of domination is based upon certain worldview that manifests itself in all aspects of human existence both at a level of society and at the level of the individual. It affects the way people think, behave and feel. Traditional hegemonic masculinity is its ultimate source of ‘values’ and norms. While we have been witnessing patriarchy ever since the rise of agricultural societies it current forms are much more lethal and insidious due to the nature of the contemporary world we live in.


An Emergency Appeal from Honduras


by: on February 12th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Image Courtesy of Yamil Gonzalez

Let me step aside from the activities of our delegation during our week in Honduras and interject a personal plea:

If you’re like me, you get all kinds of appeals for calls and letters of support, for donations to make and for delegations to join. The pain of the world cries out to us daily, and our efforts seem so inconsequential. Perhaps, like me, you have often passed them by, or also like me, you’ve joined delegations from time to time.

Here’s the thing: This time is different, really different.

Honduras is on the tipping point between peaceful negotiations and civil war. The uneasy political truce in Honduras is breaking down, right now, after the years of increasing intimidation and assassinations since the military coup against the constitutionally elected president Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

As you may know, the military kidnapped Zelaya and somewhat melodramatically flew him out of the country at night in his pajamas. Since then, a wave of protest, repression and assassination has swept the country.

Whatever tenuous agreements among the political parties that have held the country together since the military coup, ruptured at last November’ contested election. In the midst of counting the ballots, when it appeared that the opposition candidate Salvador Nasrallah was winning, the election commission stopped the count. The counting resumed hours later, yet Nasrallah’s lead had vanished and the Hernández had a 1.5 percent edge. Perhaps it is worth nothing that the election commission is dominated by Hernández supporters. Opposition candidate Salvador Nasrallah refused to accept the result.

Afterwards, the Organization of American States agreed there was evidence of fraud and called for a new election, but the U.S. has tacitly supported Hernández as the winner.

Over the coming months, the crisis is likely to grow worse. The opposition Alianza shows no signs of giving in this seizure of power by Juan Orlando Hernández and his right-wing National Party. In December, Zelaya issued an appeal to the American people to make every effort to stop the “immoral support” that the U.S. government has given to the dictatorship of Hernández. In his appeal, he wrote:

The electoral fraud supported by the U.S. State Department in favor of the dictatorship has forced our people to protest massively throughout the country, despite savage government repression that has taken the lives of more than 34 young people since the election, and in which hundreds of protestors have been criminalized and imprisoned.

After this electoral coup, police and military forces have been sweeping through opposition villages, harassing and threatening people in their homes. The death toll is now reaching about 40, often merely bystanders at protests who are fired upon with live ammunition.

It’s bad enough that some police officers are questioning and rebelling against their orders.

That is why I appeal to you, now, at this moment, to stop and help tip the balance toward peace and away from violence and repression. Any action you take to influence the U.S. in favor of peaceful domestic dialogue may save real lives, right now. You can:

  • Call, email or write your Congressional representative to ask him or her to support the ‘Berta Caceres’ resolution A.R. 1299 to stop military aid to the Honduran government until the security forces stop violating human rights and past perpetrators are brought to justice.
  • Send a donation to the emergency fund to support SHARE and the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. [Yes, every delegation runs more on faith than dollars!]
  • Or designate your donation to SHARE on behalf of Radio Progreso.
  • Even a simple email to Radio Progreso and Padre Melo to show support for free and independent news would help. (Email: prensa@radioprogreso.net.) If Melo and the station receive emails, they can print these out and show the wide range of support from people of good will to anyone who questions their rights to free speech and assembly.

I wouldn’t stop to ask you this unless I really believed that American voices at this moment could save lives over the coming months. The pressure on the American government is vital to at least give the Honduran civil society a chance to work things out on their own without the historical interference of the imperial giant to the north.


David A. Sylvesteris a Bay Area writer, teacher and contributor toTikkun. A Roman Catholic, he is also a member of Beyt Tikkun and has traveled to El Salvador as an election observer in 2009 and to Iraq in 1998 on a humanitarian mission with Voices in the Wilderness. In 2006, he served three months in a federal prison camp for civil disobedience at the U.S. army base at Fort Benning to protest the U.S.-training of Central American military troops.

It’s a Sin to Build a Nuclear Weapon


by: on January 14th, 2018 | 12 Comments »


I pulled out this old “historic” poster and put it up on our refrigerator today, after the false alarm went out to Hawaiians that an incoming (presumably nuclear) missile was on its way. My grown children will recognize the poster, because it was on our refrigerator for years. I began my career as an activist in 1979, when I realized the extent of the very real danger of nuclear war.I was engaged in the peace and anti-nuclear movement the whole time they were growing up. They remember carrying candles and walking from Pioneer Park to the Broad Street Bridge in Nevada City each year on August 6, Hiroshima Day. During the election year of 1984, I was a paid organizer for the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign’s Political Action Committee (PAC), Freeze Voter ’84, which I worked on here in Nevada County. (Read here aboutThe Nuclear Freeze and its Impact.)

One morning, I was at home by myself, cleaning house while I listened to a tape of Helen Caldicott talking about the psychological effects of nuclear war on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakusha. Listening to their stories about what they had suffered over the years, I imagined my own family going through what they had gone through and I began to weep.


Finding My Place as an Anti-Occupation Reform Jew


by: Netanya Perluss on December 19th, 2017 | 10 Comments »

This past week at the URJ Biennial, I was blessed to celebrate social justice and my Jewish values, traditions, and songs with 6,000 Jews from across the world. As President Trump unilaterally announced the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem, I was so glad to be with the two Jewish movements closest to my heart: the Reform Movement and IfNotNow.

I grew up in the Reform Movement. I was deeply involved in at my temple, found my home away from home spending summers at URJ Camp Newman, and formed deep and lasting friendships in NFTY. I spent a semester in Israel on NFTY EIE, and found my voice as a songleader at URJ Kutz Camp.

Through all these experiences, from all these communities, I learned to laugh, love, sing, and learn.  But most importantly, I was taught that Tikkun Olam, or fixing the world, was a responsibility of the Jewish people. My Jewish life encouraged me to call out injustices and work to make our world a better place. Through liturgy, songs, programs at camps, youth group events, and sermons at temple, I was called into action, often with a line from the history of our people:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?


What Kind of Peace Plan Is Trump Trying To Sell?


by: Michael J. Koplow on December 7th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Whatever one thinks of the Trump administration and its approach to Middle East peace, you have to give the Trump team high marks for its ability to keep a secret. Speculation has abounded for months about what Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, and their colleagues are working on and what their peace initiative will contain, whenever it is unveiled. For those who wish their efforts to be successful, Sunday’s New York Times reporting on the details of the Trump plan are not encouraging.

According to the Times story, following Kushner’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) summoned President Abbas to Riyadh and presented him with a plan that sounds like something out of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s wildest dreams. It would involve sovereignty over non-contiguous territory in the West Bank – presumably Areas A and B, and some parts of Area C – with a Palestinian capital in Abu Dis rather than East Jerusalem, and no evacuation of settlements from Area C. It is unclear whether this would be a final status agreement or an interim accord that could be expanded later, but its terms are more in line with maximalist Israeli positions rather than any sort of compromise. The Times further reported that MBS heavily pressured Abbas into not only sitting down at the negotiating table but accepting a deal on these specific terms, and that he is prepared to use his financial leverage to reward Abbas for accepting or pressure him to resign if he rejects it.

This report is curious in a lot of ways. For starters, Kushner himself publicly caused reason to doubt its veracity at the Saban Forum on Sunday by extolling the importance of a final status agreement that will put many of the issues between Israelis and Palestinians to bed. The terms as described by the New York Times story do none of that, and instead sound like a series of half measures in preparation for something else down the road. The problem, of course, is that trying to convince the Palestinians to sign off on something to which literally no Palestinian leader could acquiesce will doom any later part of this plan, since it will never get past the first step. If the Trump administration used MBS to float a trial balloon, it backfired spectacularly, but it also goes against the grain of Kushner’s preference for a comprehensive deal – a preference that he expressed so strongly that he even endorsed the concept known as linkage, which holds that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will make the region’s other problems go away. President Trump’s qualifier in his recognition of Jerusalem’s capital yesterday that it does not prejudice final status issues also points toward a desire for a comprehensive deal over interim half measures.


Why A Ramah Counselor Spoke-Out About the Occupation at Ramah Headquarters Last Week


by: Sylvie Rosen on November 17th, 2017 | 7 Comments »

Protest of the Occupation at Ramah Headquarters
Protest of the Occupation at Ramah Headquarters. Image courtesy of author.

Anyone who knows me knows that I grew up at Ramah. Without it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Ramah is a holy community, a Kehilah Kedoshah, as we say. This summer, when a fire burned down our main building, people posted on Facebook, donated money, and reached out to me individually. I felt supported by the entire National Ramah movement.

But where is that same support, community, and strength in our conversations, actions, and education on Israel/Palestine? Although Ramah changes me and lifts me up in so many ways, it fails me every year in one way: by perpetuating lies about the Occupation.

Not once, in my combined ten years at Ramah in the Berkshires and Ramah in the Rockies, did anyone mention the Occupation. We don’t talk about it because we want to pretend it doesn’t exist every summer.

In my three summers on staff, none of our programming ever attempted to address the Occupation. Instead, on Yom Israel in 2016, staff instructed campers to build mock settlements as a fun competition that demonstrated how Jews built Israel from nothing. No one mentioned that people lived on that land before. In our dining tent, we have a map from The Nachshon Project showing where all the famous Biblical characters lived in Israel/Palestine — stealthily laying claim to the idea that only Jews have a historic right to the land. We have maps of Israel across the camp to emulate the Israel Trail, but not one of them outlines the Green Line. This past summer, during our staff training session on Israel, we talked about our feelings and relationship to Israel, but never about the Occupation. The unspoken agreement about the Occupation was: it’s complicated, difficult, and not appropriate for a summer camp.

This is an educational and moral disaster.

Rabbi Cohen responded in Haaretz to our campaign the day of the Speak-Out and Teach-In I participated in last week: “We [Ramah and IfNotNow] don’t differ on the importance of teaching our teens and staff about the difficulties of the occupation.”

But if that is true, then the attempts made have been at best inconsistent and inadequate. In the past I’ve made excuses for Ramah because I want it to be the leader in the American-Jewish community that it claims to be. I told myself that the rest of the work Ramah does outweighs these issues. I was scared to disagree with the place is so central to my identity.

But I can’t maintain this lie anymore, which is why I went to the Speak-Out and Teach-In outside the National Ramah Commission last Tuesday. I joined because I want to see systemic change, and I know our community can do better than individual private meetings that superficially deal with this issue. We have to hold Ramah accountable and we can’t do that in a private setting. We want change for this summer, and we need public support for that. This is why we have invited Rabbi Cohen, to a public forum to talk with alumni and members of the Jewish community.

When I return to Ramah this summer along with 11,000 other people, I want our work and community to truly be holy, Kedoshah, by truthfully and thoughtfully educating campers and staff about the realities of the occupation.

I also want to address how we should educate campers and staff on the Occupation this summer. We must acknowledge the reality that millions of Palestinians live under Israeli military rule. IfNotNow has compiled a list of some resources we can use to teach campers and staff how to think critically about Israel. But this is just a start, it shows that this kind of education is possible and that other Jewish educators are doing it.  We need to upend the idea that Israel education and all Jewish education cannot include discussions about the Occupation. For those at Ramah who are professional Jewish educators, addressing the Occupation is as part of their job as teaching campers how to lead shabbat services — and we must hold them responsible for that.


Sylvie Rosen is an IfNotNow member and Ramah camp counselor.

Files Show Extent of US Role in Massacre


by: on October 26th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

​Editor’s Note: at the time of the huge massacre of social change activists in Indonesia, many in the New Left argued that this massacre had been part of the U.S. anti-communist crusade. The most recent information confirms those charges. as reported by the Morning Star, a socialist daily newspaper published in the U.K. We do not have the staff capacity to verify the claims made in this or any other article we publish in the Tikkun Daily Blog.
members of the Youth Wing of the Communist Party of Indonesia are watched by soldiers

In this Oct. 30, 1965 file photo, members of the Youth Wing of the Communist Party of Indonesia are watched by soldiers as they await transfer to prison and likely execution in Jakarta. Photo: AP.

Declassified files have exposed just how much the US knew about and supported the massacre of millions of Indonesians in the 1965 anti-communist purges.

The non-governmental National Security Archive research group published 39 documentson Tuesday, out of thousands of pages of newly declassified files from the US embassy in Jakarta.

They cover the period from 1963-66, documenting official knowledge and approval of the army’s death-squad operations to wipe out the three million-strong Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and its supporters.

Up to three million people were rounded up across the country, executed and dumped in mass graves.


“Complicated” isn’t good enough. It’s time for the Conservative movement to address the occupation.


by: Naomi Heisler on September 29th, 2017 | Comments Off

When I spent the winter of 2009 with my Solomon Schechter Westchester classmates on a two month-long trip to Israel and Poland, we were told to keep a journal that would chronicle our thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and would serve as a reminder of our trip and of what we were “fighting for.” This journal would remind us of our tears at Auschwitz, our delight at floating in the Dead Sea, and of squeezing our own letters into a sea of other hopes and prayers at the Western Wall. After our trip, we participated in a seminar led by the David Project, a right-wing Israel advocacy organization that armed us with talking points for defending Israel on our college campuses. The message was loud and clear: the state of Israel would shield us from the unspeakable horrors of another Holocaust, and yet it was under attack. Our role as newly-formed adults was to defend Israel against “delegitimization,” against the scourge of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, against professors who would only teach “one side,” and against our non-Jewish classmates.

I recently came across my old journal, and in between florid descriptions of hikes and play-by-play analyses of each interaction that my crush and I had were the seeds of uncertainty. How did the state of Israel play into my identity as an American Jew? What did it mean to advocate for Israel both inside and outside the bounds of The David Project? And how could I reconcile the way that Schechter took us to the site of the King David Hotel bombing and took us to meet with members of the settlement of Efrat, with Israel we were told was purely peace-seeking country? Was Schechter the school that mentored me as I co-founded the school’s first Young Democrats Club, and asked us to contribute dozens of service hours to our communities each year, or was it the school that couched decades of brutal occupation in the word “complicated,” limiting our role only to unquestioning defenders of Israel?

I grew up within the Conservative movement. I attended Ramah as a child, attended a Conservative shul every week, and spent my weekends as an active member of Hanefesh, my local USY region. My mother grew up within the movement as well, and my grandfather was a Conservative rabbi who served on the Committee of Jewish Laws and Standards. It was my parents who signed my tuition checks, who drove me up to USY conventions in the far reaches of Connecticut, and who walked with me to shul everySaturdaymorning. I did not shop schools or shuls, or decide how observant I would or would not be. As a teenager, I did not choose to be a member of the Conservative movement, though as an adult, I get to choose if I will stay. The teachings and institutions of the Conservative movement helped guide me during adolescence, but also taught me the steep price of dissent. Now, as an adult looking for meaningful Jewish life, but frustrated by the movement’s red lines around Israel-Palestine, I do not know whether or not I belong in this movement.


Our Own Crimes Are Worse than Those of Our Ancestors: Yes, Slavery Was Bad, But Did You Know You Just Killed 32 Million Muslims?


by: Kevin Barrett on September 27th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

René Girard devoted most of his life to exploring one of the darkest secrets of human nature: scapegoating. It seems we have a pervasive tendency to offload our own evil (and the guilt and shame that accompanies it) onto the Other.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the stories we tell about history. Every community tends to downplay its own crimes and exaggerate those of its enemies. To take one example: My Armenian friends have described what happened to their community during World War I as a holocaust of millions of innocent civilians who were killed for absolutely no reason other than vicious Turkish bigotry. But during my month-long speaking tour of Turkey in 2010, I learned that many Turkish intellectuals held a different view. They argued that Turkey was invaded by Russia, that Armenian communities helped the Russian invaders mass-murder Turkish civilians (triggering admittedly horrific reprisals), that the Armenian version of the genocide is exaggerated, and that all the civilian victims of World War I war crimes, including Turks and Armenians, were victims of the insanity of war, not the evil of one particular community.

These same Turkish intellectuals also argued that far more Muslims were murdered in the ethnic cleansings in the Balkans during the years before World War I than Armenian Christians were killed during the war. (We have all heard of the Armenian genocide, but few Americans know about the ethnic cleansings of Muslims from the Balkans.)

Along with telling self-serving war stories, we sometimes offload historical guilt by blaming our benighted ancestors for evils that we, their modern enlightened descendants, no longer commit. The current hullaballoo over slavery is a prime example. By scorning “evil slaveholding Confederates” or “evil slaveholding Founding Fathers” we deem ourselves their moral superiors. But what if we are committing worse crimes without even knowing it?