Unrealistic? Not If We Make It Real

Violence in the Middle East, or anywhere for that matter, is not an irresovable, empirical reality. It's a Political reality which means it is created by folk and thus dependant upon us to keep it active.

The Tikkun emails my sister sends me have been growing on me because they provide rational and practical methods of making Peace the Reality of the Middle East.

This is an ad they hope to run in this Sunday's NYTimes and, like all such comprehensive statements, it's missing some details which inevitably need to follow the spirit or gist of the main ideas put forth.

Killing each other is only an option because we allow it to be for ourselves.

We will grow much faster if we get workin' on changing ourselves and how we react when attacked.

All right. The add is long enough for this forum.


Convene an International Middle East Peace

Conference to Impose a Final Settlement on All Parties

In the name of our sisters and brothers suffering and dying in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, we, the undersigned religious leaders, scholars, academics, cultural leaders, poets, writers, philanthropists, social change activists, and citizens of the world demand that the Israeli government, leaderships of Hezbollah and Hamas, the U.S. Government, the international community and the United Nations immediately take the following steps to stop the war in these countries:

1. We demand that the Israeli government immediately halt its attacks on Lebanon. We join with the Israeli peace movement (and the thousands of Israelis who demonstrated against this war in Tel Aviv July 22, 2006) in their insistence that these attacks are utterly disproportionate to the initial provocation by Hezbollah, have killed innumerable innocent civilians, displaced half a million people, have destroyed billions of dollars of Lebanon's infrastructure, and will not, in the long run, secure peace or security for Israel. We also call on the Israeli government to supply food, electricity, water and funds to repair the humanitarian crisis caused by its invasion of Gaza. By endorsing Israel's attacks, and explicitly giving it time to do more damage to the people of Lebanon, the U.S. government became party to this violence, which, together with American military actions in Iraq, are sure to create enmity towards the U.S. and Israel in the Muslim world for generations to come.

2. We demand that Hezbollah and Hamas immediately stop shelling or otherwise engaging in violence against Israel. These actions, which have killed numerous Israeli civilians, terrorized the people of Israel and destroyed many cities, played a central role in provoking the current crisis, and do nothing but harm the cause of Palestinian and Lebanese independence and democracy. It is this kind of violence which has over the years pushed many decent Israelis into the hands of its most militaristic and paranoid political leaders.

3. We demand that the U.S. government, and governments around the world, call on Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas to observe an immediate cease-fire, place an immediate embargo on all shipments of weapons to all parties in the war (including Syria and Iran), and join an international conference to provide security on the border between Israel and Lebanon.

These are the minimum steps necessary to stop the violence and the humanitarian disaster in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. But alone they will not ensure that the region doesn’t return to an untenable status quo which will again eventually break into violence and new rounds of warfare.

We therefore also issue:

A call for Lasting Peace

We call upon the international community to hold an International Peace Conference to impose a fair and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to the conflict between Israel and other states in the region. Why do we say “impose”? There are too many forces in each country in the region who are committed to continuing this struggle forever. Their provocations will continue until the international community stops the violence once and for all and imposes conditions of peace that will allow the peace and reconciliation forces in each country to flourish.

Such a solution would be based on the following conditions:

a. The creation of an economically and politically viable Palestinian state (roughly on the pre-1967 borders with minor border modifications mutually agreed upon between Israel and Palestine); and simultaneously the full and unequivocal recognition by Palestinians and the State of Palestine and all surrounding Arab states of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state offering full and equal rights to all of its non-Jewish citizens.

b. An international consortium to provide reparations for Palestinians who have lost home or property from 1947 to the present and reparations for Jewish refugees from Arab states from 1947-1967;

c. A long term international peacekeeping force to separate Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon and to protect Israel and Palestine from each other and from other forces in the region who might seek to control or destroy either state;

d. The quick imposition of robust sanctions against any party that refuses to sign or violates these agreements.

A New Spirit of Open-Heartedness and Reconciliation

We know that no political solution can work without a change of consciousness that minimally includes an open-heartedness and willingness to recognize the humanity of the Other, and to repent and atone for the long history of insensitivity and cruelty to the other side.
Both sides must take immediate steps to stop the discourse of violence and demeaning of the other in their media, their religious institutions, and their school text books and educational systems. They should implement this by creating a joint authority with each other and with moral leaders in the international community who can supervise and if necessary replace those in positions of power in both societies who continue to use public institutions in their respective societies to spread hatred or nurture anger at the other.

Once the other parts of a lasting peace have been set in place, we call upon the parties to this struggle to launch a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, following the model used in South Africa.

Use This Moment to Challenge the Paranoid and Cynical “Political Realism” That Generates Endless Wars

The paranoid and allegedly “realistic” version of global politics asserts that we live in a world in which our safety can only be achieved through domination—or others will seek to dominate us first. Of course, when we act on this assumption, it becomes self-fulfilling.

We propose, instead, a strategy of generosity—to act on the assumption that people have an enormous capacity for goodness and generosity (without negating the truth that certain conditions promote fear, anger and hatred which sometimes get expressed in horribly destructive ways). For the U.S. and other G8 countries, we call for a Global Marshall Plan: For each of the next twenty years, the U.S. and other G8 countries should dedicate 5% of their Gross Domestic Product to eliminating global (and domestic) hunger, homelessness, poverty, inadequate health care and inadequate education for the peoples of the world. This would have to be carefully monitored and apportioned in ways that ensure the care reaches the people for whom it was intended. But what is critical is the spirit in which it is done.

Similarly, we urge Israel to not only return to its 1967 borders (with minor border modifications mutually agreed upon including a sharing of Jerusalem and of its holy sites) but to do so in a spirit of generosity and caring for the other before it is forced to return to those borders by the international community and before thousands more young Israelis and Palestinians die in these senseless wars that will otherwise continue in the coming years.

The only protection that we in the advanced industrial countries of the world can ever really have for our lives is to spread a spirit of love so powerful and genuine that it becomes capable of reducing the anger that has justifiably developed against the powerful and the wealthy of the world.

The “cynical realists” claim that others are entrenched in their hatred, and that war and domination is the only way to battle them. This kind of thinking has led to five thousand years of people fighting wars in order to “end all wars”—and it has not worked. It’s time now to try a new strategy of generosity, both economic generosity and generosity of spirit. As stated above, there will first have to be a transitional period in which real military protections are available to people on all sides of the struggle. But by beginning now to simultaneously commit our economic resources and change the way that we talk about those who we previously designated as “enemies,” we can begin the long process of thawing out angers that have existed for many generations.

Nothing can redeem the death and suffering that all sides have faced in this struggle for the past 120 years. But this very moment could be the time in which the human race realizes the futility of violence and comes together not only to impose a lasting solution for the Middle East, but to begin a new era and recognize that our own well-being depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet. The International Middle East Peace Conference should be structured to achieve this end—which means it should have an explicit psychological and spiritual dimension and a visionary agenda.

We affirm the Sacredness of All Human Beings. This is the moment to begin to make that real. The UN raised these possibilities 61 years ago, but relied on political arrangements and fell into politicizing every issue. We need to strengthen international institutions that move in a new direction, but we also need a commitment of the heart from everyone on the planet. Our own countries must take the lead in a whole new approach to security and well-being. This may be the last chance we in the advanced industrial societies have to avoid international catastrophe by modeling something else besides brute power, military might, and indifference to the well-being of others. If not now, when?

Unrealistic? Nope. What has proved unrealistic time and again—whether we are talking about US policy in Vietnam and Iraq or Israeli and Arab policies in the Middle East—is the fantasy that one more war will put an end to wars. The path to peace must be a path of peace. Religious and spiritual leaders are also making a global call for ten days of prayer and fasting toward the aim of peace, reconciliation, and ending violence, beginning July 27th and continuing through August 6th. Signed by (Space permitting, your name and identification, plus the names of hundreds of others.)


This Ad sponsored by TIKKUN: A Bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture and Society, the Network of Spiritual Progressives (www.spiritualprogressives.org), The Shalom Center (www.shalomctr.org) .......


  1. I'm tempted to be skeptical, but I guess if the people who believe in peace don't believe in peace then no one will.

  2. I think you nailed it. Will this actually accomplished its listed demands? That would be a laughable question if the context wasn't so deadly.

    It IS an emphatic statement of an acceptable non-violent approach to Peace. Since the troubles are all man-made and developed culturally, showing the trouble makers that there a LOT of folk supporting alternative means of resolution is likely the best to be hoped for right now.

    It is one more enormous piece of evidence that people are evolving culturally away from violence against one another as an acceptable means of confliction resolution.

    We've gotta build on something.

  3. I don't think"cultural" really explains anything, michaelbains.I think Tikkun gets close when they call for "economic generosity" but even there they skirt the real issue, dont you think? Advanced capitalism has little use for people who sit in resource rich regions, and capitalism is not about making people equal partners.Thinking Peace or "being" Peace is not enough when people have no food , opportunities or Power.

  4. I think I'd just about sign anything that would steer us toward peace. So, here goes again. Thanks.

  5. Hey now Troutsky. Cultural is how folks decide, both deliberately or organically, how to live as a society. I really think Culture explains everything subsequent to baseline individual survival instinct.

    That's how I use the term.

    And "economic generosity" is just a way of saying that everything One earns from the Earth is a resource which Everyone has a right to. The One who put effort into producing it has a right to charge something, but not so much that the price will cause a revolt.

    Unfettered Capitalism is a suicidal no matter how it plays out. The same is true of historical Socialist extremes, but for the opposite reason that those lack any carrot of economic desire. The both need a secondary tool like religion (entertainment, drugs, etc) to keep the masses of individuals from violent revolt.

    Bottom line is that I agree with your final statement explicitly. It's just that the reasons they have so little of those things are cultural ones.

  6. We need Peace! Yes, we are. But how can we obtain it if people always doing it. I felt so pity with my co-filipinos who were victims there. As they striving so hard but it ends to none.
    Thanks MB for this blogs.


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