December 2009

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Stories of cooperation and affection have been suppressed by two groups, those whose interests lay in weaponizing religion for nationalist purposes, and enlightenment liberals who wanted to establish society on a secular basis jettisoning the usefulness of clerics as weavers of civil society. But the fact is that along with the harm done by benighted clerics and hierarchies there were also moments of beauty in history that have yet to be extensively documented.

This story below is typical of many today that suggest a new era of global civil society has arrived when Jews and Muslims team up to help Christians on Christmas. But it is not as new as some might imagine. Tales of cooperation, mutual study and reverence, abound in anecdotes passed down from history that our age of militancy has tended to suppress. For a variety of reasons most of us around the globe are trying to …

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Dialogue Sparked by To Make the Earth Whole

by mgopin on December 19, 2009 · 0 comments

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Some good questions from my student Agatha Glowacki on To Make the Earth Whole. Her questions are bolded; my answers are italicized.

Dear Prof. Gopin,

I am reading your newest book and am very energized by the insights and vision you offer. As I read, I have so many thoughts and have been jotting them down, and decided to email you to start a conversation.

Here are some of my thoughts:

1. You mention the possibility of hope resident in the idea of a global social contract based on democracy and freedom. What about those elements, especially the radical Muslim fringe but even the more mainstream Political Islamists, who don’t accept or want democracy or human rights because they see them as illegitimate products of the West?

Actually, I think this Western approach is overemphasized. Indicators are that support for non-democratic forms of political Islam, and especially violent

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This book is a strong critique of the Middle East from an astute observer who has been a passionate critic of the West’s policies in the Middle East, no neocon. Worth reading.

What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East?
By Patrick Seale

[Brit Whitaker, author of What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East] has travelled widely in Arab countries and was Middle East editor of the Guardian newspaper for seven years. He evidently knows the region intimately. His strength, in researching this book, is that he has not restricted himself, as most journalists do, to seeking the views of political leaders and government officials, but has instead moved outside the strictly political sphere to interview a great many thinkers, academics, students, opinion-formers, bloggers, and ordinary people in many countries across the region. He has looked beyond Arab regimes to society as a whole. That is the originality of his

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Folks, I am looking for as much information and links as possible on the question of when and how can building an honest middle class, small businesses leads to societies that are less violent, less corrupt, more just. What is the evidence, actually? I am well aware of political and military factors that will prevent people, no matter how middle class, from actually achieving peace, justice, political liberty. But I am looking at the question of whether building economies from the bottom up actually creates peace. That it has helped millions, that microfinance has changed millions of lives, there is no doubt. But where is the demonstrable linkage to peace, to less polarization, to less extreme ideologies on all sides? Where is the cumulative evidence of any country, region, or city, that build stability in this way and thus supplanted radicalism, and/or that led to government reform and a greater …

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This is one of the more profound investigations of London jihadis and ex-jihadis who are evolving in very modern directions. The relationship of European racism to the jihadi phenomenon, as well as the hard realities created by corrupted jihadi behavior in the Middle East are also analyzed. All in all, it shows a dynamic universe that is dramatically changing, and that demands much more creative and emphathetic responses from non-Muslims.

An excerpt from the Johann Hari article “Renouncing Islamism: To the brink and back again,” first published in at The Independent:

MaajidNawaz

Ever since the 7/7 suicide bombings, carried out by young Englishmen against London, the British have been squinting at this minority of the minority and trying to figure out how we incubated a very English jihadism.

But every attempt I have made up to now to get into their heads – including talking to Islamists

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simon

Larry Simon is one of my heroes.  I consider him a mentor, and we partnered in work on village-based development. His pioneering work on development is rooted in a deep-seated humanitarianism that is critical for my own interests in conflict prevention, conflict management and reconciliation. Enjoy this interview.

Conversations with History – Laurence R. Simon
“Global Poverty, Development, and Social Change” Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes Professor Laurence R. Simon of Brandeis University (pictured above) for a discussion of the role of non governmental organizations in addressing global poverty.

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A SPEECH WORTH REMEMBERING

by mgopin on December 7, 2009 · 2 comments

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Picture 1

I think it bears republishing now, at this time, Jeremy Ben Ami’s speech at J street. It is one of the most powerful and inspiring and pragamatic speeches I can remember on the incredibly complex and disheartening Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I am thinking that now is the time to keep our eye on the ball of pragmatism, shunning despair, and encouraging everyone to take advantage of Obama, Mitchell, a new Turkey, an eager Syria, and a possible prisoner deal, while ignoring the dangers of Iran, the persistence of religious radicals in all the faiths, the sham of the freeze and the outrage of Palestinian dispossession in Jerusalem. Pragmatism and hope, persistence in a forward march. These are the ingredients of victory in history.  CRDC  is coupling a persistent push for negotiations with very practical expressions of support for and investment in the honest people of Palestine. We must put our voices …

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Going Rogue on the West Bank

by mgopin on December 5, 2009 · 7 comments

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going rogue

Here’s an excerpt from Michael Felsen’s article for the Jerusalem Post:

One of the stops on her Going Rogue book promotional tour last week was ABC’s Good Morning America. Noting that the Obama administration doesn’t want Israel to build any more settlements on what it considers Palestinian territory, interviewer Barbara Walters asked the former Alaska governor/vice presidential candidate for her view.

Palin’s response: “I disagree with the Obama administration on that. I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon because the population of Israel is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead. And I don’t think that the Obama administration has any right to tell Israel that the Jewish settlements cannot expand.”

More and more Jewish people flocking to Israel? What’s Palin’s source of information? Since 2002 – the year

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I am so proud of these Jewish rabbis! They are unafraid of this strange thing called self-examination, confession, and commitment to a different future. Maybe they cannot get the Jewish holy days out of their heads and hearts? So it is strange that this secular Jewish judge is now the champion of spiritual rabbis who have the courage to love the world, love Jews, love even Israel, with one hand, and love justice and repentance with the other hand. They actually believe in a God that they must answer to, while the establishment organizations, including the rabbinic ones, cannot look in the mirror, and are numb to the pain of their enemies.

The reality today is of millions of spiritual Muslims, Jews and Christians, who are orphaned by their religious establishments. It is understandable. Most people sacralize states that they are attached to, that they worship as the source of …

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Sheikh Qaradawi and the Concept of Jihad

by mgopin on December 1, 2009

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I am not a fan of Sheikh Qaradawi. I think his response to violence in the name of Islam was extremely disappointing in the first decade of the twenty-first century, and I have not seen him as helpful to a peaceful and just settlement of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict nor toward the development of a more tolerant form of Islam. He has consistently refused so far many overtures from a variety of Jewish rabbis to engage him. Put bluntly, he only seems to have rejected suicide terrorism as illegitimate when thousands of Muslims were dying at the hands of other  Muslims. In other words, he found his moral compass on jihad when it was affecting his own group.

That having been said, the fact is there are many parallels in the Jewish world to rabbinic leaders who refuse to engage Christians and whose Halakhic interpretations are entirely intolerant. They too will …

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