Thursday, January 15, 2009

President-elect Obama:

Cease Fire Now in Gaza!

It’s Time to End the Violence in the Middle East—Once and for All

Convene an International Middle East Peace Conference to facilitate a lasting and just settlement for all parties.
The world’s attention is focused on the Middle East for a fleeting moment. Let’s seize this opportunity to insist on an end to this struggle in all its dimensions.

A Call for Lasting Peace

President-elect Obama: When you become president, please call for an immediate CEASE-FIRE in GAZA and for an International Peace Conference to implement a fair and lasting solution to all aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The solution must also address the conflict between Israel and other states in the region. The international community must stop the violence and terror against Israeli civilians and against Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. The international community must also stop the hidden but persistent violence of the Occupation itself.

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). b. The withdrawal of Israel from the Golan Heights, and simultaneously the full and unequivocal recognition by Palestinians and the State of Palestine and all surrounding Arab states of Israel’s right to exist. Meanwhile Israel must offer full and equal rights to all of its non-Jewish citizens. Preferential treatment for Jews should exist only with regard to immigration, and that must be phased out when anti-Semitism in the world has disappeared. The same preferential treatment for Palestinians should exist in the Palestinian state as long as they face discrimination, reduced rights, or threats to their safety in other parts of the world. c. The creation of an international consortium to provide generous reparations for Palestinians who have lost homes or property from 1947 to the present, and generous reparations for Jewish refugees from Arab states from 1947 to 1967. d. The deployment of a long-term international peacekeeping force to separate Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon and northern Israel, to ensure demilitarization of the Golan Heights, to protect Israel and Palestine from each other, to police the borders and the corridor that will need to be established linking Gaza with the West Bank, and to protect both Israel and Palestine from other forces in the region that might seek to control or destroy either state. In addition, treaty agreements must be made with the United States and other Western states to protect both Israel and Palestine from any assault by other countries (e.g. Iran, Pakistan, China, or Russia). e. The quick imposition of robust sanctions against any party that refuses to sign or that violates these agreements. It would be in the interests of Israel, the Palestinians, the Arab states, the Jewish people, the United States, and the world if this solution could be imposed on the parties now. It breaks our hearts to see the suffering of the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, the Lebanese people, and others in the region when we know how unnecessary it is. The basic issues can be resolved. No matter how maximalist the fantasies are on each side about eliminating their perceived enemies, and how enticing they seem when people feel powerless in any other way to stop the violence and oppression, the truth is that the majority of the people on all sides of the struggle would embrace peace if they thought it could be established in ways that provided for genuine security from military assault and terrorism for everyone, real justice for Palestinians, and acknowledgment of the wrongs that have been done to each side as a first step in healing the humiliations and huge psychic wounds suffered by Arabs and Jews throughout their histories.

A New Spirit of Openheartedness and Reconciliation

We know that no political solution can work without a change in consciousness that minimally includes an openheartedness and willingness to recognize the humanity of the other, as well as repentance and atonement for the long history of insensitivity and cruelty each side has shown toward the other side. All sides must take immediate steps to stop the discourse of violence. Members of each side must stop the demeaning of the other in their media, their religious institutions, and their school textbooks and educational systems. They should implement this by creating a joint authority with each other and with moral leaders in the international community. The joint authority must be able to supervise and, if necessary, replace those in positions of power in Jewish, Islamic, and Arab societies who continue to use the public institutions of the society 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.

We Affirm the Sacredness of All Human Beings

President Obama, your presidency might well be the last chance we in the advanced industrial societies have to avert international catastrophe (either environmental or nuclear). To do so, our way of dealing with the world must model something else besides brute military might, economic self-interest, and indifference to the well-being of others. If not now, when? It is time to overcome national chauvinism and arrogance. Instead we must build ethical and spiritual solidarity among the people of the world. Our well-being depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet. So we need to build and strengthen those international institutions that can foster this sense of solidarity, which is the necessary foundation for global peace, social and economic justice, and ecological repair of the planet.

A Domestic and Global Marshall Plan—Starting with Israel/Palestine

The self-described “realistic” version of global politics asserts that we live in a world in which our safety can only be achieved through domination because others are always seeking 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 are expressed in horribly destructive ways). For the United States and other G-8 countries, we call for a domestic and global Marshall Plan: for each of the next twenty years, the United States and other G-8 countries should dedicate between 1 percent and 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product to eliminating hunger, homelessness, poverty, inadequate health care, and inadequate education both at home and around the world, to be paid for by a tax on international financial transactions and a reduction in the military budgets of these countries. We’ve developed the details of a domestic and global Marshall Plan at If done in a way that emphasizes caring and solidarity, and not just the money, this strategy of generosity can help heal the angers and feelings of humiliation and abandonment that have been part of the psychological legacy that has made it easier for haters to recruit people into acts of terror or into extremist and fundamentalist consciousness. Just as a domestic Marshall Plan will help build a new sense of solidarity and hope in our country, so a global plan beginning in the Middle East (a plan that you, President Obama, introduce as part of the International Peace Conference) would reduce tensions there, not only by reducing physical suffering, but also by showing the people of the area, as well as people around the world, that selfishness is finally being challenged by a spirit of love and caring.

Israel’s security would be greatly enhanced if the money spent on enforcing an occupation and protecting West Bank settlements went instead toward building a prosperous Palestinian economy. The “cynical realists” claim that others are entrenched in their hatefulness, and that war is the only way to confront them. This kind of thinking has led to 5,000 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 whom we previously designated as “enemies,” we can begin the long process of thawing out angers that have existed for many generations. Precisely at this moment, when our global economic meltdown requires a fundamental rethinking of how we’ve organized our global economy, we can now shift the funds from military spending and other wasteful production toward building a sustainable global reality. You, President Obama, could be the leader who teaches Americans this new way to understand America’s self-interest.

Nothing can redeem the deaths and suffering that all sides have faced in this struggle for the past 120 years. But this very moment could also 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 also to 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. In short, it should have an explicit psychological and spiritual dimension and a visionary agenda.

Unrealistic? Not at all. What has proved unrealistic time and again—whether we are talking about U.S. 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.

Signed by:

Rabbi Michael Lerner, Sister Joan Chittister, and Professor Cornel West, Co-chairs of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP):

Zygmunt Bauman Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak Lawrence Bragman Anne Brown Fritjof Capra Clayborne Carson Nicandro Castaneda Deepak Chopra Howard Cort Peter Coyote Jonathan Demme Ariel Dorfman Richard Falk Peter Gabel Danny Goldberg Rabbi Julie Greenberg Mary Grey Ashawna Hailey Hazel Henderson Robert Inchausti Rabbi David Ingber Rabbi Abie Ingber Mary Ellen Irving Rev. Jeff Johnson Mark C. Johnson Nancy Kass Barbara King Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum Jack Kornfield Rev. Peter Laarman Annie Lamott Rabbi Mordechai Liebling Jaime Longhi Michael Maccoby Everett Mendelson Michael Nagler Murray Polner Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan Matthew Rothschild Denis Rutovitz Saskia Sassen Richard Schwartz Jeffrey Shapiro Rabbi David Shneyer Mark L. Taylor Yi-Fu Tuan Jon Basil Utley Genevieve Vaughan Rabbi Brian Walt Alyn Ware Rabbi Arthur Waskow

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