|Issues||September 2006 Newsletter|
JUSTICE AS THE KEY TO PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
At its meeting of August 8, the Council of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, of which our chapter of CGS (then WFA) was a founding member, unanimously adopted a resolution on the Middle East which was subsequently sent to the President, the Secretary of State, our state's representatives in Congress, a number of key personnel in the UN Secretariat and the heads of the UN missions from the United States, Israel and Lebanon. Portions of that resolution are quoted below:
"Profoundly concerned by the gravity of the current strife in the area encompassing Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine (both the West Bank and Gaza) and convinced that enduring peace cannot be achieved through war, the Council of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, in conformity with its Guiding Principles, as cited below, urgently calls on the government of the United States, other concerned governments in the region, and the United Nations to work for speedy achievement of the following objectives:"
[Clauses followed relating to a cease-fire, humanitarian assistance and repair of infrastructure, cessation of arms shipments, prisoner exchange, and troop withdrawal.]
"Additionally, convinced that there can be no enduring peace without justice, the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers calls for a high-level, impartial, UN-sponsored panel to consider the manifold causes and consequences of hostility between Israel and its Palestinian and other Arab neighbors and to recommend measures for promoting justice for all people in the region to the maximum feasible extent. Being further convinced that the vigorous promotion of justice will ultimately be much less costly than an indefinitely long prolongation of hostility, we urge the United States and others in the international community to commit the financial, technical and personnel resources needed to ensure a just, viable and durable peace in the region."
Relevant MAP Guiding Principles (to all of which the Minnesota Chapter of CGS subscribes):
1. The Primacy of Justice. Enduring peace requires social and economic justice at all levels of human interaction, … global, national [and] … local.
Apart from the tremendous suffering and physical devastation of the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah, some of the most distressing aspects of the conflict, in my view, have been: a) the willingness of the Bush administration, Congress and the mass media to accept uncritically the interpretation of its causes put forth by Israel and to assign blame almost exclusively to Hezbollah; b) the failure to address adequately Israel's disproportionate response to Hezbollah's undeniable provocations; c) the apparent linkage (if Seymour Hersh's recent New Yorker article is correct) of the long-planned aerial Israeli attack on Lebanon to a contemplated "preemptive" unilateral US aerial attack on Iran; and d) most importantly, the failure of the United States and the international community to seriously address the underlying causes of the rise of Hezbollah, of Islamic "terrorism" in general, and of the pervasive alienation of Arab and Islamic populations, among others, brought about by expansionist, imperialistic, arrogant, often brutal and unilateral actions taken by both our own government and that of Israel in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Happily, over an increasingly broad swath of the American political spectrum, we are now witnessing a belated recognition, of the phoniness and ineptitude of the Middle Eastern policies of the Bush administration and the dangers of the broader neocon agenda of achieving global hegemony of which those policies form a part. But this points to a remarkable paradox. On the one hand, it is becoming acceptable once again for Americans to question and even oppose their own country's rationale for and conduct of its "war on terror," without the paralyzing fear of being accused of a lack of patriotism. On the other hand, it remains a taboo in most political circles and in most of the media, to forthrightly question the policies of a foreign country, Israel, vis-à-vis its Palestinian and other neighbors, lest one open oneself to the accusation of anti-Semitism or of being "a self-hating Jew." The reasons why are provided in the trenchant analysis of the power of AIPAC and other components of the "Israeli lobby" recently provided by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, of the University of Chicago and Harvard respectively. This had to be published first in the London Review of Books in order to gain attention in American mainstream media? And why is it that one finds far more scathing criticism of Israel's actions in the still free Israeli press (e.g., by writers such as Uri Avnery in Ha'aretz) than in our own media?
Some readers of this essay will accuse me of having a pro-Arab bias. Let me assure them that I know there is plenty of guilt to go around, that I do not condone terrorism from any quarter, and that I am well aware of the many virtues of the Israeli state and do not question its right to a secure existence. But, to the extent that I feel greater sympathy for the oppressed than for the oppressor and feel the need to be guided by my assessment of the balance sheet of lives lost, persons abducted and/or tortured, lands seized, houses demolished, water diverted, olive trees uprooted, and humiliations inflicted, my critics have a point. Yes, I do have a strong bias in support of those to whom justice has been denied. And I am ashamed that I have not spoken out on the subject previously as forcefully as I should have. Let me close by urging you to give thought to the premise on which this essay is based: that justice is the necessary precondition for peace, not only in the Middle East, but also in the world as a whole, and then to act accordingly.
Joe Schwartzberg, President
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the preceding essay are personal and may or may not reflect those of other members of the Minnesota Chapter of CGS or of CGS at the national level.
A GLOBAL PARLIAMENT?
The idea of a global parliament is hardly new; but, until recently, almost all observers of the global scene regarded it as little more than an unattainable, idealistic fantasy. Several recent developments, however, should make one reconsider the issue. First, at this year's annual UN/NGO Conference, scheduled for September 6-8, a special session was scheduled to discuss a People's Parliament under Articles 22 or 7.2 of the UN Charter (details not available as this goes to press). Second, work has been underway for several years to establish an "e-Parliament" with voluntary participation, via the Internet, from members of the legislatures (including the US Congress) of numerous democratic states. Recent discussions on energy "have already led to initiatives to reduce standby power consumption in electric appliances in the Brazilian Congress, the European Parliament, and the Parliaments of Ghana, Norway and South Africa.." (For details go to www.e-parl.net or firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, consider the potential in the recently formed Community of Democracies, which brought together some 100 nations at its first meeting in Poland in 1999 and subsequently in Seoul, Korea and Santiago de Chile. The next meeting is scheduled for Bamako, Mali in 2007.
ANNUAL MEETING A BIG SUCCESS
The annual dinner meeting of the Minnesota Chapter of CGS, held in the Bistro Room of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota on June 14 drew an enthusiastic audience of more than sixty persons. Our keynote speaker, CGS's national President, Charlie Brown covered a wide range of topics in his prepared address: "If I Were President: A New Foreign Policy for the 21st Century," but focused in particular on the need for a sane national energy policy. A lively discussion followed.
Thanks were extended to the outgoing officers and Board members and to others who made our year such a success and incoming officers and Board members were warmly welcomed.
Never has so much military and economic and diplomatic power been used so ineffectively, and if after all of this time, and all of this sacrifice, and all of this support, there is still no end in sight, then I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership not tied to the mistakes and policies of the past.
--Richard Nixon, 1968
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Taxpayers in Minnesota will pay $265.9 million for ballistic missile defense in FY2007. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:
34,730 People with Health Care or
(Thanks to Lisa Ledwidge for this item. Ed.)
THIRD THURSDAY GLOBAL ISSUES FORUM
When? The third Thursday of each month, 7:00 - 9:00 pm.
United Nations International Day of Peace
How do we transform a culture that glorifies and legitimizes war into a culture of peace? How do we bring a commitment to peace into our daily lives and teach the art of peaceful conflict resolution? Our panel will present five inspiring approaches to answering these questions and offer ample opportunity for group discussion.
DEALING WITH IRAN
October 19, 2006, 7:00-9:00 P.M.
Part of CGS-MN's Third Thursday Global Issues Forum
Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis (at Lyndale and Hennepin, directions)
Free and open to the public.
What accounts for the current tensions between the US and Iran? What should one believe about the alleged threat posed by Iran to America's security? What would be the likely consequences of a US and/or Israeli military strike against Iran? What might the US and the global community best do to defuse the presently dangerous confrontation in and around Iran?
Presenter: MEHR "JAY" SHAHIDI. The owner of a local construction company, Jay came to the US as an economics student in 1965. He has been a peace and social justice activist ever since his high school days in Tehran. He has served in leadership roles in over thirty social service and advocacy groups including the United Nations Association, Citizens for Global Solutions, and Amnesty International. He is a co-founder and the current President of the Iranian-American Society of Minnesota. He has worked tirelessly in the Adopt-a-Minefield (de-mining) program and in humanitarian activities to aid victims of natural and man-made disasters.
The following appeared recently in Foreign Policy in Focus, (A Think Tank without Walls). It relates to an idea - strongly backed by CGS - whose time has come. (Ed.)
Lebanon, Sudan: Who You Gonna Call?
The UN needs a rapidly deployable UN Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS). Such a force, if it currently existed, would already be on the ground in Lebanon, creating a secure environment for a replacement team of more permanent peacekeepers. In Sudan, UNEPS could have been deployed within 48 hours of the May peace agreement to stabilize a chaotic situation. Currently the UN does not have the capacity to respond rapidly to emergencies around the world.
Working within a single command structure, UNEPS would employ 12-18,000 military personnel, civilian police, legal experts, and relief professionals from various countries. This force would be carefully selected, expertly trained, and coherently organized, so it would not fail due to a lack of skills, equipment, experience in resolving conflicts, or gender, national, or religious imbalance. The new body would operate out of mobile field headquarters that would enable deployment within 48 hours of a UN authorization. UNEPS would complement existing peace operations capacities and operate according to a "first in-first out" deployment philosophy.
Progress on moving forward with UNEPS requires:
o Supporting the Wynn-Leach legislation currently pending the U.S. Congress.
Don Kraus is the executive vice president at Citizens for Global Solutions. More information about UNEPS is available at http://www.globalactionpw.org/uneps/index.htm.
Citizens for Global Solutions-Minnesota Chapter
5492 Bald Eagle Blvd. E.
White Bear Lake, MN 55110
info at globalsolutionsmn.org