In his speech to Israel’s Parliament on February 12, Martin Schultz, President of the European Parliament, spoke of our shared responsibility to stand up for freedom and dignity at all times. He acknowledged Israel’s success at realising a dream shared by many people: To live “in freedom and dignity” in “a homeland of their own”, noting that Palestinians also have the right to “self-determination and justice”.(...more)
Monday, 10 March 2014
Saturday, 15 February 2014
Visiting Damascus last week I saw for myself how local and international relief workers are engaged in heroic, dangerous and often life-saving work in Syria. However, the successful evacuation of civilians from some neighbourhoods of Homs will not end the continued provocation against basic human decency that is happening on our watch. Of Syria’s many besieged civilians, 99% are not in Homs. The conflict in Syria has put back the clock on humanitarian progress by decades, and if the UN security council cannot agree on a basic resolution on humanitarian access then the future is even bleaker.(...more)
Thursday, 6 February 2014
NEW YORK (JTA) — On her way out the door to defend the SodaStream company, the suddenly political Scarlett Johannson threw a grenade at her erstwhile cause, the international aid organization Oxfam.
According to her spokesperson, “she and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”
Full stop. The global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which harbors more than a few people who want to put the entire project of a Jewish homeland out of business, is not the issue between Ms. Johannson and Oxfam. SodaStream has its main factory in the occupied territories. The company is contributing to the health and prosperity of the occupation while providing income for the settlement enterprise — an enterprise that is corroding Israeli democracy, deemed “illegitimate” by the American government and considered illegal under international law.(...more)
Sunday, 19 January 2014
The last time a sitting Canadian prime minister set foot in the Middle East, it merited a small item on Page 2 in The Jerusalem Post. “Jean Chrétien arrived at Ben Gurion airport last night,” the report began, before briefly describing Mr. Chrétien’s planned itinerary for the 12-day trip in the spring of 2000.
It was a tour designed to showcase Canada’s scrupulous neutrality in the Middle East – and to perhaps move peace negotiations forward a little, using Canada’s clout as a mediator on the issue of what will become of the millions of Palestinian refugees around the region.
Fourteen years later, the reception could scarcely be more different…(...more)
Tuesday, 24 December 2013
BETHLEHEM, West Bank — A Palestinian college student is one of the last keepers of a fading tradition: ringing the bells of Bethlehem.
Twice a week, Khadir Jaraiseh climbs to the roof of the Church of the Nativity, built over the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born. He pulls the ropes of four bells in a rooftop tower a total of 33 times, the number of years Jesus was believed to have lived…
His rooftop perch offers a view of old stone houses and cobblestone alleys in the center of Bethlehem.
On Sunday, patches of snow were left on rooftops, remnants of a rare storm that hit earlier this month. Much of the church was covered in scaffolding, as part of urgent repairs of a leaking roof — the first facelift in 600 years. Below, Manger Square was filled with tour groups, including visitors from India and Africa.
But the postcard-like vista is disrupted by Israel’s West Bank separation barrier in the background.(...more)
MORE THAN a decade after United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) was adopted, the absence of women from formal peace negotiations has revealed a gap between the aspirations of global and regional commitments and the reality of peace processes.
On July 16 I found myself closely following the appointment of ambassador and former permanent secretary of the foreign ministry, Andreas Mavroyiannis as negotiator by the National Council to resume the task of solving the Cyprus problem.
As I looked at the photographs of the National Council’s meetings covered in the press, I couldn’t help but wonder: where have all the women gone?
There in fifty shades of grey suiting were the representatives of the Cyprus negotiations team appointed for the peace talks. The number of men photographed at the discussion table: 20; the number of women: 0.(...more)
Friday, 13 December 2013
Aglow in an incandescent white sheen, the Old City became perhaps the most unlikely and historic playground in the world on Thursday, uniting Arab and Jewish children and adults of all streams with a shared sense of awe and adventure.(...more)
Monday, 4 November 2013
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.(...more)
Saturday, 5 October 2013
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.(...more)
Tuesday, 1 October 2013
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…)
Wednesday, 11 September 2013
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.(...more)
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
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.(...more)
Thursday, 5 September 2013
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.
Setting aside the possibility that cases like Bosnia and Kosovo are not great examples of intervention success, there is certainly some persuasive evidence that military interventions can work. The cumulative research from people like Page Fortna, Barb Walter, and Michael Doyle & Nicholas Sambanis suggests there are some important qualifications to this…(...more)
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
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.
Friday, 30 August 2013
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.
“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.(...more)
The Syria conflict has already destabilised neighbouring countries and there is a genuine fear that Western strikes against the regime could engulf the region in even more violence.(...more)
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.(...more)
Wednesday, 28 August 2013
ICC: Could the Security Council Refer Only Assad’s Use of Chemical Weapons? | Kevin Jon Heller, Opinio Juris
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…(...more)
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?(...more)