Peacemakers Trust posts news, reports or announcements of interest to people studying or working in the field of dispute resolution, conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Inclusion of an item on the media watch blog does not imply endorsement or agreement of Peacemakers Trust with views expressed by authors of posted items.
originally reported 26 July 2011 in the New York Times
By Ethan Bronner
TEL AVIV — Skittish at first, then wide-eyed with delight, the women and girls entered the sea, smiling, splashing and then joining hands, getting knocked over by the waves, throwing back their heads and ultimately laughing with joy.
The women were Palestinians from the southern part of the West Bank, which is landlocked, and Israel does not allow them in. They risked criminal prosecution, along with the dozen Israeli women who took them to the beach. And that, in fact, was part of the point: to protest what they and their hosts consider unjust laws…
Such visits began a year ago as the idea of one Israeli, and have blossomed into a small, determined movement of civil disobedience.
Shaul David Judelman is an Israeli rabbi who moved from Seattle to Bat Ayin, a religious community in the occupied West Bank.
Ziad Abed Sabateen is a Palestinian farmer who endured imprisonment during the first intifada against the Israelis more than 20 years ago and whose family was dispossessed of most of its land to accommodate Jewish settlers.
The two men are good neighbors, friends, and business partners – not enemies.
You may say it’s impossible, but we say we can do it! At SFCG [Search for Common Ground] we are always looking for innovative ways to promote conflict transformation and peacebuilding. We know from experience that popular culture is a powerful way of conveying messages such as acceptance of the “other” and tolerance without causing people to doze off in their seats.
This is what we want to achieve with this video game, Cedaria: Blackout. We want to provide youth in the Middle East with a platform to learn and practice how to mediate conflict, solve community problems collaboratively, and understand the perspectives of the “other”. Such skills cannot be acquired in classrooms or in books as they need constant practice and a video game is a much more entertaining way to do so. At a time of escalating violence in the region, we believe that gaming is an effective and innovative tool to reach out to young people and promote non-violent behaviour without being boring or patronizing.
This idea is supported by studies showing that skills learned while playing video games are transferable to real life situations. (read more…)
He has stared into the gun muzzle and carried death in his hands. But Coptic Bishop Thomas claims he is not afraid, nor angry about the last month’s bloodshed in Egypt.
“We learned that extremists were going to attack us with machine guns, but we did not prepare ourselves for the attack with weapons. We did something simple,” says Bishop Thomas, about that day he received a message that armed hardliners were on their way to his episcopal residence in the Al Quosia-region of Lower Egypt.
Determined to defend themselves without violent means, the church fathers applied soap and water on the rocky path leading to Bishop Thomas’ residence.
“I saw them coming with their machine guns far down the road. They tried to get to the house, but they slipped and fell. They tried over and over again, without succeeding,” says the Bishop, smiling with grief as he talks about the episode.
Many civil society activists who continue to defy the Assad regime are not convinced by the case for U.S. air strikes.
The Syrian Non Violence Movement continues, despite being largely ignored in the conversation about Syria.
Much of the debate over U.S. intervention in Syria boils down the conflict there to a clash between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and an armed rebellion in which al-Qaeda affiliates play a significant role. Typically ignored in that conversation are the voices of the non-violent opposition movement that took to the streets to challenge Assad in March 2011, and which has persisted against great odds.
Jon Western is right to point out that there are certainly cases of intervention success. Indeed, those arguing in favor of intervention in Syria will surely draw on cases like Bosnia and Kosovo to make their case for intervention in Syria.
With the United Nations chemical weapons team working “around the clock” to expedite analyses of samples taken in Syria, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Security Council members to unite and develop an appropriate response should allegations regarding the use of such weapons prove true…
“I take note of the argument for action to prevent future uses of chemical weapons,” the UN chief said. “At the same time, we must consider the impact of any punitive measure on efforts to prevent further bloodshed and facilitate a political resolution of the conflict.”
He appealed that any decision that is made is done so within the framework of the UN Charter.
The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and/or when the Security Council approves such action, said Mr. Ban…
Mr. Ban reiterated that the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances would be a serious violation of international law and an outrageous war crime.
“Any perpetrators must be brought to justice. There should be no impunity,” he stressed.
Although the impulse to try to end the ongoing repression by the Syrian regime against its own people through foreign military intervention is understandable, it would be a very bad idea.
Empirical studies have repeatedly demonstrated that international military interventions in cases of severe repression actually exacerbate violence in the short term and can only reduce violence in the longer term if the intervention is impartial or neutral. Other studies demonstrate that foreign military interventions actually increase the duration of civil wars, making the conflicts longer and bloodier, and the regional consequences more serious, than if there were no intervention. In addition, military intervention would likely trigger a “gloves off” mentality that would dramatically escalate the violence on both sides.
Hind Aboud Kabawat is a Syrian lawyer and founder of the Syrian Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.
By Hind Aboud Kabawat
“Osama bin Laden is my leader!”
When Kamal, a young man from Aleppo in Syria, uttered these words on my first day there, I almost fainted. Feelings of humiliation and disbelief choked me. As a Christian Arab who considers Islam to be part of my culture and who has been enriched by the beautiful Islamic heritage of my city Damascus, it was distressing to hear a Muslim straying so far from the wisdom of the Prophet Muhammad, who taught that killing another human is equivalent to killing all of humanity.
I suddenly doubted myself, my revolution, my struggle, and my mission to Aleppo. Kamal was one of 40 participants in a conflict-resolution workshop in Aleppo I organized for my NGO, the Toronto-based Syrian Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation. We aim to reach every Syrian and empower them to work together toward building a new liberal and democratic Syria.
Any escalation of the Syrian crisis following an apparent chemical weapons attack will worsen suffering of civilians that has already reached unprecedented levels, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday.
An interesting discussion recently broke out on twitter about whether the Security Council could refer the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons — and only the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons — to the ICC…
Despite two years of an incessant civil war that has claimed at least 80,000 people, the United Nations Security Council has been mired in deadlock on how to respond to the violence in Syria. Yet the images and videos of civilians attacked with chemical weapons in the outskirts of Damascus has rocked the Syrian status quo. As Jon Western suggests, the chemical weapons attack may constitute “Syria’s Srebrenica,” galvanizing the international community into taking action in a war they can no longer afford to ignore…
In the case of Syria, however, there have been no calls from the Security Council for chemical weapons attacks to be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that the use of chemical weapons in Syria constituted an “outrageous crime” that could not be met with impunity, there were no calls for the Council to refer Syria to the ICC. This begs the question: if the use of chemical weapons against thousands of civilians is a crime, why the silence on Syria and the ICC?
August 19 is the tenth anniversary of the death of Sergio Vieira de Mello, High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq. De Mello, considered by many as the most suitable successor to Kofi Annan, was a victim of the terrorist attack on our political mission in Baghdad in the first — and so far, the most serious — attack on the UN since it was founded in 1945. There were twenty-one other victims, and more than 200 injured. As a survivor of the attack and partner of Sergio Vieira de Mello, I can say that to this day none of us understands why an attack of such magnitude did not warrant a rigorous investigation. Instead, the circumstances of the incident were buried under statues and memorial speeches.
On this anniversary we should take a moment to reflect on the life of a UN official who was truly committed to the ideals and principles of peace. However, we must also demand an independent investigation, doing justice to the memory of the people who lost their lives in Baghdad on August 19, 2003.
He worked to bring faiths together in a land where that can be fatal.
By STEPHANIE SALDANA
On Wednesday, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass for the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order to which he belongs. The pope paused to remember those Jesuit priests who had given their lives in service of their faith. “I’m thinking of Padre Paolo,” he said.
At the moment, no one in the room knew if Father Paolo Dall’Oglio was still alive.
Two days before the pope’s prayer, Father Paolo, an Italian Jesuit priest associated with the Syrian opposition, had been seen walking the streets of Raqqa, a rebel-controlled area in northern Syria. Then he disappeared. Activists reported that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a militant group affiliated with al Qaeda, had kidnapped him. Contradicting reports soon emerged. Had Father Paolo been kidnapped, or had he purposefully met with the group to negotiate the release of hostages and to broker a truce between Kurds and Islamic extremists fighting in the north?
It may seem odd to speak of nonviolence in the same sentence as Syria, one of the bloodiest and most tragic destructions of a state and a culture in contemporary history. But the fact is that we are inching closer to a mainstream and politically realist understanding of nonviolence as a legitimate course of political change… full article
JERUSALEM — The McDonald’s restaurant chain refused to open a branch in a West Bank Jewish settlement, the company said Thursday, adding a prominent name to an international movement to boycott Israel’s settlements.
Irina Shalmor, spokeswoman for McDonald’s Israel, said the owners of a planned mall in the Ariel settlement asked McDonald’s to open a branch there about six months ago. Shalmor said the chain refused because the owner of McDonald’s Israel has a policy of staying out of the occupied territories. The decision was not coordinated with McDonald’s headquarters in the U.S., she said. In an email, the headquarters said “our partner in Israel has determined that this particular location is not part of his growth plan.”
The Israeli branch’s owner and franchisee, Omri Padan, is a founder of the dovish group Peace Now, which opposes all settlements and views them as obstacles to peace. The group said Padan is no longer a member.
Turkey’s “standing man” protester, created by performance artist Erdem Gunduz, is a brilliant addition to the iconography of non-violence. It’s not a long list. The image catalogue of aggressive resistance is much longer. It includes the knight errant on his horse, with a lance; the lone rider in the old west; the private eye pacing the mean streets, taking down crime and corruption; the guerrilla fighter in the hills. They all pack weapons. Gunduz had only a backpack and when the cops checked inside, whatever they found was harmless.
Istanbul (CNN) — A man stood silently in Istanbul’s Taksim Square for hours Monday night, defying police who had broken up weekend anti-government protests with tear gas and water cannon and drawing hundreds of others to emulate his vigil.
For more than five hours, he appeared to stare at a portrait of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, on the side of the Ataturk Cultural Center. Police eventually moved in to arrest many of those who had joined him, but it was unclear Tuesday whether Erdem Gunduz — a performance artist quickly dubbed the “standing man” — was in custody.
Turkey has been wracked by more than two weeks of protests against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But many of those who joined Gunduz late Monday said they were standing only for peace, not taking sides.