PACIFIST FIGHT CLUB

We will fight for peace, but we will do no violence.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Meet The Palestinian Gandhi: Mubarak Awad

Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?
 By Jeff Stein / August 11, 2014 5:24 AM EDT
Amid every cycle of violence and revenge in Israel over the past 60 years came the cry: “Where’s the Palestinian Gandhi?” Not so much today. The answer has been blown away in the smoke and rubble of Gaza, where the idea of nonviolent protest seems as quaint as Peter, Paul and Mary. The Palestinians who preached nonviolence and led peaceful marches, boycotts, mass sit-downs and the like are mostly dead, in jail, marginalized or in exile.
Mubarak Awad is one of the latter. Often dubbed “the Palestinian Gandhi” or “Palestinian Martin Luther King Jr.,” Awad now teaches the theory and practice of nonviolence at American University in Washington, D.C., far from his Jerusalem home. 
Israel kicked him out in 1988. Five years earlier, he had opened the doors of the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in Jerusalem, with the goal of fomenting mass resistance to the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Do not pay taxes, he lectured. Consume only local goods, like the Indians who followed Gandhi’s movement against British colonial rule. Engage only in peaceful protest. Plant olive trees on land coveted by Jewish settlers. Above all, do not pick up the gun. March, and sit down, like civil rights protesters in the American South in the 1960s. Take the beatings, clog up Israeli jails.
It started to take, here and there, even though the leaders of the PLO and Hamas disdained it. Awad was arrested on the orders of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and deported.
Today, now beefy and white-haired at 71, with his TV flickering images of Hamas and Israel trading bombs and rockets, Awad insists he is optimistic about the prospects for a nonviolent protest movement in his homeland. “I am very hopeful. I mean, you are talking to a very hopeful person,” he said, ticking off negotiated resolutions to what once seemed implacably violent conflicts in Northern Ireland and South Africa. “Of course, there is violence along the way,” he said. “Germany and France killed each other for 100 years, and now they are friends.”
That’s the long view, but Awad’s optimism is flagging under the weight of the current Gaza conflict, and he maintains that things could get worse. “The Israelis will leave [Gaza], and we will have even more groups of Palestinians, even more militant than Hamas. The Israelis will say they got the weapons in Gaza, but then [the militants] might go to chemical weapons, or might go to [radiological] weapons—or something worse. These death weapons are getting easy to get and easy to make in the laboratory. So people will engage in worse things to kill each other.”
Many Palestinian youths no longer worry about dying, Awad says, egged on by Hamas and even more extreme elements dispatched to Gaza and the occupied West Bank by the so-called Islamic State (IS), the neck-chopping fundamentalists who have taken over large swaths of Syria and Iraq. “When they see people dying there, they say they are not killed, they are being a martyr,” he says. “And they say those people are in paradise, they are in the hands of God.… They say they are better than us because they have already died.… It’s a crazy religious, spiritual way of dealing with death.”
Extremist cash is greasing the path to martyrdom, Awad explains. “The caliphate—the Islamic state in Syria and Iraq—is funding people who have started recruiting the young people in Jerusalem. A great number of those kids have no jobs, they don’t go to school, and they are on drugs.… They are told that if they join certain groups they will get some money—hundreds of young people. So some people are falling under the sway of the IS, and they are willing to kill anybody—Christians, Muslims, Jews, anybody blocking their way. That’s very sad.” His voice trails off.
 Awad came to pacifism through violence. His father was killed by Jewish fighters during Israel’s war for independence in 1948 when he was 5, but his mother counseled him to turn the other cheek. “She told me, ‘The one who killed your father did not know he was leaving me a widow with seven children to raise.’ She said, ‘Please don’t take revenge on your father, don’t kill anyone, don’t ever destroy a human life.’ And I took that very seriously”—even as his mother dispatched him and his brothers to an orphanage. 
“And it was horrible for me. For five or six years, I never had a full stomach. I never had enough to eat. But because of my respect for my mother, I always pushed hard for nonviolence. Not only me, but my brothers,” two of whom now head Christian institutions in the occupied territories. A Greek Orthodox Catholic, Mubarak was influenced by Quaker and Mennonite missionaries, and in his 20s, in the 1960s, he left Jerusalem for Bluffton University, a Mennonite school in Ohio, where he earned a B.A. in social work and sociology. Then came a master’s in education from Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. in psychology from Saint Louis University, a Jesuit school in St. Louis. Settling in Ohio, he established a statewide program to find homes for wayward youths ensnared by the criminal justice system. In 1978 it evolved into the National Youth Advocate Program. But his heart was in Jerusalem, especially with the outbreak of the first intifada, or uprising, which started out as a kind of rock-throwing children’s crusade. In 1983 he returned to Jerusalem and started agitating for massive, peaceful resistance.
After repeated warnings over five years, Israel had seen enough. In 1988 officials charged him with inciting a “civil uprising” by circulating leaflets advocating civil disobedience. Over the protests of high U.S. officials, he was deported. But he has continued to make regular short trips “home” on a tourist visa. His targets: Israeli and Palestinian youths tempted by the siren songs of violence and vengeance.   
The Palestinian kids are a very hard case. “We try to negotiate with them,” Awad says. “They say, ‘Give us money if you want to negotiate. Give us a job, give us something to do, give us some hope.’ And we don’t have any money in nonviolence. All we can do is let them express their anger and their feelings about the situation.”
Venting might work in family psychotherapy in Los Angeles, but not in the cauldrons of the West Bank and Gaza. Awad insists that constant counseling and instruction in alternatives to violence can work—much as Martin Luther King Jr. counseled his followers after the outrages of Birmingham. Like King, he extols massive, passive resistance as ennobling. “I have pushed very hard for the idea that anyone who goes to prison is a hero, that you have a badge of honor, that you honor your family, that you honor Palestine, that you have a purpose, by going to jail,” Awad says.
Many longtime observers think his strategy is, at best, way too late. “Even if most Palestinians [were] convinced of the virtues of nonviolent resistance, it’s likely that there will be small groups who are still committed to violence and will take the opportunity to act on a provocation” from Israeli forces, says Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, a private group that advocates a two-state solution to the 60-year-long struggle. “This will then justify an even more harsh Israeli crackdown, and the vicious circle will be in full effect.”
In 2005, weekly peaceful protests began in the West Bank village of Bil’in against the Separation Wall, which had cut off the villagers from large tracts of their farmland. The protests spread to other villages, and authorities cracked down hard. In the small village of Nabi Salih, just west of Ramallah, the Israeli government arrested 44-year-old schoolteacher Bassem Tamimi, who had led a small band of neighbors in a protest march against an Israeli settlement that had “expropriated” the village’s spring, “the symbolic center of Nabi Salih’s life,” according to an account by Mark Perry in Foreign Policy magazine. He was charged with "incitement, organizing unpermitted marches, disobeying the duty to report to questioning" and “obstruction of justice,” Perry wrote, “for giving young Palestinians advice on how to act under Israeli police interrogation.” Tamimi, who had been arrested a dozen times, spent the next 13 months in a military prison. Undeterred, he was arrested again in 2012.
The protests escalated, as did the Israeli response. Marches were broken up, sometimes with real bullets, and scores were arrested. More Israeli settlements were built. Hamas was in ascendance. Of the nonviolent protesters, Hamas said only that it “wished them well.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has embraced nonviolence in theory, but “he’s afraid of the fallout,” Awad says, “that people might say he’s weak.”
Without backing from Abbas or Hamas, peaceful resistance is destined to fail. But so, too, has the violence, on both sides. Despite killing over 1,800 Gazans since July 6—72 percent of them civilian and scores of them women and children under 18, according to the United Nations—Israel has not defeated Hamas and may have spawned something worse. (Israel says it has killed 900 “terrorists,” but it did not provide specifics beyond 368 cases listed in 28 entries on its blog, according to The New York Times.)
Wearied by the Gaza catastrophe, the teacher, far from Palestine, has a fallback position now—a kind of nonviolence bottom line. “The most important thing you can say to Hamas and the Palestinians now is, ‘At least you can take a position not to kill women, not to kill children. Have dignity for human rights.’”
Awad sighs. On television, the carnage in Gaza is continuing, the rockets are flying. “They accept that on a personal level, but on a political level,” he says, “it’s very tough.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

WAR IS HELL: M*A*S*H


Frank: Well, everybody knows war is hell.

BJ: Remember, you heard it here last.

Hawkeye: War isn’t hell. War is war and hell is hell, and of the two war is a lot worse.

Father Mulcahy: How do you figure that, Hawkeye?

Hawkeye: Simple, father. Tell me, who goes to hell?

Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.

Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in hell. But war is chock full of them. Little kids, cripples, old ladies, in fact, except for a few of the brass almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

A Christian In Iraq: Loving My Enemy by Jeremy Courtney


My wife and I moved to Iraq in 2007 to assist in relief and development. We have since made friends on all sides, deep behind “enemy lines.”
Since the fall of Mosul to Sunni militants in June, the world has struggled to accept the failure of the American project in Iraq, the rise of “political Islam” and the marking of Iraqi Christians and other minorities for death or expropriation.
The world may watch from afar and denounce all Iraqi Muslims as militants bent on conquest. But up close, the reality is very different.
It was a Muslim cleric who may have saved this Christian's life. And I'm not the only one.
Even as jihadists justify their atrocities in the name of Islam, millions of Muslims are standing in solidarity with Christians who have been expelled from their homes.
In Najaf, displaced Christians are being housed in the most revered holy site in Shia Islam. Sunnis, Shia, and Christians worship side by side in Baghdad, praying for the peace and future of Iraq.
Our first six months in Iraq were difficult. The lack of electricity and water, the drive-by shootings, the explosions that more than rattled our windows — they shook our souls.
It wasn’t until we began helping a little girl who needed lifesaving heart surgery that we could drive back the gripping fear. Working with her father to save her life injected meaning into an otherwise confusing conflict.
Soon after, word began to spread that we were helping “last chance children” who had been rejected by the other humanitarian aid organizations. The larger organizations looked at pediatric heart surgery and saw nothing but risk.
We spent tens of thousands of dollars sending children outside the country to Israel and Turkey for surgery. Soon Sunnis and Shia, Kurds and Christians were lining up in our office in search of hope.
One day in a hotel lobby I bumped into a Muslim cleric decked out in robes and headdress and found myself fumbling for words. We had been taught to fear these types of clerics. They were supposed to be the crazies who promoted suicide bombings and sectarianism.
But that wasn't the case with Sheikh Ali.
“Peace be upon you,” he said with a huge smile. “We are here as a conference of Muslim scholars. We are against the terrorists.”
The sheikh welcomed me for tea with 10 other clerics and, at great personal risk, welcomed me deeper into his life.
Over time, Ali joined our effort to eradicate the backlog of children who were waiting for these lifesaving surgeries. He introduced me to Muslim leaders. He told me stories about fending off Shia militias as they sought to capture his neighborhood hospital and turn it into a partisan outpost.
When a top Sunni cleric issued a fatwa calling for our death because we sent children to Israel for surgery, our lives turned upside down.
It was Sheikh Ali who defended us against his friend, arguing that if we had saved just one life, as the Quran said, it was as if we had saved the whole of humanity.
He may have saved our lives with that move, but he fell out with the cleric after sending us a baby girl from his own mosque who needed surgery.
Demand for our work at Preemptive Love Coalition rose as international news reported on Iraq's shocking birth-defect crisis. We stopped sending children abroad and partnered with the Iraqi government to train Iraqis in their own hospitals.
Heart surgery is full of meaning in every culture, but especially in Iraq, where fathers find themselves begging anyone who will listen to donate blood while their child lies vulnerable in the operating room.
Once enemies have each other’s blood coursing through their veins, or your nemesis is holding your child’s heart in his hands, it is impossible to hate without condemning oneself, as well.
We know the world is not all rainbows and roses. There is a version of Islam out there that is dangerous and scary.
But there are far more Muslims like Sheikh Ali.
There is a lesson to learn from the fatwa that called for our death: It’s not violence or pre-emptive strikes that terrify the terrorists. They need violence to be done against them to justify their cause.
But pre-emptive love — shown through heart surgeries or simple hospitality — upends our simplistic stories and threatens hatred everywhere.
Or, in the words of the fatwa issued against our work:
“We must stop [these heart surgeries] lest it lead our children and their parents to love their enemies!”
God willing, Preemptive Love Coalition will mark our 1,000th operation next month in Iraq, with the help of Christian donors and Muslim sponsors like Sheikh Ali.
One thousand children, with thousands of fathers, mothers, aunts, and uncles across Iraq.
We’ve drunk their tea, celebrated miracle birthdays, and prayed for their children as they go off to school. The Iraqis we are training will save the lives of tens of thousands more.
So, in the end, I have to admit the cleric was right: Pre-emptive love does work. It destroys enemies by making them friends.
Jeremy Courtney is executive director of Preemptive Love Coalition, an international development organization in Iraq, and author of "Preemptive Love: Pursuing Peace One Heart at a Time." The views expressed in this column belong to Courtney.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

U.S. Holds World Record For Killing Innocent Civilians


By Prof. John McMurtry and Kourosh Ziabari
Global Research, July 29, 2014

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A world-renowned Canadian philosopher argues that the United States holds the world record of illegal killings of unarmed civilians and extrajudicial detention and torturing of prisoners who are detained without trial.
Prof. John McMurtry says that the U.S. government is a gigantic mass-murdering machine which earns profit through waging wars, and is never held accountable over its unspeakable war crimes and crimes against humanity. He also believes that the U.S. has become a police state, which treats its citizens in the most derogatory manner.
 “I have travelled alone with only backpack possession through the world, and have found no state in which police forces are more habituated to violent bullying, more likely to draw a gun, more discriminatory against the dispossessed, and more arbitrarily vicious in normal behavior,” said McMurtry. “The US now leads the globe in an underlying civil war of the rich against the poor.”
 “The US can … detain, kidnap and imprison without trial or indictment any US citizen or other citizen anywhere by designating them enemies to the US,” Prof. John McMurtry noted in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency.

Monday, July 28, 2014

AND JESUS WEPT





“Hamas started this war,” said Anthony. “The soldiers of Israel must smash their skulls and break their spines.”

When he said that, a standing-room crowd of pastors and activists and politicians rose to its feet, waving the twin flags of the countries God loved.



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Friday, July 25, 2014

Should Jesus Inform Our Christianity? by Rachel Held Evans


The myth of redemptive violence—the notion that we can kill our way to peace— is a powerful one, and I'm constantly amazed at how it sneaks into our culture, the Church, and even my own heart.

We saw it stated rather overtly when Sarah Palin, a Christian, declared to a roaring crowd at the National Rifle Association annual meeting that true leaders “put the fear of God in our enemies,” and that if she were in charge, those enemies would know “that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists."

The myth was perpetuated again last week by President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Al Mohler who, in response to Clayton Lockett’s botched execution in Oklahoma, wrote a post for CNN entitled “Why Christians should support the death penalty.

“In a world of violence,” he argues, “the death penalty is understood as a necessary firewall against the spread of further deadly violence.”

Violence to stop violence to stop violence to stop violence.

And on and on it goes...

I found it telling that in making his case for the Christian view on capital punishment, Mohler does not once consider the teachings of Jesus Christ. Instead, he supports his position by primarily citing Old Testament law, which he neglects to mention prescribes the death penalty not only for murderers, but also for adulterers and disobedient children.

And it is ironic that Mohler, who has been a tireless advocate for young earth creationism on the basis that the straightforward and direct reading of [Genesis] describes seven 24-hour days,” does not seem to think that a straightforward and direct reading of Jesus’ teachings regarding violence is necessary.

In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus confronted the myth of redemptive violence head-on:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

And when Jesus was given the opportunity to participate in the execution of an adulterer, he refused, challenging those who had gathered around the woman to drop their stones and walk away.

Funny how it’s easy to favor a “straightforward reading” of the text until the text says “love your enemies.”

Since he’s a brother in Christ, I’ll give Mohler the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t quote Jesus because he believes Jesus’ teachings regarding violence are intended to be applied exclusively at the personal level without affecting public policy. (While Old Testament law still applies?) He’s entitled to that opinion, of course, but I do wish he would stop accusing Christians who don’t interpret Genesis 1 as a literal, scientific text as having a “low view of Scripture” when his piece reveals that his own literalism is as selective as the next guy’s.

(Reality check: We’re all selective about what we interpret and apply literally from Scripture. And most of us are doing our best to honor the meaning of the biblical text while also considering its original context, culture, genre, and language. Disagreements don’t have to reflect a high view vs. a low view. Most simply reflect different views.)

Still, when we have folks declaring that support for torture and the death penalty reflect the Christian position on justice, I think it’s worth asking a seemingly obvious question: To what degree does Jesus inform our Christianity?

A recent Barna poll showed that only 10 percent of practicing Christians in America believe Jesus would support the death penalty for criminals. And yet a much higher percentage (42 percent of Christian Baby Boomers and 32 percent of Christian millennials) support the death penalty themselves.

That’s a pretty significant disconnect.

And I suspect it exists because we have created a culture in which Christians tend to see Jesus as a sort of static mechanism by which salvation is secured rather than the full embodiment of God’s will for the world whose life and teachings we are called to emulate and follow.

Basically, we believe that Jesus died to save us from our sins, but we haven’t yet embraced the reality that Jesus also lived to save us from our sins.

We haven’t embraced the reality that following the ways of Jesus leads to liberation and life more abundant - not only for ourselves but also for the whole world.

Instead, we tend to think of the Sermon on the Mount and the stories of the gospels as interesting backstory to Jesus’ march to the cross, where the penalty for our sins was paid in full. We flatten out the words of God-In-Flesh—(God eating and drinking and walking and teaching and laughing and crying among us)— and give them equal (or often lesser) value to those of the apostle Paul or Old Testament law.

But the Bible isn’t flat. The Bible reaches its culmination, indeed its fulfillment, in the person of Jesus Christ. So it seems like we ought to listen to what he had to say….and what he’s saying still.

But here’s the rub:

It’s easy for me to spot Al Mohler’s Sarah Palin’s inconsistent application of Jesus’ teachings, but the minute I turned to the Sermon on Mount to load up with proof texts against them, I was hit by this zinger:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell."

That word, ‘raca,’ basically means “idiot,” and when I think of all the times I’ve muttered that word under my breath in response to folks with whom I disagree, it’s a little convicting.

….Okay, a lot convicting.

(Seriously. Every time I go to the Gospels to mine them for a theological point to use in an argument, I end up walking away saying, "Dang it, Jesus! WHY!?!?")

The truth is, Jesus doesn’t always inform my Christianity either. In fact, sometimes I’m not sure I want to follow Jesus. I'm not sure it’s possible to be a healthy, well-adjusted person and go around loving your enemies and giving without expecting anything in return and turning the other cheek. For all my well-intentioned advocacy against the death penalty, I'm not certain I'd oppose it if the person on death row had killed my mother or my sister or my husband.

But if Jesus is really God-in-flesh, if he really shows us the way to live, then I need the Church to help me figure out what it looks like to do that faithfully. I need the Church to help me wrestle with these teachings, not ignore them.

And I think that begins by putting Jesus at the center, not the periphery, of what it means to be a Christian.

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