June 2009

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bethlehem_2006_05_10

©Aziz Abu Sarah and Marc Gopin

Two years ago, Aziz joined a panel of Palestinians speaking to Jewish rabbinical students about the Palestinian point of view. Among the speakers was a Palestinian-American businessman who moved to the West Bank after Oslo, hoping to invest in a developing area. He shared his experience working with the Palestinian telecommunications company Jawal, and his job with the new Al-Wataniyah Company that was to compete with Jawal in the mobile market.

Just recently Al-Wataniyah sent a letter to the Palestinian Authority, asking the government to pay back the company’s registration fees plus 200 million dollars in investment damages. The company is demanding these remunerations because Israel has not given them the airwaves to start the company, even though in 2007 the Israeli government agreed to allow the company to operate after long negotiations and the interference of former British Prime Minister Blair, the …

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I continue to be haunted, almost fixated on President Obama’s simple words about the joke around the White House.  It is in my opinion, a stunning formula for presidentially-led social change. After four decades of watching American presidents, supposedly the most powerful agents of change in the Arab/Israeli conflict, fail to make any change. Now Obama is coming along at a good time for change, in that so much of the world knows that Israel must change, including most American Jews, finally, finally. But he could be still failing miserably at this. No, it really is his genius. The fact is the most passionate president on peace and justice for Palestinians is Jimmy Carter, but he is not believed at all by most Jews or trusted. Why? Because he has a nasty habit of saying in public things that are so overly optimistic about seasoned enemies and militant groups with …

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Peace is Not Magic

by mgopin on June 26, 2009 · 5 comments

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By Kobi Skolnick
In the last few weeks, there have been many developments in the Middle East conflict. People around the world have been following the speeches of President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as Hosni Mubarak’s essay in the Wall Street Journal. This high-level discussion signals a shift in policy and progress toward peace. However, some skeptics wonder if this is just another phase in a cycle of false hope. After all, it is not difficult to imagine another suicide bombing in one of Israel’s cities, or an ill-timed Israeli Defense Force operation in the Palestinian Territories, both of which would immediately make peace look like a mere fantasy.

This danger has always existed in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Even when top leaders sign treaties, on the ground there remains a deep enmity between Israelis, Palestinians, and the Arab world. With this in mind, …

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Aziz Abu Sarah, leading Palestinian peacemaker

Aziz Abu Sarah, leading Palestinian peacemaker

Marc, Aziz , and Scott will be speaking Tuesday night in Boston. See the details below. Please come, or send others who you know in New England!
“Positive Change: Peace Steps that Can Make a Difference in the Middle East”

Come Tuesday night and get first hand inside information on the situation both in Syria and Palestine from two leading experts on the practice of citizen diplomacy and peacebuilding in the region. The Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, GMU, is engaged in vital work from Damascus to Jerusalem, but we need you to participate in developing a social network for positive change domestically and globally. The speakers: Aziz Abu Sarah, CRDC’s new director of Middle East Projects and a native of Jerusalem and Hebron, is one of the most important pioneers of nonviolent resistance and peacebuilding in Palestine who has received …

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This piece is worth reading and debating. I don’t agree with many of its assumptions about blame and the causal chain of connections, but I do think that jumping to final status on land swaps may be a way out of the current impasses. The problem I have is where they will get the rest of the land inside Israel for the swap, and will it play into Lieberman’s anti-democratic plans to give away the Arabs in Israel’s triangle area in order to disempower an Arab voice in Israel. It is very important that every affected community have a stake in these negotiations, and Israel’s domestic relations with the Arab community of Israel is going in the opposite direction right now of disenfranchisement of Israel’s Arab citizens. I think David’s focus on land is a good idea because it could do an end run around all ideological opponents of a …

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The tumultuous events of recent days have further confirmed just how destructive militant American thinking about Iran has been. As President Obama understood and said relentlessly in the past year, there are clearly a huge amount of people to engage in Iran, probably the majority. Of course, the overwhelming question will be how to reach them. But the damage has been done to the conservative regime, and events on the ground in Iran, in addition to events in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Gaza, intimate a re-alignment is emerging across the Middle East, a move of Islamic political movements toward the center and away from radicalism, as Dr. Mahdi Abdul Hadi, the Palestinian scholar,  has wisely noted. A wise president, and a wise Congressional leadership, will not squander the opportunity to engage.

Reported in the Washington Post, this Rand study, a bastion of American military thinking, should be read by …

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The video and the article below provide the most important evidence yet that Israel’s occupation forces, especially the border police, need to be disbanded, de-funded, or completely overhauled, and that the United States funds that support such forces need to be re-examined and allocated by the United States Congress. This is not just an exception. These cases have been reported routinely by Palestinians for decades, and no one would believe them because the assumption was that the enemies of Israel just spin endless fabrications and propaganda. But here is the evidence for Americans to see, and to help Congress overhaul this corrupt system.

According to recent polls a whopping 69% of American Jews favoring the United States pressuring Israel into a settlement with the Palestinians!  This suggests an amazing level of courage in the Jewish community that I believe is inspired negatively by the criminal acts perpetrated in Gaza in …

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Gershom Gorenberg

Gershom Gorenberg

We stand at a crossroads of Jewish and Israeli attitudes to the United States and especially to its President, and it could lead to an important moral reckoning. Read here this excellent article by Gershom Gorenberg, one of the most insightful voices in Israel. It is one of the best arguments yet that the blind support for settlement expansion is the greatest danger to the Jewish people and to Israel itself. I have always found it ironic that so-called patriots from the United States to China to Russia to Israel to Serbia have always thought that by abusing others they are protecting their country, standing up for their country. But the opposite is true, as Sun Tzu in The Art of War understood over two thousand years ago. The settlements are and always have been an act of theft and abuse. How can they be pro-Jewish? To build …

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From Our Friend Eliyahu

by mgopin on June 18, 2009 · 6 comments

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Submitted by David Vyorst

Here is an email newsletter from our friend, peacemaker Eliyahu McLean:

Abrahamic Reunion brings hope to Sderot, Gaza

Hello friends and supporters,

We have been been doing ongoing work to re-build trust and relationships in the Holy Land in the aftermath of the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel.  Here is a highlight of the group events and individual work of members of our family of peacebuilders in the Holy Land, starting with a powerful event that took place in the days soon after the war.

ABRAHAMIC REUNION BRINGS HOPE TO SDEROT AND GAZA, Feb.4

Rabbi Zion Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Shaar HaNegev and Sderot brought together a group of Israeli Jewish students and teachers who hosted the Abrahamic Reunion (AR) in a re-enforced classroom at the high school at Sapir College in Shaar Hanegev, on Israel’s border with Gaza, on Feb. 4th. Deacon Jiries Mansour, …

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Ross Aden

Ross Aden

Ross Aden, an Associate Professor of Religious studies has the following detailed review of the book:

In my investigation of religious violence, I discovered a religious peacemaker whose work exemplifies a constructive religious response to the religious aggression of our century. Rabbi Marc Gopin has shared his peacekeeping vision and methods in a new book, TO MAKE THE EARTH WHOLE: THE ART OF CITIZEN DIPLOMACY IN AN AGE OF RELIGIOUS MILTANCY (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009). This is a book of practical wisdom about the critical role of religion in the politics of war and peace in our time. Gopin shows how the theory and practice of religious peacemaking can be integrated and how that integration can contribute to a more just and peaceful world.

Gopin’s is book contains sections on
• Foundations of a Global Community through Citizen Diplomacy
• Global Diplomacy and Incremental Change…
• Diplomacy with

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