Nonviolent Change Journal

Publication of the Research/Action Team on Nonviolent Large Systems Change,
an interorganizational project of the Organization Development Institute

Home        Subscribe    Funding      About the Journal        Editorial Team      Questions/Feedback        Links         Past Issues    Current Issue



Editor's Comments

What Are You Up To?

Ongoing Activities

Upcoming Events

World Developments

Letters: Dialoging

Media Notes

Reports and Announcements


Becoming Humane - Being Humane: Evolution of the Humane - Globalization of Peace - World in Balance: The Real Causes of War beyond the Multicausal Approach


A Non-violent Path to Eradicate Terrorism: Covenant with the Poor: Globalisation,

Human Solidarity and Spirituality


Islamic Nonviolence and Nonviolence in Islam


Joha's Nail


Abbas and the Lame Duck


Jerusalem Fence/Second In A Series-Jerusalem's Arabs Find Themselves Pushed Out


Nonviolence in Palestine and Israel


Making the United Nations a Better Broker of Peace


War is a State of Mind" Conference on "Raising Children without Violence


2-State Solution on Life Support



The West Bank Connection


Who Wants Peace? Israelis Need Drastic Change in Approach to Peace


Can Media Talk Peace


Global To Do List to Combat Terrorism









Vol. XX, No.2            Winter, 2006


Nonviolent Change Journal helps to network the peace community: providing dialoguing, exchanges of ideas, articles, reviews, reports and announcements of the activities of peace related groups and meetings, reviews of world developments relating to nonviolent change and resource information concerning the development of human relations on the basis of mutual respect.






Becoming Humane - Being Humane:

Evolution of the Humane - Globalisation of Peace - World in Balance

The Real Causes of War beyond the Multicausal Approach


Olek Netzer


Psychology can be regarded as very subversive when it enters the arena of power politics, Carl Rogers, 1977


     "How exactly does it happen that normal human beings, all endowed with a conscience, an awareness of their individual responsibility for their judgment and choice of truth over untruth, reason over irrationality, justice over injustice and morality over sin, - manage to justify in their own eyes even the most inhuman atrocities and acts of self and others mass-destruction?"


     My own 30-years long systematic effort to find good answers to questions such as "By virtue of what mechanisms do we turn human 'others' into enemies?", begun with a war trauma. I managed to recover out of it only when I found the answer to the question "what causes wars" that I felt was true, based on what I realized were the real causes, unlike my earlier conventional conceptions about the causes of wars that suddenly seemed completely inadequate. Since then I adopted the "Direct Causation Approach" that requires focusing on the direct-physical causes of a life-threatening condition inside the human organism.


     Following that approach, I begun focusing on the inner-psychological space in which ideas governing war-oriented thinking and motivation existed. The result has been a detailed description of the mental mechanisms operating in war-oriented normal people I called Theory of Dehumanization. To the best of my belief and as far as my experimentation and experience have confirmed it deciphers the code of human politically-ideologically motivated destructive intergroup behavior. Its applications make healing possible.


     My message to the community of scholars working on psychological interpretation of war is therefore the need to keep the Direct-Causation Approach in view if they intend to become a "helping profession" in a reality of politically motivated destructiveness rather than only understand and explain it. The first part of this essay will make the argument for following the Direct Causation approach. The second part will present the process and results of my own taking it -- the Theory of Dehumanization and its applications.


     In July 1970, on the Syrian front, the army ambulance I navigated to a UN outpost was hit and all my companions were torn to pieces. Traumatized, I could not erase the sensory experience of those moments from my inner vision, as if it were happening in the present and projected on my mind's screen again and again. I wanted to get over it, but I became convinced--perhaps obsessed--by the thought that I would not be able to go on living without coming to understand, but really understand, why it had happened.


     I could not find the real causes in anything I had learned about the causes of war. My conceptual maps pointed in directions that stroke me as erroneous and irrelevant. Historical causes, economic causes, complex causes: two peoples clashing over the same territory, the Arab belligerence, occupation of that Syrian territory by my country Israel, all those together... None of them directly caused the very real effect I experienced that afternoon. In addition, all those causes and myriad others seemed arbitrary, chosen arbitrarily, each an effect in an endless chain of earlier events, earlier "causes".


     In my first new realization, the missile reached us at the end of a chain of causation beginning in Biblical times with the conquest of the Land of Canaan by the Hebrews--actually much earlier--propelled through endless links of causes turned effects turned causes, down to the causes for emergence of modern science that enabled some distant people to devise the chemical reaction and construct the technology that caused the explosive material in the missile to turn my companions into bloody splinters.


     I got over my trauma when the real cause, so it felt, presented itself to my awareness. The real cause was the obvious one: the Syrian gunner on the other side wanted to hit us, his target, aimed well and pulled the trigger. Had he not wanted to hit us at that moment, he would not have to.


     Why do I call that the "Real" cause? Because if there is any link in the chain of causation leading to war that is not abstract, that we can not just conceptualize but touch in order to break that chain, the living human link is the only one touchable. In the most real, concrete and functional sense, we could not have wars if people did not fight willingly being convinced that they should. The 9/11 terrorists did it in full consciousness, feeling justified in face of their conscience, morality, history, religion, society. Otherwise, they would not have done it, would they? -- If all other contributing factors remained equal but people would just not conceive shooting and bombing and burning and killing as an option to solve their problems with other people, there could be no war. Thus, by only describing events taking place in the nonverbal world, we arrive at an awareness that is very uncommon in our and other cultures: the real causes of wars are not abstract but living people.


     Economic, Political, or Historical Causes are abstract constructs. In reality, all we can ever observe is some people sending other people to war because of what they, inside their skulls, conceptualize as their "Economic Interests" or whatever, usually their concepts about the malice of and danger imminent in the "enemy". As long as we do not act consistently upon that simple truth, we could see or experience endless horrors and suffering, unable to touch their real causes.


     This down-to-persons awareness of causation brought me to the realization that if anyone wanted to heal infectious societal diseases such as wars, they would need to investigate human thinking that causes it directly. Then I begun to learn all I could from reliable scientific sources about the processes by which warring people perceive and construct their political realities. Very soon I learned that this field was completely dominated by the multiple causation approach. It meant, that if my realization that the relevant causes for making a difference are the direct ones was valid -- that multiple-causation approach was in itself the cause why research in the area is bound to be ineffective.


     In the 1958 seminal work of Gordon Allport, The Nature of Prejudice, the multiple causation approach was postulated very emphatically, "as forcefully as possible":


     Are discrimination and prejudice facts of the social structure or of the personality structure? The answer we have given is both. And we emphasize once again, as forcefully as possible, that a multiple approach is required. comes from Historical, Sociocultural, and Situational analysis, as well as from analysis in terms of Socialization, Personality Dynamics, Phenomenology, and finally, but not least important, in terms of actual Group Differences. To understand prejudice and its conditions the results of investigations at all these levels must be kept in mind... there is no other way. (p. 476.)


     Let there be no doubt, that what Allport refers to as "discrimination" and "prejudice", is the same state of mind as war-orientation (in the same year federal troops were sent to protect black students in the newly integrated schools and the governor of Arkansas declared "This is now an occupied territory"). But Allport was very optimistic about the future of "the infant science of human conflict" which was, he felt at the time, "thriving". Nearly half-century later that science was still following the multiple-causation approach but the mood has been pessimistic all around. Neil Kressel, one of the leading American scholars in the field of Political Psychology wrote in the last decade of the 20th century "There probably remains some residual frustration and disillusionment growing out of the field's collective inability to make much difference in the world"). Worse, " straightforward and consensual psychological science has arisen to meet the needs of political scholars. Instead, modern psychologists, sociologists, and biologists forge competing images of human nature and a convergence of outlooks appears unlikely in the foreseeable future".


     In contemporary studies, psychologists uphold this multiple-causation approach and build abstract models. They insist, as if anyone was in a danger of forgetting it, that "at all points, political and psychological studies are inextricably intertwined". The pessimistic view of what lies ahead may be summarized in the words of the Dutch researcher Johan van der Dennen, who is reputed for having amassed over 100,000 sources on political violence: "In retrospect it seems clear that the phenomena dealt with can be approached from so many different points of view, from so many disciplines, and on so many levels, that a unitary comprehensive theory is hardly to be expected in the near future".


     In view of the fact that war is a consciously motivated human behavior, the idea that, since "political and psychological studies are inextricably intertwined" (above) they are qualitatively not different from one another, could be based on a fundamental methodological error. The "intertwined" causes are not all the same: some are real-direct causes motivating people, other are indirect causes that might or might not affect them.


     The assumptions we make about causation govern our approach to changing the condition. In medicine, or in any helping profession, without knowing the physical or closest-to-physical psychological agents - viruses, germs, neuroses, etc. -we cannot deal with critical factors in changing the condition. Changing only the indirect causes of illness, such as economic conditions, nutrition or sanitation, we practice hygiene and hopefully prevent the spread of disease. But hygiene is not medicine and prevention is not healing once the human organism becomes infected. As I submit this essay to you, I still feel rather lonely in my feeling that the mainstream research has failed to follow that simple principle of scientific approach that stipulates, that in order to help a human condition one must first and foremost ascertain the DIRECT-physical causes. We need to change that multi-causation approach before we could make a difference.


      Having chosen the direct-physical causation approach, I begun by looking at what was obvious in the behavior of racist, ethnocentric, nationalistic, etc. bigots, fanatics and single-minded supporters of all war operations (my living environment is a perfect laboratory for becoming a participant-observer). First, since under all multiple conditions and influences people commit organized violence against other people consciously, I decided that the organ I should investigate in order to locate the direct quasi-physical causes of warlike thinking and behavior is the conscious part of the mind, the socially acquired system of Orientation.


     Moreover, anywhere in the world and no matter how absurd and evil in my and your view, the fanatics of conflict must have a moral justification for what they believe and what they do, same as the rest of us. The perpetrators of socially sanctioned evil anywhere behave as if they were under compulsion to believe they are right and their enemies are wrong. I therefore began investigating how they manage; how exactly they manage to massacre or victimize helpless victims without compromising their own highest human values. I reasoned, that if I could interfere with their rationalization or self-justification system it would be like interfering with the direct causes, which is what one must do if one wishes ever to develop some remedies. Since "Conceptions of right and justice form an inescapable part of the context of political_ reasoning", I surmised that if I could find ways to undermine that justification system I would effectively neutralize the effects of the "virus" - a hope that in my private experience has been sustained beyond my own expectations.


     The research-questions leading to the Theory of Dehumanization were formulated on the lowest possible level of abstraction: "How exactly does it happen that normal individuals, all possessing a conscience, an awareness of their individual responsibility for their judgment and choice of truth over untruth, reason over irrationality, justice over injustice and morality over sin, - manage to justify in their own eyes even the most inhuman atrocities and acts of self and others mass-destruction? In what ways exactly they are different from others (me)? What exactly, if anything, can be objectively defined as wrong with them? Which of their organic functions of perceiving, thinking, and telling right from wrong, are affected? How? How does it happen? When? - The theory of Dehumanization embodies answers to all those questions.


     The evidence regarding beliefs\thinking about war and conflict was collected from public communication media in Israel over 25 years. It was found that war-oriented thinking patterns universally conformed to one basic orientation structure: "We Always Good\Right - Them Always Bad\Wrong\Guilty". That fantastic structure is made possible by the uniquely human capacity for endless abstraction helped by two mental mechanisms. One mechanism molds all incoming information into a number of specific, fixed and recurring, universal patterns in conformity to the "We Good - Them Bad" orientation.


     The other mechanism, Blind Areas, turned out to be a major discovery in the researching process. It has been found with astonishing significance that persons, who consistently expressed their views in patterns that conformed to the "We Right, Them Guilty" cognitive map of social orientation, practically never (sic!) gave expression to any awareness of even the most obvious human realities that did not conform to that map. For example, the evidence indicated, that not one leader or spokesperson in the Israeli national consensus uttered, over a period of 20 years, a spontaneous expression of warning that we might be forgetting that "Them" are not one hostile entity but many different individuals, men women and children, not all bad and many suffering in this conflict (the "national consensus" designation applies to the authorities, the establishment, all sources except those who were repeatedly referred to in political discourse as "Bleeding Hearts" ("Lefties", "Defeatists", "Self-hating", etc.).


     Not one consensual voice uttered a spontaneous expression of awareness, that having to forcefully rule over the Palestinians could be dangerous for the moral soul of Israelis; or that any of the suppression\punitive measures against "Them" were unjustified or too much; or that any of the (thousands) military operations of all kinds were unnecessary or excessive; or that some aspect of our stand against them could be not exactly right; or that some third-party mediation effort toward resolution of the conflict should not be seen as a threat, or that we could open some initiative toward reconciliation, etc. - blind areas in place of obvious human realities. That finding was fully confirmed in texts referring to war in other cultures past and present.


     The Theory of Dehumanization organizes the identified Blind Areas and Patterned Beliefs in ten headings: 1)We, 2)Them, 3)Bleeding Hearts, 4)Deviants, 5)Captives, 6)Leader, 7)Strategy, 8)Other Nations, 9)Morality, 10)Time. Corresponding Blind Areas and Patterned Beliefs are listed under the ten headings and comprise the Dehumanization Syndrome, a list of symptoms that makes the condition operationally definable like any other psychological condition (only, it is felt, with far greater precision). Analysis for Dehumanization is performed by first classifying one's verbal expressions (the relevant behavior of politicians is open, public knowledge) under each of the 10 headings of the Syndrome and then comparing them to the Patterned Beliefs. Individual diagnosis is made by noting, in addition, one's inattention (over a length of time) to the realities covered in Blind Areas.


     Space does not permit presenting the whole list of symptoms. Some examples of Blind Areas follow (the corresponding Patterned Beliefs can be easily imagined):


WE: The fact that "We" (the Nation, the People, the Country) is an abstract term, that in reality only individual human beings exist.


THEM: Their (same as ours) humanity and individuality


BLEEDING HEARTS: The fact the WE (the nation, the people) and our leaders (leadership, government, ruling party) are not the same thing, and therefore opposing the government may not necessarily be against the nation while supporting the government could be.


STRATEGY: The possibility, that the best tactics in certain situations is not using force; the possibility that the best tactics is making a conciliatory move.


MORALITY: The moral obligation itself: measuring whatever we do to them and they do to us with the same yardstick.


TIME: The fact that history, past, and future have no meaning other than in the perception and thinking of people living in the present.


     The Dehumanization Syndrome embodies the informed answer to the question how people can be so irrational and immoral in a war situation: Their perception mechanism filters out into Blind Areas all evidence that could lead them to the realization that in fighting and killing they may not be doing the right thing. The direct cause of unjustified wars is not what bigots, fanatics or warmongers believe; it is what they do not think of and do not even perceive, like their own fallible humanity, or the "enemy's" individuality and equal humanity, or that the reality that justified war and enmity could change in time. Blind Areas effectively protect the dehumanized against experiencing any "cognitive dissonance" in committing even the worst war crimes.


     The full Dehumanization Syndrome, which is list of symptoms, the tool for analysis and the map of the inner space of politically dehumanized minds will be sent by the author to all upon request.


     The Theory of Dehumanization claims to present the so far unattained breakthrough in social theory, because bringing those areas of mental blindness to human awareness affects the direct inner causes of the condition. The Blind Areas and Patterned Beliefs could be compared, in terms of organic quasi-physical existence, to virus or software programmed in the mental mechanism. Interfering with people's Orientation System would be analogous to healing; whilst all other known methods of prevention of intergroup prejudice and enmity (improving political, geopolitical, social, economic, or educational conditions, etc.) manipulate factors that indirectly affect the beliefs and actions of people and therefore could have, at best, the effect of preventive sanitation measures.


     Secondly, the Dehumanization Syndrome as an analytical tool makes the condition objectively identifiable and definable in terms of specific individual expression and behavior, and so it can be approached, understood, and discussed scientifically as a psychological state of mind, beyond the present level of political discourse in our culture that regards various manifestations of Dehumanization, prejudice, racism, fanaticism etc., as a matter of personal opinions and values (practically never owned, always projected on some others), which lie beyond the reach of objective scientific assessment. Applications in education, culture, "Peace Studies", political discourse and political prediction are such that, in my limited experience, justify the hope that intergroup conflicts and war as we experience them could now begin to become things of the past.


     The Theory of Dehumanization deciphers the code of destructive political behavior in conflict by discovering that its motivational drive (the overriding "interest") is the need to maintain one's orientation (identity) system in working order (Blind Areas exist to prevent it from collapsing in face of human reality).


     Behavior of public figures identified as dehumanized can be predicted, with great accuracy, to be in conformity with any of the Patterned Beliefs, including Strategy ("The way to deal with Them is force"; "If force has not worked more force should be applied"). Many common illusions regarding "peace process" and errors of conventional political analyzers could be thus avoided. On the other hand, even a single spontaneous expression of awareness of reality covered in a Blind Area, uttered by a person who was formerly diagnosed as dehumanized, predicts (with very high probability) a radical turn-around in his\her attitudes about the conflict.


     When children are old enough to learn that there have been WE and THEM, wars, heroes and villains, victims and perpetrators, etc., they are probably old enough to learn that there has been Dehumanization, the most dangerous of social epidemics which they should become able to identify in themselves and in others. The Dehumanization Syndrome would make the concept definable, its symptoms identifiable in the here-and-now, applicable to any historical, literary or contemporary text analyzed in a classroom as well as to any real-life situation including one's own. Students should learn the truth - relative to the best knowledge of their teachers - about politically-ideologically-religiously motivated human irrational and destructive behavior, by the same logic they learn the truth about sex, evolution, history, and whatever is considered the truth to be passed on to the next generation.


     In teaching historical, literary, and contemporary political texts, content analysis for identifying the Patterned Beliefs may be introduced.


     Content analysis for signs of awareness of any of the Blind Areas is particularly recommended, since it would help the analyzers to become aware of any such Blind Areas within themselves. By applying the Theory of Dehumanization, even single classroom teacher, without any technical gear or costly apparatus, could effectively arrest and prevent the development of dehumanized thinking and feeling patterns in her or his students.


     As the dehumanized system of orientation has been found to be entirely dependant on its Blind Areas, prevention and healing methods bring those Blind Areas into awareness. The single technique found most effective is asking open questions about realities hidden in the Blind Areas. This technique circumvents resistance since it does not question the dehumanized beliefs about "THEM", but rather points at human realities in the territory and in oneself, and asks persons, who normally avoid paying attention to it, what they make of it. By that, it helps them fill-in into their cognitive maps the human realities that were missing there.


    To what extent and how soon such educational practices will free people and their systems from prejudices and warlike orientation? To what extent would war be regarded as an option for resolving conflicts in a society of members who are aware of the dangers of Dehumanization and are skilled in identifying its symptoms in their environment of communicated ideas? - I can only hope some of you will try to implement it in order that we all may find out.


Recommended Readings


- Allport, Gordon W. 1954. The Nature of Prejudice. Garden City NY: Anchor Books.

- Dennen, van der Johann. 1987, "In-group/out-group differentiation". In V. Reynolds, V. Falger, & I. Vine (eds.), The Sociobiology of Ethnocentrism. London and Sydney: Croom Helm pp. 1-47.

- Erikson, Erik. 1965. "Psychoanalysis and ongoing History: problems of Identity Hatred and Nonviolence", American Journal of Psychiatry. 122, 241-250.

- Kressel, Neil J. 1990. "The Politics of Knowledge Production in Social Psychology." Journal of Social Psychology (130, pp. 5-28).

- Koenigsberg, Richard A. 1992. Hitler's Ideology. New York: The Library of Social Science.

- Kressel, Neil J. 1993. "Politics and human nature", in Neil Kressel (ed.), Political Psychology. New York: Paragon.

- Rogers, Carl R. 1977. Carl Rogers on Personal Power. New York: Delta.

- Rosenberg, S. W. 1988. Reason, Ideology and Politics. Cambridge UK: Polity Press.

- Simpson, E. 1987. "The Development of Political Reasoning". Human Development. 30, pp. 268-281.

- Waller, James. 2002. Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing. New York: Oxford University Press.









Kamran Mofid



     The topic which I wish to address here is vast. All I can reasonably hope to do is paint a picture with very broad brushstrokes. I deeply and passionately believe that conflict/terrorism is mainly mobilized around the concept of justice. In many cases, challenging injustice is the first step towards eliminating it. To avoid violent conflict, concerted international action is needed to address systemic economic/socio-political injustice. The undeniable fact of life confronting us on this planet of ours is that there is gross and growing inequality, amongst people, different nations and within nations. Billions of people living in abject poverty, with no hope and no future, have become a source of “…the development of terrorist cells”. Pragmatism and enlightened self-interest suggest that another way based on compassion and generosity is needed.

     A vibrant and progressive democracy cannot be achieved in world in which individualism, selfishness and Mammon worship prevails; a world in which most politicians are elected by and for big business; where parliaments serve the stock markets rather than the people; where environment is sacrificed to economic growth and the poor everywhere are rendered destitute in the name of structural adjustment.

     Nations need to develop institutions of fair and transparent governance. They also need to help provide health care, education, sanitation, as well as affordable housing and encourage an inclusive society. Addressing injustice is central to the resolution of most intractable conflicts and the eradication of terrorism. Economic injustice, depravation and hopelessness are the real “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, any where, and every where in the world.

     No amount of military might, no amount of depleted uranium enriched missiles and no amount of smart and not so-smart bombs will destroy terrorism, as long as this world is so unjust, so unequal and so inhumane. History is on the side of this argument and it would be an affront to humanity to ignore this.

      Today the globalized world economy, despite many significant achievements during the last few decades, and especially since the end of the Second World War, in areas such as science, technology, medicine, transportation and communication, is facing major catastrophic socio-economic, political, cultural, spiritual and environmental crises/ We are surrounded by global problems of inequality, injustice, poverty, greed, marginalization, exclusion, intolerance, fear, depression, anxiety, mistrust, xenophobia, terrorism, sleaze and corruption. These problems are affecting the overall fabric of societies in many parts of the world.

     Moreover, the twentieth century was the bloodiest in human history, with holocausts, genocides, ethnic cleansing, two world wars and hundreds of inter and intra-national wars. Furthermore, today after decades of selfishness, greed, individualism, emphasis on wealth creation without care about how this wealth is being created, the world is entering a period of reflection, self-examination and a spiritual revolution. Many people around the globe have come to an understanding that it is possible to create a better world if a critical mass of people with a sense of human decency and a belief in the ultimate goodness of humanity, rise and realize their power to transform the world. More and more people around the world are realizing that there are no short cuts to happiness. Material wealth is important. This should not be denied. However, physical wealth is only one ingredient for happiness. Realization of a complete sense of happiness, inner peace and tranquility can only be achieved through acting more on virtues such as wisdom, justice, ethics, love and humanity. This spiritual revolution needs architecture and dedicated architects.

     In this study I argue that the marketplace is not just an economic sphere, ‘it is a region of the human spirit’. Whilst considering the many economic questions and issues we should also reflect on the Divine dimension of life, Moreover, and should, in contrast to what is practiced today, be concerned with the world of heart and spirit. Although self–interest is an important source of human motivation, driving the decisions we make in the marketplace every day, those decisions nevertheless have a moral, ethical and spiritual content, because each decision we make affects not only ourselves but others too. Today’s modern economists consider their discipline a science, and thereby divorced from ethical details, the normative passions of right and wrong. They have turned their discipline into a moral-free zone. 

     In short, this study views the problem and challenge of globalization partly from economic but primarily from ethical, spiritual and theological point of view. How can we order the modern world so that we may all live well and live in peace? In all, globalization will need to combine economic efficiency to meet human needs with social justice and environmental sustainability. The study moreover argues for the creation of an "ecumenical space" for dialogue amongst civilizations and the building of community for the common good by bringing economics, spirituality and theology together.

     As it has been noted, and it is my intention to argue further that, perhaps the most significant development in the material world for nearly two decades is the phenomenon of globalization. This is the accelerated integration of the global economy through finance and trade. As noted above, spectacular breakthroughs in science and technology, particularly information technology, have speeded up the process.

     Even as it is an economic phenomenon, globalization is not limited to the arena of economics and economic institutions. Its impact is felt on political and social institutions, as well as culture. No human institution is impervious to it. Even religion is challenged by it.

     Globalization has brought prosperity and wealth to many nations and individuals. It has brought the blessings of science and technology to more and more people. It has shared knowledge and information on a scale which is beyond measure. At the same time, it has its dark and dangerous side.

     The darkest manifestation of globalization is the persistence of poverty, unemployment, and social disintegration even as economies are being integrated in the global economy. It is the continuing destruction of the environment and the marginalization of women even as more and more wealth is created at an unbelievable pace. Economic, social and political injustice have accelerated in the wake of the frenzied transactions in global financial and trade markets.

     In all, around the world, inequality is increasing, while the world is further globalising. Moreover, even in the wealthier countries in the west, the gap between rich and poor; have and have-nots is growing wider by the day. In addition, the meltdown in the value of the stock market has left millions with no pension in their old age.  Given the continuous existence of such levels of abject poverty everywhere, and our inability or unwillingness to over come it- is a true sign of a globalization of civilization in denial.  In this respect, the wise words of Nelson Mandela rings true “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom”.


      We are caught in a strange world of contradiction: a world of progress and of poverty. The poor, marginalized and excluded, have been forgotten. However, even those who are well off financially, it seems, are unable to live well in human terms. In the materialistically saturated western world, anxiety, depression, insecurity and real desperation are the main causes of ill health and premature death. We were told that economic prosperity, with its share dividends and material comfort would bring us happiness. What a delusion!


           We need to wake up and begin to see the bigger picture. The only remedy, we are told by neo-classical ideologues and fundamentalists who have brought us all this misery to begin with, is to strive for more of the same mores: more economic growth, more production, more consumption, more cost-cutting, and more sacrifices to achieve them as they impose harsh human and ecological costs. Who are the people who think that all these sacrifices – personal, family, social, cultural and ecological – are necessary to meet their bottom line?


     Looking at what is being recommended, we can note that, nearly all of the proposals on the global economy concern the need to unleash the power of the market, liberalize trade, deregulate and privatize- which are all purely economic considerations. It is as though humanity and the environment are irrelevant except as servants of the overarching need to expand the global economy- as if that could satisfy all human needs and aspirations. Material wellbeing, economic growth and wealth creation are important. But, to create a world of true happiness, peace and wellbeing, wealth must be created for a noble reason. Economics, commerce and trade, without a true understanding of the aspirations of the people it is affecting, cannot bring justice to all. Social transformation can be achieved only when unselfish love, spirituality and a rigorous pursuit of justice are embraced.


     It is important to recall that, economics, from the time of Plato through to Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and others, was as deeply concerned with issues of social justice, ethics and morality as with economic analysis itself.  However, most students studying economics today learn that Adam Smith was the “father of modern economics” but do not know that he was also a moral philosopher. In 1759, sixteen years before his Wealth of Nations, he published The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which explored the self–interested nature of man and his ability to still make moral decisions based on factors other than selfishness. In the Wealth of Nations, Smith laid the early groundwork for economic analysis, but embedded it in a broader discussion of social justice and the role of government.  Students today know only of Smith’s famous analogy of the “invisible hand” and refer to him (rather obliquely) in defence of free markets.  They ignore his clear understanding that the pursuit of wealth should not take precedence over social and moral obligations, and of how a “divine Being” produces “the greatest quantity of happiness”.


     In short, they are taught that the free market as a “way of life” appealed to Adam Smith. However, again they are not told that, Adam Smith distrusted the morality of the market as a morality for society at large. He neither envisioned nor prescribed a capitalist society, but rather a “capitalist economy within society, a society held together by communities of non-capitalist and non-market morality.” That morality for Smith, included-among other things- mutual neighborly love; an obligation to practice justice; a norm of financial support for the government “in proportion to [one’s] revenue”; and a tendency in human nature to derive pleasure from the good fortune and happiness of other people.

     It is my intention to argue that, grave economic injustice prompts conflict and it is one of the main reasons for the continued local, national and international terrorism. Indeed, as it has been noted, history has shown that poverty often leads to war and armed conflict. If many members of a society suffer from poverty or perceive huge disparities in wealth, they are likely to consider their situation unjust. Furthermore, economic injustice is often linked to unmet human needs, which can give rise to protracted or violent conflict.

     Individuals may come to view violence as the only way to address the injustice they have suffered and ensure that their fundamental needs are met. This is especially likely if no procedures are in place to correct the situation or bring about retributive or restorative justice.

    Justice conflicts often involve unequal power relationships, where the rights and needs of the weaker group are subordinated to those of the dominant group. This sort of injustice is often rooted in ideologies of exclusion that are deeply embedded in people's ways of thinking and difficult to alter. Such power imbalances limit the bargaining power of the group that suffers from injustice, and make it more likely that the group will go to extreme ends to make its voice heard.

     Therefore, as history has shown, time and again, it is futile to believe that one can beat terrorism through the use of a brutal force alone. We must understand that, it was the brutal force which created the terrorism to begin with. In this regard, the wise words of Albert Einstein rings true, “The world cannot get out of its current state of crisis with the same thinking that got it there in the first place”.

     Our ability to project justice onto the world requires love, the unconditional search for absolute truth, the capacity to engage in an intimate dialogue with the natural universe within. Justice is all about empowerment. If you can empower yourself and others with justice, then, sustainability and good globalization will follow.

     There is an urgent need about realizing unselfish love in our globalizing world. Love is a joyful and full-hearted affirmation of the well-being of others that can be expressed in the forms of tolerance and forbearance, forgiveness and reconciliation, compassion and care, and service to the neediest as well as to the nearest.  When we extend ourselves to others in this way we become happier and more content, for paradoxically, in the giving of self lies the unsought discovery of self. Moreover, given our desire to realize a globalization which is good for all, it should be noted that, social transformation can occur only when unselfish love, spiritual experience and a rigorous pursuit of justice are linked. 

      The ethical and spiritual teachings of all religions and their striving for the common good can provide a clear and focused model of moral behavior in what has been termed “the market place”. The religious and business values and sentiments, such as human dignity, communal solidarity, humility, patience, service, compassion, reciprocity, social justice, equity, efficiency, growth and profit should go together, hand-in-hand, leading to Globalization for the Common Good, where every one is a winner. We should acknowledge that, the marketplace is not just an economic sphere, but, it is a region of the human spirit, compassion and dignity.

     The call for this dialogue is an appeal to the deep instinctive understanding of the common good that all people share. It is an appeal to our essential humanity to deal with some of the most pressing concerns of peoples the world over. Religion has always been a major factor in the growth of human civilization. Business and wealth creation when they are for a noble reason are blessed and vital for human survival.

     As it has been noted, because the yearning for justice is a natural substance running through humanity’s cells, by denying it we only pour more fuel on guilt’s fire. While love of justice can yield great harvests for individuals, communities, societies, and nature as a whole, this same passion can surface as hatred and violence when it is not given the freedom to permeate our lives and keep our inner longing alive.

     Whether caught in material or spiritual poverty, those robbed of the right to justice, become justifiably angry and hateful. These emotions, in turn, inflame vengeful actions that perpetuate more violent reactions. This cycle of violence and misery, can be broken only with justice. This is the truth into which we must tune. This is the dream we must bring into being: this is Globalization for the Common Good.

     Paul Ormerod, former Director of Economics at the Henley Centre for Forecasting, in his book, The Death of Economics notes that” Good economists know, from work carried out within their discipline, that the foundations of their subject are virtually non-existent…Conventional economics offer prescriptions for the problems of inflation and unemployment which are at best misleading and at worst dangerously wrong…Despite its powerful influence on public life, its achievements are as limited as those of pre-Newtonian physics…it is to argue that conventional economics offers a very misleading view of how the world actually operates, and it needs to be replaced”.


     An equally accomplished economist, Mark Lutz, in his book, Economics for the Common Good, observes that “Modern economics is the science of self-interest, of how to best accommodate individual behavior by means of markets and the commodification of human relations…In this economic world view, the traditional human faculty of reason gets short-changed and degraded to act as the servant of sensory desires. There is no room for logic of human values and rationally founded ethics. Human aspirations are watered down to skillful shopping behavior and channeled into a stale consumerism. One would think that there must be an alternative way to conceptualize the economy”.    

     Therefore, what is there to be done? Is there an alternative to this selfish, self-seeking, neo-liberal, economic/money-only globalization?

     To this end, I recommend the practical vision and mission of Globalisation for the Common Good. Globalization for the Common Good means the promotion of ethical, moral and spiritual values – which are shared by all religions – in the areas of economics, commerce, trade and international relations. It emphasizes personal and societal virtues. It calls for understanding and collaborative action – on the part of civil society, private enterprise, the public sector, governments, and national and international institutions – to address major global issues. Globalization for the common good is predicated on a global economy of sharing and community, grounded in an economic value system whose aim is generosity and the promotion of a just distribution of the world’s goods, which are divine gifts.


      Globalization for the Common Good is not about charity. It is not about collecting money. It is about justice. To know justice and to serve it, is to feel the pain of, and to become one with the sufferer; is to ask fundamental questions about the roots of injustice and to fight for their eradication. Today’s global problems are not economic or technological only. The solutions are not more economic growth, privatization or trade liberalization. What the world needs is a Spiritual Revolution, where I, I, me, me, culture is replaced with we and us culture. Globalization for the Common Good is that needed culture: the culture of solidarity and oneness with the poor, suppressed, marginalized and excluded. Globalization for the Common Good is for the practice of Economics of Compassion, Economics of Kindness and Economics of Solidarity. These kinds of economics can only be practiced by people who are compassionate and kind. Globalization for the Common Good is the way to build a world that is just, free and prosperous.


The Essential Dimensions Of Globalization For The Common Good:


The acknowledgement of God, Ultimate Reality, or the One. Our lives are grounded in an Ultimate Reality, the source of the sacredness of all life and of the spiritual power, hope, and trust that we discover in prayer or meditation, in word or silence, and in our striving for just relationships with all existence.


The investment of Spiritual Capital­­. The most powerful way for faith and spiritual communities to influence beliefs, norms and institutions is through prophetic voice and public action. Highly visible faith and interfaith affirmation of the great spiritual truths of peace, justice, and the sacredness of the Earth and all life can make a tremendous contribution to Globalization for the Common Good. Action and service by spiritual and faith communities and groups can provide a vital source of inspiration and energy for the healing of the world.


The practice of selfless Love. The most important point of convergence shared by the world’s great spiritual traditions is to be found in the practice and power of selfless love for all humanity. It is the wellspring of the best hope for a better future.


The cultivation of interfaith Dialogue and Engagement. It is absolutely vital that religious and spiritual communities come together with one another in honest and open dialogue. It is also essential that these communities enter into dialogue with secular groups, organizations and governments working for a better world. Religious and spiritual communities – in mutual respect and partnership – must engage the critical issues that face the planetary community as the 21st century unfolds.


The nurturing of cultures of Peace. True cultural evolution is perhaps best measured in the growing rejection of violent approaches to conflict resolution in favour of the cultivation of the infrastructures of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. Our greatest contribution to the future lies in ensuring that our children grow to maturity in cultures of peace.


The struggle for Justice. Justice is the heart of all creation. It is the profound feeling of oneness with all other beings in the universe. Today, it finds its most vital expression in social and economic fairness, concern for others and the vigorous defence of human rights.


The realization of Gender Partnership. Challenging the assumptions and infrastructures of patriarchy is essential to cultural evolution. Women and men, living and working together in harmony and equity, can build stronger, more creative religious communities and societies.


The path of Sustainability. In this rapidly changing world, our reverence for the Earth will determine the fate of the entire community of planetary life. This deep, visionary and unconditional caring for what is yet to come, is the love of life embedded in ecological sustainability.


The commitment to Service. Service is our link to spirit. Personal action for a better world is the discernable manifestation of the divine in the human. The essence of service is the grace of giving. We give because giving is how life begins and how it continues. This process will enhance personal responsibility for the common good.


     Globalization for the Common Good affirms that economics is, above all, concerned with human well-being and happiness in society and with care for the Earth. This cannot be separated from moral and spiritual considerations. The idea of a “value-free” economics is spurious. It demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what it means to be a human being.


    We affirm our conviction that genuine interfaith dialogue and cooperation is a significant way of bringing the world together. It is indispensable to the creation of the harmonious global culture needed to build peace, justice, sustainability and prosperity for all. The call for Globalization for the Common Good is an appeal to our essential humanity. It engages the most pressing concerns of peoples the world over.


     Globalization for the Common Good, by addressing the crises that face us all, empowers us with humanity, spirituality and love. It engages people of different races, cultures and languages, from a wide variety of backgrounds, all committed to bringing about a world in which there is more solidarity and greater harmony. This spiritual ground for hope at this time of wanton destruction of our world, can help us to recall the ultimate purpose of life and of our journey in this world.


Dr. Kamran Mofid- was awarded a doctorate in economics from the University of Birmingham, U.K in 1986. In 2001 he received a Certificate in Education in Pastoral Studies from Plater College in Oxford. From 1980 onward, he has been teaching economics, business studies, international business, and the political economy of the Middle East His many books and articles include: Development Planning in Iran: From Monarchy to Islamic Republic (1987); The Economic Consequences of the Gulf War (1990); and Globalisation for the Common Good (2002). These are highlighted in his collaborative book, Promoting the Common Good: Bringing Economics and Theology Together Again: A Theologian and an Economist in Dialogue, Rev. Marcus Braybrooke and Kamran Mofid, (Shepheard-Walwyn, London, June 2005). He can be reached at: or visit his website at







Sezai Ozcelik

George Mason University

Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution

3330 North Washington

Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201



This paper will examine the Islamic contributions in the areas of peace, nonviolence, and social change. My intention is to present the range of ideas that characterize both historical and contemporary Islamic thoughts in terms of peace and nonviolence. There is a need for a reinterpretation and redefinition of the Islamic medieval theory and for the application of the Islamic concepts to contemporary events.


The world Islam, which means submission, is a derivative of the word salaam meaning peace. It is the religion of peace. The Qur’an emphasizes that peace is a basic Islamic value. The value of peace manifests itself in the messages of the Qur’an. It treats peace the desired way as well as a value or reward for righteousness. The Qur’an describes Islam as the abode of peace: “And Allah summons to the abode of peace, and leads whom He wills to the straight path” (10:1). Islam is peace with God, peace with man, and peace with one’s own self. Moreover, the Muslim greeting consists of the word salaam (peace). Muslims greet each other by wishing and/or praying for peace for each other- Assalamu Alaykum. (May Peace be upon you)! It is a practice based on the Qur’an. The Qur’an states that the greeting of those who are righteous and have been admitted to the heavens is “Peace!” (14:23). It is important to reinterpret and redefine Islamic concepts such as jihad (sacred struggle), qital (fighting), sabr (patience), adl (justice), umma (community), sulha (reconciliation), hijra (exodus), diversity, and tolerance for understanding Islamic peace and nonviolence.  These concepts will be examined below.


There are Islamic concepts in consonance with peace. For instance, the Qur’an attaches great importance to patience (sabr). Patience implies reaction, whereas impatience implies a violent response. The word sabr (patience) exactly express the notion of nonviolence as it is understood in modern times. It has been pointed out that the incident of Hijra (exodus) was a nonviolent act that avoids a conflict. The Hijra (exodus) is an example of withdrawal and non-cooperation as a protest and the practice of escaping from repression. Moreover, throughout his life, the Prophet Muhammad never separated from the path of peace, and nonviolent struggle except when God (Allah) ordered him to engage in war on specific occasions- Badr, Uhud, and Hunayn. The Qur’an is a strong advocate of peace but permits Muslims to fight to protect their faith, their freedom, their lands, and their property. When means of peaceful change are pursued, violence is used as the last resort. The Qur’an forbids Muslims from initiating aggression or causing fitna (mischief, rioting), on earth and exhorts them to make peace with their enemies if they are inclined towards peace.


Second, the Islamic tradition connects peace with justice and peace should help the mankind to create justice in the world. Peace, therefore, becomes a means to create a just social order. In this sense, justice is the goal of life and peace is the form of justice. The personal and collective struggle to build justice on earth is the essence of jihad. The objective of war, therefore, is neither to propagate Islam, nor is it to gain territory for the Islamic state. Rather, the war aims to establish and assure justice and to annihilate oppression and tyranny. Peace in Islam does not mean the absence of war, but the absence of oppression and tyranny. Islam considers that perpetual peace can only be attained when justice prevails. Islam, therefore, allows war against regimes that prevent people from choosing their ideals and practicing their beliefs (Safi, 1996, p.43).


Islam also stresses the importance of positive peace (the absence of structural violence). It is a responsibility of the individuals as well as the state to provide distributive justice and social welfare. This principle has created one of the five “pillars of faith” in Islam. It is the duty of the Muslims to pay a tax on surplus wealth (zakat) to the society and the state for the improvement of the conditions of the poorest members in the society.


In his 23 year of Prophethood, the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.V) spent the initial 13 years in Mecca. The Prophet fully adopted the way of active pacifism or nonviolence during this time. There were many such issues in Mecca at that time which could have developed into confrontation and violence. But, the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.V) strictly limited his sphere to peaceful propagation of the word of God (Allah). This resulted in the call to Islam (dawa) that is performed by peaceful means. Even when in Mecca the Quraysh tribe leaders were set to wage war against the Prophet, the Prophet consciously selected the Hijra (exodus) to Medina instead of reaction and retaliation. Hijra (Migration) was a clear example of nonviolent activism. After the migration, his antagonists again took the unilateral decision to wage war against him, God ordered to him armed jihad and there were four bloody wars in the Arabian Peninsula. After the wars, the Prophet still preferred peace against war and he signed a ten-years peace treaty known as Sulh al-Hudaybiya, and accepted all the conditions of his opponents (Wahiddudin Khan, 1997, p.3).


Following the Hijra (exodus) of the Islamic Prophet and his supporters in the year 622, the first Islamic community (umma) was established in Medina. The relations between this first Islamic state and the surrounding tribes have to be defined in terms of gradual nonviolence to violence. All Qur’anic verses revealed between 622 and 632 (the Medinan period) are the expression of the non-violent and/or violent struggle against the surrounding enemies. Thus, there are important differences in teachings on violence and nonviolence between the Meccan and Medinan parts of the Qur’an and Islamic history.


The Meccan period was totally based on nonviolent resistance and the virtues of patience (sabr), and steadfastness. In the Medinan period, Muslims established the first Islamic state and community (umma), and jihad moved from the nonviolent resistance to an armed struggle. During the Meccan period, the Qur’an has mostly dealt with the spiritual issues and ordered the jihad from the heart and the mouth. Also, during this period, the Prophet showed no inclination toward the use of force in any form, even for self-defense. He followed a policy described as nonviolent resistance in spite of escalating physical attacks directed at his followers and at him personally. The Prophet insisted that the use of force was a last resort. He even ordered the most vulnerable Muslims to seek refuge in Abyssinia (Ethopia). In the Meccan period, the Prophet’s practices are defined as active nonviolent resistance and open defiance of pagan persecution (Hashmi, 1996,p.153). In Medina, the Qur’an -rooted in its historical context- provided the precepts to jihad in the narrow meaning of qital as military fighting. Clearly, jihad in the thirteen years period of the Prophet’s life meant nonviolent resistance and there are many lessons to be learned from the Prophet’s decisions during these years.


One of the Islamic ideas about peace is related to Islamic universalism and Muslim solidarity. Because the Muslims constitute a political community (umma), modernist thinkers suggest that there is some degree of transnational cooperation among Muslims. Although they accept the idea that there may be territorial states in international system, it is still be possible to create a “Muslim League of Nations” that would be helpful in establishing a peaceful co-existence between Islamic states. The existence of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) that consists of fifty states and other multinational Islamic organizations is an example of the Islamic universality and solidarity.


Another idea in the Islamic tradition about peace is tolerance and diversity. Although Islam emphasizes the importance of the order, similarities, and solidarity within the Muslims, it also advocates diversity and tolerance. In the earlier Meccan verses, the question of faith was decided by the right of free choice: “To you your religion and to me mine.” (109). Even though Muhammad failed to convert pagan Meccans, Jews and Christians into Islam, the following verses were sent: “If it had been your Lord’s will, they would have all believed, all who are on earth. Will you then compel mankind against their will to believe?” (10:99). However, this attitude shifted towards more of an intolerant and exclusivist discourse in the Medina period where the Qur’an gave permission to fight against non-Muslims, and even ordered not to take Jews and Christians (5:51) as allies or protectors. Some scholars argue that the Qur’an emphasizes the separate character of the Muslim community and distinguishes pagan Meccans, Jews, and Christians in both the Meccan and Medinan periods. But the Medinan chapters also contain verses about toleration: “Let there be no compulsion in religion; truth stands out clear from error” (2:256). Also, the Prophet himself has worked to sow the seeds of tolerance between Muslims and non-Muslims. In one instance, the Prophet Muhammad found some scrolls of the Torah among the things that the Muslims brought to him and he ordered that they should be returned to the Jews. In another instance, the Prophet was sitting when a Jewish funeral passed by. He stood up and his companions followed his example. He said: “Is it not a human soul? If you ever see a funeral, stand up.” (Abu-Laila, 1991, p. 66).


Throughout the human history, violence has been seen as the only effective means of action in deep-rooted and protracted conflict situations. However, there is another unwritten side in human history and that is nonviolent technique of struggle. In his outstanding book, Gene Sharp indicates the basis of nonviolence: “It is the belief that the exercise of power depends on the consent of ruled who, by withdrawing the consent, can control and even destroy the power of their opponent. In other words, nonviolent action is a technique used to control, combat and destroy the opponent’s power by nonviolent means of wielding power” (1973, p.4). Non-violence should never be confused with inaction or passivity. It is not inaction. It is action that is nonviolent. Non-violence is action in full sense of the word. It is a forceful action that does not use violence. It is a fact that non-violent activism is more powerful and effective than violent activism. When human beings are faced with problems, they often resort to violence in order to solve it. However, it is better to solve the problem by peaceful means, avoiding violence, and confrontation.


Nonviolent techniques or nonviolent resistance includes public protest and persuasion, speeches, petitions, and symbolic acts; many forms of social, political, and economic non-cooperation or withdrawal and renunciation, such as refusal to pay taxes or obey unjust laws, strikes, and boycotts to improve conditions or gain greater power; as well as intervention and the use of independent political institutions, or establishing ‘parallel’ organs of government. These means of struggle involve protest and persuasion, challenge and repression, strategy and discipline (Sharp, 1973, p.117-445).


The religion of Islam seeks for social change and justice through nonviolent means if possible. It is believed that nonviolence is a norm and rule and violence is an exception in the Islamic peace paradigm. Satha-Anand claims that jihad is considered as the sixth pillar of Islam and it can be used against tyranny, oppression, and injustice with the nonviolent means (1993, p.9). Wahid believes that the unity of umma creates a sense of collectivity for the Islamic nonviolent action and promotes the solidarity against oppressors (1993). Islam also balances the unity of Islamic community with equality, common purpose, and brotherhood with the encouragement of the pluralism and tolerance.


Because of Islam’s commitment toward social and political justice through opposing injustice, corruption, and repression, Islam introduces active nonviolence in its institutions and practices. For example, fasting can be used for both the implementations of religious duty, and protest, boycott, and symbolic action (Crow, 1998, p.12). Also, the Friday prayer, the idea of the umma, and the jihad can be applied for communal purification, discipline and education in the nonviolent struggle. Zakat and waqf (charitable endowment) promote social justice and positive peace. Moreover, the concepts of reconciliation (sulha), forgiveness (afw), and patience (sabr) are important elements in the Islamic religion and practice for the active exercise of nonviolence (Ibid, Ozcelik, 1998).


However, many Muslims criticize nonviolence as a foreign concept and believe that there is a lack of theological and cultural bases about nonviolence in Islamic tradition. One of the Muslim scholars who has taken a bold position about nonviolence in Islam is Jawdat Said. In his work about the two sons of Adam, Cain and Abel, Said shows us how God praised non-violent action. Cain, who wants to be accepted by God was rejected by Him and resorted to a death threat against his brother. While the other son, Abel was accepted by God and he responded to the death threat by saying: “If you stretch out you hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against you to kill you” (Qur’an, 5:28). Then Cain killed Abel and lost God’s grace and mercy and became remorseful. This nonviolent peaceful stand on the part of Abel is similar to the idea in Christianity about turn the other cheek. This stance announces that human beings are capable of resisting violence by nonviolence, and of transforming a violent person into a remorseful one. Said points out that even self-defense is prohibited by the Qur’an and when people are faced with the aggressive hostility against them, they should behave like Abel, the son of Adam! The Prophet said to his companions: “Be as the Son of Adam!” Said also concludes that this nonviolent strategy is not only a doctrine of the Prophet Muhammad, but also for the other Messengers. In other words, Said claims that the Prophetic paradigm -Abel’s abnegation of violence in the face of Cain’s murderous assault- is very important and asserts that even violence in self-defense is morally unjustifiable. (1998, p.5-8).


Other scholars enumerate why nonviolent jihad (struggle) is necessary in Islam:

n      Nonviolent resistance is a weapon against the status quo;

n      Nonviolent political struggle is not pacifism, but active pacifism;

n      It is more appropriate long-term solutions;

n      It evokes sympathy and support for just causes;

n      It is the surest way to build psychological strength;

n      It is the weapon of the strong; not the weak;

n      Oppressors fear nonviolent struggle more than violent resistance (Crow and Grant, 1990, p.79-85).


The remarkable work of Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988) presented an example for Islamic nonviolence. Although the Pathans faced executions, jail and persecution for years, they used jihad (sacred struggle) for peace. Abdul Ghaffar Khan was the leader of the Pathans (or Pashtuns) tribe in North India (today Afghanistan) and a Muslim follower of Mahatma Gandhi. He founded the Khudai Khidmatgars (Servants of God or Army of God), the world’s first nonviolent army and led from 1929-1938 (Flinders, 1990, p.187). He challenged existing social and economic institutions, uplifted peasants, introduced women into political action, and fueled anti-colonial activity. Abdul Ghaffar Khan, later known as Badshah Khan, was a religious figure and was influenced by Gandhi’s satyagraha, nonviolent civil resistance. He said: “[Nonviolence} was followed fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet [Muhammad] all the time he was in Mecca… But we had so far forgotten it that when Gandhi placed it before us, we thought he was sponsoring a novel creed.” (Easwaran, 1997,p.284). During the Indian independence movement, he and his followers have followed the nonviolence strategy. Badshah Khan shows us that three common myths are not true: (1) nonviolence is the weapon of the weak; (2) it works only against “civilized” adversaries; and (3) nonviolence is not part of Islam (Ibid, p.285).  Mahatma Gandhi declared that he was able to perceive the origin of the doctrine of nonviolence and love for all living things not only in the sacred Hindu and Buddhist writings and the Bible, but also in the Qur’an (Doutgtherty and Pfaltzgraff, 1996, p.187).


Apart from this first modern nonviolent resistance example in Islam, there have been many cases in Muslim and Arab worlds: Egypt (1919-1922), Peshawar Pathan (Pashtun) Resistance (1930), Palestine General Strike (1936), Iraq Uprising (1948), Pattani Resistance in Thailand (1975), Iran Revolution (1978-1979), Golan Druze Resistance (1981-1982), Defense of Al-Aqsa Mosque-Jerusalem, Sudan Insurrection (1985), Palestinian nonviolent resistance-Intifada or “shaking off” (1987-89), Albanian National Movement in Kosovo (1989-1994). (Bennett, 1990, p.41-57), Grant (1990, p.59), Biberaj, 1997, p.294).


In conclusion, while the Qur’an does not prescribe an explicit ethic of nonviolence and peace, neither does it give higher value to actions of violence. In the Qur’an, there are no consistent or unequivocal general concepts for determining war, peace, and nonviolence. Each Qur’anic verse is related to some specific historical events. Thus, there are Qur’anic verses that call for nonviolence, while others call for war. This is not a contradiction, but a reflection of specific historical situations. For example, where most Meccan verses focus on spiritual issues, after the Hijra (migration) to Medina the Qur’an moved gradually-rooted in historical context- to provide precepts to “armed jihad”, in the more narrow sense of qital as military fighting. On the other hand, if we take the consideration of time-space dimension and gradual changes in Islamic tradition, it becomes clear that Islam tends to give moral precedence to nonviolence. One can even conclude that the pursuit of religiously oriented or informal struggle (jihad) in the modern world by the methods of nonviolent action is fully consistent with in Islamic scripture and tradition.




Abu-Laila, Muhammed. (1991) “Islam and Peace”, The Islamic Quarterly, vol.35, no.1,

First Quarter: 1991, 55-69.

Bennett, Brad. (1990) “Arab-Muslim Cases of Nonviolent Struggle”, in Arab Nonviolent

Political Struggle in the Middle East, Ralph E. Crow,, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 41-59.

Biberaj, Elez. (1997) “Kosova, Albanian National Movement”, in Protest, Power &

Change: An Encyclopedia of Nonviolent Action from Act-up Women’s Suffrage”, Powers and Vogele, eds., New York: Garland Publishing, 294-296.

Crow, Karim D. (1998) Nonviolence and Islam, A Round-Table Workshop Held

February 14th 1997 at the American University, Washington D.C., Nonviolence International.

Crow Ralph and Philip Grant. (1990) “Questions and Controversies about Nonviolent

Struggle in the Middle East”, in Arab Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Middle East, Ralph E. Crow,, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 75-91.

Doutgtherty James E. and Robert L. Jr. Prfaltzgraff. (1996) Contending Theories of

International Relations: A Comprehensive Survey, New York: Longman Press.

Easwaran, Eknath. (1997) “Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan”, in Protest, Power & Change:

An Encyclopedia of Nonviolent Action from Act-up Women’s Suffrage”, Powers and Vogele, eds., New York: Garland Publishing, 284-285.

Flinders, Timothy. (1990) “The Good Fight-Badshah Khan, the Frontier Gandhi”, in

Nonviolence in Theory and Practice, Robert Holmes, ed., CO: Woolsworth Publishing, 187-191.

Grant, Philip. (1990) “Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Occupied Territories”, in Arab

Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Middle East, Ralph E. Crow,, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 59-75.

Ozcelik, Sezai. (1998). “Islam and Peace: A Dialogue”, Frontline, Nonviolence

International, vol.7, no.1, Summer 1998, 3-4.

Safi, Lounay M. (1996) “Islam and Peace”, Islamic Horizons, September/October 1996,


Said, Jawdat. (1997) Peace and Nonviolence-in History and with the

Prophets’, Conference on “Islamic Values for Peaceful Change”, Damascus, Spring 1997, trans. Dr. Abdudhu Hammud al-Sharif, rev. Dr. Karim D. Crow.

Satha-Anand, Chaiwat. (1990) “The Nonviolent Crescent: Eight Theses on Muslim

Nonviolent Action”, in Arab Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Middle East, Ralph E. Crow,, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1990, 25-41.

Sharp, Gene. (1973) The Politics of Nonviolent Action, 3.vols., Boston: Porter Sargent.

Wahiddudin, Khan. (1997) “Islam and Nonviolence” A Round-Table

Workshop Held February 14th 1997 at the American University, Washington D.C., Nonviolence International.






Uri Avnery

September 17,2005


     One day Joha, the hero of popular Arab humor, sold his home. The price he demanded was ridiculously low and he had only one condition: "on one of the walls there is a nail that I am much attached to. I don't want to sell it." The buyer readily agreed. Who cares about a nail?


     After some days, Joha came to the house and hung his coat on the nail. After that he brought his bed and started to sleep there. "The nail is so dear to me, that I can't bear sleeping away from it," he explained. Another time he brought his family to visit the nail and had a party there. In the end, the new owner couldn't bear it anymore and bought the nail for a price many times higher than he had paid for the home itself.


     Maybe the leaders of Israel do not know the story, but their behavior certainly resembles it. It started with the peace agreement with Egypt. Israel agreed to clear out of all of Sinai. Between Menahem Begin and Anwar Sadat warm feelings started to develop. And then the nail appeared: Israel refused to give up Taba, a tiny piece of land bordering the Gulf of Aqaba. Relations soured, a round of bitter quarrels ensued and in the end it took international arbitration to decide what was clear from the beginning: Taba belongs to Egypt and was finally returned to it. Nowadays masses of Israeli gamblers go there to rid themselves of their money.


     The story repeated itself in Lebanon. First the government decided to keep a very big nail: the "security strip", which caused a long and bloody guerilla war. In the end we were compelled to leave it - in a move that resembled flight - and kept only a small nail: the "Shebaa farms". This gives Hizballah a reason for not disarming and to warm up the border from time to time, at its pleasure.


     If one prefers a Polish story to an Arab one, one can mention the lady who asked her dentist to take out all her rotten teeth, except one - just to remind her how much it hurt.


     Now we have withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. We have given up all the territory, driven out all the settlers, demolished all the settlements. We have left only one nail on the wall: the synagogues.


     These were not, God forbid, hallowed buildings from antiquity, precious remnants from the past. Nothing but buildings put up quite recently for praying and holding meetings, from which all religious accessories had already been removed. The army proposed to destroy them along with all the other houses there, and that is what the government decided.


     But after the farce of the "uprooting of the settlers" had come to an end, after the last weeper had shed his tears on the shirt of a policeman in front of a TV camera, after the last army officer had embraced a nationalist thug in accordance with orders, the settlement rabbis suddenly remembered that the synagogue buildings are sacred. They used God as a political instrument, as they had done before with the babies.


     The Likud ministers, who do not fear God the way they fear their party Central Committee, changed their opinion with lightning speed and decided that it is forbidden to destroy the synagogues. The government changed its position at the last moment, without informing the Palestinian leadership and without prior consultation with it. They did not even bother to inform the Supreme Court, which had already ruled that the synagogues could be destroyed.


    That was a mean act, pure and simple. It left the Palestinians on the horns of a dilemma: either to devote thousands of soldiers to the guarding of empty buildings from here to eternity or let the excited masses storm these hated symbols of the occupation that had turned their lives into hell.


     As far as Sharon is concerned, the exercise was a huge success: the world saw the "crazed Palestinian mob" burning "the houses of worship", in a kind of prefabricated Kristallnacht, made in Israel. President Bush condemned the "burning of the synagogues", President Moshe Katzav of Israel was upset by the "desecration of the Holy Jewish Sites", the Israeli public was even more strengthened in its belief that the Arabs are subhuman barbarians, proving again that we have nobody to talk with.


     That was not the only nail that the Israeli Joha left in the wall. Another nail was the demolition of the Rafah border crossing. That also came as a surprise, without prior dialogue with the Palestinians. Since the Israeli government claims that the occupation of the Gaza Strip has come to an end and it is relieved of its responsibility for the million and a half inhabitants there, it means that we have closed a border between two foreign territories: the Gaza Strip and Egypt.


     This, of course, was not effective for a single moment. What happened resembled the events after the fall of the Berlin wall that had cut the two parts of the city off from each other, just like the wall Israel built in Rafah: relatives who had not seen each other for decades ran and embraced and multitudes streamed to the other side in order to see, shop cheaply and vent their excitement. Israel won again: the Egyptians have proven their ineffectiveness, the Palestinians authorities have shown that they cannot be relied upon and the masses have proven that they are wild and disorderly.


     If the Egyptians had intervened violently, they would have shown themselves to be enemies of the Palestinian people. If the Palestinian policemen had shot at their own people, they would have lost any moral authority. It is clear that no Israeli iron wall can cut Gaza off from Sinai. The matter can be settled only through sensible arrangements.


     And there are more nails: the Gaza harbor, the building of which Israel is trying to prevent, and the Gaza airport, the operation of which Israel is trying to obstruct. All this to prevent the "smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip" - a transparent pretext for leaving the Strip cut off from the world and continuing the occupation by other means.


     Now that the "disengagement" is finished, as it seems, one can pass unequivocal judgment: the entire operation was incredibly stupid.


     It was foolish because it was unilateral. It did not make cooperation possible, except on the lowest level of a cease-fire while the withdrawal was going on. The withdrawal could have been used for the building of psychological and political bridges between the two peoples. It could have convinced the Gaza population that it is now worthwhile to live in peace with us. This would have isolated the radical organizations, helped the Palestinian leadership and increased the security of the Israeli towns and villages adjoining the Strip.


     If the whole operation had been carried out from the beginning in the spirit of a dialogue between equals, binding agreements could have been reached concerning the crossing between the Strip and Egypt, international supervision for preventing the illicit transfer of arms, the status of the synagogues, the sea and air connections, and all the rest. But Sharon did not want a dialogue with the Palestinians that could have become, God forbid, the precedent for a dialogue about the future of the West Bank.


     Instead, everything was done in an atmosphere of distrust and enmity. Israeli officers and politicians - without exception - continued to behave and talk like military governors, using the language of threats and arrogance. Their behavior proved that the occupation is not really over - not in Gaza, and even less in the West Bank.


     The Palestinian Joha is a cunning fellow. The Israeli Joha is just crude.





Uri Avnery

 From:"Abbas and the Lame Duck" October 10, 2005


      A twenty-minute drive is all that separates the Israeli Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem from that of the Palestinian President in Ramallah. But for all practical purposes, the Muqata'ah in Ramallah might as well be on the moon.


      The day before yesterday, Ariel Sharon declared for the who-knows-how-many-th time, that he had cancelled his planned meeting with Mahmoud Abbas. The reason: Abbas "is not doing anything against terrorism". A routine pretext, but it seems that this time the act itself is not mere routine. The long campaign for the elimination of Mahmoud Abbas is entering its final phase.


      Much to the regret of Sharon & Co., Abbas cannot be "eliminated" the usual way, as were Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and many other Palestinian leaders. In the case of Abbas, it is not even allowed to use the word "elimination" - an official term of the Israeli army, taken straight from the Mafia lexicon.


      The ascent of Abbas after the elimination of Yassir Arafat - still shrouded in mystery - turned on a red light in Sharon's office. After all, his plans are all based on the slogan "There is Nobody to Talk With". Abbas, on the other hand, looks to the world, and even to a significant part of the Israeli public - like a Palestinian leader eminently fit to talk with. Worse, he looks that way to President Bush too.


      That made a cautious approach necessary. Carefully concealing his anger, Sharon shook hands with Abbas in Aqaba, in the presence of Bush. He saw, with growing concern, how the Palestinian leader was received in the White House and heard Bush praise the democratic elections held by the Palestinians. There was a growing danger that the Americans would realize an old nightmare of Israeli governments: an "imposed peace" that would compel Israel to return more or less to the pre-1967 border.


      Therefore, Sharon adopted a cautious tactic: gain time, wait for a change of circumstances, and in the meantime be content with sticking needles into Abbas' effigy. It was impossible to launch a campaign of demonization against him, as had been done to Arafat, with the full participation of all the Israeli and world Jewish media. But in all the media, a daily message was planted: Abbas is a wet rag, Abbas is not worth anything, Abbas is not able to destroy the "terror infrastructure", it's quite useless to talk with him.


      This week, the style was sharpened. No more pity for poor Abbas, doing his best and failing, but an outright attack on him. Abbas, it is being said, doesn't really want to put an end to terrorism. The news pages of all newspapers, from Maariv to Haaretz, were mobilized for this campaign. The radio and television networks joined in with enthusiasm.


      At the same time, the violent confrontation broke out again with full force.


      Who started it? Depends who is asked. As always, each side declares that the new round began with an atrocity from the other side. If one wants to, one can go back 120 years, to the first stone thrown by a Palestinian shepherd at the first Jewish settler - or to the first blow struck by the first Jewish settler on the head of a Palestinian shepherd who had led his goats onto his field.


      As a matter of fact, the confrontation has not stopped for a moment. The Palestinians did indeed declare a Tahidiya ("calm"), but that was only an agreement among themselves. The Israeli army was no party to it and continued with great vigor entering Palestinian towns and villages, arresting "wanted" militants and killing some of them, here and there.


      The new round started with the killing of Luay Sa'adi, a militant of the Islamic Jihad in the Tulkarm area, who had already spent five of his 25 years in Israeli prisons. The army described him as a very senior commander, a huge "ticking bomb". The Jihad took up this ludicrous assertion with alacrity, because it justified a major retaliation. In private, Palestinians said that he was just a local activist.


      Either way: when Sharon, between breakfast and lunch, gave his assent to the execution, he knew that he was also condemning some Israelis to death - since it was certain that the Jihad would respond with an act of revenge. There is no escape from the conclusion that that was indeed the purpose of the action.


      It was confirmed with great speed. A Jihadist from a close-by Palestinian village carried out a suicide bombing in the fruit market of the Israeli town Hadera, five Israelis were murdered. (In the terminology used by all Israeli media, as dictated from above, Israelis are always "murdered", while Arabs "find their death", or, at most, are "killed".) The village of the suicide bomber is separated from Hadera by the high Separation Wall, but it seems that this did not hinder him. Before his death, he was videoed declaring that he was taking revenge for the killing of Sa'adi - disproving the army's contention that the bombing had been prepared before the killing and had nothing to do with it.


      As if it had only been waiting for this outrage, the army went immediately into well-planned action. A choking general blockade was imposed on the northern West Bank. Towns and villages all over the West Bank were cut off again, sometimes only hours after the roadblocks around them had been removed at the insistence of Condoleezza Rice. A general man-hunt against Jihad activists was started, with a broad hint that the turn of Hamas and Fatah activists would not be far behind.


      In the Gaza Strip, a parallel cycle started. Out of solidarity with the West Bank comrades, some Qassam rockets were fired at Israeli localities, without hitting anyone. The response was prepared in advance: the Army cut the Strip off from all contact with the world, all passages were closed. The Strip was shelled and bombed from land, air and sea. Helicopter missiles killed Jihad activist Shadi Muhanna together with his assistant and four passersby, including a boy - an act that may well bring Chief-of-Staff Dan Halutz another step closer to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Revenge is assured, and so is the revenge for the revenge.


      While all over the world praise is heaped on the "disengagement" and on Sharon, the Man of Peace, he has launched a general offensive for the annexation of most of the West Bank.


      Last week, all over the Palestinian territories, the miserable living conditions were made even worse. That looks like collective punishment, which is forbidden by the Fourth Geneva Convention. But in reality, it was something worse: the aim is to sow despair among the Palestinians, bring them to their knees, compel them to accept Sharon's diktat - to be content with 42% of the West Bank (11% of pre-1948 Palestine) in several enclaves - and, ultimately, to convince them to emigrate altogether.


      Sharon behaves like a bullfighter, sticking his bandilleras between the shoulders of the bull in order to enrage and bait him, till he lashes out in all directions.


      While attention is diverted by the widespread military action, the settlements are being enlarged at a feverish pace, and new settlements are springing up. The building of the Wall continues vigorously, regardless of the Hadera bombing which showed that its security value is doubtful. The dismantling of the hundred "outposts" that were put up after 2001, as demanded by the Road Map, is not even on the agenda. All the army did was to remove five new "outposts" set up this week, with much mutual shoving and hitting, without using tear gas, salt or rubber bullets or stun grenades, which are seemingly reserved for Israeli peace activists.


      The demand by the Quartet emissary, James Wolfenson, to open the absolutely vital passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, was treated with contempt. Since Wolfenson is highly regarded by Bush and Condoleezza Rice, this has a special significance.


      Sharon's people are closely following events in Washington. They know that Bush is in deep trouble and is fast becoming a Lame Duck. Condi, the duckling, is limping along behind him.


      For Sharon, that is a great relief. At long last, he can now stop praising Abbas and start to bury him.  






Nadav Shragai


Source: Haaretz  October 10, 2005

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service with permission to reprint


    The security fence enveloping Jerusalem can now be seen from several vantage points in the city, and it is not a cheerful sight.  Built partly from exposed concrete, and rising to nine meters in parts, it can be seen from the Old City, from Liberty Bell Park , and from the promenade in East Talpiot. These are sensitive spots in terms of visual beauty, but the major damage caused by the fence is not to the scenery but to the human fabric of the city. In effect, the fence has pushed tens of thousands of Palestinians beyond the municipal borders and affected the routine of their lives and that of the residents of many Palestinian villages alongside Jerusalem.


      Two studies conducted recently by the Jerusalem Institute for the Study of Israel reveal that the fence has hit hardest with regard to employment. Some 52 percent of those interviewed said they had difficulties reaching their places of work or that they had lost them entirely. Others reported that their businesses were hard hit, and that customers had left. Some 44 percent of those interviewed said they had stopped attending prayers at the Temple Mount or were going less frequently. Another 39 percent said their health was affected by the inaccessibility of hospitals and clinics in Jerusalem .Some 37 percent said their social and family ties were affected by the wall. One-third of the interviewees said they had difficulty getting to schools and institutes of higher learning in Jerusalem.


      The fence has caused the collapse of commercial centers that were situated along the capital's periphery, at places like a-Ram and the road to Bethany, and it has also had an effect on the commercial centers of East Jerusalem itself, particularly on the market inside the Old City market and on the market outside the Damascus Gate and on the shops along the major shopping street of Salah a-Din.  Many people said they used to go to prayers in the Old City and then go shopping but no longer do so. East Jerusalem 's markets were faring batter in the past year but among the local Arab tourists, a large part of the regular trade, there has been a sharp decrease in customers. The hotels, tourist services and bus companies of East Jerusalem were close to collapse over the past few years because of the intifada. The researchers believe many of them might indeed collapse now.


     The two hospitals in East Jerusalem that served the refugee populations and villagers living outside the municipal boundaries, Makassed and Augusta Victoria, are now facing even harder times. Makassed is in deep financial trouble but Augusta Victoria is supported by UNWRA and still keeping its head above water. The researchers propose that special roads be built to allow easy access to ambulances and patients from the West Bank to the hospitals, which lie close to the city perimeter.


     Yisrael Kimche, Maya Hoshen and Amnon Ramon, who have studied and followed the developments in East Jerusalem over the years, propose that Israeli policy planners take into account the economic, spiritual and social centrality of Jerusalem in the lives of West Bank residents. The researchers believe that East Jerusalem's ties with the Hebron and Bethlehem regions are particularly strong. They believe that the idea of a "reverse magnet" - an attempt to lessen the dependency of the West Bank residents on East Jerusalem - will not succeed in the long run.  Jerusalem , they say, is the metropolitan centre for one and a half million people, more than half of them Palestinians, and that it will be difficult to change this. "In the city itself, the Palestinians constitute more than one-third of the population. It will be difficult to cause this metropolitan alignment to change, and to cancel the many ties in the fields of religion, society and culture that the Palestinians have with the city," they write. Where will the resources come from to build alternative services? the researchers ask, and how many years will be required to do so?  "If nevertheless the trend of a reverse magnet does succeed and new, smaller municipal centres develop in the Arab sector that manage to attract people and services from Jerusalem, perhaps this will be consistent with Israeli policy in the short run," they say, but it will certainly weaken Jerusalem economically and socially in the long run. A large city cannot grow and will instead weaken, without an active metropolitan area, they point out.


     The team of experts recommends that the government adopt a policy that requires heavy resources. They propose that it create new work places in East Jerusalem and get some of the workers to go to the western part of the city. They suggest that East Jerusalem residents be included in the various institutions of the municipality. And, above all, they propose that the Israeli government take a "soft and flexible" attitude toward the crossing over of Palestinians at the crossing points planned for the fence that envelopes Jerusalem, to attempt to preserve the connection between the city and its residents and the metropolitan area that surrounds it.


 Nadav Shragai writes for Haaretz.





Arun Gandhi

Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi


Reprinted with permission from the spring 2005 issue of Parables

the newsletter for CityQuest.


     During my visit to Palestine and Israel last August Palestinians in the Diaspora and some within the country insisted that I should be talking to and teaching nonviolence to the Israelis rather than the Palestinians, which is true only in the sense that all of us need tolearn nonviolence to create a society where such conflicts would not occur.


     However, in the context of the present, if Israel believed in nonviolence they would not have committed the aggression in the first place.


I believe that the philosophy of nonviolence (and I insist it is a philosophy and not a strategy) is a tool for the victim and not the aggressor. Let me reiterate that an aggressor would not be an aggressor if he or she believed in nonviolence. I am reminded of the words expressed by Napoleon, a master at warfare who said, "The general who holds the initiative wins the war."


     That is what I tried to impress upon President Arafat during my talk with him and with the people of Palestine. What has happened for 55 years is that the Palestinians have reacted to Israeli provocation. In other words, the Palestinians have allowed the Israelis to set their agenda.  


     Out of understandable frustration the Palestinians have resorted to the kind of violence that has brought terrible violence into urban streets and to the doorsteps of innocent people.  As a result, the Palestinians have opened themselves to being branded as "terrorists" and they have earned very little sympathy around the world.  


     There is no doubt that governmental administrations around the world have devised sophisticated ways of dealing with nonviolent activists, but that is the nature of the culture of violence. The oppressor must find new ways of persecution through violence to maintain control through fear of repercussions.  


     The more fear one can generate the greater the control. The philosophy of nonviolence has not worked because not only has it been mutilated but very rarely does one make any significant attempt to take it seriously enough to apply the basic principles of nonviolence.


      I disagree with those who say nonviolence is a strategy. If one needs an engineer to accomplish a specific project you do not look for the needed talent in a medical school. Today we respond with violent responses because we think, live, behave and respond violently when faced with conflict.  


     Correspondingly, therefore, if one has to respond nonviolently it is essential that one lives, thinks, behaves and acts nonviolently.  


     Nonviolence cannot be practiced if a person is filled with hate, anger, frustration and a desire to destroy.  The basis of nonviolence is that we recognize our adversary is wrong and we are going to help educate them and change their way of thinking.  That appeal, as Gandhi

demonstrated, can come only through self-suffering and sacrifice.  


     This does not mean that we meekly submit to injustice, but that we suffer the consequences of a moral stand against injustice.  This is why it is essential for the Palestinians to find the Gandhi within them and through their experience reveal to the Israelis and to the entire world beyond the "Gandhi" within them.









Ibrahim A. Gambari

Source: The Daily Star(, October 8, 2005

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service with permission to republish


     One of the least controversial provisions adopted at the recent U.N. Summit in New York was also one of the most promising - in fact, it could help end some of the world's deadliest armed conflicts. World leaders endorsed plans by Secretary General Kofi Annan to strengthen the United Nations as an honest broker of peace accords.


     The Summit's call for enhanced U.N. mediation and "good offices" capabilities is a recognition of the critical role impartial third parties, including the United Nations, have played in forging peace in many situations around the world. Third parties can be especially helpful when years - even decades - of killing have bred depths of hatred that simply cannot be bridged, unless outsiders help the opposing parties to build communication and trust.


     The pursuit of peace is an often-hesitant dance. Experience has shown it can take three to tango.


     At any given time, the U.N. chief has dozens of special envoys deployed worldwide, providing good offices on his behalf. Though they are active today in places like Iraq, the Middle East and the conflict-ridden regions of Africa, their role is not limited to trying to stop wars. Good offices are used for other peaceful ends - to free hostages, for example, or to resolve border disputes and electoral or inter-communal controversies before they turn violent.


      Third-party mediation is an increasingly crowded field, with governments, regional and non-governmental organizations, as well as some well-known individuals getting involved. The United Nations has no monopoly. However, the United Nations - representing, as it does, the international community in the broadest sense - can bring unparalleled legitimacy to the task.


     U.N. mediators helped forge seminal peace agreements in Cambodia, El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1990s, ending some of the most horrendous conflicts of our time. Fast-forwarding to the more recent past, it was a senior U.N. envoy, shuttling across deep ethnic and political divides, Lakhdar Brahimi, who proved instrumental in establishing the transitional government and the political road map that has guided Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban.


      In some cases the secretary general gets personally involved - as when Annan's discreet good offices helped to avert fighting between Nigeria and Cameroon over an oil-rich peninsula claimed by each country.


      In other instances, as in Sudan today, the U.N. can lend support and expertise to other international players who are leading a peacemaking effort. The historic agreement reached this year to end two decades of bloodshed between the North and South must now be followed by success in the African Union-brokered peace talks aimed at stopping the atrocities in Darfur.


      Though it can claim some notable contributions by some highly gifted diplomats, U.N. peacemaking still needs to be enhanced. Envoys should be deployed with more than their guts, guile and personal experience. The organization needs, for example, to develop an in-house base of knowledge about peacemaking, and a better system for selecting and training mediators for the challenges they will face in the field.


      With the World Summit behind us, work can now get under way to turn its broad endorsement of strengthened U.N. peacemaking into specific actions. Proposals will need to be developed and discussed both within the U.N. Secretariat and with the member states of the organization.


     A high-level panel of experts commissioned by the secretary general has proposed that the United Nations build a team of experienced mediation professionals to support its envoys in the field. One could imagine them providing advice on everything from mediating techniques to how parties can navigate the kinds of excruciating issues - dealing with war crimes, for example - that arise repeatedly in peace negotiations.


      The panel also found that the peacemaking department within the United Nations (the Department of Political Affairs, which I head) has been grossly under-resourced, and should be strengthened, in part, to better support U.N. envoys and mediation in general. We cannot know when the next opening for U.N. peacemaking will arise. There are a number of longstanding civil wars where some kind of third-party mediation may eventually be called for - whether by the United Nations alone or in partnership with others.


      We need to be ready when our dance card is called.


Ibrahim A. Gambari is United Nations Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs. 






Uri Avnery

Conference on "Raising Children without Violence"

Lecture in Berlin, October 20, 2005


     Some years ago I talked with a young Israeli writer. I was struck by the fact that in spite of being very successful and acclaimed by the critics, and that at a relatively early age, she somehow exuded an air of insecurity.


     When I asked her about it, she broke down. "I never told this to anybody. My whole childhood was hell. I did not know that both my parents had been in Auschwitz. They never talked about it. I only knew that there was a terrible secret hanging over my family, a secret so awful that I was forbidden even to ask about it. I lived in constant fear, under a constant threat. I never had a feeling of security."


     This is violence - not physical violence, but violence nonetheless. Many Israeli children have experienced it, even when the State of Israel became more and more powerful, and Security - with a capital S - became its fetish.


     We, Israelis and Palestinians, are living in a permanent war. It has lasted now for more than 120 years. A fifth generation of Israelis and Palestinians has been born into the war, like their parents and teachers. Their whole mental outlook has been shaped by the war from earliest childhood. Every day of their lives, violence has dominated the daily news.


     In many ways, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unique. Putting a complex historical process in its simplest terms, it goes like this:


     120 years ago, many Jews in Europe realized that the growing nationalism of the various peoples, almost always accompanied by a virulent anti-Semitism, was leading towards a catastrophe. They decided to become a nation themselves and set up a state for the Jews. They chose Palestine, the ancient homeland of their people, as the place to realize their dream. Their slogan was: "A country without people for a people without a country."


     But Palestine was not empty. The people living there objected, of course, to another people coming from nowhere and claiming their country.


    The historian Isaac Deutscher has described the conflict in this way: A person lives on an upper floor of a building that has caught fire. To save himself, he jumps from the window and lands on a passerby below, injuring him grievously. Between the two, a mortal enmity ensues. Who is in the right?


     Every war creates fear, hatred, distrust, prejudices, demonization. All the more so a war lasting for generations. Each of the two peoples has created a narrative of their own. Between the two narratives - the Israeli and the Palestinian - there is not the slightest resemblance. What an Israeli child and a Palestinian child learn about the conflict from their earliest years - at home, in kindergarten, in school, from the media - is totally different.


     Let's take an Israeli child. Even if his parents or grandparents were not Holocaust survivors, he learns that Jews have been persecuted throughout history - indeed, he learns that history is nothing but an endless story of persecution, inquisition and pogroms, leading to the terrible Shoah.


     I once read the reports of a class of Israeli schoolchildren, who had been asked to write down their conclusions after visiting Auschwitz. About a quarter of them said: My conclusion is that after what the Germans have done to us, we must treat minorities and foreigners better than anyone else. But three quarters said: After what the Germans have done to us, our highest duty is to safeguard the existence of the Jewish people, by every possible means, without any limitations.


     This feeling of being the eternal victim still persists, even after we have become a powerful nation in the State of Israel. It is deeply imbedded in our consciousness.


     Already in kindergarten, and then every year in school, a Jewish child in Israel experiences an annual series of national and religious holidays (there is no real difference between the two) commemorating events in which Jews were victims and had to fight for their lives:


- Hannuka, commemorating the fight of the Maccabees against the Greek oppressors

- Purim, the victory over the Persians who tried to exterminate all the Jews

- Passover, the flight of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt

- Remembrance day, devoted to the Israeli soldiers killed in our many wars against the Arabs

- Independence Day, our desperate fight for survival in the 1948 war in which our state was founded;

- Holocaust Day

- The 9th of the month Av, when the Jewish temple was twice destroyed, once by the Babylonians and five centuries later by the Romans

- Jerusalem Day, when we conquered the Eastern part of the city, and much more, in the Six-day war.

- Only Yom Kippur is a purely religious holiday, but in our mind it irrevocably connected with the terrible war of 1973.


     On each of these occasions, year after year, there are special classes explaining its meaning, imprinting its significance. The climax is the Seder on the eve of Passover, commemorating the exodus from Egypt, when in every Jewish home around the world an identical ceremony takes place. Every member of the family, from the oldest to the youngest, has a role and every sense - seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching - is engaged. No Jew, however secular he may be, is ever free from the memory of this hypnotizing event in his childhood, experienced in the warmth of the assembled family.


     In the mind of the child, all these events become intermingled. My wife Rachel, who for many years has been a teacher of the first and second elementary school classes, says that the children do not really understand who came before whom - the Romans or the British, the Babylonians or the Arabs.


     The cumulative effect of this is a world-view in which Jews at every period in every country had been threatened with annihilation and had to fight for their lives. The whole world is, always was and always will be, "against us". God - whether he exists or not - has promised us our country, and no one else has any right to it. This includes the Palestinian Arabs, who have lived there for at least 13 centuries. With such an attitude, it is hard to make peace.


     Now let's take a Palestinian child. What does he learn?


- That they belong to the Arab people, who had a glorious empire and a flourishing civilization in the Middle Ages, when Europeans were still barbarians, and who taught Europe science and brought it enlightenment.

- That the barbarian Crusaders perpetrated a horrendous bloodbath in Jerusalem and ravished Palestine, until they were driven out by the great Muslim hero, Salah-al-Din (Saladin).

- That the Palestinians were humiliated and oppressed for many centuries by rapacious foreigners, first the Turks and then the European colonialists, who brought the Zionists to Palestine in order to suppress all hope of the Arabs achieving freedom in their own countries.

- That in the great Nakba (calamity) of 1948, half the Palestinian people were driven out of their homes and country by the Zionists, and that since 1967 all the Palestinians have been vegetating either as refugees or as victims of an endless, cruel occupation. 


     Every Palestinian child grows up with a deep feeling of resentment and humiliation, the feeling of being the victim of a terrible injustice, able to redeem his people only by violent struggle, heroism and self-sacrifice.


    How to make peace between two peoples in the grip of two contradictory, seemingly irreconcilable, narratives? Certainly not by diplomatic maneuvers. These can ease the situation temporarily, but cannot in themselves put an end to the conflict. The history of the Oslo agreement shows that without dealing with the root causes of the conflict imbedded in the minds of the peoples, an agreement is nothing but a short-lived cease-fire.


     Peace is a state of mind. The main task of peace-making is mental: to get the two peoples, and each individual, to see their own narrative in a new light, and - even more important - to understand the narrative of the other side. To internalize the fact that the two narratives are two sides of the same coin. This is mainly an educational undertaking. As such, it is incredibly difficult, because it first has to be absorbed by the teachers, who themselves are imbued with one or the other of these world-views.


     Let me tell you a little story. Rachel was teaching her class the Biblical story of how Abraham bought a plot in Hebron from Ephron, its owner, in order to bury his wife, Sarah. First Ephron offered the plot for free, and only after many entreaties named a price, 400 silver shekels, saying "What is that betwixt me and thee?" (Genesis 23.)  


      Rachel explained to her children that that is the way business is conducted between the Bedouin in the desert even now. It is crass to come straight out with the price, one has to offer it first as a gift. Thus the transaction becomes polite and life more civilized.


      In the intermission, Rachel asked the teacher of the parallel class how she had explained the chapter to her pupils. "Simple," she answered, "I told them that this is a typical example of Arab hypocrisy. You can't believe a word they say. They offer you a gift and than demand a high price!" For peace to become possible, you need to change a whole mentality. That is what my friends and I, in the Israeli Peace Bloc Gush Shalom, are trying to do. Is this possible at all?


     Speaking here, in the center of what used to be the capital of Prussia, I am reminded of my childhood, when I was a pupil in what was then Prussia, which was then still governed by the Social Democrats. Once, when I was 9 years old, in pre-Hitlerite Hanover, the teacher was speaking about the statue of Hermann the Cherusker in the Teutoburger forest. "Hermann stands with his face to the arch-enemy (Erzfeind)," she said. "Children, who is the arch-enemy?" All the children answered in unison: "France! France!" Today, after centuries of war, Germany and France are not only allies, but partners in the glorious enterprise of a united Europe. If this could happen here, peace is possible anywhere.








Rafi Dajani


Source: Orlando Sentinel  October 3, 2005

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service with permission to republish.


      The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has added one more milestone to its history: the Gaza and northern West Bank disengagement. While worst-case scenarios never materialized, the disengagement changed the political equation among Israelis and Palestinians themselves, as well as establishing a new paradigm of relations defining Israeli and Palestinian relations for the foreseeable future.


     For Israelis, the evacuation of settlers was a clear acknowledgement of the end of the dream of Greater Israel. The settler movement engendered sympathy and exhibited some hooliganism, but proved to be no match to a determined government. The northern West Bank withdrawal, with no pretence of a meaningful security link, makes future withdrawals both foreseeable and doable. Finally, by withdrawing to the international border with Gaza, Israel ironically reinforced the 1967 lines as the basis for future borders between Israel and a Palestinian state.


     On the Palestinian side, the leadership delivered on a peaceful withdrawal, and militant groups were able to exercise discipline in not firing on evacuating Israelis. In addition, two competing dynamics emerged among Palestinians. The first is that Gaza was a victory for armed resistance, with polls showing a majority of Palestinians believing this. However, the same polls showed a similar majority against a return to violence and in favor of the collection of weapons from militant groups. The second dynamic is that the disengagement was a consequence of other factors, such as Israeli demographic concerns, world pressure and a desire to use the disengagement to consolidate control over the West Bank.


     Beyond affecting internal political equations, disengagement signaled the advent of a new paradigm of political relations between Israelis and Palestinians. This paradigm is one of unilateralism, and replaces the failing paradigm of negotiations for an end of conflict and resolving of final-status issues.


     The challenge is ensuring that Israelis and Palestinians meanwhile not move so far from the basic tenets of a two-state solution as to make it impossible to move back to political negotiations for a final settlement.


     For that to happen, unilateralism must come with an expiration date, as it falls far short of meeting Palestinian aspirations for freedom and statehood. In addition, both sides must refrain from actions that foreclose a two-state solution, a solution that remains, despite its mounting challenges, the only achievable and internationally sanctioned solution to the conflict.


     More specifically, what is needed from Israel is a complete cessation of targeted killings and mass arrests, a freezing of settlement activity and the encirclement of East Jerusalem, granting Gaza unimpeded access to outside markets, facilitating the re-equipping of the Palestinian security forces, and giving Palestinians the political breathing space to sort out their upcoming legislative elections. Excluding Hamas is counterproductive, enhancing Hamas in the eyes of the Palestinian people and allowing it to retain the veto power it currently has as a political actor outside the official political process.


     Progress on these issues will strengthen Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and positively impact moderates competing in upcoming Palestinian legislative elections. Empowering moderate Palestinians is in the national interest of Israel if it wants to retain a clear Jewish majority in a democratic state.


     For Palestinians, addressing the internal Palestinian security situation remains a critical issue, one that holds the greatest potential to derail eventual statehood. Militant groups must cease all violent activity -- especially rocket fire, but including others such as kidnappings and vigilante actions. Such activities are immoral, ineffective and destructive to Palestinian national interests and prospects for statehood. The latest militant group pledge to end all attacks from Gaza, as well as armed rallies, suggests that these groups are aware that the Palestinian people, especially those in Gaza experiencing newfound liberties, are very much against escalation.


    Asking Abbas to disarm his opponents without providing him the tools to do so and without giving him and his people a political horizon is neither realistic nor achievable. However, the Palestinian Authority can and should do more, irrespective of Israel, including preventing attacks on Israel and punishing those who violate the truce, maintaining security on the border with Egypt, and keeping weapons off the street.


     Active U.S. re-engagement is off the table for the short term, with Washington considering this delicate period a testing time for Abbas to stop all militant activities from inside the territories against Israel. Short of active re-engagement, the U.S. can contribute to improving the Palestinians' conditions and preventing the dynamics of Israel's political system from damaging the cause of peace. It can do so by publicly and clearly drawing red lines on Jerusalem, settlements and borders, that must not be crossed to preserve the viability of a Palestinian state.


     The fulfilling of these basic responsibilities by these three major parties to the conflict will allow the two-state solution to remain on life support until the time comes to resuscitate it and move toward realizing the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace.


Raafat (Rafi) A. Dajani is the executive director of the Washington-based American Task Force on Palestine    He can be reached at







Mark Rosenblum


Source: The Forward

 September 2, 2005

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service with permission to republish


       Washington DC - President Bush was right on the money when he lauded Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for "having made a very tough decision" to carry out the evacuation of settlements from Gaza and the northern West Bank, a bold choice of demography (i.e., a Jewish state) over geography (i.e., the Land of Greater Israel). Indeed, Sharon's decision cost him considerable support within the Likud, which ultimately could force him out of office. But Sharon knew the political score and still pressed ahead, in a display of leadership and statesmanship that is rare in any country.


     The president was also correct in saying that, with Israel leaving Gaza, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas now has to establish a working government there in order to inspire confidence in his people that Palestinian institutions can succeed and confidence in Israel that it will have a partner in peace. Abbas will not succeed in either task as long as terrorist groups are left to undercut his authority and attack Israeli targets, as they did yet again this week in Beersheba. Hamas and the other Palestinian factions must be compelled to choose bombs or ballots — not both.


      But Bush was way off the mark when he suggested that the establishment of better governance in Gaza should be a prerequisite for moving back to the Road Map or that the world should just stay focused on Gaza. Gaza doesn't exist in a bubble. Gaza's governance is related to the overall performance of the Palestinian Authority, which also controls parts of the West Bank. The P.A., for all its frailty, has national political institutions — a president, a prime minister, a parliament and a judiciary — that make decisions that impact life in both territories. The problems with which these official institutions must cope — terrorism, corruption, high unemployment and rampant crime — do not stop at Gaza's borders. Solutions for these problems must be applied in the West Bank, too.


     Gaza's economic recovery is related to the ability of the P.A. to create a sound financial system, a reliable legal structure and security in all the territories over which it presides, in addition to the establishment of greater freedom of movement between Gaza, the West Bank and beyond. International donors have pledged billions in additional aid to help generate jobs and repair infrastructure in Gaza. But this money will be wasted unless the P.A. builds on the improvements that it has already made to its accounting practices, creates a legal climate that provides clear standards for businesses, allows for a truly independent judiciary to resolve disputes and ensures that law and order prevail on the streets.


     Further, unless Israel, the Palestinians and international players reach agreements on improving the movement of materials, goods and people between Gaza, the West Bank and global markets, there is little chance that international aid will be able to do more than provide subsistence for Palestinians. Projects that hold the promise of business development and financial growth will wither unless Palestinians can reliably import and export with their suppliers and customers.


     For example, Palestinian farm products cannot be shipped from Gaza to the West Bank with any regularity because it takes about two weeks to move cargo between them, thanks to a cumbersome delivery system that provides Israel with security, but also ensures extensive delays. Israel is promising to improve the performance of crossing points in this system with new technologies. But unless the current delivery system is replaced with something more practical, and direct transportation links are established for the territories, the ability of sophisticated technology to improve the situation is in doubt.


     Gaza's status under international law is also linked to the West Bank. Several Israeli-Palestinian accords stipulate that the two territories must be treated as a single territorial unit, and the disengagement initiative specifically states that "the process in this plan does not detract from relevant existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians."


     Finally, Gaza's ability to serve as a testing ground for Palestinian institutions depends, in part, on the capacity of the P.A. to point to a political horizon that gives the Palestinian people confidence that if they do everything required of them, including the rejection of violence and terrorism, they will be rewarded with an independent state in both territories. For this reason, the Road Map cannot be deferred.


     Bush should be pressuring the Palestinians to meet their security responsibilities under the Road Map (especially with regard to terrorists), while at the same time pressing Israel to live up to its Road Map obligations — removing settlement outposts and freezing settlement growth in the West Bank. Israel is also required to take "no actions undermining trust," which means building the security barrier as close as possible to the Green Line and stopping the expansion of West Bank settlements.


     No one is suggesting that Israel should immediately be asked to make the same kind of sweeping territorial concessions in the West Bank that it just made in Gaza. Israel still needs time to heal the societal wounds caused by disengagement, and it is entering an electoral season during which it is unrealistic to expect major diplomatic gestures. But moving back to the first stage of the Road Map in a fair manner could provide Abbas with the promise of eventually achieving a two-state solution through negotiations, which he needs to compete against Hamas in the Palestinians' own upcoming legislative elections.


     Bush certainly must tend to the local needs of Gaza. But he also must be fully engaged in the broader Israeli-Palestinian peace process at the same time. Otherwise, the positive momentum created by Israel's settlement evacuation will evaporate, and a new round of fighting will likely fill the void.


* Mark Rosenblum is the founder and policy director of Americans for Peace Now.








Muli Peleg


Source: Ynetnews (, November 13, 2005

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service with permission to republish


      The conflict with the Palestinians has again reached a violent stage, and again –as it does every time the pendulum swings from calm to the drunkenness of murder – each side blames the other for the renewed conflict. Because both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, are exposed to the media and the rhetoric of their leaders, everyone is ensnared in the trap of denial and self-deception that prevents us from freeing ourselves from the devastating bear hug of the blood ritual. The Palestinians have wrapped themselves in the language of occupation. This prevents them from viewing the conflict in any other way and from adopting a perspective that could help them understand Israeli sensitivities. Israelis, for their part, have gathered together under the umbrella of "security" and "fighting terror" and comfortably dug themselves into the imagery of "the few against the many," and of people searching for peace but continually coming up empty-handed. This mutual failure to communicate cannot be conducted by cross-cultural media, and no side can understand or investigate the touchy dynamics of the other side.


Failure to understand


     Leaders on each side fail to understand the intricacies and are not experts in peace or conflict resolution. They are best qualified and most able to glorify violence and the rhetoric of anger. Each time they speak, the power bases of each side begin to shake. As a result, they begin to build reality and rationalize in order to justify militant action and basing the legitimacy of their rule on it. And the public experiences the fruit of this process and simply nods its collective head. But here the collective Israeli-Palestinian vision ends, and the real obstacle to solving the conflict is opened wide. Here begins the difference between the two sides.


     The difference is extended on three points of understanding: nature of the conflict, the meaning of justice and understanding of peace. Israeli consciousness has failed completely on all three points. Firstly, the nature of the conflict: This is not a symmetrical conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and Israel's continual demand for reciprocity and bilateralism is a fantasy. For 40 years, the conflict has been between an occupied people and its occupier, and lately there have been far less broad compromises or patience for that reality. Even the bloodiest terror attack cannot be compared to the ongoing torment of occupation.


     Second is the feeling of injustice: The acute feelings fuel support for those pushing to continue the conflict. As long as we fail to address the motif of justice, no process will bring us to an end of the conflict. Most efforts to resolve, administrate or change the path of the conflict concentrate on restoring peace and quiet. But restoring normative life is not possible without dealing with the failures that originally caused normative life to dissipate in the first place. Treating the symptoms of conflict is always easier than treating the root causes, but it has short-term effects ˆ and occasionally even makes things worse.


     Third, next to justice, the drive for peace, noble and honorable as it may be, was always vaguely worded in Israeli discussion. For it to be true and serious, it must be detailed, and Israelis must understand exactly what long-lasting peace entails, what the repercussions of peace are, and what feelings and what self-image it could shatter. The popular Israeli claim, "who doesn‚t want peace around here?" could turn out to be a lie, if and when the fog clears and people understand just what the real cost involved is.


Bitter, sobering pill


      None of these claims are pleasant to the Israeli ear. The demand for reciprocity, desire to bring the conflict to an end and the drive for peace were always, and will always be ways of purification and easing of the conscience for many of our best and brightest. It's very easy to fall apart over these claims and to place the collar of failure on the other guy. But in order to stop the slaughter and to free both peoples from the burden of violence, we require a drastic change in approach.


     This can only be accomplished by a deep and fundamental internalization of these three points, and it is simply unavoidable for Israelis to march further along the way, to extricate all of us from the trap from which there is no exit, and from the illusion of blaming the other. This will be a bitter pill to swallow, and it will not be simple.


      Israelis, with the ongoing and active support of governments and leaders, myths and justifications, self-mercy and sacrifice psychology have built around themselves a thick labyrinth, that protects them from this sobering up. Ten years ago, Yitzhak Rabin started to cut away this thicket, but in doing so he aroused all the snakes against him.


Dr. Muli Peleg is an expert on conflict resolution and political violence at the Centre for Strategic Dialogue at Netanya College.







Mohammad Gohar


Source: Common Ground News Service (, November 17, 2005

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service with permission to publish


      Arab-American relations have reached a critical stage. Misconceptions, on both sides of the divide, threaten to undermine the desires of mainstream citizens for peace, stability and democratic progression. Mass media in the Middle East, and the broadcast sector in particular, stands the greatest chance to help bridge the understanding gap, and repair some of the damage caused by decades of agenda-laden, biased media platforms.


      The time has come for a new localized voice in media, committed to the production and support of sustained peace in the region. Citizens in the Middle East are beginning to grow accustomed to concepts such as democratization, modernization, community development, and the war against terrorism. Great strides have been made towards opening the minds of Arabs to a future of greater political and economic potential. But at what point will regional media outlets link the very concept of "peace" to this new mindset? It has not happened so far, yet it must if we are ever to achieve it.


      Recent political trends in the region have given broadcasters an opportunity to introduce greater professionalism into their coverage. Governmental reform means more freedom for journalists to fulfill their obligations as providers of information, context and understanding. They can now execute stories faster, more accurately, and in greater depth than before. They can even inform the region of political developments once considered taboo by the establishment-progressive projects such as the QUIZ Agreement, the withdrawal from Gaza, the Egypt-Israeli Tourism Agreement and others.


     Given this new framework, how can we best promote peace itself as a fundamental right of all Arab citizens? Political parties have an obligation to support peace initiatives, both in their own communications departments, and by fostering a more open public discussion of its value and necessity. This should not only be done in the abstract, but peace must be incorporated into all categories of dialogue, from economic growth, to foreign investment, to development projects, to public infrastructure. Confrontational posturing must be abandoned, in exchange for building a psychological linkage between peace and prosperity.


      Before this can happen, an accurate study of popular opinion, with specific respect to the peace process, must be conducted, providing a clear picture of audience viewpoints. This should be done from the street, and must result in a thorough categorization based upon age, gender, income brackets, social background and geography. One cannot begin to persuade an audience without first knowing the audience. Based on this gathered data, a team can formulate a new mechanism for approaching mass media outlets and framing messages towards specific, target demographics. Without the ability to target people with accuracy, words of peace will continue to fall on deaf ears. Likewise, content must be crafted towards specific platforms' satellite broadcasting, as an example, is a far different animal from terrestrial radio, and simple re-versioning of material does not get the message through. Different venues call for different approaches.


      In bringing this message to media outlets, we must ask some crucial questions: Are the current public relations apparatuses sufficient? Are we satisfied with the level of public response we‚ve seen to the peace process? If not, perhaps the time has come for a new, dedicated mechanism and vantage point from which to build support. However, any new approach must take into full account the diversity of media platforms facing Arab consumers now and in the immediate future: satellite broadcasting, terrestrial television, radio broadcasts, print journals, internet hubs including blogs and news servers, mobile phone media platforms, and street advertisements. Only a cross-media approach has a chance of achieving the kind of audience penetration necessary for sustained peace building.


      We cannot discuss a fresh approach to media, without raising the issue of finance. It is a well-reported fact that terrorists and fundamentalist factions have invested far more capital in mass media than their moderate counterparts have. As media becomes increasingly privatized, the door is opened for investment from any source with desire and capital. But without a counterbalancing influx of investment from the right sources, viewpoints expressed throughout Pan-Arab media will continue to skew towards counterproductive ideologies. Audiences in the Middle East today are treated more for their capacities as consumers than as human beings, and so are spoken to in a language that speaks to their quickest impulses, and not their intellectual potential. This trend can only be reversed by private investment stemming from responsible sources, who have a vested interest in peace. Today, mainstream media often operates as an obstacle, inhibiting an open discussion of the peace process by promoting an oppositional mindset predicated on illusion.


      To create an influx of private, responsible media investment in the region, we must consider two phases. Firstly, private media entrepreneurs will depend on startup assistance from U.S. development agencies, European foundations and Japanese aid--not necessarily with respect to startup and operational capital, but through diplomatic support and partnership. Private firms committed to peacebuilding must be given the backup they need to succeed.


      Secondly, and more critical towards creating a sustainable business model, a new mechanism of advertising revenue must be introduced to the private media sector. The largest sources of industrial advertising in the Middle East, among whom include many US-based multinational corporations, must be able to purchase direct market access, and they must be able to do this independently of the current, dominant regional advertising firms. In this way, responsible private media will be rewarded with sustained capital from advertising revenue, and regional ad-brokers, whose imperative it is to stifle the creation of progressive media, will be bypassed. In some respects, this will mirror steps taken by the textile manufacturing sector in Egypt, through their recent cooperative agreement with Israel and Palestine. The result of this new mechanism will be a „Qualifying Media Zone,‰ a protected umbrella beneath which private media can operate under the best professional ideals and, through privatized practices, foster a democratic future in the Middle East.


Mohammad Gohar is the CEO of Video Cairo Sat (VCs).







Maggie Mitchell Salem


Source: Arab News (, November 14, 2005

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service with permission to republish


     Increasingly, it seems as though the insane are running the asylum. Suspicion and distrust continue to overwhelm global unity, stubbornness trumps common sense, and leaders‚ PR stunts not only fail to win they actually succeed in offending the hearts and minds of young people (more than 60 percent of the Middle East and South Asia). Yet, despite all the doom and gloom, there are brief flashes of hope when you can be lulled into thinking that perhaps those of sound mind will grow weary of the constant abuse and suffering, resist their crazed captors and seize control.


     Thursday was one of those days. Thousands of Jordanians, venting their grief and united in anger took to the streets to protest Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, whose Al-Qaeda in Iraq coordinated three Amman hotel bombings on Wednesday that killed 57 and injured over 120. Zarqawi‚s murderous acts are daily occurrences in Iraq, but few thought he‚d strike so savagely just kilometres from his own hometown.


     Al-Qaeda made a mistake in Jordan that mirrors their missteps in Saudi Arabia two years ago. Though Zarqawi took aim at King Abdallah‚s close ties with Washington, his attacks killed and injured scores of Jordanians and other Arabs. Similarly, in Riyadh the group‚s attacks on housing compounds resulted in Arab casualties. Public attitudes shifted perceptibly, depriving the group of much needed popular and practical support. While making a strong show of support for Abdallah, world leaders should be coordinating a short and long-term strategy to exploit Zarqawi‚s current weakness and tighten the noose on other Al-Qaeda offshoots.


      Global terrorism needs a global response, not just conferences but coordinated action plans that require each member to perform specific actions in defense of all. But to succeed, some „sacred cows‰ of each country‚s domestic and foreign policy will have to be sacrificed. Here is where the rational (dare I say realists?) have to triumph over the reactionary.


      While there‚s certainly no guarantee that any of the above is likely to happen any time soon, here‚s a 10-point plan for rooting out Al-Qaeda or any other international affliction:


(1) Take Islam out of terror: Zarqawi and Osama Bin Laden need to disguise their barbarity as „Islamic.‰ No one, not fellow Muslims and certainly not Western leaders, should accept that label. Not a single religion condones the deliberate murder of innocents.


(2) America, in context: There is no denying America‚s status as the pre-eminent world power both economically and politically. But there is also no denying that resentment of US muscle flexing, whether verbal or military, has harmed our image and undermined key policy goals. Working, as Washington did prior to the first Gulf War, within a truly multilateral context would frame initiatives as international and increase chances for success. Exhibit A: the handling of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, including Syria‚s withdrawal from Lebanon and the ongoing UN investigation into the murder.


 (3) Values that inspire confidence and trust: There‚s plenty of room for improvement in all countries. This global endeavour will demand each member nation agree to a basic standard of civil and human rights, much like the 1975 Helsinki Accords which countries behind the Iron Curtain signed to dialogue with Western European nations.


 (4) Settling the Palestine question: End the myth of the „zero sum game,‰ that an Israeli gain is a Palestinian loss, and vice versa. Everyone ˜ Europe, the US, UN, Russia and Arab nations ˜ has a role to play. The obstacles are enormous. While senior officials in the Bush administration deride any attempt to discuss „root causes‰ of terrorism, every poll taken in the past 20 years has consistently proven that the plight of Palestinians fuels resentment and hostility.


 (5) Rebranding Palestine: For too long, the cause that Palestinians rightly champion has been expropriated by others, from self-serving Arab leaders to terrorists in search of recruits. Meanwhile, Palestinians lack a coherent vision of their own future. Their leaders spend too much time jockeying for political power and too little time identifying options. The unilateral Gaza withdrawal, the gradual loss of East Jerusalem and a threat to effectively cantonise the West Bank should spur them into constructive action. Meanwhile, Arab leaders should play a larger and more vocal role. The Saudi-shepherded peace plan is a good place to start anew. The plan offers diplomatic recognition in exchange for a return to 1967 borders. Marketing was nonexistent; this time, target Israelis not Ariel Sharon.


(6) Enfranchise peoples of the region: Democracy is about more than just elections, is not a cure all and cannot be imposed by force. That said, more and more young people have less and less to do, few opportunities for employment, and are increasingly frustrated. They should be able to voice their concerns, and not only in the mosque. Empower local governments to tackle the problems of their communities, which should include forming or reinvigorating municipal councils.


(7) Your passport is not a reason to discriminate: Whether Palestinian or Israeli, American or Saudi, the same treatment should apply to all. A country’s national security is ill-served by degrading prospective visitors, students, businesspeople and academics.


(8) Connect peoples: Not everyone can travel study abroad or work for a global enterprise. Traditional exchange programs should be supplemented by online dialogue, interactive websites and 100 percent IT penetration of remote regions. The goal is to expand horizons even for those who lack the means to travel beyond them.


(9) Expand public-private partnerships: The expansion of IT programs to disadvantaged communities is largely a product of corporate involvement and donations. More might be forthcoming with better coordination and communication; the same would apply to job creation.


(10) "Your true friend is one who is honest with you, not one who agrees with you." (Arabic saying)


     Need I say more?


Maggie Mitchell Salem is a political and communications consultant based in Washington, DC. Previously she was director of communications and outreach at the Middle East Institute and for seven years served as a Foreign Service officer at the US Department of State.




©2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. All rights reserve. The Nonviolent Change Journal is published by the Research/Action Team on Nonviolent Large Systems Change - an interorganizational and international project of The Organization Development Institute.  Opinions expressed are solely that of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editing staff, Nonviolent Change Journal, Organization Development Institute.