“Refusing to be Enemies”, an exclusive video interview with Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta at the Peoples Social Forum 2014

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Refusing to be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation is an interview-based study that presents the voices of over 100 practitioners and theorists of nonviolence, the vast majority either Palestinian or Israeli. In their own words, these activists share examples of effective nonviolent campaigns and discuss obstacles encountered in their pursuit of a just peace. Attention is also devoted to the special challenges of joint struggle and to hopes and visions for a shared future in the region. OFFICIAL WORDPRESS BLOG

PATHS TO PEACE
by Eduardo Carli de Moraes / Awestruck Wanderer

2cxsnWlWhile the People’s Social Forum was taking place in Ottawa, between August 21 and 24, the bloodbath in Gaza was still raging. Even mass demonstrations and rallies, held in several cities all around the world (London, Cape Town, New York, Toronto, and many others), couldn’t stop Zionism’s genocidal machine, which once again bombed Palestine with total disregard for basic human rights. Many protests were voiced during the Forum against Israel’s regime, which  is backed-up in North America not only by the United States but also by Stephen Harper’s regime in Canada (watch Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines with Avi Lewis).

According to the latest report from UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), dated September 11, 2014, at least “503 Palestinian children are confirmed killed” and  “the cumulative death toll among Palestinians is at least 2,150, including 260 women. It is reported that the cumulative Israeli fatality toll is 71, of whom 66 were soldiers and one civilian fatality was a child.”

The huge disparity between the two sides of this “conflict” makes it almost obscene to call it anything but genocide. Let’s drop the euphemisms: Israel has obviously attacked once again not only military targets or Hamas militants; it has engaged in mass killings of Palestine’s civil population. Gaza, once again, looks like Guernica, but with no Picasso to paint it. Its infrastructure has been blown to smithereens, including hospitals, schools, power plants, universities and thousands of houses. The excuse for all this is, of course, The War On Terror, which seems to permit acts of unspeakable terror as means to attain victory over terrorists…

Anyone who deems justifiable the murder of more than 500 children and 260 women is nothing but a dangerous psychopath, and the doctrine of “collateral damage” is but the lunacy of serial killers which unfortunately hold State power. To put it plainly: these were monstruous war crimes and repeated violations of Human Rights, which the state of Israel can only get away with because of its Western allies:

“Israel’s staunchest political and military ally is and always has been the US government. The US government has blocked, along with Israel, almost every UN resolution that sought a peaceful, equitable solution to the conflict. It has supported almost every war that Israel has fought. When Israel attacks Palestine, it is American missiles that smash through Palestinian homes. And every year Israel receives several billion dollars from the US.

What lessons should we draw from this tragic conflict? Is it really impossible for Jewish people who suffered so cruelly themselves — more cruelly perhaps than any other people in history — to understand the vulnerability and the yearning of those whom they have displaced? Does extreme suffering always kindle cruelty? What hope does this leave the human race with?” – ARUNDHATI ROY [Read the full post, including 3 documentaries]

During the Peoples Social Forum, I’ve listened carefully to a highly captivating lecture by Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta, author of Refusing to Be Enemies, and afterwards she was kind enough to grant this blog an exclusive interview (watch at the end of this post). She is “a Quaker Jew who lived in Jerusalem for seven years and has written widely on Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activism and related topics”.

Israel's Vision for a Palestinian StateWhat’s fascinating about Maxine’s work is how devoted she is to the discovery of paths to peaceful coexistence among Palestinians and Israelis. More than one hundred people were interviewed by her about the whys and hows of their choice for nonviolent resistance. Veronica Cohen, for example, states: “Violence begets more violence. I’m morally and tactically opposed to violence.”

This is a common thread of non-violent activists: they refuse to add more fuel to the fire of violence both because they deem it morally wrong (killing people in order to reach peace: isn’t this a sick interpretation of the doctrine of “the end justifies the means”?) and because it doesn’t work pragmatically (it provides the enemy an excuse for violent retaliation). Nuri el-Okbi, a Bedouin Israeli activist, sums it up beautifully: “One who is right does not need to use violence. Every drop of blood that is spilt is a sad waste.” Similarly, Jean Zaru, Palestinian Quaker, argues: “Violence dehumanizes the powerful and the powerless. Nonviolent resistance is the only way to bring transformation.”

Nonviolent resistance has many faces: civil disobedience, boycotts, demonstrations, hunger strikes, and so on and so forth. Mass media in the West usually depicts Palestinian resistance as relying heavily on terrorism and violence, but Maxine argues that we shouldn’t believe that Hamas-way is the only way: the bulk of the resistance against the systemic Zionist violence and military occupation is a non-violent resistance, including simply refusing to leave. She mentions, for instance, the movements in Gaza and the West Bank who oppose Israel’s invasive policy which aims to grab Palestinian territories, demolish Palestinian homes and build Jewish settlements, in explicit violation of International Law.

During the Second Intifada, in 2000, Maxine jokes that she was “a little bit older to be blocking bulldozers”. She is not alone in feeling that throwing rocks and molotovs against the Israeli’s war tanks will hardly serve the purpose of building lasting peaceful relations in the area. Refusing to Be Enemies attempts to provide various nonviolent ways to fight against Israel’s policies, including non-cooperation with institutions of the occupation and attacks made not against the living bodies of Israelis, but on the separating walls and barbed-wire fences that stink like Apartheid.

While discussing the “rockets” fired by Hamas militants into Israeli territory, which serves as a justification for Israel’s war of aggression against Gaza, Maxine suggested quite a radical approach: “I like the idea of firing rockets at the wall instead of over the wall.” If I understood her well, she means that the walls of Apartheid needs to be brought down and that dialogue and co-existence are the way to go.

As long as Israel isolates itself behind the walls of a bunker state, and refuses to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians to lead normal lives, without being crushed by military occupation and genocidal aggression, the cycle of violence won’t stop. An attitude of openness is needed, then; an ability to respect otherness, to relate healthly with difference. My doubt is, however, if this is possible in a context of religious creeds dogmatically believed in. Perhaps the path to peace lies only in moving away from fundamentalism and fanaticism, and into the realm of a secular democracy which respects and protects multi-culturalism?

“Fears”

Huwaida Arraf (ISM), from the Free Gaza Movement, argues: “If you want to fight Mike Tyson, you’re not going to do it in the boxing ring.” The military power of Israel, with all the aid it receives both in cash and weaponry from the U.S., makes it a Mike Tyson, unbeatable on the boxing ring, and that’s one of the reasons why nonviolent resistance is the chosen path by many activists, who inspire themselves on the examples, practices and theories of Gandhi, Thoreau or Gene Sharp.

Among the Israelis, there are many who refuse to serve the Army, even though they can be jailed for that. Peretz Kidron, one of this refuseniks, explains his choice of refusing to follow the orders of the military authorities: “I will not obey a law who is part of a broader policy and exemplifies it in a nutshell. It’s like Gandhi going down to beach to make his own salt. It was illegal. It wasn’t violent but it was deliberately flouting the law and inviting prosecution.”

A significant number of both Israelis and Palestinians are involved in nonviolent resistance, argues Maxine, and they use their criativity to come up with innovative ways to act, including writing protest songs with satyrical lyrics, refusing to engage in battle (and accepting disagreements to be dealt with through dialogue discussion), or wearing the colors of the Palestinian flag as a sign of solidarity with the independence struggle. The international community can also join this struggle by boycotting corporations whose cumplicity with Israel’s war crimes are proved: a large movement calling for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) has gained momentum in 2014 as Gaza was under attack, and mass demonstrations have erupted all around the world, as the streets screamed out their solidarity with the Palestinian people. Global civil society is also a player in this nonviolent resistance movement and we must voice our outrage with all global powers who have blood in their hands.

It’s possible that the World Wide Web is truly helping out in the job of re-shaping international solidarity: while people were been slaughtered in Gaza by the hundreds, the Internet was flooding with reactions. Quickly, protest movements have come to life whose efficacy and immediacy would be unthinkable without the use of social media as tools. Sadly, 2014 is another tragic year for Mankind (we still haven’t managed to give peace a chance), but maybe there’s reason to be hopeful that Marshall McLuhan prophecy about the Global Village is becoming flesh: Gaza doesn’t stand alone. Its suffering is not being ignored. War crimes and Human Rights violations won’t be forgotten. It’s our collective duty to struggle to find paths to peace amidst these endless turmoils of violence. However, the question remains: will those who refuse to be enemies one day outnumber or overpower those who refuse to be friends?

In the following video, Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta provides some of her insights about these matters and how could we built another world by refusing to be enemies:

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“I’ve seen the future,” Naomi Klein says, “and it looks like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina” (Vogue Magazine, August 25 2014)

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Noami Klein portrayed by Vogue: “Born in Montreal in 1970, Klein grew up the daughter of left-wing American parents who moved to Canada because of the Vietnam War and continued their progressive politics there: Her mother, Bonnie Sherr Klein, was part of Canada’s first feminist film studio, while her father, Michael Klein, M.D., built innovative public health centers.

Over the last decade, Klein’s research trips—to Indonesia, Poland, Gaza, Sri Lanka, New Orleans after Katrina, et cetera—and her frequent public appearances have often kept her and Lewis in different places, many of which aren’t pleasant. Klein was reporting for Harper’s in Baghdad in 2004, for instance, when the occupation in Iraq descended into terrifying bloodshed. She says it’s the scariest place she’s ever been.

It will be released soon the film of This Changes Everything, a documentary aimed at people who won’t read her book. Both book and film strike a delicate balance between stoking the energizing fear of impending disaster (“I’ve seen the future,” Klein says, “and it looks like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina”) and offering a glimpse of hope…” – Read it all here

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5 Crucial Lessons for the Left From Naomi Klein’s New Book

You can’t fight climate change without fighting capitalism, argues Klein in This Changes Everything.

BY ETHAN COREY AND JESSICA CORBETT

In her previous books The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) and NO LOGO: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs (2000), Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein took on topics like neoliberal “shock therapy,” consumerism, globalization and “disaster capitalism,” extensively documenting the forces behind the dramatic rise in economic inequality and environmental degradation over the past 50 years. But in her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (due in stores September 16), Klein casts her gaze toward the future, arguing that the dangers of climate change demand radical action now to ward off catastrophe. She certainly isn’t alone in pointing out the urgency of the threat, but what sets Klein apart is her argument that it is capitalism—not carbon—that is at the root of climate change, inexorably driving us toward an environmental Armageddon in the pursuit of profit. This Changes Everything is well worth a read (or two) in full, but we’ve distilled some of its key points here.

1. Band-Aid solutions don’t work.

“Only mass social movements can save us now. Because we know where the current system, left unchecked, is headed.”

Much of the conversation surrounding climate change focuses on what Klein dismisses as “Band-Aid solutions”: profit-friendly fixes like whizz-bang technological innovations, cap-and-trade schemes and supposedly “clean” alternatives like natural gas. To Klein, such strategies are too little, too late. In her drawn-out critique of corporate involvement in climate change prevention, she demonstrates how profitable “solutions” put forward by many think-tanks (and their corporate backers) actually end up making the problem worse. For instance, Klein argues that carbon trading programs create perverse incentives, allowing manufacturers to produce more harmful greenhouse gases, just to be paid to reduce them. In the process, carbon trading schemes have helped corporations make billions—allowing them to directly profit off the degradation of the planet. Instead, Klein argues, we need to break free of market fundamentalism and implement long-term planning, strict regulation of business, more taxation, more government spending and reversals of privatization to return key infrastructure to public control.

2. We need to fix ourselves, not fix the world.

“The earth is not our prisoner, our patient, our machine, or, indeed, our monster. It is our entire world. And the solution to global warming is not to fix the world, it is to fix ourselves.”

Klein devotes a full chapter of the book to geoengineering: the field of research, championed by a niche group of scientists, funders and media figures, that aims to fight global warming by altering the earth itself—say, by covering deserts with reflective material to send sunlight back to space or even dimming the sun to decrease the amount of heat reaching the planet. However, politicians and much of the global public have raised environmental, health and ethical concerns regarding these proposed science experiments with the planet, and Klein warns of the unknown consequences of creating “a Frankenstein’s world,” with multiple countries launching projects simultaneously. Instead of restoring an environmental equilibrium, Klein argues these “techno-fixes” will only further upset the earth’s balance, each one creating a host of new problems, requiring an endless chain of further “fixes.” She writes, “The earth—our life support system—would itself be put on life support, hooked up to machines 24/7 to prevent it from going full-tilt monster on us.”

3. We can’t rely on “well-intentioned” corporate funding.

“A great many progressives have opted out of the climate change debate in part because they thought that the Big Green groups, flush with philanthropic dollars, had this issue covered. That, it turns out, was a grave mistake.”

Klein strongly critiques partnerships between corporations and major environmental groups, along with attempts by “green billionaires” such as Bill Gates and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson to use capitalism to fighting global warming. When capitalism itself is a principal cause of climate change, Klein argues, it doesn’t make sense to expect corporations and billionaires to put the planet before profit. For example, though the Gates Foundation funds many major environmental groups dedicated to combating climate change, as of December 2013, it had at least $1.2 billion invested in BP and ExxonMobil. In addition, when Big Greens become dependent on corporate funding, they start to push a corporate agenda. For instance, organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund, which have taken millions of dollars from pro-fracking corporate funders, such as Shell, Chevron and JP Morgan, are pitching natural gas as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal.

4. We need divestment, and reinvestment.

“The main power of divestment is not that it financially harms Shell and Chevron in the short term but that it erodes the social license of fossil fuel companies and builds pressure on politicians to introduce across-the-board emission reductions.”

Critics of the carbon divestment movement often claim that divestment will have minimal impact on polluters’ bottom lines. But Klein argues that this line of reasoning misses the point, quoting Canadian divestment activist Cameron Fenton’s argument that “No one is thinking we’re going to bankrupt fossil fuel companies. But what we can do is bankrupt their reputations and take away their political power.” More importantly, divestment opens the door for reinvestment. A few million dollars out of the hands of ExxonMobil or BP frees up money that can now be spent developing green infrastructure or empowering communities to localize their economies. And some colleges, charities, pension funds and municipalities have already got the message: Klein reports that 13 U.S. colleges and universities, 25 North American cities, around 40 religious institutions and several major foundations have all made commitments to divest their endowments from fossil fuel stocks and bonds.

5. Confronting climate change is an opportunity to address other social, economic and political issues.

“When climate change deniers claim that global warming is a plot to redistribute wealth, it’s not (only) because they are paranoid. It’s also because they are paying attention.”

In The Shock Doctrine, Klein explained how corporations have exploited crises around the world for profit. In This Changes Everything, she argues that the climate change crisis can serve as a wake-up call for widespread democratic action. For instance, when a 2007 tornado destroyed most of Greensburg, Kansas, the town rejected top-down approaches to recovery in favor of community-based rebuilding efforts that increased democratic participation and created new, environmentally-friendly public buildings. Today, Greensburg is one of the greenest towns in the United States. To Klein, this example illustrates how people can use climate change to come together to build a greener society. It also can, and indeed must, spur a radical transformation of our economy: less consumption, less international trade (part of relocalizing our economies) and less private investment, and a lot more government spending to create the infrastructure we need for a green economy. “Implicit in all of this,” Klein writes, “is a great deal more redistribution, so that more of us can live comfortably within the planet’s capacity.”

Reblogged from In These Times

Watch below Naomi at the Peoples Social Forum (Ottawa, 2014)

ANARCHIST MEDIA WORKSHOP – Live from the Peoples Social Forum 2014, Ottawa, #Day 2

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“Wealthy anarchists are just like unicorns!” Such outbursts of spontaneous poetry, my friends, you are only likely to hear in a Social Forum Anarchist Workshop.

After spending a terrible night of almost no-sleep-at-all at the Jail Hostel, a former prison turned into a gloomy night repose for youngsters, I decided to drop by, early in the morning, to exchange ideas with radical indie-media and gonzo-writers brothers & sisters from all around Canada.

The event was organized by Hallifax anarchists who publish a black-and-white and punk-spirited pamphlet called The Worst of Times. With a high dose of caffeine in my brain, I was about to start my 2nd day at the Peoples Social Forum diving deeper into the “How-and-Why of An Uncompromising Anarchist Broadsheet”.

I certainly wasn’t expecting to be lectured by anarchists, posing as authorities on this subject, but rather to engage in conversation with other freaks, such as myself, who cherish the struggle to build pathways and networks for a journalism who gives voice to the voiceless and speaks truth to power. As Mr. Jello from the Dead Kennedys puts it: “Don’t hate the media, become the media!” 

It was an intense and totally horizontal exchange of ideas and dreams, filled with tiny acts of heroism celebrated with great collective cheering: I got to know those who work in public libraries and secretly “hack” the xerox machines in order to make copies of their home-made anarchist newspapers; those who come up with innovative ways to raise funds on their communities so that they can publish un-censored manifestos and flyers; those who write protest songs with themes taken from left-wing zines (like this guy, Byron, who I saw playing in Sparks Street the previous day with his project Folk The System and then re-met at the workshop).

In the Social Forum’s official program, this gathering was described as “an exploration of the who / what / where / when and, most crucially, the why / how of building an autonomous forum for uncensored raw news, analysis and opinion that does not depend on unions, NGOs or business for financial or moral / ideological support”.

Our debate revolved around such themes: why does corporate media do such a lousy job when it comes to its coverage of marginalized peoples? What skills should an anarchist media organization possess and master, in order to truly be of service to the community, especially those who are victims of racism, sexism, xenophobia and other forms of exclusion?

Everyone of us have its chance to voice an opinion – “prendre la parole”, as our dear Québecois comrades put it – and my humble colaboration to the talk had to do with our recent experience in Brazil. Especially after the mass demonstrations of July 2013, a month in which more than 1 million Brazilians reclaimed the streets of dozens of towns after an increase in public transport fares, our corporate media once again took off its mask and revealed its fascist face.

Most of our mainstream TV networks (such as Globo, that has been for 21 years a friend of our Military Dictatorship [1964-1985]) and weekly magazines (such as shitty crappy Veja, who deserves only to be used as toilet paper) treated this massive outburst of democratic participation from Brazilian civil society with utter jornalistic incompetence.

Corporate media, in Brazil, portrayed activists only as potencial terrorists, threats to public safety; the media of big bosses sided with the reppression forces, and applauded police brutality and tear-gas bombing; these wealthy media corporations focused on relatively tiny episodes of violence and vandalism by Black Bloc groups (and maybe des agent provocateurs), who were breaking glasses of junk-food stores or trashing ATM machines and banks; but mainly this mainstream media showed an absolute incapacity to understand the social causes of this phenomenon.

MEdiaWhat I perceive to be lacking in corporate media, I told my comrades, is empathy and in-depth understanding for those who are behind the gas masks or the Black Blac “costumes”; what is lacking is simply the hability to portray the human beings who participate with large-scale social movements in Brazil such as MST (Landless Workers Movements) and Passe Livre (Free Pass Movement); what is lacking, of course, is a media that instead of sucking the cocks of wealthy advertisers, serves the true needs of the national community – especially those who need the most to have their voices heard and amplified by the media apparatus.

June 2013 also had some good news: the upsurge of Ninja Media and A Nova Democracia (The New Democracy), for example, truly independent projects of mass-communication which did an excellent job during the demonstrations; they broadcasted live from the streets and filmed great documentaries about the social movements efervescence in Brazil; they denounced the State’s repressive forces as disproportionate and authoritarian, defended the human rights of protesting citizens, shouted truth to power in their increasingly popular social media (Ninja has reached more than 300.000 fans in its Facebook page, for example).

Unfortunately, most of the Brazilian population is still under the spell of the brainwashing machine called Mass Media. Our indigenous peoples, for example, are suffering terribly from the construction of big dams; from massive deforestation at the behest of cattle ranchers and agribusiness corporations; from the onslaught of the bulldozers courtesy of the doctrine of Development and Economic Growth.

In the Brazilian province of Mato Grosso – which one of Brazil’s most influential anthropologists, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, deems our own Gaza Strip – the indigenous populations are being treated like trash, to be swept to the slums (or simply out of existence). They have been kicked out of their ancient and cherished lands in order for money to be made in complete disregard to environmental destruction. Nowadays, one of the hugest suicide rates in Latin America is among Mato Grosso’s native populations. The corporate media, in general, is an accomplice to this genocide.

Many people had lots of interesting things to say about their own experiences as publishers of alternative media experiments. One problem that seems to plague us all is this: we try to write in order to give voice to the voiceless, provide visibility to the invisible, speak truth to power, and so forth and so on. I love this ideas and ideals. But the problem is: if you’re tiny anarchist newspaper who gives voice to voiceless is only read by 100 readers, isn’t this newspaper itself voiceless? Isn’t it devoid of broad social impact?

So, the main focus of our discussion ended up being this: how can we break the confines of a small reading audience? How can we reach a wider audience for our messages which are so dissonant in comparison with mass media crap? How to avoid falling into the trap of “preaching to the converted”? Can an anarchist media experiment go beyond the “inner communication” amongst the tribe of anarchists and socialists and sympathizers, and actually get its messages across to all society? And, last but not least, how can we use most effectively the high-tech tools – WWW and Social Media – in order to transcend the individual medias isolation and create big networks of resistance?

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TO BE CONTINUED….

Blogged from the Peoples Social Forum’s Media Center, 24/08/14.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Read part 1 and part 2 of this Awestruck Wanderer’s special coverage.