Category Archives: Mideast

Lebanon: Interview with Ogarit Younan (prize for conflict prevention and peace)

EDUCATION FOR PEACE .

An article from Agenda Culturel

The CHAML association has been awarded the “Prize for Conflict Prevention and Peace in Lebanon 2019” from the Ghazal Foundation, which annually awards an NGO. This award adds to the long career of its founders, Ogarit Younan and Walid Slaiby. Pioneers of non-violence in Lebanon and in the region. Initiators of interactive training in Lebanon, they have been recognized as figures of civil society for over 30 years. They have to their credit the creation of several associations and especially the foundation of the University Academy for Nonviolence and Human Rights – AUNOHR.

On the occasion of the award ceremony, Ogarit Younan answers questions from the Cultural Agenda.

How long has the Chaml association existed and what are its goals?

First of all, I would like to salute the GHAZAL Foundation and its founding president Michel Ghazal, for this link, active rather than passive, that he ties with his country, by supporting concrete actions of peace and citizenship each year.

CHAML (“شمل” ، “شباب مواطنون لاعنفيون لاطائفيون”), was created in the heart of the upheavals of 2005 which deeply divided the country. It brought together 260 young people, through activities in all the mohafazats of the country. The members of the founding group come from different backgrounds but without being “denominational” because this is absolutely not the philosophy of CHAML.

In 2008, CHAML obtained the official status of a civil association in accordance with Lebanese law (Opinion No 1040 / Date September 10, 2008).

The CHAML coordination and administration committee is made up of professionals in civil action, trainers who are among the most senior trainers in Lebanon. They have a special qualification and are the first in Lebanon to hold a Masters in Human Rights and Non-violence.

Through its objectives, CHAML works mainly to contribute in the following areas:

* Raise awareness among young students, especially adolescents in secondary classes through an annual program in public and private schools in all regions of the country.

* Undertake peace and citizenship initiatives aimed at resolving conflicts and deep “wounds” in Lebanese society.

* Fight for change in the denominational system and unjust laws.

* Support, through its expertise, other civil organizations, at national and regional level, in projects for young people, women, education and refugees.

Read here for examples of CHAML activities.

The revolution that began October 17 last year aimed be a peaceful uprising. Did you expect such a rising of a population that some previously believed was “in a coma”?

Obviously, we expected something that said “enough is enough”, but it was beyond measure with this massive NO. Moreover, this uprising is the result of an accumulation of small gradual ‘no’ s. Rather than a ‘coma’, I prefer to say longtemps a long silent latent anger, repeatedly expressed through actions, sometimes successful and mostly unsuccessful. The most important thing now is that “the spirit of the revolution” builds a professional and well-organized strategy that is still lacking but developing.

(Click here for the original article in French.)

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Question for this article:

Can peace be guaranteed through nonviolent means?

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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During this uprising and in your opinion, what effects have the trainings you have given in recent years had?

We have seen everywhere and in all regions the people we have trained over the past 30 years. They participated in the organization of groups, training in non-violent means of action, the animation of tents in public places, the development of alternatives, coordination between groups, courageous demonstrations in the face of the recall to the civil war and the “denominational style of the militias” and there I could in particular quote the demonstration of the “nonviolent mothers” in Chiyah-Ayn Remmaneh organized by activists of CHAML and students of AUNOHR.

Can nonviolence have the last word?

Non-violence is the only way. Through my meetings and discussions in public places in Beirut and Tripoli, even the people claiming that there is a revolution “only by blood” changed their minds, when they discovered that non-violence is courage, strength and effective solutions, contrary to what they have learned. This leads us to end the glorification of violence, to cultivate the spirit of non-violence and to spread its concrete examples.

Regarding your university, to whom are the doors of AUNOHR open?

The University Academy for Nonviolence and Human Rights – AUNOHR, the only one of its kind in Lebanon and a pioneer worldwide, was officially founded in 2014 and the courses started in 2015-2016.

AUNOHR was conceived according to a philosophy which deals with education rather than teaching, where training within the university is a life in itself, and in the words of Comenius “professional Humanist workshops”.

We offer 9 areas of specialization at the Master and University Diploma (DU) level, drawing on all academic and professional fields, and creating new job opportunities that are internationally qualified as “the jobs of this present in transition and of the future”.

Students come from Lebanon and all Arab countries; the first three promotions are from six countries: Syria, Palestine, Iraq including Kurdistan, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

The participants are from 21 to 67 years old, women and men.

As these are new specializations in higher education, students are from various academic and professional backgrounds: teachers, school directors, journalists, lawyers, university teachers, activists, founders of associations, doctors , elected officials, executives in the public sector, bank employees, religious, coordinators of civil campaigns and political actors, artists, etc.

At the same time, dozens of participants have joined ‘individual’ courses with flexible hours, and received official certificates (each course: 3 credits).

How can everyone participate in spreading messages of non-violence around them?

The best message could only be that of the people trained with us, and I invite you to listen to the testimonies of the students who expressed themselves unanimously that it was a “turning point” in their personal and professional life.

See “AUNOHR in the eyes of its students”, a video with short testimonial videos by the students of the University of Non-violence and Human Rights.

Thanks to Phyllis Kotite, the reporter for this article.

Humanitarian community praise Sudan PM’s visit to Nuba Mtns

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

An article from Radio Dabanga

In a statement today, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) in Sudan, Gwi-Yeop Son, who was part of the international delegation, that accompanied Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok on his historic visit to Kauda yesterday commended the spirit of cooperation between the government of Sudan and the SPLM-N that resulted in this historic visit.


Sudan’s PM Hamdok and SPLM-N head Abdelaziz El Hilu share a joke
during the visit to Kauda yesterday [January 9] (RD)

“It comes following the Sudanese government’s commitment to allow unfettered humanitarian access to all areas of the country.”

Son is further encouraged that the SPLM-N El Hilu is open to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all areas under their control in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

“The United Nations stands ready to deliver assistance to people in need in all areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states,” Son said.

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Question related to this article:

 

Can peace be achieved in South Sudan?

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While in Kauda, the delegation visited schools where humanitarian organisations are implementing a school feeding programme – a top priority identified following an assessment in the end of December 2019. School supplies for 800 children were also delivered as well as non-food items, Son’s statement says

Sudan INGOs Steering Committee

The Sudan INGOs Steering Committee – a coordination mechanism that includes all international non-governmental organisations aiming to coordinate with government, UN agencies, and other actors – has welcomed the initiative of PM Hamdok’s visit to Kauda.

In a press statement yesterday, the committee said: “The visit comes at critical juncture of Sudanese history and [represents a] brave turn in the path of confidence and trust building that contributes to lasting peace and stability in Sudan, equitable treatment of Sudanese people, and respect for their human rights.

“Since the eruption of conflict in South Kordofan (Nuba Mountains) and Blue Nile in 2011, areas under the control of SPLM-N suffered a humanitarian siege by the previous regime that led to worsening of the humanitarian situation and increasing the suffering of the Sudanese citizens in these areas.”

The committee says that PM Hamdok’s visit “opens new windows for humanitarian and development organisations to start their programs and activities in those areas to relieve suffering of war affected people, and participate in moving towards long term developmental programs as a building block for sustained and long lasting peace.”

The committee says it “appreciates the courage and brave actions of the Sudanese leaders both of the transitional government and SPLM-N for taking this step which will also open a window for social peace and healing of the social cohesion and fabric teared by war.”

UN commemorates International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

An article from the United Nations

The United Nations has underlined its unwavering commitment to the Palestinian people in their ongoing struggle to achieve self-determination, independence and sovereignty.


(Click on image to enlarge and to read caption)

Senior officials joined ambassadors and other representatives from the international community in New York on Wednesday to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, officially observed each year on 29 November.

Established in 1977, it marks the day in 1947 when the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning Palestine into an Arab State and a Jewish State.

No alternative to two-state solution

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains one of the most intractable challenges facing the international community, UN Secretary-General António Guterres observed in his message for the day. 

As there is no viable alternative to the two-State solution, he called on both sides, and their supporters, to work towards restoring faith in the process.

“Only constructive negotiations between the parties, in good faith, with support from the international community and adhering to long-standing United Nations resolutions and long-agreed parameters, will bring about a just and durable solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states”, the UN chief said.

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Question related to this article:

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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“What is needed, first and foremost, are leadership and political will. The efforts of civil society and those on all sides who seek to bridge the gap between Israelis and Palestinians also need to be supported.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said his people have endured more than 70 years of tragedies and crises, yet remain steadfast.

“Despite decades of disappointment and setbacks, we remain committed to a multilateral order that respects and ensures respect for international law,” he said in a message read by Palestinian Permanent Observer to the UN, Riyad Mansour.

“The State of Palestine will continue engaging in efforts aimed to advance the rule of international law, including through the building of our national institutions, spreading the culture of peace and empowering our people, especially women and youth.”

Humanitarian support vital

The roughly eight million Palestinians live primarily in territory occupied by Israel, but also across the Middle East in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande called for action to ensure critical humanitarian support.

“This must be tackled by strengthening the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), to ensure that it can meet the humanitarian needs of over 5.4 million Palestinian refugees. It is important that we collectively safeguard the Agency against the political and financial challenges it faces,” he said.

Niang Cheikh, Chair of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, maintains hope that the two-State solution will be realized.

“Despite all the contrary winds, this day will come and we will then celebrate the realization of a just peace in the interest of the Palestinians and indeed all the peoples of the region,” he stated.

Moroccan Researcher Karima El Azhary Wins International Sustainable Development Award

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from Morocco World News

Moroccan researcher Karima El Azhary won the 2019 Green Talents Award for her research in energy efficiency. The award ceremony took place on October 24, in Berlin. The ceremony saw 25 researchers from different countries earn awards.

The Green Talents Award aims to reward people with “high potential in sustainable development” from all over the world. The award is an initiative by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the award.

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Question for this article:

How can we ensure that science contributes to peace and sustainable development?

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This year, 837 applicants from 97 different countries applied for the award. The jury, composed of expert scientists in sustainable development, selected 25 young researchers for the prize.

El Azhary is a PhD researcher at the Mohammadia School of Engineers in Rabat. She directed her research towards developing new sustainable construction and insulation materials, based on alimentary and agricultural waste. The aim of her work is improving thermal insulation and energy efficiency of buildings, mainly in underprivileged areas.

The award’s jury appreciated El Azhary’s “great commitment that allows an innovative and inspired research approach to relevant sustainability issues such as energy efficiency.”

They also recognized her volunteer activities as “she is part of international and national youth associations, which aims to encourage and help young people to invest in social entrepreneurship and sustainable projects.”

Following her recognition, the Moroccan researcher told the press that she is “honored and proud” of receiving the award. She also took the opportunity to praise her colleagues; “This award confirms the high competency of Moroccan researchers in all fields.”

The award would allow El Azhary to benefit from the German experience in sustainability science, innovation, and technology. It would also allow her to search for possibilities of cooperation with German universities and institutes in the field.

Representatives from the Moroccan embassy in Germany attended the award ceremony, along with presidents and leaders of international scientific research centers.

2019 Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders Award winners announced

.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..

An article from Peace Direct

Now in its seventh year, the Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders Awards celebrate some of the world’s most innovative local peacebuilders. This year, the three focus areas for the awards were: women-led peacebuilding, youth-led peacebuilding, and music and the performing arts. A panel of international experts selected the winners from 406 applicants, the highest number we have received to date.


Video of award-winning initiatives

The winners — from Syria, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo — were announced at the Alliance for Peacebuilding annual conference, PeaceCon, on 3 October in Washington, D.C. Each received a $10,000 grant to contribute to their work.

“We’re happy to highlight and support the work of these local peacebuilders, because they know best how to tackle problems in their communities. The leaders of these three organizations are providing practical and creative solutions, and directly improving people’s lives,” said Peace Direct CEO Dylan Mathews.

Youth-led peacebuilding: Youth for Homeland in Yemen

Youth for Homeland, founded in 2014, works in rural areas of Yemen to engage communities in peacebuilding efforts, working mainly with young people to develop skills and find alternatives to violence. For example, when one community was fighting over limited water resources, the organization helped establish reservoirs to contain water over longer periods.

The organization plans to use the award to train more peacebuilders. “The main objective is to rehabilitate young people to become peace ambassadors and urge their colleagues and friends to not participate in the war anymore, so that we can contribute to the end of the war in Yemen,” said Abdullah al-Suraihi, founder of Youth for Homeland.

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Questions for this article:

How important is community development for a culture of peace?

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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Women-led peacebuilding: Open Art Space in Syria

Many children in Syria have known nothing but war. Three women, two of whom are artists, founded Open Art Space in the Syrian capital of Damascus in 2016. Their work connects children and young people inside and outside of Syria through peacebuilding.

Children participate in free weekly workshops, which offer a safe space to play and connect with one another, a chance to express themselves, and a way to learn about peace through art. To reach children more widely, the women created a website where children anywhere in Syria can practice drawing and art exercises to help process the violence they have experienced.

For co-founder Roula al-Khatib, this award enables the organization to “reach out to more Syrian children affected by the war in remote places to implement art and peace in their daily life. This is an opportunity for us to tell the world that despite the sad war in Syria, there are many people who are working very hard to retain peace back.”

Music and the performing arts: Amani Institute in DR Congo

The Amani Institute, founded in 2016 in North Kivu, DR Congo, uses theater to help young ex-combatants process trauma they have experienced and reintegrate into their communities. The technique of theater enables former fighters to interact with others, and acts as a springboard for dialogue, reconciliation and tolerance.

“This is an acknowledgement that our effort in the Democratic Republic of Congo is being recognized internationally,” said Joseph Tsongo, founder of the Amani Institute. “It will help us continue our work for the next generation and bring peace to the country.”

We celebrate this year’s winners, and all peacebuilding efforts taking place around the world.

We thank our sponsors: the Alliance for Peacebuilding, Away, the Bluegrass Ambassadors, the Pickwell Foundation and Humanity United for supporting this year’s awards and award ceremony.

For more information: contact@peacedirect.org

Australia: Antony Loewenstein wins the 2019 Jerusalem (Al Quds) Peace Prize

TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY .

An article from Jerusalem Peace Prize

Australians for Palestine and the Australia-Palestine Advocacy Network are thrilled to announce that the winner of the 2019 Jerusalem (Al Quds) Peace Prize is journalist, author, and film-maker Antony Loewenstein

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Question for this article

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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Antony’s best-selling book “My Israel Question” generated a storm of controversy because of his forensic discussion of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the intimidatory way Zionist lobby groups have affected political discourse and news media to shape their version of Middle-Eastern politics. 

His foray into this veritable minefield saw him personally attacked and even shunned by his community and relatives.

He co-founded Independent Australian Jewish Voices and has said that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement “is a logical and non-violent response to human rights abuses in Palestine.

The award will be presented by last year’s prize winner Professor Emeritus Stuart Rees AM at a black-tie dinner in Queen’s Hall, Victorian State Parliament [Melbourne, Australia] on Friday  22 November 2019.  In response to the award, Antony will be in conversation with the celebrated journalist and television news presenter, Mary Kostakidis.

Arab and Middle Eastern States: International Day of Peace

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

A survey by CPNN

The following 21 actions in 14 Arab and Middle Eastern countries were listed in Google during the week of September 21-28 under the key words “International day of peace” “journee internationale de la paix” and اليوم الدولي للسلام. This also includes a few actions listed on the websites of International Cities of Peace and the event map of the international day of peace,

About 20 actions are listed on the maps of One Day One Choir and Montessori schools singing for peace, but there is no indication which took place this year and which took place only in previous years


The Day was especially meaningful in Yemen which continues to be torn by war. This photo is from Hadramaout where white is considered the color of peace.

Here are excerpts from articles about the actions, many of them translated from Arabic.

BAHRAIN :

The Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities organized a concert on Saturday on the occasion of the International Day of Peace presented by “Musicians Without Borders” band with the artist and oud player Saad Jawad. Musicians Without Borders is a living example of harmony between different peoples and cultures. It consists of professional musicians of different nationalities and countries: Argentina, Bahrain, India, Ukraine, Egypt and Iraq. The band performed a different set of songs and songs belonging to different cultures such as: Hana Al Bahrain, Tango Al Oud, Ayam Zaman, Flamenco Al Oud, in addition to performing songs by famous artists such as: Fayrouz, Ammar Al 

MINYA, EGYPT

 The Bader Peace Building Project at the Association of Muslim Families for Social Development, in Minya, organized a peace event with the environment on Saturday, coinciding with the celebration of “World Peace Day”, which falls on September 21st every year. The activities, carried out by the project team, the youth and the youth, included cleaning works, planting trees and paintings on the walls. Dr. Hani Ahmed El-Sayed, Director of the Bader Project at the Muslim Families Association, said that the activities of today are aimed at promoting peace with the environment in cooperation with the Office of Humanitarian Services of the Coptic Catholics.

TEHERAN, IRAN :

The seventh edition of the International Festival of “Art for Peace” has been inaugurated in Tehran, the Iranian capital, on the occasion of International Peace Day. . . . There are about 200 works in different categories of photography, painting, installation, sculpture, video art, graphics and cinema. Each artist, with their own approach, tries to convey to the audience their concern for peace.

SULAIMANI, KURDISTAN, IRAQ :

 Coexistence and religious tolerance in the Kurdistan Region was celebrated during an International Day of Peace festival in Sulaimani province on Saturday. People from the autonomous Kurdistan Region and different parts of the world celebrated and participated in the International Day of Peace by showcasing artwork, presenting cultural foods, and handmade, embroidered items. 

HA-ATSMA’UT GARDEN, JERUSALEM, ISRAEL :

A short march, a prayer for peace and ceremony.

BEIRUT, LEBANON :

Wataniya – The Association for the Protection and Investment of Arab Culture and the Association of Alumni of Beirut Arab University organized a poetic evening for the poet Saleh Al-Desouki on the occasion of the International Day of Peace. The program included the presentation of words on behalf of the two associations inspired by the occasion, and then presented Desouki a variety of poems and poetry. The evening of the media presented Islam Hajja, and in the end the poet was honored and memorial photos were taken in the presence of the management of the two associations and a range of academic, cultural, political and social activities and activists in civil society.

NAQOURA, LEBANON :

UNIFIL today marked the International Day of Peace amidst a ceremony at its headquarters in Naqoura, South Lebanon, with its head and Force Commander Major General Stefano Del Col joining the global call for climate action for peace.

TRIPOLI, LEBANON :

 On the International Day of Peace, +Peace, Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, and Impact:Peace launched the Peace in Our Cities Campaign, with 11 mayors and local officials representing over 15.8 million people from Colombo, Sri Lanka; Nairobi Municipality, Kenya; Cali, Colombia; Guadalajara, Mexico; Tripoli, Lebanon; Bangui, Central African Republic; Durban, South Africa; Escobedo, Mexico; Kumanovo, Macedonia; Kibera County, Nairobi, Kenya; and Chaguanas, Trinidad and Tobago, pledging to work towards halving violence in their cities by 2030. The campaign calls on mayors, local authorities, civil society, the private sector, and other partners to sign the pledge and join the growing movement to transform global violence.

UBARI, LIBYA :

See link for a video about the revival of World Peace Day in Ubari

MAURITANIA :

In commemoration of the International Day of Peace, the Union of Mauritanian Writers organized a major literary evening under the slogan: Literature in the service of civil peace, attended by a group of intellectuals, ministers, MPs and writers.  The evening started with a speech by the President of the Union, Dr. Mohamed Ould Azahna, expressing his satisfaction with the choice of this slogan to confirm the role played by literature and writers in promoting and promoting a culture of peace, praising the support given by the State to consolidate civil peace. In turn, Mr. Yahya Ould Ahmedou, in charge of a mission to the Ministry of Culture, Handicrafts and Relations with Parliament, gave an opening speech on behalf of the Minister, in which he thanked the Union of Mauritanian Writers for the great effort exerted by strengthening national cohesion through this activity. After the official opening, the audience listened to a speech delivered by Dr. Mohamed El Amine Ould El Ketab, President of the Supreme Council of the Union, in which he explained the social and political dimensions of peace and the interest of the international community in the culture of peace, in which civil society organizations and unions play a pivotal role. Parliamentary MP Mohammed Bawi Sheikh Mohammed Fadhil made an important intervention on the relationship of literature to civil peace, and continued the literary dimension of the Koran peace in general.

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO :

On the occasion of World Peace Day, on 21 September, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights called for the separation of religion from the state because the exploitation of religion and its use in political conflicts poses a threat to democracy and peace. . . The statement called for work to combat hate speech, violence and extremism, and spread a culture of dialogue and coexistence and respect for pluralism and acceptance of difference. The Association appreciated the priorities set by the United Nations to reduce the threat of carbon emissions to peace in the world by 2050, as reflected in the taxation of polluters and not on people; stop subsidizing fossil fuels; and stop building new coal plants by 2020; a green economy instead of the gray economy. It also deplored the “drastic rise in the world arms budget,” denouncing Morocco’s huge budget in this field, amounting to 4% of GDP, while not providing the most basic requirements of life for its citizens and citizens of employment, housing and health services, as well as good and generalized education.

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Question related to this article:

What has happened this year (2019) for the International Day of Peace?

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KHARTOUM, SUDAN :

Celebrating the International Day of Peace on 21 September, people from Nuba Mountains tribes performed traditional dancing and wrestling in a public square in al-Haj Yousif, eastern Khartoum. Hailing from South Kordofan, one of the most war-ravaged areas in Sudan, the Nuba Mountains people have used to mark peace occasions in Khartoum to consolidate call for peace prevailing and to show that values of peace and peaceful co-existence are the core of their culture.  They performed group dances with the participation of men and women accompanied by rhythms of traditional music instruments such as the drums, rebaba (lute-like instrument) and lyre. Nuba wrestling, on the other hand, became inseparable part of popular celebrations as it has gained popularity country-wide.

KHARTOUM, SUDAN :

Several NGOs launched a campaign to spread the culture of peace and peaceful coexistence, promote the value of tolerance and celebrate the Sudanese identity in the name of “I am peace”.. . .  a couple of events and programs have been carried out in conjunction with World Peace Day. On Friday, the Union Writers and Artists performed a theatre performance under the slogan of Theatre for Peaceful Coexistence. The coexistence initiatives included the maintenance of schools and the distribution of a school bag and treatment programs and assistance from psychologists, A journalist, Amin Sanada told Radio Dabanga that the peaceful coexistence initiative included a match between Arab Sukarta and Wadi Nyala in Port Sudan stadium.

ZALINGEI, CENTRAL DARFUR, SUDAN :

On 22 September 2019, UNAMID peacekeepers mingled with hundreds of residents of Zalingei town and its suburbs to celebrate the International Day of Peace under the theme: “Climate Action for Peace”. Hundreds of vendors, retailers, students and pupils, native administration, women and youth groups as well as Government officials and peacekeepers (Civilians, Military and Police), attended the event which included peace march, music festival, peace and traditional songs, cultural performances by peacekeepers and local cultural groups and a drama show about the Mission’s transition period and its eventual exit by end of June 2020. . . . UNAMID peacekeepers in Golo temporary operating base also celebrated the day in collaboration with Golo community leaders, government officials, youth, women and students.

MANBIJ, SYRIA :

The events organized by the Council on the occasion of the International Day of Peace included the second plastic art exhibition and other cultural events in Manbij city, launched by the Directorate of Arts and Theaters of the Committee of Culture and Art in the city in coordination with the Council of Women. In the presence of dozens of people and members of the institutions of the democratic civil administration in Manbij and its countryside, the events began with a minute of silence, amid the banners at the exhibition with slogans saying: “Peace is a right, not a dream, yes to peace, not to war, together to build sustainable peace.” Then a number of speeches were delivered . . . followed by a theatrical performance entitled “To Europe”. It talked about the migration of Syrians to Europe and their suffering, and their eagerness to return to the land where they were born and lived, as the show showed the importance of adhering to customs, traditions and cultures, and urged the displaced to return and serve their country. This was followed by children’s singing. At the end of the events, the second Fine Art Exhibition opened and the audience toured the paintings and drawings expressing peace, freedom and the right of peoples, children and women to live in peace.

QAMISHLI, SYRIA:

A group of civil society organizations carried out a stand in front of the UN building in the city of Qamishli, northeastern Syria, on the occasion of the International Day of Peace. The co-chair of Human Rights Organization in the Jazira region, Aven Juma, read the statement to a group of participants, noting that eight years of the Syrian war caused the destruction and destruction of the environment, infrastructure and air pollution. The statement, which spoke of what the weapons used in the Syrian war, even internationally prohibited, have done, appealed to international powers and relevant organizations on the International Day of Peace to “support dialogue, the rule of law and social justice”. The statement concluded with an invitation to the forces and international organizations to support the Assembly’s demands.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES :

A number of non-Muslim places of worship were lit up green in celebration of 2019 International Peace Day. The ceremony will be hosted by the Department of Community Development, the governing body of places of worship in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, under the slogan “An Appeal to Harmony” and in conjunction with International Day of Peace. The places of worship will be illuminated until Sunday, September 22, in celebration of the efforts of the Community Development Department. Representatives of the places of worship emphasized that this act reflects the country’s determination to support the entire community, highlighting tolerance in the UAE, while praising the country’s environment that welcomes various cultures and religions.

ADEN, YEMEN :

A group of southerners for peace organized this morning at the Emirates Sky Hotel in Aden, events for the International Day of Peace under the slogan “No war – all partners in peacemaking”. The press conference was attended by the southern elite in the provisional capital of Aden, academics of Aden University, heads of civil society organizations, jurists, activists, lawyers, media, journalists and legal persons. The conference presented a number of items adopted by the Southern Group for Peace, which are trying to apply measures for peace on the ground after coordinating with a number of parties, listening to the different points of view of all present and discussing the various things needed in order to normalize peace. Ms. Radhia Shamsheer, President of the Southern Group for Peace pointed out that our country is going through more dangerous turns that are complicated by the current regional situation It calls for the combined efforts of all national peace-loving forces to seek peace, security and stability throughout Yemen.

HADRAMAOUT, YEMEN:

The Hadramawt Youth Forum for Peace held a public event entitled Hadramout Land of Peace Friday 20 September at the Hyper Square coinciding with the International Day of Peace funded by Youth Without Borders and in partnership with modern knowledge schools and Hadramout International Schools Al-Gha’aleya started with a silent scene titled War and Peace presented by students of modern knowledge schools in Mukalla. It aims to educate people about the effects of war and the need to promote peace.

TAIZ, YEMEN :

In commemoration of World Peace Day and in partnership with NFOD, the Better Future Initiative launched the Open Day of Drawing in Taiz with the participation of a group of young art students from the Faculty of Arts . . . . The drawings contain writings expressing peace, coexistence, brotherhood, tolerance, expressions calling for dialogue and tolerance among all groups, sects, parties and groups, giving priority to the interest of the nation, renouncing sectarianism and violence, and calling on all to work together for lasting peace every inch of the land of Yemen. The Open Day of Drawing is one of the activities of the Risha Salam project, which aims to normalize the situation and promote the ways of coexistence and peace in Taiz through the use of the arts to spread the culture of peace, tolerance and harmony . . . the project aims to deliver a message that Taiz, despite its siege and war, is still a city that loves life, art and beauty and is still a city of love, coexistence and peace.

Libby and Len Traubman on Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue

TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY .

Excerpted from an article in Elders Action

. . . The compelling year-long meal sharing and earlier Soviet-American successes prepared Libby and Len to begin facilitating dialogue between Jews and Palestinians, thus catapulting the couple into another of the world’s serious communal conflicts. Libby explains, ‘By the late ’80s and early ’90s we were meeting some Israeli and Palestinian citizen-leaders who aspired coming to the United Sates for talking with each other—illegal where they lived. We, with others in the Beyond War community and Stanford University said “yes.” ’


See video of “Twenty years of the Palestinian Jewish Living Room Dialogue”

The Israeli and Palestinian women and men were brought to the California redwoods for a powerful week-long conference resulting in writing and signing the historic 1991 Framework for a Public Peace Process. Len cancelled his patients and the Traubmans travelled to Jerusalem to help gel the new team. They assisted participants circulating their Framework document to their individual governments and peoples.

Back in the USA, the couple promptly applied the new strategies. Len recalls: ‘Libby said, “You know we’ve done this globally, now we have got to figure out how it works where we live.”‘ The year of interracial dialogue in their home had laid the groundwork for the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue beginning in July 1992 in their home.

Len recalls early difficulties: ‘Libby spent a year looking for brave local Jews and Palestinians—Muslims and Christians—willing to sit together. It was not a popular thing to do.’ Libby agrees about their biggest hurdle. ‘We searched tirelessly for people willing to face one another. It was almost unheard of. They’d say, “This is the enemy, are you kidding?” The Arabs and Jews were taking a risk by just sitting together, a taboo for many.’

Len explains that the Living Room Dialogues revealed that ‘the real fear is often not of the other side, but of one’s own people’s rejection as naive, sympathizer, unfaithful. That’s where the terror is: “What will people say?”‘

Libby adds, ‘So some feared their own people. Some feared the Other. And many questioned what good dialogue would do. Some said, “I’ve moved to America, and I don’t want to think about it anymore.” Palestinians’ and Israelis’ lives had become so comfortable in America.’

At first participants came to vent and then left. Later arrivals exhibited more dedication to deep listening and empathy. After 18 months a reliable core of respectful yet passionate women and men were dedicated to quality communication. ‘That was twenty-two years ago,’ says Libby. ‘Now eager would-be participants must be asked to wait until a rare opening occurs and the group needs a new member to restore balance.’

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Question for this article

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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Len remembers key ingredients for Living Room Dialogue success: ‘We were dedicated and didn’t give up. Always there for the people, we kept respecting that at first most people dearly want to be heard. So the participant with the will and skill to listen is really the one with the power to transform the relationship. Listening dignifies both listener and the person whose story is being heard. Again, “An enemy is one whose story we have not heard.” We experience story as the shortest distance between two people. It is story and not information that goes to the heart and is best remembered. With this connection of hearts then brains, people experience each other’s equal humanity and begin wanting the best, not only for self but for the other person equally. Magic results from being together and connecting at the heart that then messages the brain that it is safe and the relationship is working properly. This face-to-face connection is simple yet the most effective human experience to redirect relationships.’

Libby continues, ‘At first we didn’t appreciate story as an entry point to Dialogue. We’d begin with political issues and hot topics, provoking ranting, blaming and battles over versions of history. Yet we failed to discover the personal and family stories of the human beings in the room with us. Slowly we discovered the primacy of personal intimacy and spending generous time with people telling their own narratives – sometimes bottled up inside a whole lifetime until then. That is really what we did that first year together of going round and round telling our own histories, ever more deeply learning more about each other. Familiarity, trust, and friendship grew. In time we could begin to approach more difficult issues.’

If listening ensures dialogue, then what makes someone a good listener? How can you make someone into a good listener? Len says simply, ‘You first listen to them.‘

‘You provide them that experience,’ explains Libby ‘And when they come into the dialogue circle, you have to be clear about the rule – what dialogue is and is not.‘

With skills from the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue, Len and Libby then facilitated and filmed Dialogue at Washington High in which Miriam Zimmerman, a Holocaust Jew, and Elias Botto, an original 1947 Palestinian refugee from Jerusalem, shared their poignant stories. Used for instructional purposes ‘…that film then touched hearts and passed on skills to citizens in Africa and worldwide, helping people to relate differently’ explains Len. ‘It reminded us not only to enact the dialogues but to also tell the story of it. The power today is in story and the choice of stories. Today people are fed mostly human failure stories that we see on the five o’ clock news. Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and teacher, says: “People become the stories they hear and the stories they tell.” We have to decide what is for life and what is for death, what is for relationships and the health of the planet, then tell the stories of people who live exemplary lives.’

[Note: Long-time readers of CPNN will recognize Len and Libby Traubman from their articles reprinted in CPNN:

Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue: Turning enemies into partners


Planting Peace Seeds on the Road to Jerusalem


Two Free Videos for Relationship-Building Worldwide

Yehezkel Landau: Can Zionism Be Redeemed?

TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY .

Excerpts from an article by Yehezkel Landau* in Tikkun (abbreviated by CPNN)

. . . The decades-long war between Zionism and Palestinian nationalism (each with secular and religious articulations) has pitted two national stories of heroic striving against each other, competing for validation. This zero-sum equation is shared by the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians who experience the conflict from within. But a fair-minded observer, especially one who wishes to promote inclusive justice and reconciliation, should be able to adopt a dual- or multi-narrative perspective and see the conflict as a profound tragedy rather than a dualistic morality play. The conflict is often seen as one of villains against victims, or oppressors against the oppressed; such a judgmental outlook favoring one side over the other contributes to the ongoing strife and to the widespread suffering that it creates.

Protest from Israeli side of Gaza border with Israelis, Palestinians, and foreigners. Image by Cat Zavis.

In my own approach to the conflict, I am adopting Hegel’s definition of tragedy: a clash between two rights, not right versus wrong. In this case, it is also a case of two peoples with painful histories forced to confront each other as they seek to be separately and mutually healed, but so far inflicting more traumatizing wounds on each other. The horrors of the Holocaust, on the Jewish side, and the searing trauma of the Naqba for the Palestinians, only deepened the tragic dimension of the conflict. The Palestinians’ national identity crystallized in the process of resisting Zionism and the influx of Jews into Mandatory Palestine after World War I.[15] And just as there are various forms of Zionism, Palestinian nationalism has exhibited a range of positions (e.g., Islamist or secular, Marxist-Leninist, or democratic). The common denominator on the Palestinian side is to view Zionism as illegitimate and immoral.

The perception of Zionism as an unjust, oppressive, colonialist ideology, demonstrated in practice by the expulsion and dispossession of a large part of the Palestinian people from their homes, fields, and orchards, would probably have been mitigated had more Jews been living in the land before the Zionist movement began. Since most of world Jewry was living outside Eretz Yisrael, and most Palestinians did not perceive Diaspora Jews as a nation but, instead, saw them as a religious community akin to Christians or Muslims, the Zionist claim to even part of Palestine seemed bogus, even fabricated. Had there been appreciable numbers of Jewish residents outside the four cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias, and Safed—recall that Tel Aviv was inaugurated in 1909 and over time came to engulf the ancient city of Jaffa—then the conflict between Jews and Arabs in the land would have looked more like the Hindu-Muslim intercommunal strife on the Indian subcontinent that gave birth to the separate states of India and Pakistan. (Pakistan later devolved into two separate states, with Bangladesh breaking off from West Pakistan). Even in South Asia, at the same time that the Jewish-Palestinian conflict reached its explosive climax in the late 1940s, the implementation of an agreed-upon partition was accompanied by large-scale intercommunal violence.

There have been many ironic twists during the course of this tragic conflict. One is the role reversal that transpired between 1947 and 1988. When the Palestinian Arabs were the demographic majority, they did all they could to prevent a Jewish state from emerging in even part of Palestine. The Zionist leadership, for its part, accepted the United Nations partition resolution of November 29, 1947. Then, when the Jews were the empowered majority, they joined with Egypt and Jordan to deny Palestinians an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. It was only in 1988 that the Palestine National Council under Yasir Arafat’s leadership, meeting in Algiers, accepted the 1947 partition plan. But by then the Israeli Prime Minister was Yitzhak Shamir, who had always rejected any form of territorial partition. It took the election of Yitzhak Rabin in 1992 to launch the negotiations that produced the Oslo Accords. Another irony has been that, over the course of the last century, the two peoples have experienced complementary transformations in both symbolism and practice. For the Jews, the Zionist enterprise transformed a symbolic homeland suffused with dreams of messianic return from exile (see Psalms 137 and 126), but with very few geographical coordinates outside the aforementioned “holy” cities, into a functioning state with localized reference points. Some of those cities, towns, kibbutzim, and moshavim had ancient Biblical names like Beersheva or Ashkelon. Others were new creations, some with poetic names like Petach Tikvah, Rishon LeZion, or Tel Aviv, while others were development towns built later for immigrants, primarily from Arab countries, with names like Sderot and Carmiel. For the Palestinians, the process was reversed. Most of them began the 20th century with identities centered on their clan-based ancestral villages, which they retained even in exile. Over time these localized identities were supplemented by a collective sense of distinct peoplehood, as Palestinian national consciousness evolved. Now both peoples have dual identities, each combining an umbrella-like nationality that is reinforced by a shared narrative and symbolism, together with a sense of rootedness in a particular locale and community.

SEEKING A JUST PEACE

If we return to the moral dilemma at the heart of this conflict, we are faced with the challenge of finding a single standard of justice that can be the basis of genuine peace. To the extent that Zionism and Palestinian nationalism are conceived and lived out as self-referencing ideologies creating exclusivist identities, they remain impediments to reconciliation. And as long as that remains the case, the liberating vision of the Zionist pioneers will be even more corrupted, in both its ends and means, than it already is. Is there a redeeming alternative? I submit that if both Zionism and Palestinian nationalism can be viewed through more wide-angled lenses, they might yet become complementary rather than mutually exclusive. In that way, polarized psyches, hearts, and spirits can mutually nourish each other; they need not be seen as inherently hostile. As history has shown, shifts in consciousness need to occur in order for there to be shifts in behavior.

Zionism, in all its variations, has always had two aspects. One is the physical aspect rooted in, and driven by, an existential Jewish need for safety and security through an independent state with armed forces for self-defense. In the wake of the Holocaust, this aspect has been given disproportionate emphasis. The second aspect of Zionism, at least as vital as the first, is the metaphysical aspect, the longing for belonging rather than alienation, the yearning to be free and to feel at home, the psychological and spiritual need for independent selfhood that is not a defensive reaction to the harmful intentions of others. Jews, as human beings, deserve both security and spiritual liberation. So do Palestinians. A compassionate and just peace process based on mutual acknowledgement of those common human rights, needs, and aspirations can yield the practical fruits of reconciliation. That process would have as litmus tests three very practical criteria, based on emotional investments that can be changed if leaders choose to guide their communities away from antagonism and toward partnership: (1) Is fear being transformed to trust? (2) Is anger being transformed to mutual acceptance and forgiveness? and (3) Is grief being transformed by empathy into compassion for the suffering of others, before the grief turns into grievance and the desire for vengeance, fueled by bitterness and rage?

The national anthem of Israel is Hatikvah, “The Hope.” It expresses the yearning of Jews for Zion and the willful determination to be, once again, a free people in the ancient homeland.  This two-thousand-year-old hope was never lost, the song proclaims. Zionism, in whatever form, is the practical expression of this hope. But the Zionist revolution will not be complete, or truly fulfilled, so long as Israelis feel threatened by their neighbors, which means that the Palestinian people need to have its own hope of return and freedom fulfilled also. The Palestinian national anthem, Biladi, Biladi, “My Homeland, My Homeland,” expresses the love and longing for the Palestine that was lost but not forgotten. How to honor and realize both hopes, both dreams of return and renewal, remains the supreme challenge for anyone who cares about this tragedy and its global ramifications.

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Question for this article

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not simply over a common homeland and who exercises political control over it. At a deeper level, it is also about personal and collective identities that have developed in mutual antagonism rather than complementary creativity. In order to transform the political and spiritual dynamic from opposing struggles for independence to a common struggle for interdependence based on equity, the two national anthems need to be supplemented by other songs. Those additional songs need to put the collective yearnings for freedom and security within a wider context, one that frees both peoples from the shackles of alienation, existential dread, and recrimination.

One common goal that can help Israelis and Palestinians transcend their myopic notions of what best serves their interests is a shared commitment to safeguarding the land which they share from ecological calamities. In this regard, I think of a conversation I had with the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead several decades ago. We were talking about the Middle East, at a time when her daughter was living in Iran. Dr. Mead lamented the emphasis throughout the region on control over territory, based on strong attachments to a particular land, at the expense of environmental concerns about shared air and water. The shift in consciousness she was advocating could be a powerful force for shifting the bilateral focus on Israel/Palestine to a wider, regional perspective. There are already some commendable joint initiatives, like the Arava Institute at Kibbutz Qetura in southern Israel, that bring together Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians to work together on ecological sustainability. There are also hopeful signs of a growing environmental awareness among both Jews and Arabs. For example, on March 29, 2019, an annual Climate March was held in Tel Aviv. When it was first organized five years ago, some 200 people took part. This year over 5,000 people marched, Palestinian and Jewish citizens from all over Israel. They carried banners proclaiming mutual solidarity in the face of environmental threats and the need to work together to ensure a common future.

We need more signs of hope like these to boost our spirits and motivate action, within our respective communities and across boundaries. As a long-time grassroots activist in the arena of Jewish-Arab peacebuilding, I am confident that, over time, these micro-models of mutuality and solidarity will impact the macro-political situation. And one of the blessed fruits of these labors will be a conversion of hearts and an expansion of minds, so that Israeli and Palestinian national identities will be experienced as mutually enriching rather than as mutually exclusive and threatening. Let us all work toward that day and that outcome.

POSTSCRIPT: As I was writing this reflection, another round of lethal violence erupted between the Israeli government and the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaderships in Gaza. The Egyptian government worked to bring about another cease-fire, while the underlying conditions that inflame passions and perpetuate the no-win state of war remain unaddressed. In 2008, during the first of three wars between Israel and Hamas over six years, I wrote the following appeal, which was disseminated through the internet:

IF ONLY…

An appeal addressed to Jews, Arabs, and concerned people everywhere
in response to the wars between Israel and Hamas

by Yehezkel Landau

If only our empathy and compassion were as strong as our capacity for self-justification;

If only we could protect ourselves in ways that do not inflict harm on others;

If only we could see ourselves as interdependent, rather than isolated and threatened;

If only we could see the Image of God in one another, rather than projecting mythic images of Arab Nazis or Jewish Crusaders;

If only our leaders were committed to transforming conflict nonviolently rather than too often using military means to achieve political aims;

If only peace education were a part of school curricula throughout Palestine and Israel;

If only political agreements outlawed incitement and demonization in public speeches;

If only the Israeli and Arab media conveyed multiple perspectives, along with humanizing stories and images, rather than reinforcing prejudices;

If only we could address the core issues and grievances, rather than reacting to the latest round of violence or the fear of further violence;

If only the Arab perception of the state of Israel (in its pre-1967 borders, with mutually accepted adjustments) was of a people coming home and exercising the right of self-determination, rather than of a colonial conquest by outsiders;

If only Arab and Muslim leaders could acknowledge the existential fears of the Jewish people following the Holocaust and reinforced by subsequent wars, bellicose rhetoric, and the prospect of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Israel’s adversaries;

If only the Jewish people, in Israel and elsewhere, could acknowledge the deep, unhealed wound of the Palestinian people, displaced and dispossessed in large numbers in the war of 1948 and under prolonged occupation following the 1967 war;

If only Israel would join the Palestinian people in developing democratic institutions rather than destroying their civic infrastructure in the name of self-defense;

If only we could see the problem as a regional crisis, with multiple, interrelated challenges, rather than a bilateral conflict between Israelis and Palestinians;

If only a spiritual dimension to peacebuilding—drawing on the practical resources in  Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—were included in Middle East diplomacy, so that religious extremists would be countered in their own terms and political arrangements would be grounded in mutual repentance, the healing of trauma, and sustained hope for the future;

If only we could envision a future of cooperation and shared blessing, rather than a no-win war lasting generations;

If only the children on “the other side” were as precious to us as our neighbors’ children;

If only our young people were exposed to their peers on “the other side” early on, so that they could build friendships that transcend the “us-vs.-them” dichotomy;

If only we could build Shalom/Salaam together, with a Jewish-Arab peace corps constructing homes, schools, and hospitals in a state of Palestine alongside Israel, and with expanded cross-border initiatives in the areas of health, education, culture, the environment, and sports;
…then perhaps, with God’s help and courageous leadership on all sides, both Israelis and Palestinians could experience genuine peace and security, with fear transformed to trust, anger to forgiveness, grief to compassion, and narrow self-interest to mutual solidarity.

Dr. Yehezkel Landau, a dual Israeli-American citizen, is an interfaith educator, trainer, consultant, and author active in Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations and Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding for more than 35 years. While in Israel he was executive director of the Oz veShalom-Netivot Shalom religious peace movement and then co-founder and co-director of the Open House peace center in Ramle. From 2002 to 2016 he was a professor of Jewish tradition and interfaith relations at Hartford Seminary and holder of the Abrahamic Partnerships Chair.

Rabbi Michael Lerner: Racism and Israel’s election: How did the Jewish state become an oppressive state?

TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY .

An article from Tikkun

Israel’s election on April 9 came down to a battle between a prime minister who promised to annex part (or possibly all) of the West Bank and its several million Palestinians into Israel, but without giving them equal rights to Jews, and a former army general and chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who boasted about how many Palestinians he had killed, or had his army kill, in past invasions into Gaza.
How did this happen?

Rabbi Michael Lerner speaking at memorial service for Muhammad Ali

The answer given by the Israeli and American left give is clear enough: Israel is a racist society and most Israelis are racists. In his March 13 Ha’aretz column, Gideon Levi put it forcefully: “Netanyahu is not the problem. The Israeli people are. The apartheid did not start with him and will not end with his departure.”

This kind of thinking is not new — it is precisely the same partially correct but self-defeating thinking that I heard from many on the left in the United States, after Donald Trump won a majority of the Electoral College in 2016. Blame the people.

As a psychologist who has been studying social movements for the past 40 years, I have found these kinds of “explanations” merely repeating in different words the problem they claim to illuminate. Israelis did not always vote for right-wing candidates and most were enthusiastic about the hoped-for end of hostilities with Palestinians that the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s Oslo Accords promised: two states living together in peace. Similarly, a majority of Americans had voted for Obama in 2008 and again in 2012, and a majority voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, undermining the claim that the best explanation for Trump’s victory is that a majority of Americans are racist or sexist.

My research reveals that the very claim that all those who don’t support progressive politics are bad people (Clinton called them “a basket of deplorables”) reflects an underlying contempt for ordinary people on the part of many in the left, not only in the U.S. and Israel, but in many other struggling leftist parties around the world.

I first got a hint of this when I did research with working people in Israel in 1984, research that was based in the Labor Studies program at Tel Aviv University. At that time, most Israeli working people still associated with the socialist-oriented Labor Party. Yet it didn’t take long for people I interviewed to tell me their feeling that their union leadership cared little about them, their lives and their struggles. Many were beginning to flirt with the idea of voting for Likud (the right-wing party now led by Benjamin Netanyahu), not because they agreed with Likud, but because they felt so disrespected  by the leftists they met. They wanted to send a strong message of anger.

When I asked my friends in Shalom Achshav (the secular Israeli peace movement at the time) and in Netivot Shalom (the religious peace movement at the time) why they were not doing door-to-door organizing and reaching out to the people who disagreed with them, I got the same answer from both movements: “These people are racist to the core and there is no point in trying to talk to them.” Sitting in the chic coffeehouses of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, they were in fact demeaning working-class Israelis, just as those workers had complained.

It turns out that many people do not vote on the basis of whose political program they agree with most, but on the basis of who appears to respect and care about them, their families and their struggles. This continues to be the biggest fault line for the left almost everywhere in the world. The left not only disrespects and puts down ordinary people, it often shows the same disrespect to people who are supposed allies!

That is not to excuse the racism. But since most people are not born racist, the question of what experiences led to racism becoming dominant among Israeli Jews deserves a fuller and more compassionate account. Racism has often been used by imperial powers, from ancient Greece and Rome to contemporary European and American colonial and imperialist regimes. Often the victims of racism either succumb to the oppressors’ vision and internalize feelings of inadequacy, or they develop stories of themselves as ethically better than their oppressors. (Jewish “chosen-ness” sometimes yields a demeaning attitude toward the “goyim,” “sisterhood is powerful” sometimes yields a blanket suspicion of all men, and “black lives matter” sometimes yields an insistence that all whites are racist.)

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Question for this article

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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Consider that one out of every three Jews alive in 1939 were murdered by 1945 in massive upsurge of Jew-hating, and further, that Palestinians used their influence with Britain to keep Jews in “displaced persons” camps and out of Palestine, and then rejected the UN vote to divide the land between a Jewish and Palestinian state. In this regard, it is understandable that deep resentments on the part of the survivors of the Holocaust and their allies in what became Israel would develop into a deep antipathy.

Having suffered so great a trauma, they concluded that almost anything Jews would do in the name of security would be justified, no matter how oppressive that would be to others. Taking over the West Bank, and now considering incorporating it into Israel itself, seemed to many Israelis to be their entitlement given their past suffering, which still lingered in their psyches and is continually reinforced by national rituals and injunctions to “remember” what others have done to us.

We can add to this :

* Jews from former Communist countries who have developed an allergy to anything smelling of socialism or anything linked to a leftist internationalist perspective.

* Jews from Arab countries who still carry with them the memories of how they were disrespected by Ashkenazi Jews (of European origin) and the supposedly socialist government when they or their parents or grandparents first came to Israel.

* Israeli Palestinians who don’t vote after watching their elected representatives to the Knesset treated disrespectfully, and (possibly correctly) believing that their voices will never be taken seriously. In the past few years, progressive Israelis have reported that many of their former Palestinian allies have decided that working with Israelis “normalizes the occupation” and so have cut off relations with even the most pro-Palestinian Israeli activists. Right-wingers point out that this behavior once again proves that “there is nobody to talk to” among the Palestinians.

* The virtual collapse of a progressive religious movement has made it easier for right-wingers to align their version of Judaism with their version of security, rejecting the notion that we at Tikkun magazine have promoted: that Israel’s security would be best ensured by a spirit of generosity and caring for the well-being of all the people Israel governs, rather than through repression. While the Reform movement of Judaism in Israel has fought for religious equality for women and LGBTQ, it has avoided activist opposition to the occupation, fearing that to do so would split the movement, many of whose members, like many American Jews, are “progressive on everything except Israel.”

All these factors have contributed to the normalization of racism and repression of the Palestinian people.

But trauma is also the experience of the Palestinian people. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were force-marched from their homes or fled in fear of Jewish terrorism in 1948 and developed a deep antipathy toward Jews.

This catastrophe, the Nakba, remains the guiding trauma of the Palestinian people, often leading them to adopt futile gestures of violent resistance rather than an embrace of nonviolence in principle which, at least several decades ago, might have softened the hearts of many Israelis who feel so insecure that they are unable to acknowledge the vast difference in power between their well-trained armies and the militarily insignificant actions of a mostly unarmed Palestinian population.

The periodic provocative launching of missiles toward Israel seems to suggest a kind of silent alliance between Hamas and the Israeli right — Hamas insisting that it while it would like a 20-year period of cease-fire it will never accept the right of the Israeli state to exist, and the Israeli Right using those periodic rocket attacks to reassert their position that only total subjugation of Palestinians will provide lasting security for Jews.

The outrageous actions of the Jewish majority in becoming oppressors of the Palestinians will remain, for thousands of years into the future, one of the most disgraceful moments in Jewish history. But it won’t be overturned until we can develop a new politics of compassion for both sides, and a renewed belief that people can be reached if we start from a perspective of respect and caring for them, even when we disagree with their current political proclivities. Challenge their policies, but affirm their humanity for all but the most extreme haters who now govern Israel and Gaza.

Until a compassionate left emerges in Israel and reshapes the dominant culture, Israel’s descent into an apartheid state seems inevitable, even if it happens more gradually than many on the right would wish. These lessons apply equally to the coming decades of American politics as well.

Michael Lerner is an American political activist, the editor of Tikkun, a progressive Jewish interfaith magazine based in Berkeley, California, and the rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley.