Thursday, July 31, 2014

"If not now, when?" - Jewish-American peace activists oppose war on Gaza

This encouraging piece was posted on the Waging Nonviolence and Common Dreams sites today:

‘If not now, when?’ — Jewish-American peace activists organize to oppose war on Gaza

If Not Now, When? demonstrators gathered in New York to honor Palestinian resilience. (#IfNotNow Facebook)
If Not Now, When? demonstrators gathered in New York to honor Palestinian resilience. (#IfNotNow Facebook)
Over the past few weeks as the Israeli offensive in Gaza brings more and more tragic consequences for Palestinians, there have also been large solidarity demonstrations throughout the world calling for an end to the occupation of Palestine.
Among the youngest and most remarkable of these groups protesting against the destruction in Gaza is If Not Now, When? After only making its debut on social media last Wednesday, the group marked the beginning of Tisha B’Av, the Jewish period of mourning for the difficulties the Jewish people have endured,  by reciting the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning, for all Palestinian and Israeli victims of the war so far. They also read the names of the victims in front of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations last Monday July 28th.
Nine #IfNotNow organizers were arrested after occupying the building where the conference took place after “their request to meet with the president … was denied,” according to the #IfNotNow Facebook page. The growth of the organization itself has been astounding. In just under a week the group has gained over 1,800 likes on Facebook and has seen incredible engagement on Twitter with the use of the hashtag#IfNotNow.
Tamara Shapiro, an activist with #IfNotNow and founder of J Street U, expressed that #IfNotNow was born out of a need for a space for those in the Jewish community to express their outrage and protest what’s happening.
“The spaces that have been created to supposedly do this are not working,” said Shapiro. “People I know who are deeply connected to the Jewish community and have progressive values and people who aren’t necessarily strongly connected to the religion but feel outraged that things are happening in their name … needed a space to speak out.”
Though united by a common feeling of resentment and anger towards the war in Gaza and the occupation of Palestine, the group is diverse in how they practice Judaism, and come from various backgrounds and perspectives.
“We want this to be inclusive of people who are feeling similar things to us,” explained Shapiro. “A lot of the organizations that already exist have really hard lines on where they stand. We haven’t taken a hard line.”
Instead of taking a rigid political position, #IfNotNow has taken a much more human outlook than most groups. They call on the leaders of major Jewish institutions to stop supporting the ongoing military onslaught that is taking Palestinian and Israeli lives. They make this in their open letter which was recited in their action on Monday. The letter speaks of their grief for the amount of loss that has happened to Palestinians, and the needless loss of Israelis that have been fighting in Gaza. They recognize the immense inequality Palestinians face. They say that they are, “Outraged that so many speak of Palestinians as if their lives were worth less than our own, outraged at the justifications offered for the killing of so many.” They “reject the view that ‘we have no choice,’ that this violence is necessary and inevitable.”
#IfNotNow members are standing up as Jews to oppose the war and occupation, and to mourn the immense loss, as Shapiro said, “in a Jewish way that seems important at a time like this.” They are part of a movement of trailblazers who are not only recognizing the humanity surrounding the conflict, but also rejecting the narrative being repeated by many, and advocating that occupation and the dehumanization of Palestinians must end in order for there to be peace, freedom, and dignity for all who reside in Israel and Palestine.

Navy Sonar is deadly to whales

We received a mailing this week from the Natural Resources Defense Council with this headline:  "Navy prepared to kill nearly 1,000 marine mammals."  According to the NRDC, "the Navy is pressing ahead with its plan for five years of blasting sonar and detonating explosives up and down the Atlantic seaboard, along the Gulf Coast, off the beaches of Southern California and in the wildlife-filled waters surrounding Hawaii." There is already evidence that the Navy's use of sonar has killed and injured whales. The NRDC has stood up to the Navy before and has prevailed in the courts, so they are working again to block the Navy's 5-year plan.

This is one of the many examples of environmental damage caused by military hardware and weapons testing around the world.  Please consider this if you are thinking of enlisting.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Veterans call for no more US military involvement in Iraq

The press conference by Veterans for Peace was covered in The Stars and Stripes:

Veterans Groups: No More Troops in Iraq

Ray McGovern
WASHINGTON -- As President Barack Obama announced Thursday that military advisers would be sent to Iraq, some veterans of the Iraq War railed against more military intervention in the country, warning that it would add to the violence and destruction.

More U.S. intervention will only prolong the current conflict and further destabilize the country, said Matt Southworth, an Army veteran who in 2004 deployed to Tal Afar and is a member of Veterans for Peace.

"My experience taught me that any foreign military intervention, especially if led by the United States, will only harden the resolve of the radical groups and unite the less religiously motivated into one fight against what they view is an illegitimate Iraqi government with considerable U.S. support," Southworth said.
A former intelligence analyst, Southworth suggested five steps for the U.S. to quell the violence in Iraq:
  • Reject another U.S. military intervention
  • Stop unconditional military aid to Iraq
  • Convene a conference to establish an arms embargo to Iraq and Syria
  • Increase humanitarian efforts and funding to address the basic needs of Iraqis affected by war
  • Publicly support a comprehensive political settlement among the key parties in the conflict
"Since the United States started getting involved with Iraq in the 1970s, we have often been a part of the problem, not a part of the solution to Iraqi political, ethnic, religious and resource issues," Southworth said.

The veterans, speaking at the National Press Club, questioned the morality of U.S. involvement in the region.

"Any continued support for the [Iraqi] government, or military intervention in any way, is unacceptable and incredibly immoral," said Ross Caputi, a Marine veteran who fought in the second siege of Fallujah. He is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and is on the board of directors of ISLAH, a group focusing on reparations for Iraqis. In Arabic, "islah" means repair, or reform.

The Iraqi government has been suppressing political dissent with U.S. support, said Caputi, who said the U.S. should instead focus on humanitarian efforts for Iraqis who were injured or suffer from health issues as a result of the war.

For Tim Kahlor, the father of an Army veteran who served two tours in Iraq and has post-traumatic stress disorder, the reason not to send more troops to Iraq is simple: the U.S. should focus on its own, he said.

"On this side, our kids are coming back . . . in bad shape and we don't even have the funding to take care of them," Kahlor said. "And we're talking about spending more money on more people going into Iraq and keeping people in Afghanistan when we can't take care of the vets on the street?

"I don't know all the politics and stuff (of the Iraq War)," Kahlor said, "I just know as a parent, I see what happens when we bring them back and they're not right anymore."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Official IVAW statement on the current crisis in Iraq

Excellent statement from Iraq Veterans Against the War:

Official Statement On the Crisis in Iraq
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) – an organization comprised of individuals who served or continue to serve in the US Military following September 11, 2001 – calls on Congress, the President, and his administration to reject the use of violence and militarism in response to the current outbreak of violence in Iraq.
Many of our members deployed to Iraq during the recent US occupation. Those of us who were there know first hand that US military solutions in Iraq do not serve the interests of the Iraqi people. We advocate for the self-determination of all people, in this case the people of Iraq. Any solution to this crisis must come from them.
When the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, the formerly secular country was destabilized. The United States and the Department of Defense intentionally created and agitated sectarian divisions that would not have otherwise existed. The result of this is what we see today, and Iraqi civilians are paying for it.
Iraqis have been paying with their lives for this war since March 2003. After 10 years of US occupation they were left with little relief. Their economic infrastructure was destroyed and new work to repair it has been awarded to US corporations and contractors, instead of to Iraqis. Iraqi labor unions face frequent retaliation, and an entire generation of children has been born with severe birth defects in places like Hawija. No one has been held to account. No effort has been made to clean the waste left behind.
When it comes to arming “freedom fighters” the US has a tendency to act as a fair-weather friend; today’s freedom fighter becomes tomorrow’s terrorist and justification to pursue an illegal invasion. Instead of creating more chaos, we should be solving the problems that already exist. Instead of installing another puppet president, the United States should be cleaning up environmental contamination, investigating allegations of torture, and allowing democracy to blossom in both government and labor, without US intervention.
In Solidarity,

Joyce, Maggie, Matt, and Julia
IVAW Staff

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer of Peace

This looks really interesting: Summer of Peace, a free, 3-month online event, beginning this week.  Check out this notice from the National Peace Academy:

For all of us who long for more peace and harmony in our lives and our world, the daily challenges we face can feel daunting.National Peace Academy

And when we hear about bullying in schools, the senseless violence in our neighborhoods and the bloodshed in war-torn nations, it's so easy to feel helpless and fall into despair.

It can be difficult to know where to turn to find the inspiration and guidance we need to heal the conflicts in our own hearts, in our relationships and in our larger world.

That's why we want to invite you to The Shift Network's special, no-cost online event series, The Summer of Peace, taking place June 13 - September 21, 2014.

During this LIVE online series, 70+ of the world's top peacebuilders, social change leaders, indigenous elders and spiritual mentors - including NPA President, Dot Maver, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Eckhart Tolle, Amy Goodman and Barbara Marx Hubbard - will help you bring inner, interpersonal and collective peace efforts to the next level!

You can sign up for free here.

This monumental 3-month event features insights and practical skills from the world's leading peacebuilders - so you'll be empowered to become an effective agent of peace who can co-create a life and a world where peace - instead of conflict - is the new baseline.

You'll discover more personal ease, joy and well-being with practices to help you connect more profoundly to the deep peace within yourself.
You'll experience deeper, fuller and more harmonious relationships with your family, friends, co-workers and community members. And you'll discover powerful tools to help accelerate the shift to a world of peace!

The Summer of Peace is bringing together tens of thousands of global citizens who, like you, yearn for a more peaceful life and planet. From the personal to planetary issues, together, we will acknowledge, celebrate and accelerate the wave of peacebuilding that has been growing all over the world.

Register for the Summer of Peace now - and get ready to transform conflict in your heart, your relationships and the world.

In the Spirit of Peace,

all of us at the National Peace Academy

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life guards still needed in Austin: good pay, good experience, good work!

According to an article in today's Austin American-Statesman, about 300 life guards are still needed in order to open the rest of Austin's city pools for the summer.

The parks department is holding a job fair Tuesday, June 10, from 4 - 8 pm at the Aquatics office near Deep Eddy Pool.  New guards will need 40 hours of training to become certified.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

IVAW Hurry Up and Wait action in Dallas, TX

Last weekend, a regional gathering of IVAW members held an action called "Hurry Up and Wait" in a public park in Dallas, TX.  Here are some photos and description of the event by Robin Guthrie from her Facebook page:

Iraq Veterans Against the War and Civilian Soldier Alliance volunteer organizer team members from across the country planned and organized a theater style action in Klyde Warren Park over the course of one afternoon. Current issues with the VA were highlighted along with giving exposure to the Ft Hood Report that was released on Memorial Day, 05/26/14. #forthoodtestimonies — at Klyde Warren Park.