citizen diplomacy

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There are important next steps being debated for what states can and should do to stop the current war, and set the stage for ending the current cycle of violence. That is not my subject. I thought recently that leaders are followers and followers are leaders, and neither knows it. The fact is that people and their individual initiatives have much more impact on the course of history than is acknowledged by government officials, by cynics, and by those too apathetic, too callous, or too fearful to act. If you are in that category, do not read forward. Just go back to Al Jazeera, Fox and CNN and choose a side. Or go back to Jon Stewart and have a good laugh.

Here is what is necessary, efforts that have worked before in history in changing the available information available to all parties so that more rational and more morally …

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By Dr. Marc Gopin and Aziz Abu Sarah

In his speech to the Central Council of the PLO in Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced his strategy to end the occupation. The President stressed in his speech that he will not retreat from seeking recognition of the Palestinian state from the United Nations. Abbas had been under enormous pressure to withdraw the request for recognition of a Palestinian State on borders of June 1967. He announced that 122 nations are already in favor of the draft submitted to the UN. Concerning US opposition, he referred to the fact that this has not been communicated in a formal manner.

President Abbas surprised many of his listeners when he spoke about another element of his strategy. Perhaps for the first time Abbas highlighted clearly his vision of the Palestinian people’s active participation to achieve the dream of a Palestinian state. He called …

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From the explosion of Osama Bin Laden into our consciousness on that terrible day in 2001, all the way to his death, feels like a frame of existence, a distinct period of our history and fate as an American community. There have been many deadly wars since then that America has participated in or supported. As an American Jew and a veteran peacebuilder in the Middle East, I also feel like this decade has been a whirlwind of violence, from Iraq to Lebanon to Gaza, and now to Arab countries in which I had worked, especially Syria where I put my heart and soul.

Every war, every massive act of violence, always makes me reflect anew on the origins and nature of human violence, and on its opposites, empathy, compassion, and love. We humans have made so many efforts through the millennia to create one political arrangement after another in …

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By Hind Aboud Kabawat (Senior Research Analyst and Expert in Conflict Resolution, CRDC, George Mason University).

Damascus, Syria

May 20, 2011

Can our beloved Syria be saved from the brink of destruction? This is clearly the question on the minds of millions of our fellow countrymen (and countrywomen). And it is truly astonishing how quickly events have transformed the so-called “facts on the ground” in this country. One of the most locked-down societies in the Middle East quite suddenly erupted in rage, anger and frustration after forty years of political repression and economic stagnation. Just think of it: the first demonstration was on March 15, just a mere two months ago. But so much has changed in the minds, hearts and aspirations of the Syrian people that it is impossible to think that we can ever return to the status quo ante—the Syria of March 14th.

What the …

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NO WAY OUT:

ANCIENT WISDOM ON PUTTING BAD GUYS

UP AGAINST A WALL

Men in Middle Eastern palaces making decisions about their lives, their families, their fortunes, their necks. I think a lot these days about such men because history and the fate of millions of people often comes down to what is going on inside their heads. They are certainly not unique to the Middle East. Think Robespierre, Mussolini, Marcos, Milosevic, think Idi Amin, Charles Taylor, Noriega, Fujimori. The list is endless, the impact of their choices monumental.

There is an ancient law in the Jewish Torah that forbids combatants from surrounding an enemy on all four sides, requiring instead that there is always an escape route. In the Middle Ages Maimonides, one of the greatest legal decision makers in Jewish history, concluded that this prohibition applies even to a mortal enemy in a defensive war. This sounds bizarre …

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Qatar Airline, Bombs, and Me

by mgopin on November 17, 2010 · 5 comments

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I recently flew Qatar Airlines round trip for a lovely interfaith conference in Doha. I ended up, back and forth to Washington, spending a total of 27 hours in-flight within four days. Not long after I got back, Qatar Airlines was in the news as having been one of the Gulf passenger carriers that unwittingly transported a mail bomb from Yemen al Qaeda destined for a gay Jewish synagogue in Chicago.

This caused some strange sensations as a rabbi recently in the complete care of the same airline. I felt one of those moments of absolute contradiction, the contradiction between the way I was treated in the plane and the reality of cargoes headed for murder.

Before Qatar Airlines, I was going to write a sincere article about my evolution as a human sardine. I have been on planes traversing continents doing interfaith work for what seems like an eternity. …

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The hardest part of building peace for the future is freeing oneself from the wounds of war, the mutual recriminations of the present, the painful memories of a lost past, and the unreasonable fantasies of a world where one’s enemies magically disappear. Sometimes the way forward is to free the mind to build a different world, a world of practical possibilities should peace be achieved.

Let’s imagine the following: a full peace treaty between Israel and Palestine, official creation of a state of Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital, a shared civil regime for the quarter mile of the Holy Basin in the Old City of Jerusalem that is overseen by Israeli and Palestinian Jews, Muslims and Christians, and a way for every Palestinian refugee camp’s residents to be awarded citizenship and compensation in a variety of countries including Palestine itself.

The first …

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Why the US Needs Global Citizens

by mgopin on September 3, 2010 · 4 comments

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By Cheryl Duckworth

Perhaps one of the barriers to global citizenship education has been a fear that one must necessarily choose between two identities—being either a citizen of one’ s country or a citizen of the world.  In light of the increasingly nationalist and xenophobic dynamic observable in many countries over the past decade, challenging this false choice is urgent. Peace educators and global citizenship educators must make the argument that one can be both a citizen of one’s country and a citizen of the world.
I would even go further to argue that in today’s increasingly interconnected and increasingly armed world, the U.S. needs global citizens more than ever.  What is a global citizen and why does her country need her?
A global citizen has a secure and multifaceted identity.  What this means is that no one particular aspect of his identity (race, class, religion, gender) dominates the others.  …

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You can be horrified by this, you can ask what is happening to this country, and I would agree with you that these folks are frightening. And yet, what use is there in demonizing them? The Tea Party people are classic reactionaries in a world of incredibly rapid change. Cycling is an important element in the revolution going on globally in major cities, and it is a hopeful human adaptation catching on. America is or has become an isolated nation of naysayers who have afforded, out of excess wealth, to be highly independent and particularly maladaptive. They are often dragged along by others. But dragged along they will be. The question is how painless or painful will the transition to new ways of human adaptation. Progressives do no one any good or help anyone adapt by being terrified of reactionaries. In fact, what left and right share in the U.S.

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STOP CHEERING AND START HELPING

by mgopin on August 3, 2010 · 2 comments

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You have to watch this short five minute film to believe it. Watch a village steadily stolen illegally by the Jewish National Fund, finally destroyed by the IDF and the State with hundreds of police, and then rebuilt and reclaimed by Jews and Arabs, citizens of Israel, together.

You don’t have to believe that this is exactly what the JNF has been doing for over a hundred years, you don’t have to read the long and complicated history through the eyes of Israel’s leading analysts like Tom Segev in One Palestine Complete, just look at five minutes of video to see the destruction of olive trees and the theft of land through planting ‘Jewish’ trees, donated by clueless American Jews, no doubt, as Arabs watch helplessly their entire village demolished. But then watch Jews and Arabs together rebuilding in a single day. Feel the power and the determination.

When …

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