The United Nations: We won’t be fooled again!

Posted on 3rd January 2015 in Peace, Peace Pedagogy, Practice, Reflections, Self Determination

Perhaps the first seminal work on large scale brainwashing of a peoples was “A Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” by Paolo Freire: an essay published in or around 1970 in which he articulates the notion that when the language of a peoples, of a nation, is the language of the oppressor, the peoples themselves are sort of caught in an intractable relationship between oppressor and oppressed until they come to realize that their language is a sort of prison guard to their perpetual slavery and if they can change the way they speak, they can change the way they think and can therefor change the way the act and, ultimately change the nature of their circumstance: their oppression.

 

A recent example of this, it has been argued, is the Occupy Wall Street movement – which, for its potentially dubious origins, lack of organization and overall ineffectiveness did exemplify the potential power of a semi-organic movement coalescing, organizing and beginning to define itself. It was, in a sense, a parthenogenic disturbance: an unfertilized embryo destined to spontaneously abort with no potential of becoming viable. In any case, perhaps a better and more appropriate terminology to express the intent and sentiment of the occupiers would have been to call the movement “inhabit wall street” or “cohabitate wall street” indicating something more in line with what was being sought – equality and justice. This one word switcheroo is a total game changer and has profound implications, speaking volumes to the very fundaments and intentions of the collective and definitely redirecting the strategy. It includes all stakeholders as having a valid claim in a shared space and demands dialog, listening and, as Freire called it, a dialogical conscientiazation. It is, in essence, the knowledge that is gained and shared through learning about others’ capacities and interpretations of reality; it is learning empathy.

 

Similarly, the entire world has been duped into accepting the United Nations as a collective of states organized to contract and execute international norms regarding war and peace: international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law and others. That in and of itself is a seemingly noble cause save the fact that the United Nations is a collection of states and nations are collections of peoples of a common culture: an ethnic community (with a slightly political bent – a meaning the term has evolved to include). States haven’t been around that long historically. Before that it was empires, dynasties, monarchies and the like: colonialists at heart and in practice. The idea that states should represent the will, desire, expectation and needs of a nation is also a noble prospect yet, historically, this is not the case. To expect a United Nations of united states to carry out the will of a united nations of peoples is seemingly absurd. Perhaps this is why the United Nations is fundamentally dysfunctional. The representatives at the UN are not necessarily representing the will of the nations of peoples whom their respective governments send to deliver the message of the nation; that is, the message of the nation at the United Nations is the message of the state and even in the glorious western democracies the likelihood the will of the nation and the will of the state coincide is slim.

 

Let’s call it what it is or, better yet, create what it should be. A true United Nations of united nations of peoples coming together and doing what the states are unable or unwilling to do because they are inept or have dubious intentions. Those among us who have traveled to other lands and met other peoples – physically or astrally – understand that the common ground for our humanity is vast yet the establishment of the foundations for equality and peace are outside of the purview of many of the member states of the United Nations and, as a functional organism, the United Nations is incapable of carrying out its mandate because it is structurally compromised – as its name indicates.

The Zero State One Nation Solution: Terra Nullius

by H. Gibrain

A viable solution which would respect the human rights of all concerned and which would solve the problem of borders and resources, as well as demographics and the right to return for all peoples, Palestinian and otherwise, would be to declare the geographic boundaries defined by the Palestine Mandate as terra nullius – no one’s land.

Since this “disputed” land (annexed and occupied by the UN and Israel and the US and others by proxy) is really the last great colonial product of the British Empire – now perpetuated by the US and the other former colonized British states – let it be the first place on earth where there is no state control based on any discriminatory factor, where no one owns the land and where all people are seen as equal under the moral code of the nation as determined by what could be a stateless nation with a constitution (not defining a government structure, per se, but defining a moral code analogous to the Bill of Rights in the US and other international declarations based on equality, peace, justice, liberty, freedom, truth, dignity, trust and the rest of the virtues.

Such a move will require a great deal of courage from the United Nations organs and member states who are willing to uphold the law through their words and actions, an organized popular resistance from Palestinian civil society – and potentially the PA (as, say, exhibited in Abbas’ speech at the UN (in 2011 I think it might have been), and the international solidarity movement through BDS and other means of non-violent popular struggle.

The UN, in order to overcome the inertia of the security council and other organs that prevent the UN organizations – as an expression of its member states – to carry out its functions as prescribed by international law, the UN will likely need to change the structure since the current structure is not properly carrying out its function. The possibility and effects of a Second UN Charter convention should be seriously contemplated by the General Assembly and other appropriate bodies of the UN. Primarily, a restructuring or elimination of the Security Council, the veto, or how it can be used needs to be evaluated and the creation of some body representing civil society needs to take place – a people’s parliament.

In a Newtonian sense, when there are forces acting on a body creating a certain trajectory, in order to alter that trajectory and get it to go in the direction of an international law and human rights based system, the right actions need to take place from the right forces. In this case, as history has shown, there is no political will or skill from the main stakeholders to change the trajectory, so the Palestinian civil society and the respective civil societies of the world need to learn the principles and practices of non-violent popular struggle – which has shown, historically, to be a much more effective means of conflict transformation. It is not the military might that will win the struggle for legitimacy, it is the struggle for equality and justice from international solidarity with the Palestinians that will usher in a durable peace.

 

 

Wall Vaulting: The New Fad Sport of Nonviolent Popular Resistance in Palestine

by Enchanted Prison Guard

 

There are many forms of non-violent popular resistance – of which there are many types. There is the type in which civil society is simply rebuilding its own identity through the forms. There is the type of direct confrontation between belligerent occupier and the occupied. There is the type in which individuals educate themselves and act with the intention to educate others of the forms and types of non-violent popular resistance. I’m sure there are more. Please send me your thoughts.

Of course, some forms employ a mix of types. Sports for example, no matter where they are played, tend to build relationships of many types, some cooperative, some competitive, some mutually inductive and some mutually restrictive. In any case, so it seems, a new fad sport appears to be evolving in the West Bank of Palestine incorporating a study of the forms and types of Nonviolent Popular Resistance using sport, education, team building, media outreach, and communication with the police and military on both sides which directly engages both occupier and occupied with the intention of having fun and making a point. As you can tell from the title of this piece, pole vaulting the wall/Wall appears to becoming a popular sport in the West Bank of Palestine.

Teams are training in class rooms studying the principles of peaceful beautiful resistance: Gandhi, Sharp, King Jr., Galtung and international law are just a small part of the required reading material for the curriculum. Then of course there is the rigorous training in sport employing a mutually inductive cooperation through competition. These people are strong. Intellectually. Physically. Morally.

People are reaching out to the media to inform the world of who they are and what is their intention. To put it simply, in the words of one of the participants, “simply stated, the wall is not impenetrable. We penetrate it with love… in our hearts and we make it known that we are non-violent and this has a profound effect on any act of physical violence the Israeli Defense Force or Police might take against us. We get arrested. We have lawyers. Some of us spend time in jail. Some of us get tortured. A few of us have been brutally wounded. One of us was killed. We know the risks. We’re Committed. We just turn around and do it again. The word is getting out and it’s making it difficult for the Israeli Army to do anything in terms of physical violence at this point. We have a lot of international support through the media, the internet, and even the Secretary General of the U.N. Has commented in support of our actions.”

The group, of course, calls themselves Palestinian Wall Vaulters for Peace and they work with a group affiliated with security called Fighters for Peace which is comprised of former Palestinian and Israeli combatants who act, essentially as observers and human shields. They also work with “Doctors Beyond Boundaries” for obvious reasons as well as Free Legal Aid, an array of international lawyers working pro bono publico for other obvious reasons.

I am told there is a website in the works. Apparently some one bought the best combinations of domain names when they heard of the group and the group is not yet in a position to purchase any of them (for not so obvious reasons) and is reluctant to choose amongst the list of poor combinations that might be available.

Needless to say, they’re looking for support. They’re not asking for any money. Poles are cheap and the attire is not well defined yet. The wall/Wall is where it is and it is what it is so there are many locations for practice and performance.  The type of support they are looking for is in the form of acknowledgement (if not solidarity with the same forms and types they are engaged with): that they have the inalienable right to self determine, to human rights (at least at its current theory and practice) and to provide for their human needs unimpeded.

At the moment they are asking not to take or expose any pictures since it just makes it easier to be spotted as they usually set up “flying break points” spoofing on the “flying checkpoints” the Israeli Defense Force might set up. “We hope people will come to Palestine and experience our beautiful culture and experience all there is to experience in the West Bank,” says one of the organizers for the group.

Immodest Proposal

Posted on 6th February 2014 in Peace, Reflections, Self Determination

Due to the longevity of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and the obvious lack of political will mixed with sheer political ineptitude – on a global scale, really – to properly transform the situation (at least to enforce international law) I’ve come up with a somewhat absurd partial solution towards transforming and transcending the conflict. The idea itself is nothing new – I’m not that creative or knowledgeable about the shituation: the boundaries of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories will be combined into a bi-national state. There are many reasons why this is favorable for Israelis, Palestinians and Peace (the rest of us) and that complex of simple reasons emerges as the answer to the following question: what would a Palestinian state of scattered and segregated lands look like as a result of settlements, the wall, and the harsh economic, political and military sanctions driving the Palestinians into a fragmented and isolated society?

In any case, my level, or style if you will, of creativity is in the naming of this new nation; a new name that will satisfy both cultures: PalIstein/stien. Its construction is obvious taking the first three letters of the word Palestine, the first two letters of Israel, and then changing the “stine” of Palestine into “stein/stien” so that it resonates with the suffix of many Jewish peoples names,  yet the pronunciation could be in dispute as to whether there is a hard “e” vowel sound or a hard “i” vowel sound (which, no doubt, would make Palestinians smile, even though it was at the sacrifice of switching the “e” in the English spelling of their countries name with the “i”, capitalized, from the English spelling of Israel). One country, one name with two pronunciations and still something to fight about.

As one nation, there will be a shared economy, a shared political system, shared roadways, shared schools, and above all and encompassing all, equality as citizens and all of the benefits that come with getting to know and love your neighbor. No doubt it will take a generation or two (or seven) to work things out, but under the current circumstances there is such a limited cultural exchange because of the inability of Palestinians and Israelis to freely move from the OPTs to the NonOPTs as well as the taboo of normalization for Pals to engage with Izzies in any way that legitimizes the regime of inequality. Since the respective and collective governments who are stakeholders in this process have proven incapable of establishing equality this task will have to be accomplished by Israeli and Palestinian civil societies who will, themselves, have to transcend the walls of normalization and the convolution of victim and perpetrator.

In addition to a new name, one other important piece of propaganda is essential to forging a new common narrative: a banner. At first thought it would be interesting to have a two faced flag with the Israeli flag on one side and the Palestinian flag on the other but after some immodest consideration I’m thinking the flag should be  a screen playing pixelated permutations of both flags along with other randomly generated visualizations. Let’s leave it at that.

For now, changing the name and flying the first kaleidobanner is enough. When people get use to seeing and hearing these new implants, civil society will begin to change and, again, in a generation or two when all of the old school dogmaticians die off, peace will begin to flourish. Let freedom reign. Pass the felafel, please.

Interview on WVKR’s Activist Radio about Peace Studies, the Arts in Transforming Conflict and the Arts in Palestine

Posted on 10th January 2014 in Interviews, Peace, Self Determination, Theory

Fred and Gary of Activist Radio, a primetime program on WVKR, had me as their guest to discuss my academic studies in Peace and Conflict Transformation and my interests and intentions working in and with the performing, literary, display and culinary arts as a common ground for dialogue in healing trauma, transforming conflicts, rebuilding personal and collective identities and creating a new common narrative for building a future of reconciliation and engagement on the playground of our commonalities.

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Here are some links to important articles and interviews:

Ring Theory: A Tool for Conflict Analysis and the Design, Monitoring and Evaluation of Peace Initiatives

Posted on 12th July 2013 in Peace, Peace Pedagogy, Self Determination, Theory

Abstract­: There are many tools for conflict analysis and the design, monitoring and evaluation of peace initiatives. Each of these tools has its advantages and limitations in a given context. Several of these tools used in conjunction with one another can give a relatively complete means for evaluating conflicts and designing processes to transform conflicts. Ring Theory is yet another tool for conflict analysis and the design, monitoring and evaluation of peace initiatives. Ring theory offers a more streamlined means for visualizing the complexity of conflicts and transformation processes than some of the other tools for conflict analysis and the design monitoring and evaluation of peace initiatives because it considers all interactions between all stakeholders across all levels and sectors of society. Ring Theory, used in in conjunction with other tools can yield a more complete and, therefore, accurate assessment of a conflict or transformation process. In so doing, it can increase the likelihood for success of peace initiatives. Ring Theory also has potential as an early warning tool for conflict prevention.

 

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[Edited version coming soon]