August 2008

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Here is one of many stories emerging out of the days of Sulha that brought together thousands of Jews and Palestinians last week. The Jerusalem Post reports:

While Sulha participants offer many different stories and personalities, Abu Awwad’s story is exceptional in that he truly comes from the “other side.” A resident of a village near Hebron and self-described “participant” in the second intifada who spent six years in an Israeli jail, Abu Awwad has seen his share of fighting and loss.

“My brother Yusef was killed at a checkpoint in 2000,” Abu Awwad said. “And another one of my brothers, Said, was killed in 2004.”

Abu Awwad explained that a third brother, Ali, who was in attendance at Latrun on Tuesday, had been shot and wounded during the intifada, along with his son, who was also wounded by gunfire in 2004.

“We’ve been through it all,” he said. “And

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Pictures of the Sulha

by mgopin on August 26, 2008 · 7 comments

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A Muslim, a Jew, a Sufi, and a Tibetan Bhudist walk into a Sulha...

Nourishing peace with Eliyahu McLean

Nourishing peace with Eliyahu McLean

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Martin Amis has an important recent essay in the The Wall Street Journal about a new understanding of international terrorism that is emerging. In the course of the essay, however, Amis raises a series of vital issues that I will address over the course of several entries. The first is whether terrorism is really about religion even if its foot soldiers are almost all religious extremists? What are the different ramifications in terms of prevention and peacemaking? Even if terrorism is not essentially about religion we cannot abandon an engagement with religion because it motivates the foot soldiers.

Amis writes:

The two most stimulating international terrorism-watchers known to me are John Gray and Philip Bobbitt. Professor Gray (“Straw Dogs,” “Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern” and “Black Mass”) and Professor Bobbitt (“The Shield of Achilles” and the masterly “Terror and Consent”) are utterly unalike, except in brainpower

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Nicholas Kristoff’s very revealing piece on the Dalai Lama’s latest offer to the Chinese, if it is true, raises many fundamental issues about the price for peace.

Kristoff’s piece raises important questions that face the Dalai Lama regarding the future of his people, and the compromises that may be necessary with the Chinese regime in order to forestall the cultural genocide that is underway in Tibet. Should he settle with the Chinese finally? What is he surrendering, what is he getting for his people?

Where does justice fit in? Well, I hardly can imagine where it fits in. This conflict is so asymmetric and one side is so powerful that it hardly seems possible to hold out for justice as the cultural genocide and displacement of Tibetans by Han Chinese continues apace.

It seems to me that at the Dalai Lama’s age, and given the frustration of the youth who …

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PROVOKING FEAR OF A NEW COLD WAR

by mgopin on August 21, 2008 · 13 comments

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It is hard to know what in this piece is designed to drive a wedge in the new Israeli/Syrian dialogue and what spells real trouble in terms of a rapidly deteriorating relationship between the United States and Russia. We may be seeing the undermining of the real possibility of peace between Syria and Israel. There is a march of folly, from Georgia’s move on South Ossetia, to Russia’s naked aggression, to the successful neo-conservative strategy of alienating everyone and anyone for eight years, including Russia (Did Poland really need an ABM defense right now? Is that what is going to make them safer?). It seems that reactionary forces in the United States may get their wish for a world in conflict that will push frightened American voters–and Israeli voters–in their direction once again. It is true that Russia has been headed in an anti-democratic direction for a long time, but …

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Tom Friedman is worth reading on sharing the blame for Moscow’s aggression:

If the conflict in Georgia were an Olympic event, the gold medal for brutish stupidity would go to the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin. The silver medal for bone-headed recklessness would go to Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, and the bronze medal for rank short-sightedness would go to the Clinton and Bush foreign policy teams.

Let’s start with us. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, I was among the group – led by George Kennan, the father of “containment” theory, Senator Sam Nunn and the foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum – that argued against expanding NATO, at that time.

It seemed to us that since we had finally brought down Soviet communism and seen the birth of democracy in Russia the most important thing to do was to help Russian democracy take root and integrate Russia into Europe.

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ENGAGING RUSSIA–AGAIN

by mgopin on August 19, 2008 · 9 comments

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I have a friend, Bryan Hamlin, who has been an amazing citizen diplomat all his life, who helps entities in conflict understand each other, especially at critical hours. What I mean by ‘citizen diplomat’ is a person who takes it upon himself to build relationships between enemy groups, or between his own culture and a culture with which he or his country is in conflict. My next book, To Make the Earth Whole, will deal at great length with citizen diplomats because I believe they are the hope of the future, inching the globe toward greater integration, cooperation, and community.

The image “http://www.rhodora.org/Images/Hamlin.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Bryan had two great pre-occupations of his career as a citizen diplomat, the Palestinian/Jewish relationship, and the Russian/Western relationship. He chose wisely, for these remain the deepest challenges to the future of humanity. What we have seen in Georgia proves this.

One of the most exhilarating moments …

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VERY GOOD NEWS FROM PAKISTAN’S MILITARY

by mgopin on August 18, 2008 · 7 comments

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The fact that Musharraf is resigning is excellent news. Yesterday’s news that the military was not going to interfere with his impeachment is far more important. The military was prepared to turn its back on Musharraf’s old ways, of engineering military coups, possibly assassinations, and throwing thousands of democracy proponents in jail.

This is a major turning point in the history of modern Pakistan, and perhaps the beginning of an authentic democratic evolution. The foundation of democracy is the willingness of militaries to submit to civilian rule. The only reason that the United States achieved democracy as early as it did is because General George Washington went home. With all that power and popularity, amazingly, he just went home! It was a damn miracle in history. Only after constant prodding did he accept the Presidency. He never had imperial ambitions, though he easily could have succumbed to that common …

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Pakistani students recite the Koran in an Islamic school in Peshawar

A young Pakistani man who I met recently said to me, “If Pakistan is safe the world is safe, if Pakistan is in danger then the world is in danger, because we have “atom.” And Pakistan is in deep danger.” He was sincere, persuasive, brilliant, but also blunt in that special way that survivors whose lives are in danger tend to be. He was also on a mission to rediscover the religion of his youth, an Islam he could be proud of. He watched helplessly in his lifetime as the contest for Pakistan and Afghanistan that ensued between the Soviet Union, Iran, the United States, and Saudi Arabia morphed into a bloody battle in the name of religion.

The young man, who we will call Malik, has been searching to restore the earlier Islamic culture to his native Pakistan, but the forces arrayed against him are enormous. This is what …

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Donna Bryson reports in the Boston Globe today that Mugabe has accepted an arrangement in which Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition movement, will become Prime Minister with a variety of important responsibilities.

Protesters in Johannesburg demonstrated yesterday against Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, whose role has been a major sticking point in the contentious power-sharing talks. Protesters in Johannesburg demonstrated yesterday against Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, whose role has been a major sticking point in the contentious power-sharing talks. (jerome delay/Associated Press)

Maybe this is the beginning of the end of the Mugabe era’s destruction of Zimbabwe, and perhaps this is an important milestone for President Mbeki of South Africa who has been brokering this deal in person all week.

Tsvangirai said compromise is necessary because Zimbabweans would reject a deal “if any party is greedy.”

“We have agreed that Mr. Mugabe will be president whilst I become prime minister,” he told the SADC ministers. “We envisage that the prime minister must chair the Cabinet and be responsible for the formulation, execution and

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