We Thirst for Peace
Livermore Nuclear Weapons Laboratory
[You may read an expanded version of the Service Program for this year’s Good Friday event: “GoodFriday 2009”
And, as well, The Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka’s sermon: “We Thirst For Peace”
6:45 a.m. Opening Music
7:00 a.m. Worship followed by Procession to the Gate and Acts of Witness
Community Gathering 5720 East Ave., Livermore
10 a.m. - Noon light refreshments provided
Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka, preaching
Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka, a survivor of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, will speak from his personal experience and that of his family. This year’s theme, “We Thirst for Peace,” commemorates the burned victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who suffered massive dehydration which drove them to a desperate search for water. We also recall the thirst Jesus experienced on the cross. The service will incorporate the water offering ceremony practiced in Japan.
Livermore Lab was founded to develop the hydrogen bomb, and new weapons of mass destruction are still designed there. For more than 25 years, people of faith and others concerned about the proliferation of nuclear weapons have gathered on Good Friday outside the Livermore Laboratory. Please join us. We will assemble at Vasco Road and Patterson Pass Road, on the southeast corner. After the prayer service we will walk about 1/2 mile to a major gate of the lab. At the gate there will be nonviolent acts of witness.
Following the action, there will be a community gathering in Livermore, to share our concerns and activities.
“To Know in Our Deepest Heart” –– Diane Thomas’ Work for Peace and Justice in Her Own Words
“Diane Thomas was a shining person. She was loving and loveable, fully committed and conscientious in her activism, and dedicated to helping make a better life for all people. Those who knew her thought of her as one of the best human beings any of us had ever encountered. She was one of my heroes.”
Diane Thomas was an extraordinarily dedicated, and strategically gifted, activist for peace and justice. She was a leader in the Bay Area for racial justice and against nuclear weapons for over thirty years. For the last six years, Diane was my life-partner. She was one of the kindest and most courageous people I have ever met, a woman with a gentle spirit and a beautiful smile. On December 1, 2008 Diane died at our home in Berkeley after a year-long struggle with cancer. She was 58 years old.
Diane lived long enough to see Barack Obama elected, and to marvel at his acceptance speech in Grant Park in Chicago. Forty years earlier, when she was eighteen years old, Diane - along with thousands of others protesting the Vietnam War - was beaten and tear-gassed by the Chicago police in Grant Park during the Democratic National Convention. Diane became a full-time activist against the war, and continued her activism for the rest of her life. In 1976, Diane Thomas co-founded the UC Nuclear Weapons Lab Conversion Project to oppose the nuclear weapons design work of the Livermore and Los Alamos labs. She organized and took part in many acts of nonviolent resistance to militarism and racial injustice, including fasting and serving time in jail for civil disobedience.
Because of her prominence in the anti-nuclear weapons movement, Diane (along with Coretta Scott King and others) was one of the speakers at a massive rally held to bring pressure on the Second United Nations Special Session on Disarmament in New York City in June 1982. She addressed the crowd of more than one million people after having fasted for disarmament for 30 days. At that time this was the largest demonstration in the history of the world.
From 1976 to 1993, Diane served as a director of the Ecumenical Peace Institute (EPI), the northern California chapter of Clergy and Laity Concerned (founded in 1968 by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other ministers). After working for several Berkeley nonprofits, she joined the staff of Pacific School of Religion in 2000, where she organized the annual Earl Lectures church conference, and co-chaired the seminary’s Dismantling Racism Committee.
While Diane’s activism brought her both joy and heartache (at the state of the world), her three children – Hannah, Daniel, and Gabe – were the real joy of her life. Diane’s grandchildren Sonia and Jacob were born in the weeks before she died, and being able to see and hold them brought her great comfort.
Diane was a gifted writer. There is too little space here to give more than a small window onto her life. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from articles that Diane wrote for Planted by the Waters. If you would like to read additional excerpts from her writing, please email me: email@example.com. For photos of Diane and more information about her work for peace and justice, go to: www.epicalc.org/Diane/.
Diane felt enormous love and gratitude for all of you: all who she loved as friends over the years, and worked with as she sought peace and justice in this world; and each of you who wrote to her, and kept her in your thoughts and prayers over the last year. Thank you!
— David Raymond
“Watch Your Anguish” — 1993
“I remember wondering as a young girl why Good Friday was called Good Friday. It all seemed so gloomy and awful for the powers that be to have so thoroughly put out the light of hope, for God to have seemingly forsaken Jesus. I wanted to go immediately to the sunshine, warmth, and joy of Easter morning. Certainly as I got older and saw the global crucifixion in places like Livermore Lab, it all seemed even gloomier and more overwhelming. Yet now I am coming to understand Good Friday anew. What is good about Good Friday is that Jesus was choosing to love and to give up power and to take responsibility for the suffering and pain in his world. What Good Friday says to me is I must take full responsibility to be and do my utmost for the love of creation. I must work for justice and peace with my whole being, in every corner of my life.
During the births of each of my three children there has reached a point where I couldn’t imagine going on and have said, “I can’t do this.” I cannot bear this. Jesus said, “My God, my God, why indeed have you forsaken me?” Each of us must bear our appropriate burden if the reign of love is to prevail, if justice is to be born. Older, wiser women said to me of birth, “your body knows what to do, so just let it.” I would say to each of us that our deepest selves know what to do if we will just listen, if we will take the risk of letting go of distractions and drugs of all kinds and allow ourselves the grace of being disturbed by the state of our world.
My three year old (Gabe) has in typical toddler fashion confused different things he has heard so that he regularly tells a family member to “watch your anguish” (his contraction of “language” and “English.”) It strikes me as a wonderful Good Friday exhortation to “watch your anguish.” To know in our deepest heart that the hungry sobbing of most of the world’s children is our very own child, and that the responsibility to radically transform the world is our own.”
“When I think back to 1976 and the letter I wrote applying for a job at EPI, I’m struck by how everything changes and nothing changes. In 1976 disarmament was a laughable idea. Few people knew where Livermore was or what the Lab’s role was in U.S. military policy. What I did know was that EPI was an organization founded in an action blocking the army induction center in Oakland – an action where many religious people got arrested. I was full of gratitude for being given a job working with all of you. The years of working for EPI have created a strong sense of family for me. My own children have been deeply affected by the values of the EPI family. When I was in jail in 1983, Hannah (then 5) told her friends her mommy was in jail because “jail is where you go if you’re for peace.” More recently Daniel (now 8) spent a delightful time as “the white boy” among a several Indian boys at the International Indian Treaty Council Conference.
“I wish you all could have been at our Hiroshima commemoration at Ohana Center August 6th. In the face of the memory of the atomic blast, a fully multiracial and interfaith gathering affirmed creation and beauty and love. I stood there full of gratitude for Rev. Daniel Buford’s outstanding leadership and inspiration, for the board’s diversity and commitment, for the serious and profound way we join together for change. Like a mighty river, EPI goes on and on. I am thankful to each one of you who has given us your prayers, your work, and your financial support over all these years.” (“Program Director’s Report” – 1980)
“A New Spirit Rising”
Diane was deeply committed to the struggle for racial justice in this country, and she considered racism to be “the original sin” of the United States. Along with Diane, Reverend Daniel Buford, former executive director of EPI and Diane’s friend and colleague for many years, was enormously important in EPI/CALC’s work for racial justice, both locally and nationally. In 1992, Diane initiated EPI’s support for American Indians protesting the 500-year anniversary of the European invasion of the Americas, and celebrating five centuries of indigenous resistance. For many years, Diane organized and led delegations to support the Diné (Navajo) people at Big Mountain in Arizona, who were resisting being thrown off their sacred lands by the U.S. government.
“EPI/CALC staff and board continue to be humbled by our need to see more clearly the face of God in the lives of the poor and oppressed in our own communities. At the same time we are encouraged by the vision of a new multiracial, multicultural community and movement being born in pain and struggle.” (“National CALC Assembly: New Steps in Countering Racism” – 1983)
“This morning as I listened to the many messages on the phone machine it occurred to me that the urgent needs that come to us through the telephone are a measure of how many connections are being made for justice and peace in our communities. Memorial services come up a lot these days. Requests for a sermon at a memorial service for the two homeless people who burned to death in Oakland last week, “Could you come and say something so we know they didn’t die in vain?” Our memorial service for Timothy Lee, whose death authorities still refuse to see as the racist message read so clearly in the black community in Contra Costa County. [Timothy Lee was a young African American man who was found in Concord hanging from a tree, with no suicide note and clear indications of a racist murder.] I remember Bill Wahpepah saying just weeks before he died, as he spoke at a conference in San Francisco where he was asked to share his experience of being an Indian, “The funerals, I think of all the funerals our people have had to endure.” (1988)
“Because April 4th is the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because Governor Meacham has refused to honor him with the rest of the nation, and because the sovereign Hopi and Diné peoples are defending their religious freedom within the borders called Arizona – we invite all people of prayer to join us at Black Mesa [Arizona] to pray. Black Mesa, just north of Big Mountain, is sacred to Hopi, Diné and others, and Peabody Coal, a prime example of the greed that is killing us, is attacking Black Mesa through strip mining. Our presence there on April 4th will invoke the spirit of Dr. King and all the cloud of witnesses to justice and love. (“A New Spirit Rising” – 1987)
“In a season long understood to birth hope and light, it made sense to travel to the homelands of some of the world’s most inspired traditional people. The people we met in our week’s time around the Hopi and Navajo reservations carry in their lives and hearts the crushing weight of our society’s imbalance. Yet, just to be in their presence brings clarity. Our delegation, the first of several planned for this spring, consisted of nine people. On Christmas Eve, we gathered in the Roundhouse for music, conversation, and prayer. The prayers around the beating of the drum broke through religious and cultural barriers. As delegation member Reverend Marti Reed said later, “I was able to see Christ as an indigenous person, facing the powers that be, unafraid of death.” I will never get over the wonder that the Diné people are willing to pray with us in spite of our country’s violations of their religious life and our military robbery of their Holy land. We were moved more than we expected to be and felt clear about a calling to support these people in their struggle. We had glimpsed briefly how truly all of our prayers together do hold this land in balance.” (“Christmas at Big Mountain” – Clergy and Laity Concerned Report, March-April 1986)
“We also worked to create a circle on October 12th  at the Columbus statue [in San Francisco.] About 150 people gathered on top of Telegraph Hill. Although some of us came prepared to pour our blood on the bronze Columbus in witness to 500 years of genocide, we were asked not to by Native American pipe carrier Fred Short. He told us there were no healing ceremonies in their tradition which involved blood and asked us to begin the next 500 years in a healing way. After some discussion with him, we agreed. We see this also as beginning the next 500 years of taking some direction from native peoples. We know each of us comes from an ancestry tied to some part of land on the planet. Each of us knows that the massive destruction of indigenous peoples in our history can no longer be denied. And each of us knows the profound difference between balance and imbalance in our own lives. [Let us act] with a spirit of justice and balance creating space for the diversity we celebrate.” (“May the Circle Be Unbroken”– 1992)
“God is very near and very good. Stay tuned!”
Diane looked to the future with hope, with certainty that no matter how many years, or lifetimes, it takes, we will eventually bring into being a world of peace and justice. Thus she helped start the UC Nuclear Weapons Labs Conversion Project, and at the Pacific School of Religion she co-founded the Dismantling Racism Committee. Despite the fact that the weapons labs have not yet been converted to peaceful purpose, and racism continues today with deadly force, she knew that someday these goals would be achieved. And during her final illness, Diane was sustained by the love of her family and friends.
“For thousands of years humanity has sought liberation. Like ourselves, [all people] desire peace and an experience of community which satisfies. Across centuries, we and they weave the thread of a vision of clarity and love shaping all that is truest in us into a land where life is lived overflowingly. The smallest, strongest voice whispers down eternity: it has been put in our hands to change our lives.” (“Seeking” – Non-Nuclear Interreligious Coalition, 1977)
“Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr., I too have a dream. I see those of us who were active in the civil rights and anti-war movements returning in our middle age to the depth and clarity we briefly glimpsed as we grew up. The power we felt then as we opposed and ended the Vietnam War will be something we foster. Maybe we can still change the world. Maybe we can dig deep enough into ourselves to tap a need for justice, a need to live it fully ourselves and a need to insist on it from our government. Maybe our legacy can be an America that seeks a stable and just world rather than dominance. Maybe.” (“Reclaiming the Dream” – 2000)
Diane found inspiration in the lives of activists like Cesar Chavez. When he died in 1993, she wrote a heartfelt memorial to him. We can rewrite her tribute to also speak of Diane’s life.
“When someone like Diane Thomas dies, it is like a wake-up call from heaven saying, “What are you doing with your life?” Diane has gone on. If we were to judge her life by success as the world measures success, it would force us to admit that she failed. But we believe the consistent witness of her 30 years of struggle for justice has an infinite effect and value. Her life is a victory of enormous proportion. In joining the struggle we join with her spirit and continue to give hope and sustenance to all who act for justice.” (“Don’t Mourn – Organize” 1993)
Just a few weeks before she died, Diane wrote a last message to everyone who supported her through her illness. “All of you are so amazing! Thank you for this warm and healing flow of your love. I send you great love and deep thanks for all the joy and hard work we have shared. God is very near and very good. Stay tuned!”
Joan MacIntyre — She walked in beauty
by Carolyn Scarr
Joan’s attractive silver-white hair and her tall, stately presence shone like a beaconin many a vigil, demonstration and march. Once when she was at Santa Rita and everyone else had been released, she was almost forgotten by the sheriffs until noticed by a trustee who shouted out, “Hey, who’s that good looking old lady in the last cell!”
Whenever I see the orchids in their pots at the Farmers Market, I think of Joan. She grew orchids on her front porch in Oakland. She tended her front yard lovingly and the results demonstrated that fact. Her house was decorated for each season. Mustardseed Affinity Group frequently held its December meeting at the MacIntyre’s, where we enjoyed seeing Joan’s treasured collection of creches. One August, she organized the members of St. Leo’s Church in folding great origami cranes to hang over the chancel area.
One of my most treasured memories of Joan is the week we spent at the Santa Rita “tent city” following our arrest at the Livermore lab the summer of 1983. One evening we stood on the steps of the warehouse where many of us slept, watching the full moon rise over the hills. I sang, “Shine on harvest moon.” When I got to the line “I ain’t had no loving, since January, February, June of July,” Joan asked me to stop. She was missing her husband Stu too much. That week we were led by Fran Peavey in a workshop for nonviolent social change. Fran encouraged us to recognize leadership in each other and I thought to myself that Joan led us in the non-violent way of Mahatma Gandhi.
Joan was a great partner in all sorts of actions. For many years she helped plan the Good Friday witness at the Livermore labs. And she gave a great pitch, on at least one occasion recounting the time she had participated in a discussion with some lab employees. One of them asked her who paid her to work against weapons. She told him no one paid her and in fact she paid for this work.
Joan did indeed pay for working for peace. She served as EPI’s treasurer for years and when we ran short she would cover salary and rent. Maybe she got paid back, eventually.
In 1987, Joan and I travelled together to the interfaith prayer vigil at Big Mountain. As rain turned to snow, we stood in a circle while the Native Americans led us in prayers for justice for the earth and for the people of the land.
Another fond memory is the time that, working with Terry Messman and other Oakland homeless activists in Dignity Housing West, we occupied two houses in East Oakland. These were HUD owned houses that by law should have been used to serve homeless people. Instead they were sold to out of town speculators. Unfortunately we lost that particular fight.
One night we joined a group sleeping in “Old Man’s Park” to defend homeless people whose few belongings were being trashed by the Oakland Police.
Joan was a core planner and participant in the first Peace Pilgrimage from Concord Naval Weapons Station to Livermore lab Holy Week of 1988. She also participated in subsequent Holy Week pilgrimages.
The world beat a path to Joan’s door. She sheltered refugees from El Salvador, Ethiopia and the streets of Oakland.
In everything Joan did, her bright spirit made the work light and the job seem possible. Her last gift to us was the way she died. She invited her friends to walk with her along the way, kept us posted on her ups and downs. And she held a final open house where we all could say good-bye. And she shared the words which sustained her in that final journey. “My God said ... ’Do not fear your death, when that time comes I will breathe deeply and your soul will fly to my heart like a needle to a magnet’.”
My Conscience Will Not Let Me Stop: A Letter From Jail
Joan MacIntyre, Planted by the Waters, June 1983
Santa Rita: Lock-up, white sweatshirt, green dungarees, ANQ 195, barracks F . . . .I cannot believe I am here! A 50-year-old mother of 8, wife of Stuart, church worker, law-abider, peace activist –– now a jail bird? So often I have quoted the words, “The trouble with the world today is that there are too few Christians in jail.” And now, following the Lord’s leading in my life, I am still amazed to find myself behind bars.
People ask, “What good does 5 days in Santa Rita do in protesting nuclear weapons?” I am not in Santa Rita
to protest the nuclear arms race. I am in here because I protest the arms race –– everywhere, in every way –– at
my church, with my friends, at cocktail parties, at the supermarket, at Lawrence Livermore Labs. I protest with
my voice, my pen, my body; my conscience will not let me stop. I could not accept a year’s probation –– a year
of promising not to commit civil disobedience (moral obedience). I cannot help but wonder if early Christian
martyrs on the way to the lion’s den for their civil disobedience were not accosted by their relatives, friends and
fellow Christians who said, “What good does it do?”
I share a lock-up room with seven black prostitutes, ages 22 – 28. Their reaction at hearing why I am here ranges from doubled-up laughter to blank, uncomprehending “huh’s?” They are kind, polite, reserved. Little sharing occurs in such a short time; friends who were sentenced for 30 days got closer to these women. Still, it is an eye-opening experience –– an introduction to a whole strata of people I have only read about. Real, caring people, with joys, sorrows, children and families.
What is life in jail like? Hard to share an experience. Boring is the first thing that leaps to mind. Reading and TV are your only options. Giving up your freedom is difficult –– but I have more freedom in choosing to return here or not than most of these women.
Will I come back? Can I not do what I am doing. On June 20, 1983, International Day of Disarmament, thousands will again gather at Lawrence Livermore Labs for a legal demonstration. We will raise our voices again, calling for a halt to the nuclear arms race. Over a thousand will put their bodies where their mouths are and blockade the entrance to the labs. Will I be with them? I hope so.
––from the Board President
Now is the time for universal health care
by Janet Gibson
The need for universal health care was imprinted on my mind when, as a young child, my parents talked about a neighborhood boy who died from a ruptured appendix when our local hospital would not admit him for lack of health insurance. This urgency is no less great today, and it is clear to me that the best delivery model is through a Single Payer system. And perhaps the best time for getting universal health care is right now, if all of us get involved and work for it.
The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $7,129 per capita. Yet our system performs poorly in comparison and still leaves 47 million without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.
This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health
care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year,
enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.
Hope in California
Californians have been working on a Single Payer System since the early 1990s when a ballot initiative lost badly because voters lacked knowledge and the insurance and pharmaceutical industries were willing to spend whatever it took to scare people about socialized medicine. Remember the “Harry and Louise” TV ads?
By 1995, healthcare activists had founded Health Care for All — California (HCA) and developed a long-term strategy to bring about universal care through the state legislature. Thousands of individuals and scores of statewide organizations (including churches, teachers, retirees, labor, progressive Democrats, and the League of Women Voters — California) have joined the effort to bring a Single Payer system to California. (For more information check out: http://www.healthcareforall.org/)
Finally, on March 11,2009 State Sen. Mark Leno introduced SB 810, which follows (and is nearly identical
to) SB 840, the landmark measure by former Sen. Sheila Kuehl that passed the Legislature and was vetoed by
the governor. Most strategists are confident that SB 810 will pass both houses of the Legislature — and that the
governor will once again veto it. Our job will be to make sure that we elect a Democratic governor in 2010
who will promise to sign this bill in 2011. Along with electing a Democrat, we need to prepare now to defeat a
referendum that the insurance industry will, in all probability, pay to get on the 2012 ballot and then spend
hundreds of millions of dollars to confuse Californians into voting against the laws enacted by the legislature.
The Federal Government: Bad News, Good News
In the meanwhile, President Obama has promised to bring universal health care to our country. The bad news is that most of the reform models offered by the White House and by key lawmakers like Senators Max Baucus and Edward Kennedy would preserve a central role for the private insurance industry, sacrificing both universal coverage and cost containment during the worst economic crisis since the Depression.
Referred to as “The Public Plan Option,” this model would lead toward the segregation of patients, with profitable ones in private plans and unprofitable ones in the public plan. A quarter century of experience with public/private competition in the Medicare program demonstrates that the private plans will not allow a level playing field. They have progressively undermined the public plan — which started as the single payer for seniors and has now become a funding mechanism for HMOs and a place to dump the unprofitably ill. A public plan option does not lead toward single payer, but toward the segregation of patients, with profitable ones in private plans and unprofitable ones in the public plan.
The good news is that on March 26th, Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a single-payer health
reform bill that challenges head-on the powerful private insurance and pharmaceutical industries. The
American Health Security Act of 2009 (S.703) is a single-payer approach that would cover all of the 47 million
Americans who currently lack coverage and improve benefits for all Americans by eliminating co-pays and
deductibles and restoring free choice of physician. The most fiscally conservative option for reform, single
payer slashes private insurance overhead and bureaucracy in medical settings, saving over $400 billion annually
that can be redirected into clinical care.
Highlights of the bill include the following:
• Patients go to any doctor or hospital of their choice.
• The program is paid for by combining current sources of government health spending into a single fund with modest new taxes amounting to less than what people now pay for insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.
•Comprehensive benefits, including coverage for dental, mental health, and prescription drugs.
•While federally funded, the program is to be administered by the states.
•By eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry, along with the burdensome paperwork imposed on physicians, hospitals and other providers, the plan saves at least $400 billion annually — enough money to provide comprehensive, quality care to all.
•Community health centers are fully funded, giving the 60 million Americans now living in rural and underserved areas access to care.
•To address the critical shortage of primary care physicians and dentists, the bill provides resources for the National
Health Service Corps to train an additional 24,000 health professionals.
Sanders’ new bill draws heavily upon the single-payer legislation introduced by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) in 1993, S. 491, and closely parallels similar legislation pending before the House, H.R. 1200, introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.).
S.703 is very similar to H.R.1200, with two important additions regarding budgeting. Specified funds are
budgeted for community health centers, and other specified funds are budgeted for the support of the National
Health Service Corps, health professions education, and nursing education, including education of clinical nurse
practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants. These
additions in budgeting are not simple tweaks to the bill. They provide a remedy for both the deterioration in our
primary care infrastructure and the impaired access to care in underserved regions. There is an urgent need to
provide the professionals and the facilities that can help fill the most serious voids in our health care delivery
“Yes We Can” With Your Involvement!
Up until now, the enemies of reform have been winning. They have managed to eliminate comprehensive reform from the national dialogue and have reduced the debate to whether or not we’ll add one more plan, a public plan, to our dysfunctional, fragmented, multi-payer system that costs so much and serves us so poorly. However, there are compelling forces for change. Obama’s leading argument for healthcare reform is healthcare costs. Nobel prize winning economist, Paul Kreugman states, unequivocally, that our nation’s long-term budget problem is a health care (cost) problem, and that American business agrees.
Please do everything you can to influence this outcome. Call, write, and email the state and federal representatives whom you can influence. Motivate your friends and organizations to do the same. Consider the following “talking points”:
Taxpayer funds should not be gifted to private insurers. (We should not level the playing field when there is a more efficient government health financing system.)
Needed reform does not have to be bipartisan.
(Maybe President Obama needs to hear this!)
Insist that Senators Baucus and Kennedy take a fresh look at single payer as a model that addresses many of the policy problems that they currently face with their model based on private plans.
Now is not the time to sit back and watch this process unfold. We have an historic opportunity for change. Join the movement to make it happen — a single payer national health program.
President Obama Plans Long Occupation of Iraq
by Carolyn S. Scarr
Speaking to cheering Marines at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina, Obama stated his intentions to have removed
all “combat” troops by the end of 19 months. Left behind in Iraq at that time will be between 35 and 50
thousand U.S. military, who will be assigned to “. . . carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and
advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism
missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq.” The likelihood of the latter two
functions not involving combat are vanishingly small.
Training “Non-Sectarian” Forces or Divide and Rule?
In Iraq, the U.S. has a developed the practice of financing local Sunni sheiks in the Anbar province forming “a tribal elite . . . where the Sunni insurgency raged with particular fierceness from 2004-2006. . . .Leading sheiks obtain backing for their private militias, renamed Awakening groups, and in addition, signed ‘construction’ contracts with the Americans who put millions of dollars in their pockets, even if not always into actual construction sites.” Dhar Jamail, http/dahrjamailiraq.com/.
On the other hand among the forces to be “mentored” and trained will be those under the jurisdiction of the Shi’ite dominated central government. As reported by a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, some of these Iraqi commando units under the Ministry of the Interior have developed a nasty record of torture and killings of civilians over the several years during which they have been “advised” by men with a history of training death squads in El Salvador and Vietnam.
The U.S. has a long history of training repressive forces to maintain collaborating governments abroad. For many years, activists have come to Fort Benning, Georgia, trying to close the School of the Americas, where teams of assassins have been trained to stamp out popular movements in Latin America.
A San Francisco Chronicle article on December 11, 2005, quotes a report by two respected U.S. army experts, W. Andrew Terrill and Conrad C. Crane who say that the U.S. will have to swallow the “bitter pill” of supporting an authoritarian regime in Iraq backed by sectarian militias.
What we seem to be heading toward is an authoritarian rule being sponsored by the U.S. in Iraq, backed by
two sectarian militias, in conflict with each other to control the country and in competition for U.S. support. This is a classic case of “divide and rule”.
The U.S. Embassy, a Base for Continuing Control
The new U.S. embassy in Baghdad has every appearance of being the site of the actual government of Iraq. The U.S. embassy is about the size of Vatican City. Every governmental ministry of Iraq has a parallel department of “advisors” on the U.S. embassy staff. This is where the decisions will actually be made.
The walled city within a city which is the U.S. Embassy is guarded by a contingent of contracted mercenaries. Nothing has been said by the Obama administration about a schedule for withdrawing military contractors, who number over one hundred thousand armed men.
In 2005 the Coalition Provisional Authority imposed 100 orders constraining the rights of the Iraqi people in
areas of their domestic economy ranging from agriculture to labor rights, to water resources. The U.S.
government continues to attempt to force the Iraqi government to privatize Iraq’s oil industry and cede control
over the country’s oil to foreign companies. These attempts are resisted by the Iraqi Federation of Oil Workers
and the rest of the Iraqi labor community. It is reported from the recent International Labor Conference in Iraq
that “the U.S. Occupation Authority and Iraqi government continue to enforce Saddam Hussein’s antiunion
labor law that bans unions for all public workers and employees of public enterprises, including its oil
How Long Will U.S. Troops Be in Iraq?
Article 25, paragraph 1 of the security agreement negotiated between the Iraqis and the Bush administration, misnamed a “Status of Forces Agreement” reads: “U.S. forces shall withdraw from Iraqi territories no later than December 31st 2011.”
In All Troops Out By 2011? Not So Fast, Jeremy Scahill quotes NBC’s Pentagon correspondent Jim
Miklaszeswki: “military commanders, despite this Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government that
all U.S. forces would be out by the end of 2011, are already making plans for a significant number of American
troops to remain in Iraq beyond that 2011 deadline, assuming that the Status of Forces Agreement would be
renegotiated. And one senior military commander told us that he expects large numbers of American troops to
be in Iraq for the next 15 to 20 years.” (http://www.alternet.org/story/129362/)
Professor Juan Cole points out: “Iraq has no air force to speak of. Its newly ordered aircraft will not arrive until 2013 and it will take years to train the pilots. Iraq’s military will therefore need US-supplied close air support for years to come, and all the support staff required.” That will, of course, mean that one or more U.S. air bases will remain occupied by U.S. troops. This will require a renegotiation of the “Status of Forces Agreement.”
The question of U.S. bases in Iraq was not even mentioned in President Obama’s speech in Camp Lejuene. Accomplishing the three “functions” he specified in his speech will certainly involve having bases from which to
operate. AP reporter, Chelsea J. Carter , wrote “Balad Air Base, home to more than 20,000 U.S. forces, provides
air power, logistics and counterterrorism support, as well as training for Iraqi security forces. Its location -- 50
miles (80 kilometers) north of Baghdad -- offers a rich vantage point for intelligence gathering and analysis across
the entire north and specific areas such as the Iranian border. Another major U.S. air and logistics base in Taji, 12
miles (20 kilometers) north of Baghdad, sits next to Iraq’s new supply and logistics hub. The two sites would be a
natural centerpiece for U.S. training and advising of the Iraqi military, Army Brig. Gen. Steven Salazar, the deputy
commanding general at Multi-National Security Transition Command, told the AP recently.”
A shift from reliance on ground troops toward a U.S. air war is very likely, because it will reduce U.S.
casualties. “The United States increased its use of aerial bombs in Iraq by more than 500 percent from 2006 to
2007 and dropped more than 20 times as many bombs on Afghanistan last year as it did just a few years ago” (www.tom.dispatch.com/post/174887/bombs_away_over_iraq)
Iraq was bombed when it was a British colony in the 1920s:
A Kurd from the Korak mountains commented, seventy years after the event: “They were bombing here in the Kaniya Khoran...Sometimes they raided three times a day.” Wing Commander Lewis, then of 30 Squadron (RAF), Iraq, recalls how quite often “one would get a signal that a certain Kurdish village would have to be bombed...”, the RAF pilots being ordered to bomb any Kurd who looked hostile. In the same vein, Squadron-Leader Kendal of 30 Squadron recalls that “if the tribespeople were doing something they ought not be doing then you shot them.”
Excerpted from pages 179-181 of Simons, Geoff, Iraq: From Sumer to Saddam, London: St. Martins Press,
So What is To Be Done?
Among the reasons given for President Obama’s decisive electoral victory was his promise to end the war in
Iraq. His plan to expand the Afghanistan war remains another problem to be dealt with. However the anti-war
plank (whether written or implied) in the Democratic platform is a lever which we can use to pry out of the
administration a true end of the Iraq war of occupation.
We in the peace and justice movement have to insist on:
• No residual troops left in Iraq – not trainers or advisors nor anything else.
• No military contractors left in Iraq.
• No U. S. bases.
• No off-shore attack squads poised for bombing runs or any other attacks.
• The reduction of the embassy to a normal size with a normal sized guard contingent.
• An end to attempts to appropriate Iraq’s resources.
• Reparations to the people of Iraq for the illegal and immoral attack and occupation of their country.
Ecumenical Peace Institute intends to be among those pressing on the lever of the Democratic platform peace plank. The Iraq Initiatives Project will help to give us a place to stand to use that lever.
The Iraq War Is Not Over: EPI’s Iraq Initiatives Project Plans New Strategy to End the U.S. Occupation
by David Raymond
Last year, the Iraq Initiatives Project was formed to promote a strategy for the American and Iraqi people to work together and vote together to end the war. Our plan for widespread ballot initiatives against the war did not have much impact, as the antiwar movement put almost all of its energy into electing Obama and a Democratic Congress. However, as the Initiatives Project urged and predicted, the Iraqi people will be voting this July in a national referendum on the withdrawal of U.S. troops. This referendum is a victory for the democratic struggle of the Iraqi people to end the occupation.
On February 26, President Obama announced his plan for withdrawal from Iraq. If it’s followed (a big if), all combat troops will be withdrawn by August 31, 2010, with all U.S. troops to be withdrawn by the end of 2011. The plan would leave up to 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq during 2011. In setting the 2011 deadline, Obama was abiding by the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by President Bush and approved by the Iraqi Parliament at the end of last year.
This withdrawal plan is at least a partial victory for the antiwar movement in the United States, for the majority of Iraqis who want an end to the occupation, and for people around the world who opposed the invasion of Iraq. Bush wanted a SOFA that would have imposed an unlimited U.S. occupation on Iraq. In response, Shiite leaders Muqtada al-Sadr and Ayatollah Sistani (the most important religious leader in Iraq) called last June for any agreement to be submitted to a vote of the Iraqi people. Fearing defeat of any agreement to continue the occupation, Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister al Maliki conceded to demands for a faster withdrawal, and the Iraqi Parliament voted to submit the SOFA to a referendum.
While Obama’s plan is an improvement over Bush, the end of 2011 is more than two and a half years from now, and it would be five years after the American people, in the 2006 election, voted for a Democratic Congress that pledged to end the war. The majority of Americans and Iraqis support a withdrawal of troops within one year or less. In addition, in announcing his withdrawal plan, Obama endorsed much of President Bush’s rationale for the war and rewrote history. He made no mention of the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that were the alleged reason for the war. He did not acknowledge the suffering that the United States has brought to the Iraqi people—more than one million dead, many more wounded, five million displaced people, a society destroyed; nor did he acknowledge U.S. violations of international law.
It is now clear that the U.S. military wants to push the limits of and, to the degree that it can, violate the terms
of the SOFA. Very few U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq over the next year. The U.S. military has
announced they will continue combat missions in Iraq (even past 2011); some generals have said they want to
renegotiate the SOFA to extend the occupation. Yet the Iraqi people will not stop their demands that the U.S. get
out much sooner, and indeed the SOFA agreement allows for either side to request a faster withdrawal.
The Initiatives Project’s Strategy to End the War
How can the antiwar movement promote a faster withdrawal of U.S. troops and a just end to the Iraq War, one that doesn’t just walk away from the damage the U.S. has caused? The Iraq Initiatives Project is promoting a strategy of local ballot initiatives in cities and counties across the country, including in California, for the elections in November 2009, particularly in the scores of cities that have already called for a quick U.S. withdrawal. These initiatives could go on the ballot through citizen petition or through a decision to do so by city councils and boards of supervisors. The initiative would call for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops, not just combat troops, by August 2010 at the latest (the date Obama promised that he would get U.S. troops out of Iraq), and instruct our representatives in Congress to vote only for withdrawal funding (this latter provision is modeled after an initiative approved by the voters of San Francisco in November 2008). It would call for bringing the money home to solve pressing needs here.
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars are budgeted for $142 billion for next year and $130 billion for the following year. Congress is scheduled to vote for further funding this May or June. With a growing economic crisis, millions unemployed, and severe budget cuts, continued funding of the Iraq War is an outrage. The National Priorities Project estimates that California taxpayers paid $19 billion as their share of the war funding this year. The budget cuts recently signed by Governor Schwarzenegger totaled more than $18 billion, including $8 billion to education. None of these budget cuts would have been necessary if the war in Iraq were over and the funds wasted on the war had been redirected to state and local governments. The sooner the war ends, the sooner those funds can meet needs here at home.
Some in the antiwar movement have largely supported Obama’s Iraq withdrawal plan, saying it is the best that we can achieve and we should move on and focus on the war in Afghanistan and the economic crisis. Yet the best way to build our power to end the war in Afghanistan is to organize people to completely repudiate the Iraq War and to link the war to the economic crisis. Polls show that the American people are outraged by the lies told by the Bush administration to start the Iraq War, by war crimes committed by the administration, and by the corporate fraud that caused the economic collapse. A recent poll found that 40 percent wanted prosecutions for war crimes by the Bush administration, and an additional 30 percent wanted investigation of these crimes. Yet the Democratic-controlled Congress has never fully investigated these crimes.
The second initiative we are promoting calls for a full investigation of how Bush led us to war, of the crimes committed during the war, and of the corporate and administration actions that caused the financial crisis. Where crimes have been committed, the initiative calls for prosecutions, as well as for legislation to prevent these crimes from ever happening again.
Over one million Iraqis and four thousand U.S. troops have been killed in this illegal and immoral war. It is not enough to either celebrate or to simply criticize the announced withdrawal plans of the Obama administration. The antiwar movement has a responsibility to organize to utterly repudiate the war and, by doing so, to help ensure that such wars never happen again. For more information, contact the Iraq Initiatives Project at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.iraqinit.org.
by Carolyn S. Scarr
The standard answer of why the U.S. has invaded and is occupying Afghanistan is of course “9/11”. This
answer is expanded to an assertion that this war is essential to protect the U.S. and its friends from terrorist
The initial U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was justified as an attempt to capture bin Laden, the presumed
mastermind behind the attacks of 9/11/2001. As EPI wrote in the Fall 2001 issue of Planted, this was not a
In regard to the terrorist attacks, the United States has certain responsibilities as a member of the United
Nations and a signator to a number of international treaties. These limit U.S. unilateral response and
provide means for international action.
An essential first step must be for the United States to make public all evidence it has regarding the parties
believed to be responsible for the attack. This evidence should be presented to the appropriate world
bodies for action and must also be shared with the American people, as has been called for by
Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. We cannot accept “I’ll be the judge and I’ll be the jury . . . . and
condemn you to death.” [Lewis Carroll]
That article went on to quote various international law experts on the recourses available to the United States,
which did not avail itself of these possibilities. Recently, University of San Francisco Professor Stephen Zunes
wrote to me regarding the events of that time:
The United States refused Taliban requests for evidence that bin Laden was connected with the terrorist
attacks, even though such evidence presumably existed at the time and sharing such evidence is normally
expected [by the country being asked to extradite a suspect] before complying with an extradition request.
In addition, Pakistani and British newspapers reported that in late September and early October, leaders of
Pakistan’s two Islamic-identified parties negotiated a deal that could have avoided war. According to these
reports, the Taliban was apparently willing to extradite bin Laden to Pakistan to face an international
tribunal that would then decide whether to try him there or hand him over to the United States. However,
U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain pressured Pakistan’s military ruler, General Pervez
Musharraf, to kill the deal. An American official was later quoted as saying that “casting our objective too
narrowly” risked “a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr. bin Laden
was captured.” In short, the Bush administration appeared to prefer going to war than bringing bin Laden
Other U.S. demands were even more difficult for the Taliban to accept: the Bush administration demanded
the expulsion of all al-Qaida fighters, even though most had nothing to do with foreign terrorist operations
but instead were brought in by bin Laden as a mercenary force that served as the backbone of the Taliban’s
defense against the Northern Alliance. Similarly, the Taliban viewed the Bush administration’s additional
demand of unfettered U.S. inspections throughout the country as an unreasonable encroachment of Afghan
Professor Zunes is a Foreign Policy in Focus senior analyst and a professor of politics and chair of Middle
Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.
Some historical background
Afghanistan has been the battleground of empires for more than a thousand years. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. played out the final stages of the Cold War in Afghanistan, during which time the United States, with the assistance of Pakistani military dictator Zia al-Huq and his secret police, established in that beleaguered country the conservative theocracy which is a dominant force in Afghanistan to this day. “Policies were intentionally initiated . . . to drag young Afghans towards extremism and war. . . The indoctrination and resulting radicalization of Afghan youth that later formed the core of the Taliban . . . was directly supported by the U.S. government . . . such as through textbooks issued by the U.S. Agency for International Development for refugee children between 1986 and 1992, which were designed to encourage such militancy.” The U.S. and Afghan Tragedy, Khushal Arsala & Stephen Zunes February 18, 2009. For the more detailed analysis of this period see www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5878.
After the 9/11 attacks, the United States turned its back on diplomacy and chose instead to attack this Third
World country, killing a lot of people, kidnapping and torturing many others and replacing one authoritarian
government with another. Let’s not get fooled by the alleged spread of democracy, which supposedly put
Hamid Karzai into power. The “Mayor of Kabul” is our guy. The U.S. picked him and maintains him in what
little power he has.
Where are we today?
The U.S. veers in its policies in Afghanistan between supporting Karzai, making alliances with the warlords
known as the Northern Alliance and seeking “moderate” elements in the Taliban to pay to rule in the areas
where they are strong. None of this leads to anything that can be considered “self-rule,” nor does it result in
governance in which personal liberties are protected for women and men, and in which schools are maintained
for all children. The U.S. and its allies have not established a viable local economy which will meet the most
basic needs of the population. As is common where the CIA has a major role in the rule of a territory, the
production and export of addictive drugs is a core component of the Afghan economy, enriching both the
warlords and the Karzai family.
On March 19, Just Foreign Policy draws together these reports:
[The U.S.-supported government in] Kabul has opened preliminary negotiations with the Haqqani
network, one of three major insurgent groups in Afghanistan, the Christian Science Monitor (CSM)
reports. A deal with them will likely be key to ending the war, the CSM says. As a first step, a mediator’s
“road map” proposed that the Haqqani network should stop burning schools and targeting reconstruction
teams, and that the US military should stop house raids and release Haqqani-network prisoners. But the
road map places conditions on US operations, something the Afghan government has little control over,
the CSM notes. Leaders of the Haqqani network are to likely insist on a commitment from the US to
withdraw troops, analysts suggest. The report notes that the Afghan government is reaching out to
insurgent leaders, a policy not yet supported by the US. However, the report confirms an earlier British
account that insurgent leaders saw recent comments by Obama as an opening for talks.
Obama has decided to significantly expand Afghanistan’s security forces, the New York Times reports. A
plan awaiting approval would set a goal of about 400,000 troops and national police officers, more than twice
the forces’ current size. Cost projections range from $10 billion to $20 billion over the next six or seven
years. Senator Levin endorsed the goal of expanding Afghan security forces. “The cost is relatively small
compared to the cost of not doing it,” Levin said. http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/
Meanwhile, where else are we?
There is no current evidence that bin Laden is anywhere in Afghanistan. There is no evidence about his whereabouts in Pakistan, either. In fact his whereabouts are entirely unknown.
Pakistan has been drawn into this fray initially by virtue of its proximity to Afghanistan and a shared Pashtun population. People in both countries have been bombed by the U.S. Airforce, causing a significant number of civilian deaths and a great deal of anger toward the United States.
So it is very disturbing to read in the New York Times (March 17) that “President Obama and his national
security advisers are considering expanding the American covert war in Pakistan far beyond the unruly tribal
areas to strike at a different center of Taliban power in Baluchistan, where top Taliban leaders are orchestrating
attacks into southern Afghanistan.” The fact that Pakistan is a nuclear power increases the riskiness of attacking
Tariq Ali on Democracy Now! on the widening of the “war on terrorism” to Pakistan:
You know, what is quite staggering is that in order to sustain the occupation of Afghanistan, a country of
30 million people, the United States is now seriously considering destabilizing Pakistan, which is a country
of 175 million people. And they don’t seem to understand that if they destabilize this country and if the
Pakistani military begins to crack up and split, what we are seeing in Afghanistan will be absolutely
nothing compared to what could happen in Pakistan. It’s a very serious business.
. . . they imagine that the main problem in Pakistan is terrorism. That is their obsession. Well, this is not
the view of large numbers of people who live in that country. For them, the main problem is malnutrition.
For them, the main problem is large-scale unemployment, lack of education, lack of health and, as you’ve
seen, the struggle of the people for democracy, restoring the chief justice. What has that got to do with
terrorism? It’s a struggle for the separation of powers, wanting an independent judiciary. I mean, that is the
Pakistan I know.
The longer the US stays in Afghanistan, the more it creates instability on the Afghan-Pakistan border,
because it’s a porous border and it’s impossible to police it. So if they are now going to fire drones, which
they’ve started doing —I mean, the same day the chief justice [of Pakistan] was restored and people were
celebrating, a US drone killed nine civilians in a Pakistani village. So it’s a crazy situation, and I don’t
think they understand the seriousness of it. And one was hoping that with a new administration in office in
Washington with some serious advisers, they would warn them, “Don’t do it.”
. . . . in Afghanistan, it’s inexplicable why they want to prolong this war. The notion that—I mean, all the
intelligence agencies have said that al-Qaeda has declined as a force. It isn’t even present to that extent in
Afghanistan. Secretly, the US and the British have been negotiating with the Afghan resistance, the neo-Taliban, the people who’ve used the Taliban as an umbrella to fight them, and pleading with them to enter a
coalition government. The Taliban say to the US and the British, “We won’t do it, unless foreign troops are
withdrawn. We cannot form part of any government as long as foreign troops are present.”
For entire interview see http://i2.democracynow.org/2009/3/19/*_a_peoples_victory
Where does this leave us?
In addition to our presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan we have the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq.
We are left with U.S. support of Israel’s expansion into the West Bank and continued siege of Gaza.
And looming over everything we have nukes –– U.S. nukes, Israeli nukes, Pakistani nukes, Indian nukes, Russian nukes –– and the ludicrous U.S. insistence of keeping Iran out of the nuclear club. In that picture we see possible negotiations and the threats of international sanctions. We have to remain always aware of a possible Israeli unilateral attack on Iran which the U.S. might well support after the fact.
We in the nonviolent peace and justice movement are in a position of needing to look at U.S. foreign policy from a confessional position, and on our knees we have to recognize that if we want peace we must work for justice, both at home and abroad. “How did our oil get under their sand?” ironically recognizes that “whatever the U.S. wants the U.S. gets” does not lead to peace with our neighbors. We have sown the wind and are having to deal with the whirlwind. We have got to find a way of responding which does not spread more violence and which will lay the foundation for building a more just international community.
Can Israeli Jews be saved from themselves?
by Annette Herskovits
Five weeks after its assault on Gaza, Israel has yet to allow into Gaza construction materials to rebuild all the “busy neighborhoods flattened into moonscapes” (as described by Amnesty International), and spare parts to repair the water and sewer treatment facilities.
Several times during Israel’s 22 days’ offensive, I awoke at night, heart beating violently, with images of young children in a darkened room flashing before my eyes, and the roar of bomber planes in my ears. It happened first after I received e-mail from a Palestinian friend with a photograph of his family in Gaza; it showed children holding candles—there was no electricity because Israel had cut deliveries of fuel.
But the panic had other triggers: my own memories of living under aerial bombardment. When I was almost five years old, in 1944, ten months after my parents had been deported to their death in Auschwitz, my 17-year old brother and I were hiding in a hotel room in Paris. The Allies were bombing a nearby train station, the end point of Nazi supply lines. I remember clearly an alert during which I was alone in the room, listening to the whine of the sirens, the roar of the planes, and finally, the explosions.
The Palestinian children have endured much worse: 22 days and nights of bombing. Nowhere to take shelter. Israeli tanks on every street. Scarce water and food. What will become of these massively traumatized children?
As a holocaust survivor, I often receive literature from Jewish organizations calling on “memory”: “We must never forget.” But Israel’s leaders and the 78 percent of Israelis who told pollsters that they supported the attacks on Gaza, forgot the one important thing there was to remember: “You must not dehumanize/demonize another people.”
The Israeli offensive killed 1400 Palestinians. About 700 were civilians, including 450 children. There were thousands of injured, half of them children. Many will be maimed for life.
Following Israeli withdrawal, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barack appeared on Israeli TV, smiling broadly as they congratulated each other on a job well done. Very low Israeli casualties were essential to keeping public support for the war, and here too they “succeeded”: ten soldiers were killed, four of them by friendly fire, casting doubts on Israeli claims that a terrorist hid behind every Gaza civilian.
How are we to understand such callousness? General Moshe Dayan, one of Israel’s “fathers,” said “Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” And so it has become, or always was—establishing itself by expelling 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from Palestine, in a series of war crimes, such as forcing the inhabitants of the cities of Lydda and Ramle on roads to the east in the heat of August. No one knows how many died.
The crimes of Israel’s beginnings—the 1948 Nakba, or “catastrophe” to the Palestinians—were almost inevitable consequences of the West’s malfeasance: from 2000 years of persecution culminating in genocide, to giving away a piece of land that was not theirs with characteristic colonialist insouciance. So it is hard to blame those Jews whose hopes for collective rebirth rested on the idea of a Jewish state.
But to remain blind to the injustices Israel has committed against Palestinians requires massive denial. Most Israeli Jews remember every Palestinian act of violent resistance, but they seem to have forgotten the suffering, many times greater, that they have inflicted on Palestinians. Thus many cannot comprehend Palestinian “violence”: “What have we done to them?” said a Jewish settler in the West Bank.
Maybe the Palestinians would have forgiven 1948 in time. But the thefts of land and forced removals picked up again in 1967 and have continued since, as settlements multiply in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and 1.5 million Palestinians are treated like trespassers on their own land.
Only those Israeli Jews who opposed Israel’s slaughter have learned the one true lesson of the Nazi genocide, in the words of sage Rabbi Hillel: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” These relatively few, passionate dissenters—they refuse to serve, demonstrate alongside Palestinians—need our help.
It is understandable that survivors of the Nazi genocide welcomed a nationalist ideology emphasizing strength. But Western countries, the United States in particular, have indulged the Israeli governments’ militarism and greed. Because Israel is located near oil-rich countries, where people yearn to free themselves from US supported regimes and to control their own resources, it became the US’ “foremost ally in the region,” with US and Israel’s defense industries and militaries thoroughly intertwined.
Our allies must be innocent, always, so US politicians and media insist on disguising Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights as self-defense. As the number of Palestinian children murdered by Israeli troops during the offensive kept rising, the US Congress passed Resolutions (unanimously for the Senate, by a large majority for the House) titled: “Recognizing the right of Israel to defend itself against attacks from Gaza.” The text following focused on Hamas’ violations of international law — principally its launching rockets into Israel that caused 28 deaths in seven years.
Evidence of Israel’s war crimes was simply overlooked: the collective punishment of 1.5 million people, 500,000 of whom are children under 12; knowingly targeting civilians by sending missiles into densely populated areas; using phosphorus shells and new weapons (DIME) which cause untreatable wounds. Also overlooked was Israel’s three-year long blockade of Gaza — another violation of international law — which denied food, fuel and medicine to the entire population.
The fact that Hamas scrupulously observed the ceasefire was turned on its head. The Resolutions falsely assert that Hamas first violated the ceasefire. As reported by CNN, Israel violated the ceasefire on November 4 by sending troops to destroy a tunnel supposedly dug to kidnap Israeli soldiers. In fact, Israel had prepared its December attacks for months, so the tunnel was only a transparent pretext.
So what now? February’s elections confirmed Israel’s sharp move to the right. The party of Avigdor Lieberman, an advocate of “transfer” for the Palestinians, won 15 seats. But just as disturbing, Tsipi Livni, the leader of Kadima, which won 28 seats, recently said she would only support an agreement “that represents our interests,” including “maintaining maximum settlers and places that we hold dear such as Jerusalem—not a single refugee will enter.”
And to the right of Kadima, Likud, with 27 seats, has a platform stating that the West Bank’s Jewish settlers communities are “the realization of Zionist values,” and Likud “will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”
So Israel will not deviate from its disastrous course without strong US pressure.
On introducing George Mitchell as a special peace envoy to the Middle East, President Obama said: “Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in need of immediate food, clean water, and basic medical care, and who’ve faced suffocating poverty for far too long.” Hopefully, these words indicate that Obama intends to stand up to Israel’s greed and belligerence. But he will need public support to succeed. In particular, peace activists should pressure Congress to abandon its blind support for Israel.
I also see as legitimate calls for cutting US military aid to Israel and boycotting Israeli products. A member of Jewish Voice for Peace suggested replacing “military aid” to every state in the region with “peace aid.” I think that is a splendid idea.
Calendar & Announcements
The American Friends Service Committee and Interfaith Witness for Middle East Peace present two important events:
Friday April 24th, 7-9PM. A Voice of Healing and Reconciliation from Gaza. an evening with Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish for a conversation and a memorial ceremony. Dr. Abuelaish is a man who has devoted his life to caring for the health of families and children, and reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. Tragically, his three daughters and niece were killed in January during the latest attack on Gaza, by Israeli mortar fire while in his home in Jabalya Refugee Camp. He is now working tirelessly to promote a vision of peace, reconciliation and healing to sustain his daughter's memories. First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley
Sunday April 26th, 2-4 p.m., Citizen Hearings on the Impact of US Weapons on Civilians in Gaza, will feature eye-witness testimony from residents of Gaza, weapons experts and first hand responders. Testimonies will be heard by a Panel of Listeners who will make recommendations to their sponsoring agency, institution or constituents. The event will be recorded and made available for future use, along with a curriculum guide for lobbying.
Testifiers include: Amr Shurrab who was on the phone with his father while his father watched Amr's two brothers killed before his eyes; Reem Salahi, a lawyer with National Lawyer's Guild, and Sandee Scott, a nurse who went with Global Exchange, who visited Gaza immediately after the recent assault. Department of Health, Commission Hearings Room #300, 101 Grove Street San Francisco
Tuesday, Apr 28, 6:30 p.m., Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak about War and Terror, Book Tour, Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, San Francisco
Sunday, May 24, 11:00 a.m. Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright will be the featured speaker at Fellowship Church
2041 Larkin Street (near Broadway), San Francisco,
Phone: (415) 776-4910 Email: email@example.com
April 13 - June 10, Jewish Voice for Peace (http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org) is organizing a lecture series titled “After Gaza: What next for Israelis and Palestinians?” Speakers: Beshara Doumani, Joel Beinin, George Bisharat, Phyllis Bennis and Nadia Hijab. Lectures will take place at the American Conservatory Theater and the World Affairs Center in San Francisco.
Each third Tuesday, 12:00 - 1:00, at the Oakland Federal Building the weekly anti-war vigil is transformed into a “Living Graveyard.” Covered with white sheets, participants lie on the city sidewalk, far enough apart to allow for pedestrian and wheelchair traffic. This is legal street theater to make visible the reality of the deaths caused by the war.
Iraq Moratorium organizes a public witness for peace on the Third Friday of each month. To find one near you, visit http://iraqmoratorium.org/
In Berkeley, people gather at the northwest corner of Acton & University from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Tuesdays, noon - one, Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street. End occupation of Iraq. Sponsored by Ecumenical Peace Institute, Berkeley Women in Black, and others.
Thursdays, 4:30 - 5:30, Five Flags Park, Foothill, Jackson & Mission, Hayward, justice for Palestinians. South Alameda County Peace and Justice (SAPJC) & Tri-City Peace and Justice (TCP)
Thursdays, noon - one, San Francisco Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate, peace in Iraq, San Francisco Friends
Sundays, 3:00 p.m., walk around Lake Merritt for peace. Meet at the columns at the east end of the Lake, between Grand & Lakeshore Avenues. sponsored by Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace, LMNOP
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