If Israel Won’t Come to Helsinki, Helsinki Will Come to Israel

December 17, 2013

–by Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director, New Jersey Peace Action

On December 5th, 6th and 7th, over 100 delegates from at least 14 countries gathered first in Haifa and then in the Israeli-occupied West Bank town of Ramallah, for an historic international conference on creating a nuclear weapons free, weapons of mass destruction free Middle East. According to the organizers, this was the first such conference ever to be held in Israel.

The conference was held in Israel because an official United Nations (U.N.) sponsored conference on the topic, agreed upon by all delegates at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference of 2010 in New York City and scheduled to be held in Helsinki, Finland in December 2012 never happened. The U.S. and Israel scuttled the conference at the last minute claiming that the timing for this conference was off due to there being “too much tension in the Middle East.”

Undaunted, an alternative conference was organized in Helsinki in December 2012 by representatives of some international NGOs. Issam Makhoul, a former MP in the Israeli Knesset and one of the primary organizers of the Haifa Conference said at that conference of NGOs, If Israel wont come to Helsinki, Helsinki will come to Israel.

The International Conference in Haifa and Ramallah was the result of that pledge.

Delegates to the conference came from Israel, Palestine, Belgium, France, Senegal, the Congo, Germany, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Japan and the United States. There were also 4 current members of the Israeli Knesset and 4 former members of the Israeli Knesset in attendance, joined by elected officials from progressive political parties in Europe. Sharon Dolev, Director of the Israeli Anti-Nuclear Movement, was featured on a couple of panels, including one titled Civil Society and the Anti-Nuclear Movement, moderated by Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation,

Mr. Tadadoshi Akiba, former mayor of Hiroshima and a founding member of Mayors for Peace, now with approximately 6000 members, provided much of the context for why it is so important for the world to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons during the lifetimes of the Hibakusha, Japanese survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The average age of Hibakusha today is 78, so if the world is to help them to achieve their dream of a nuclear weapons free world in their lifetimes, the time is short! The current mayor of Haifa, Mr. Yona Yahav, pledged that he would join Mayors for Peace.

Madelyn Hoffman, New Jersey Peace Action’s (NJPA’s) Executive Director, attended on behalf of both NJPA and Peace Action, the nation’s largest grass roots disarmament organization, founded in 1957. She brought with her Peace Action’s 56 year commitment to reducing and ultimately eliminating all nuclear weapons and a desire to move toward a genuine and lasting peace in the Middle East by supporting the Israeli movement for disarmament. That movement is urging that Israel first abandon its decades-long policy of “nuclear ambiguity” and acknowledge its nuclear arsenal, then join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, both important first steps toward nuclear disarmament.

The conference took place just days after a negotiated agreement was reached with Iran at a conference in Geneva. That agreement exchanged yet another assurance from Iran that it would not develop nuclear weapons and never had any intentions of doing so for a modest easing of sanctions against the country. While there are serious concerns about the way in which the agreement was reached and the inability of more conservative members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to give up their desire for war and increased sanctions on Iran, the fact remains that, if upheld, Iran and the West reached an agreement around nuclear weapons development through diplomacy and thankfully, war was averted, at least temporarily.

The conference also took place a few months after a U.S. military strike against Syria was averted through tremendous public opposition in the U.S. and another successful diplomatic agreement, this one brokered by Russia and requiring Syria to destroy its chemical weapons. Again, whether or not one agrees with negotiating such agreements first by threatening war, the fact remains that war was avoided by high level diplomacy.

Given both of these important agreements, conference participants believe that any remaining ability for Israel to rightly claim an existential threat seems to have been eliminated. Participants in the conference also stressed that a turning point seems to have been reached – one in which an important choice needs to be made about what’s next for the Middle East. Now the dilemma exists: should all states in the Middle East have nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction or should no state? Conference participants opted for the latter. Anything else, they argued, would simply allow the sole nuclear power in the region to use the threat of nuclear war to increase its dominance in the region, rather than to work toward achievement of genuine peace with its neighbors.

Israeli participants in the conference used the conference to launch plans for the creation of an Israel-based coalition to address issues of nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Some of their demands in regard to the state of Israel are for determined and persistent activity to achieve a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and all WMD; constructive, good faith participation in the Helsinki Conference whenever it is rescheduled; accession to and ratification of all treaties and instruments related to nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction; cessation and prohibition of acquisition, production, stockpiling, threatening or using nuclear weapons; and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as part of a just and peaceful solution to the conflict.

Of course, the Middle East isn’t the only region in the world that needs to disarm, but a nuclear weapons free/weapons of mass destruction free Middle East would be a good start and a good model, for countries like India/Pakistan, Russia, Great Britain, China, France and the United States. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty requires that nuclear disarmament be the ultimate goal of the nuclear states and that no nuclear weapons possessing nation adopt or follow policies that will lead to a new nuclear arms race.

The conference program in Ramallah focused at length on Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, located in the Negev, about 13 kilometers south of Dimona. At age 50, the nuclear reactor has not been inspected by the international community for a very long time. After hearing lengthy and detailed presentations of anecdotal evidence from Palestinian doctors about the potential health impacts of the operations of the Dimona reactor on nearby residents and the surrounding environment, conference attendees asked that Israel subject all nuclear facilities to International Energy Agency safeguards, monitoring and verification, similar to what Iran must do; move toward closure, decommissioning, containment and remediation of the Dimona nuclear facility; and achieve full public disclosure of radioactive and toxic contamination by the Dimona facilities of the air, soil and ground water.

If participants in the three-day conference pledge to do whatever they can to adopt and promote the preliminary goals reflected above, much progress will have been achieved. For some of us from the United States, it was important to be introduced to the grass roots movement for nuclear disarmament in Israel. It is also useful to remember that there will be a PrepCom in May 2014 for the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Our disarmament friends from Israel and from around the world will be in New York at that time. It will be good to make the most of that opportunity to let people here in the U.S. know just how widespread is the movement for nuclear disarmament and how peaceful negotiations can lead us closer to that goal.

Photos below by Madelyn Hoffman – Top photo, the first panel at the conference, from left to right: Former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Avraham Burg; Dr. Emily Landau, Senior Research Associate,Institute for National Security Studies; Professor Tadatoshi Akiba, former Mayor of Hiroshima and President of “Mayors for Peace”; Issam Makhoul, Former M.K. (member of the Knesset) and Chairman of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies. Bottom photo, Sharon Dolev, the director of the Israel Disarmament Organization and Madelyn Hoffman.

firstpanelhaifa sharonandmh


Wouldn’t it just be easier to change our foreign policy? (We could leave our shoes on at the airport!)

July 18, 2013

Published on Thursday, July 18, 2013 by Common Dreams

Wouldn’t It Just Be Easier to Change Our Foreign Policy?

by Kevin Martin

A passenger removes their shoes before passing through the passenger security checkpoint at John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 8 on Oct. 22, 2010 in New York City. (Michael Nagle/Getty)

I hate having to take off my shoes to go through airport security, don’t you? It’s really annoying, time-consuming and embarrassing (if you are like me and have holes in a large percentage of your socks).

Then there’s the National Security Agency (NSA), doing its typical skullduggery, spying on everyone’s phone calls, emails, FaceBook posts and other online activity. Our tax dollars pay them to do this to us, supposedly to make us safer, but I don’t feel safer, I feel violated and disgusted, how about you? And the alleged trade-off between privacy and security was concocted by forces that want us to have less of both.

Wouldn’t it just be easier to change our foreign policy?

Think about it. We take off our shoes at the airport as part of the mostly palliative exercise in making our commercial aviation system safer from individuals and organizations that want to do us harm (you know, the “terrorists”). I mean no slight to the good folks at TSA, who are certainly sincere in trying to do their jobs to make flying safer.

Like you, I’m sure, I don’t think anything justifies trying to blow up an airplane, with a shoe bomb or any other device, nor do I in any way support violent political acts against civilians (“terrorism”).

However, recent U.S. wars and other controversial military and foreign policies have undoubtedly earned us enmity from people all over the world, especially in Middle Eastern and predominantly Muslim countries.

Blank check support for Israel’s illegal, endless occupation of Palestinian land and oppression of its people. Political, diplomatic, military and financial support for despotic governments when it’s perceived to be in U.S. “strategic interests.” Over 1,000 military bases around the globe. Our invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps these and other manifestations of our imperial foreign policy don’t endear us to the rest of the world?

Our tax dollars fund all of this, as well as our massive nuclear weapons arsenal, aircraft carrier battle groups, tank squadrons, countless exorbitant war planes, pilotless drone aircraft that rain death from the skies (often on innocent, unsuspecting civilians), spy and command and control satellites and other weapons systems and methods of unparalleled global power projection, to the tune of well over $1 trillion per year for the entire “national security” budget. (Last year, the Pentagon budget was equal to the total military spending of the next 11 countries combined, down from 15 countries in 2011, so I guess that’s progress!)

Adopting more modest, peaceful and just foreign and military policies, based on a real commitment (not the usual lip service) to widely held values — human rights, democracy, justice, international cooperation and sustainability — would serve the interests of the American people, and would make us safer. It would also save a lot of money, which could be invested in more life-affirming priorities like education, affordable housing and rebuilding the economy (as military spending creates fewer jobs and stimulates less economic activity than investments in any other sector of the economy). Also, we could help fund multi-lateral efforts to address global problems which cannot be addressed by one country alone…the climate crisis, access to clean water and nutritious, sustainably produced food, quality education and universal health care for all.

And it would lessen the supposed need to spy on Americans, which is unacceptable under any circumstances, but can only be sold with endless fear mongering about terrorism. So it’s a win-win-win, except for the corporations that profit from weapons, war and global violence.

Here’s an added benefit – people around the world would hate and fear us less, though it might take awhile for them to love us more.

And we could leave our shoes on at the airport, while making calls and sending texts not being monitored by the NSA. Doesn’t that sound good?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Kevin Martin

Kevin Martin is Executive Director of Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 100,000 members and over 70,000 on-line supporters.


Egyptian coup should trigger broad re-examination of U.S. militarization of the Middle East

July 17, 2013

Op-ed published today by The Hill, an influential, widely read Capitol Hill publication

by Kevin Martin and Josh Ruebner

The Obama administration has engaged in astounding linguistic jiu-jitsu to avoid calling the Egyptian military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi what it most obviously is: a coup. The president refuses to dub Morsi’s overthrow a coup because doing so would automatically trigger a suspension of all U.S. foreign aid to Egypt, according to the Foreign Assistance Act. Cutting off weapons transfers to Egypt, which, at $1.3 billion per year is the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid behind Israel, would, in turn, crimp U.S. efforts to further inundate the Middle East with weapons. To underscore the Obama’s administration’s contempt for this law, the Pentagon delivered four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt just days after its military placed Morsi under house arrest. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, President Lyndon Johnson wisely warned that “this last conflict has demonstrated the danger of the Middle Eastern arms race of the last 12 years. Here the responsibility must rest not only on those in the area – but upon the larger states outside the area…We have always opposed this arms race, and our own military shipments to the area have consequently been severely limited.” Yet, both he and his successors threw this caution to the wind, giving Israel and Egypt alone more than $100 billion in military grants and loans since then. While most of this money has been appropriated ostensibly to undergird the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, in fact it has directly impeded democracy in Egypt and especially freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinians.

Not only is the Obama administration clearly ignoring the law by keeping open the spigot of weapons to Egypt in the aftermath of the military’s coup; it also turns a blind eye to the law by providing Israel $3.1 billion in military aid per year, despite the fact that Israel clearly violates the Arms Export Control Act by using U.S. weapons not for “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense,” but to perpetuate its 46-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip and to commit gross and systematic human rights abuses against Palestinians, such as the injuring and killing of civilians, the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the illegal colonization of Palestinian land.

The problems, of course, go beyond U.S. military aid and weapons transfers to Israel and Egypt. The Middle East is one of the most heavily armed parts of the planet, which exacerbates the region’s conflicts. The United States is the top arms peddler to the world, and to the region, and thus is in the best position to exert leadership to reduce, or perhaps even establish a moratorium on, weapons transfers to the Middle East as did President Harry Truman in the 1950 Tripartite Declaration.

Instead, the Obama Administration, advancing what it perceives to be U.S. strategic interests (but in reality are the interests of the weapons corporations which pour tens of millions of dollars into lobbying and campaign contributions each year) has sharply increased U.S. weapons transfers the last two years. In 2011 the United States set a record with over $66 billion in arms deals (over three-quarters of the global total), according to the Congressional Research Service, with huge sales of sophisticated armaments to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman driving a tripling of U.S. weapons transfers from 2010 figures.

There are other urgent reasons and opportunities to work to de-militarize the region. Concerns over possible chemical weapons use in Syria, Israel’s nuclear arsenal estimated at between 75 and 400 warheads, and possible future Iranian development of nuclear weapons underscore the need to establish a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone (first proposed by Iran and Egypt in the late 1960s and reaffirmed by the UN resolution officially ending the first Iraq war in 1991, and by the 2005 and 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conferences).

Finland agreed to host a conference last year on such a zone, but the conference was postponed, hopefully to be convened this year. The United States has a key role to play in the success of such a conference, as one of the official conveners and as Israel’s benefactor, as surely it will have to lean on Israel to get it to participate in good faith. Ridding the region of unconventional weapons won’t be easy, but could hardly be more urgent, as the use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction could devastate not only the peoples of the region, but possibly the global economy and environment.

While the current situation in Egypt justifiably holds the world’s attention, we should not miss the opportunity to ease tensions and act in the broader interests of peace for all the peoples of the region. Stopping the torrential flood of weapons into the Middle East would be a great place to start.

 

Martin is executive director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund. Ruebner is National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/311451-egyptian-coup-should-trigger-broad-re-examination-of-us-militarization-of-middle-east#ixzz2ZKmiwCYp
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Tax Day and The Pentagon. Op-Ed on Common Dreams

April 15, 2013

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/14-1

Published on Sunday, April 14, 2013 by Common Dreams

Tax Day and the Pentagon

by Kevin Martin

This month, as budget and policy issues in Washington muddle along inconclusively as usual, grassroots peace activists are busy organizing, educating, protesting and lobbying.

Last weekend, Historians Against the War hosted an ambitious, illuminating conference at Towson University north of Baltimore on “The New Faces of War” with speakers and participants examining rapidly-changing foreign and domestic policies.

Anti-Nuclear activists will converge on Washington next week for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s D.C. Days, for strategizing, training and lobbying on nuclear weapons, power, waste and cleanup issues.

Around the country, peace and social justice organizers will convene local actions on Tax Day, April 15, to educate taxpayers on the country’s skewed budget priorities that favor the Pentagon over human and environmental needs. This year, April 15 is also the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, with activities around the world and in over 30 U.S. states drawing attention to the world’s addiction to militarism and exorbitant “defense” budgets. If you can’t organize or attend a Tax Day event, you can still join our Thunderclap “It’s Our Tax Day, Not Theirs” online social media action.

The prestigious, independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) will release its annual report on world military expenditures on Monday, which will show the United States continues to spend over 40% of the world’s $1.7 trillion annually allocated to weapons and war. Randy Schutt of Cleveland Peace Action put together an impressive article titled Our Tax Dollars are off the War – 2013 edition on Daily Kos with charts, graphs and citations comparing U.S. military spending to the rest of the world, and to domestic spending, which serves as a nice complement to the upcoming SIPRI report.

Lastly, an impressive national coalition has come together to organize days of action throughout the month to stop U.S. drone warfare.

All these actions focus on crucial issues, and they come at a time when there is hope not just to impact those specific policies, but when a confluence of events give us an opportunity not seen in at least a decade to fundamentally question the mission and role of the U.S. military in both domestic and foreign policy.

In short, it’s time for the Pentagon to stop weaving all over the road, to get back in its lane, and to stay there.

On domestic policy, the most obvious issue is the metastasis of the Pentagon budget, which has doubled since 9/11. The total “national security budget,” which includes not just the Pentagon but also intelligence agencies, Department of Homeland Security and nuclear weapons spending under the Department of Energy is over $1 trillion per year. Globally, the U.S. accounts for about 43% of total military spending, and more than the next 13 countries (most of which are U.S. allies) combined. The opportunity cost of this Pentagon pig-out is investment in the things we really need to make our country more secure – improved education, health care, jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure and addressing climate change.

While not necessarily the fault of the Pentagon, a creeping militarization of social policy, as seen in policing, prisons, the “war on drugs” and immigration, among other areas, is cause for grave concern and corrective action.

Constitutionally, the arrogation of power by the Obama Administration to assassinate anyone, anywhere on the planet, anytime it wants to by drones or other weapons with little or no congressional or judicial oversight can hardly be what the president ran on as “change you can believe in.”

(The president’s home state senator and former colleague, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, plans a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing later this month to address this issue, including the Administration’s assertion of the Authorization of the Use of Military Force after 9/11 as the legal justification for drone strikes in countries with which we are not at war.)

Militarization of U.S. foreign policy has been a bipartisan project since at least the end of World War II. And perhaps that’s not surprising for a country founded on and consolidated by the extreme violence of the genocide of the First Americans and imposition of slavery on Africans brought here in chains.

Quick, name the last real diplomatic success by the United States. Anything really significant since Carter’s Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel? That was in 1978 (and of course Palestine is still waiting for justice while Israel gets over $3 billion in U.S. military aid annually).

Look at U.S. foreign policy under our current Nobel Peace Prize laureate president. It’s less obviously and ham-handedly belligerent than Bush’s, okay. But in addition to ongoing drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, he says “all options are on the table” with regard to Iran’s nuclear program, when even military leaders themselves say there is no military solution, only a diplomatic one. The U.S. and South Korea evidently think putting out the fire with gasoline is the right approach to North Korea’s nuclear test and recent threats, evidenced by ongoing war games, simulated nuclear attacks on the North using B-2 and B-52 bombers, and rushing F-22 fighter jets to South Korea to beef up the already robust U.S. military presence in the region as part of the “Asia-Pacific Pivot” aimed at isolating our main banker, China. And last but not least, despite voting for the Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations this week, the U.S. remains the world’s number one exporter of conventional weapons.

Certainly the tens of millions of dollars annually spent on lobbying and campaign contributions by the largest war profiteers — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon and others — have a toxic effect on our national priorities. It’s doubly galling, in that their profits come almost entirely from military contracts paid for by our tax dollars, which they then use to impact legislation and elections to benefit their interests, to the detriment of those of the taxpaying public.

It is not necessary to pinpoint cause and effect on this state of affairs, where Pentagon interests and macho militarist approaches seemingly run roughshod over everything else, to declare that it is wrong, and needs to be changed. And there is no blame, only respect, for those serving in the military, who need the very best care we can provide as they return home from our misguided wars and far-flung military bases abroad (over 800 of them!).

So what is the mission of the U.S. military supposed to be? According to United States law, it is “Preserving the peace and security and providing for the defense of the United States, the Commonwealths and possessions and any areas occupied by the United States; Supporting the national policies; Implementing the national objectives; Overcoming any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States.”

I see nothing there about “full-spectrum dominance” of the rest of the world, as the Pentagon’s joint Vision 20/20 doctrine released in 2000 advocates, and which has seemingly become the military’s de facto mission.

Regardless of what anyone in the military says its mission is, they work for us, the taxpayers that provide their salaries and buy their weapons. So we can overrule them and force the Pentagon to reduce its role and get back in its lane.

It shouldn’t be hard to see how we can get the Pentagon back in its lane, and let more peaceful, just and sustainable priorities prevail in our domestic and foreign policies. Slash the Pentagon budget by at least 25%, and invest those savings in human and environmental needs in order to jump start our economy. Let diplomacy take precedence in foreign policy over military threats and false solutions. I suspect many people, even in the military hierarchy, might welcome such a reduced role in U.S. policy, and in the world. It must be tiring driving all over the road. Staying in one’s own lane can have its advantages.

Kevin Martin is Executive Director of Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 100,000 members and over 70,000 on-line supporters.

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Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99%

December 18, 2012

published by Foreign Policy in Focus

Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99 Percent

By Kevin Martin, December 18, 2012

Relief, rather than elation, was probably the emotion most U.S. peace activists felt when President Barack Obama won re-election. While Obama has been very disappointing on most peace issues, Mitt Romney would have been all the worse. So what now to expect from a second Obama term?

Most likely, more of the same; anyone expecting Obama to be decidedly more pro-peace this time around is likely to be sorely dispirited. However, there is a diverse, growing peoples’ movement in the United States linking human and environmental needs with a demand to end our wars and liberate the vast resources they consume. This, combined with budgetary pressures that should dictate at least modest cuts in the gargantuan Pentagon budget, could lead to serious constraints on new militaristic ventures such as an attack on Iran, “modernization” of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise at a cost of over $200 billion, a permanent U.S. force of up to 25,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, or an absurd military “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific aimed at isolating Russia and especially China.

We in the peace movement need to be able to think, and act, with both a short- and long-term perspective. In the near term, swiftly ending the war in Afghanistan and ensuring no long-term U.S./NATO troop presence, stopping drone strikes, preventing a war with Iran and building support for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, pushing for serious cuts to the Pentagon budget, and advocating progress toward nuclear disarmament will consume most of our energies. Renewed emphasis on a just and lasting peace between Palestine and Israel should also garner more attention and activism. Finally, peace activists will need to lend solidarity those working to save social programs from austerity-minded elites and to address climate chaos.

In the longer term, we need to hasten what Professor Johann Galtung calls “The Decline of the U.S. Empire and the Flowering of the U.S. Republic.” We have an opportunity in opposing the outrageous “Asia-Pacific Pivot,” which the military-industrial complex has concocted without asking the American people if we support it or want to continue borrowing from China to pay for it (too weird, right?). We can point out the insanity of this policy, but we can also devise a better alternative, including building solidarity with the peoples of Okinawa, Jeju Island, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and other nations in the region opposing the spread of U.S. militarism and advocating peaceful relations with China.

Defining the Democratic Deficit

This pivot is just the latest example of the fundamentally undemocratic nature of U.S. foreign policy.

The more we in the peace movement can point out that our tax dollars fund policies contrary to our interests, the easier it will be not just to build specific campaigns for more peaceful and just policies, but also to create a new vision for our country’s role in the world—to create a new foreign policy for the 99 percent.

So we peace activists need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We need to offer credible, sustainable alternatives on the issues listed above, with specific actions ordinary people can take that make a difference. But we must go further and advocate a foreign and military policy that is in the interest of the majority of this country, one that comports with widely shared ideals of democracy, justice, human rights, international cooperation, and sustainability.

It’s no news flash that elite and corporate interests have long dominated U.S. foreign policy. Illustrating this democratic deficit has two related aspects. The first is the question of access: “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” Currently, although it technically foots the bill, Congress—let alone the public—has barely any say in how U.S. foreign policy is set or implemented. On a second and integrally related note, in whose interest is it to perpetuate a gargantuan military budget, maintain a vast and expensive nuclear arsenal, or start an arms race with our banker, China? It’s hard to imagine that any ordinary person could conclude these policies serve anyone but the 1 percent.

Notions of justice and human rights are widely resonant in the United States, but they require careful consideration and explanation. “Justice” should not be invoked simply as it concerns parties to a conflict, but rather should entail racial, social, and economic fairness for all those who are affected by the grinding military machine. Emphasizing the broader social consequences of militarism will be key for growing our ranks, especially among people of color, community activists, and human needs groups. And while “human rights” is a no-brainer, it requires courage and commitment to communicate how U.S. foreign policy constantly contradicts this ideal abroad, even as our government selectively preaches to other countries on the subject.

International cooperation, while it can seem vague or milquetoast—especially given the neglect or outright stifling of “global governance” structures by the United States—is a highly shared value among people in this country and around the world. Selling cooperation as a meaningful value is fundamentally important for undermining the myth of American exceptionalism, which so many politicians peddle to sell policies that only harm our country in the long run.

Finally, while the environmental movement still has loads of work to do, the successful promulgation of the concept of sustainability is an important achievement, one we can easily adapt to military spending, the overall economy, and a longer-term view of what kind of foreign policy would be sustainable and in the interest of the 99 percent. Climate activists and peace activists need to know that they have a vital stake in each other’s work.

A glimpse of the power of democracy was in evidence on Election Day, and not just in the legalization of gay marriage and recreational marijuana in a few states. When given a choice, as in referenda in Massachusetts and New Haven, Connecticut advocating slashing military spending and funding human needs, people will choose the right policies and priorities; both initiatives won overwhelmingly.

Contrary to the hopes many people in this country and around the world invested in Barack Obama (which he didn’t deserve and frankly he never asked for), it’s never been about him. It’s about the entrenched power of the U.S. war machine, and about how we the peoples of this country and around the world can work together to create more peaceful, just, and sustainable policies. We can do it; in fact we have no choice but to do it.

Kevin Martin has served as Executive Director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund since September 4, 2001, and has worked with the organization in various capacities since 1985. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 90,000 members nationwide.

Recommended Citation:

Kevin Martin, “Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99 Percent” (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, December 18, 2012)


Could You Live Like This?

February 20, 2009

The Israel Lobby Video Documentary – VPRO

For many years now the American foreign policy has been characterized by the strong tie between the United States and Israel. Does the United States in fact keep Israel on its feet? And how long will it continue to do so? In March 2006 the American political scientists John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Steve Walt (Harvard) published the controversial article ‘The Israel Lobby and US foreign policy’. In it they state that it is not, or no longer, expedient for the US to support and protect present-day Israel.

The documentary sheds light on both parties involved in the discussion: those who wish to maintain the strong tie between the US and Israel, and those who were critical of it and not infrequently became ‘victims’ of the lobby. The question arises to what extend the pro-Israel lobby ultimately determines the military and political importance of Israel itself. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (Colin Powell’s former chief-of-staff) explains how the lobby’s influence affects the decision-making structure in the White House. With political scientist John Mearsheimer, neocon Richard Perle, lobby organization AIPAC, televangelist John Hagee, historian Tony Judt, Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth, colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Democrat Earl Hilliard, Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy and investigative journalist Michael Massing.

Research: William de Bruijn
Director: Marije Meerman

http://www.vpro.nl/programma/tegenlicht/afleveringen/34338524/


War Toll

January 8, 2009

Those who died in Iraq from Dec 28 to Jan 3:

Spc Tony Gonzalez  20  Newman CA

Pvt Christopher Lotter  20  Chester Heights PA

Pvt Benjamin Tollefson  22  Concord CA

13 were seriously wounded and maimed.

3 were returned to occupation.

106 Iraqi sisters and brothers were killed.

In Afghanistan were killed:

Cpl Alberto Francisconi  21  Bronx NY

Sgt Chris Reed  25  England

Cpl Liam Elms  26  England

Over 600 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 15 Israelis.

Cf: http://www.icasualties .org


From Gush Shalom

January 7, 2009

Photo Galleries

Arab-Jewish Protest in Jaffa 07/01/2009
MASSIVE DEMONSTRATION AGAINST THE WAR 03/01/2009
“The War Belongs to Olmert – The Victims Belong to Us!” 27/12/2008
PUT ON THE LIGHT! CUT OFF THE BLOCKADE! 19/11/2008
Mahmoud Darwish funeral 15/08/2008
HOW MANY CHILDREN MURDERED? – A demonstration against Barak 31/07/2008
Stop the blockade on Gaza – demonstration in Herzeliya 16/06/2008
THE VISIT OF THE TWO PROFESSORS: AN ASTONISHING SUCCESS 15/06/2008
41st anniversary of the occupation 08/06/2008
Medicines for Gaza instead of killing and blockade 05/05/2008

Palestinian Exodus into Egypt

January 5, 2009

How ironic…some believe god delivered the Jews from Egypt thousands of years ago, today it seems she has delivered the Palestinians to Egypt. In either case – it is a joke to say such carnage has anything to do with god. In both cases – god is what is missing.


Carnage in Gaza

January 5, 2009

The fighting between Hamas and Israel cannot be tolerated by any person who believes in peace. Violence is never an answer for our worldly ills. However, the extent of the horrific impact Israeli air attacks cannot be overestimated. It is truly horrific. Here is a post from a Peace Action Board member in Palestine right now. He writes from a war zone to inform us how we can be part of a peaceful resolution. The video link provided in his account is graphic; please prepare before hitting play.

Dear friends:

Israeli leaders intensified their blitzkrieg following intensive aerial “shock and awe” that killed hundreds of civilians. This was intended to subdue not only the 1.5 million impoverished and starved Palestinian but the larger human community around the world and reengineer the political map. After nine days, it is worth taking time to do some analysis in the middle of constant events (demonstrations, vigils, interviews with media). Those of you occupied doing actions for Palestine may not have time to read this while others have specifically asked for it. To make it easy for all, let me start with conclusions and then explain to those who want to read on:

a) when this aggression ends (and it will), Israeli army and leaders will not emerge victorious,

b) the political map will indeed change but not in the ways that Israeli leaders, US leaders, or even some Arab leaders predicted or planned,

c) we Palestinians have an opportunity to make sure that the sparks of unity already in the air turn to a fire of unity that will change the power structure in the Middle East in a way that will really bring justice to Palestine and defeat political Zionism and its collaborators and benefactors but only if we recognize our mistakes as individuals and political factions (including Hamas, Fatah, PFLP, DFLP, etc).

To be honest with ourselves, we must recognize that what Israel counted on materialized in a few cases: ineptness of the UN security council under threat of a US veto (itself under threat of the Zionist lobby), ineptness of the Arab league, the collaboration of many Arab governments, the apathy of large segments of the Israeli public, predicted local attempts to contain the anger in the street (from Cairo to Ramallah to Baghdad etc), and success of Israeli and Zionist forces and well financed propaganda not only in preventing reporting from the ground in Gaza but in controlling the message in much of the supine western media. Some of these initial predictables are beginning to crack after 9 days of massacres that could not be hidden. But there were other more significant failures of the Israeli blitzkrieg.

Let us review these:

1) Gaza resistance and steadfastness comes as number one surprise for the planners. Despite the massacres, it is amazing to watch the spirit. Just one image of a child no more than 10 year old with an open large wound in his belly exposing his intestines but he does not scream, does not yell.. he is talking (obvious pain only in his eyes and facial expression but with no tears), maybe just anger and a question mark to the camera directed at the world. That is Gaza today. In other images women calling not slogans against the occupiers and the war criminals bombing them from the sky but calls to the Arab and Islamic people “WaMu3tasima” (call of anguish, call for aid that goes to the history of the requirement of Muslims and Arabs to aid those who are in need).

2) Massive popular solidarity with Gaza inside 1948 Palestine (current state of Israel), including thousands demonstrating in Tel Aviv, and over 100,000 demonstrating in Sakhnin (Palestinian citizens of Israel).

3) Massive demonstrations in the West Bank that included clashes with Israeli forces despite attempts by Palestinian police to intervene. Just in the Bethlehem area, we have had at least two events (vigils or demonstrations) daily since the start of the blitzkrieg.

4) Massive demonstrations in the Arab world even when these demonstrations were banned, demonstrators beaten or arrested by governments beholden to fake peace treaties that do not protect rights or dignities of the people. Demonstrators demanded cutting all diplomatic and economic ties with Israel and a real unity and solidarity.

5) Massive demonstrations in thousands of locations in the rest of the word that really could not be ignored even when Zionist editors tried to minimize their impact.

6) Massive pouring of material support for Gaza (for example a campaign in Saudi Arabia collected 32 million just in the first 48 hours).

7) The presence of the internet and the failure of Israel to break all access of reporting and communication with Gaza. Millions of people are now learning firsthand what is going on (your receiving this email with its links is just one of the examples).

It might be too simplistic to say that rational human beings draw rational conclusions and that tribal/emotional human beings go down the path of irrational behaviors. Some claim to look pragmatically at things and yet draw the conclusion that it is inevitable that Palestine will be vanquished in favor of the Zionist Jewish state of Israel. Hence we are asked to accept the Bantustan called a state on 9% of historic Palestine AND without sovereignty. They remind us that of Hegel’s words that “what we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history”.

As Palestinians we must also say “mea culpa” and take some responsibility for the state of affairs. We Arabs and Palestinians have been the victims of western imperial and Zionist designs and colonization for 100 years. Yes, most of our problems could be directly connected to that. But yes also, some of our “leaders” have been less than desirable to say it charitably (this applies to other Arabs). And our leaders do originate from among us so we must work on that. But we must be clear that our societal weaknesses do not justify or excuse the slaughter or ethnic cleansing of our people. In 1948 we did not have good leaders because they were all massacred and exiled in the 1936-1939 uprising but even if we did, this does not justify our ethnic cleansing or dispossession at the hand of Zionists who had well-organized and strong leadership (Ben Gurion). The slaughter of the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII similarly cannot be said to be justified by weak Jewish leadership and strong Nazi leadership. History is not kind to aggressors and in this case history will be written differently. An army that shells a market place causing this kind of destruction will not be successful at surviving any more than any other fascist army in history (see the graphic video of the minutes after the Israeli attack on the marketplace in Gaza at: http://muslimtv.magnify.net/video/ISRAEL-CARNAGE-CIVILIANS-CHILDR ).

Need we be reminded of the terrorist actions of Zionist groups like the Hagannah, the Irgun, and Stern (all forerunners of the current Israeli terrorist army). Over 2000 attacks on Palestinian civilians killing over 15,000 occurred before Israel was declared a state. In the six weeks that preceded declaring Israel a state, 33 massacres were committed by the prestate Jewish forces including the famous massacres of Tantura and Deir Yassin.

Over half the Palestinian refugees (and thus half the 530 Palestinian villages and towns ethnically cleansed) were driven out before May 14, 1948 (Israel’s founding). After that date, with far more superior in arms and manpower than any opposing force (largely haphazard formations of Arab forces that came in to stop the ethnic cleansing), the nascent state proceeded to expand its territory beyond what was recommended in the partition resolution of the UN general assembly. In so doing, once the cease fire was declared instead of Palestine we had a state of Israel on 78% of Palestine and a collaborationist Jordanian regime occupied the 19% leaving a small sliver controlled by Egypt called the Gaza strip. In that strip, the refugees from over 150 towns and villages ethnically cleansed were squeezed. Israel of course expanded more by occupying the remainder of Palestine in 1967. With population growth, the Gaza desert ghetto became home to 1.5 million

The late Professor Edward Said wrote about Gaza in August, 2002:

“Every Palestinian has become a prisoner. Gaza is surrounded by an electrified fence on three sides: imprisoned like animals, Gazans are unable to move, unable to work, unable to sell their vegetables or fruit, unable to go to school. They are exposed from the air to Israeli planes and helicopters and are gunned down like turkeys on the ground by tanks and machine guns. Impoverished and starved, Gaza is a human nightmare. Hope has been eliminated from the Palestinian vocabulary so that only raw defiance remains. Palestinians must die a slow death so that Israel can have its security, which is just around the corner but cannot be realized because of the special Israeli “insecurity.” The whole world must sympathize, while the cries of Palestinian orphans, sick old women, bereaved communities, and tortured prisoners simply go unheard and unrecorded. Doubtless, we will be told, these horrors serve a larger purpose than mere sadistic cruelty. After all, “the two sides” are engaged in a “cycle of violence” that has to be stopped, sometime, somewhere. Once in a while we ought to pause and declare indignantly that there is only one side with an army and a country: the other is a stateless dispossessed population of people without rights or any present way of securing them. The language of suffering and concrete daily life has been either hijacked or so perverted as, in my opinion, to be useless except as pure fiction deployed as a screen for the purpose of more killing and painstaking torture – slowly, fastidiously, and inexorably. That is the truth of what Palestinians suffer.”

Things have become much more difficult six years later. Gazans I talked to say direct and quick death by sophisticated weapons has now become just another alternative to the slower death by starvation but they all want to live in freedom and will not succumb to terrorism anymore. Why would people who are not facing these horrible choices stand and watch and imagine negotiating with such an “army with a state” (as an Israeli leader called Israel)?

The aggression as in basic laws of physics will generate reactions. Did we not see that over the years Palestinians and Arabs learned how to fight better? When I use the term to fight I do not just mean the violent resistance (with its various forms, some forms that individuals may not agree with) but all forms of nonviolent resistance and methods of wars (such as the media wars, the wars of ideas etc).

But could we do better? Could we learn to fight better in the media arena? After working over 15 years in the Western media I ask myself why we cannot do better. Why is it that during the critical periods of the latest uprising we had a PLO representative in Washington who was not the best communicator (or at least had good communication team who would write his talking points)? Why do we not use Palestinians of very high caliber in communication (people like Hanan Ashrawi and Ali Abunimah and hundreds of others) that could transmit to the West the reality of what is going on here? Why do we talk about Fatah and Hamas need to reconciliate when hundreds of Palestinians living in the same country do not even talk to each other because they have different ideas about tactics? It would be interesting to see how many leaders of Palestinian communities abroad and in refugee camps called for their rivals to meet, asked for forgetting their differences, starting new leaves etc.? It will be interesting to see if our differences will reemerge like they did after the brief unity over the massacres in Jenin and Nablus in 2002 and 2003?

I know some people by now are saying this is not the time when our people are massacred to do such questioning. But our people have been getting massacred for 100 years by Western backed Zionists and we are all (all factions, all individuals) mature enough to learn from our mistakes and evolve. Need we remember the long list of oppressions and uprisings (192-21, 1929, 1936-1939, 1947-1950, 1956, 1967, 1970-1977,…)? Don’t we remember that the sacrifices and the successes of things like the 1936-1939 uprising, the 1968 Karama battle, the brilliance of the first uprising of the stones 1987-1993 (largely nonviolent uprising) and many many more? From all of these things did we not learn some lessons? Were some of these lessons not lessons of better organizing, more actions and less talk? Did we not modify and change and evolve AND SURVIVE? And was that survival not in itself a thwarting of the most entrenched ethnic cleansing machine that attempted to remove us all from our land? Was it not that resistance that kept five million Palestinians still living in our historic homeland despite the most sophisticated power structure of any colonial history in the last 500 years?

And why do some of us (humans that is, all humans) despair or even collaborate with the enemies of peace and justice? For Israelis and those who want to live in peace, would it not be better to get educated about the original injustice of ethnic cleansing and begin the process of true reconciliation and restorative justice? For Zionized Western media, why do you think you can keep a lid on the anger of and keep oppressing the aspirations of 10 million Palestinians, 300 million Arabs, 1.5 billion Muslims, and nearly 6 billion human beings who aspire for JUSTICE with peace? Why do you consider war a solution to anything?

Among Palestinians, did we not always find older generations that got tired and wanted to fold or at least wanted to hold the younger generation from stepping forward to take responsibility? Isn’t it the time to drop everything and gather as PALESTINIANS (not as faction or political ideologies or competing Palestinians for positions and visibility), every day, speak to each other in humility and in brotherhood/sisterhood to resolve the differences? Can’t we all pick up the phone and email others and simply invite them for a physical meeting and if not possible virtual meeting? And for those who are not Palestinians, what can you do to ensure such reconciliation happen and that you are not helping divisions but helping unity? For all of us, the question remains whether to light a candle or curse the dark.

Other links and resources

Gaza Website

http://gazasiege.org/

The Jewish ethical tradition means embracing Palestinians, too.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0102/p09s01-coop.html

(In Arabic) Azmi Bshara analyzes the current situation

http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/C9AF6054-1CC3-461E-9C5B-C7746EC65345.htm

http://qumsiyeh.org


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