Nonviolent Change Journal

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

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World Developments

Letters: Dialoging

Media Notes

Reports and Announcements



  Rene Wadlow,

 "Ibrahim Rugova: Nonviolent Actions in Violent Kosovo”


  Franck Biancheri,

 "Tomorrow's common hope:

 Israeli and Palestinian youth are dreaming

    of mobility”


  Hazem Saghiyeh,

"Opinion is a Tough Task in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict"


  Uri Avnery,

 "A disgusting exercise"


  Lord George Carey,

 "Letting Go of Legitimizing Religion"


  Gershon Baskin,

"New Opportunities for Building Peace"


  Gershon Baskin,

"Collective Punishment Doesn't Really Work"


  Mohamed Mosaad,

 "Interfaith Dialogue: The Overlooked Objectives"


  Gul Rukh Rahman,

"Children of Abraham - Jews and Muslim"   


  Stephen M. Sachs,

“Returning the World to Harmony: Getting the Peace  in American Indian Tradition”








Vol. XX, No.3                                                   Spring 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.







Rene Wadlow

  February, 13 2006


     Just as negotiations on the "final status" of Kosovo were to start on January 25 under the chairmanship of Martii Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and a seasoned negotiator, Ibrahim Rugova, President of Kosovo, died of lung cancer in the Kosovo capital Pristina. The start of the final status talks have been postponed but should start relatively soon as the negotiating team that Rugova had put together should be able to continue, but without the long-range vision and spirit of reconciliation that Rugova represented.


     As Rugova had written recently, nearly seven years "after NATO went to war to stop wide-spread human rights abuses in Kosovo, an interim United Nations mission still administers the province alongside its democratically elected government, while troops from more than 30 countries provide security.  And despite continuing difficulties, success is in sight."  Success is a relative term, but for a man who knew that he was dying and who had been the moral and political leader of the Kosovo Albanians since the early 1980s, he had seen vast changes, even as he deplored the use of violence such as the NATO air offensive against Serbia which brought about some of the changes. At the peak of the 79 days of NATO bombing which lasted from 24 March 1999 until 10 June, Rugova went to see Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on the possibility of a negotiated settlement.  The photos of the two men in animated conversation were sent around the world and were considered as a form of treason by some Albanians in Kosovo (sometimes called Kosovars).


     Ibrahim Rugova considered himself as a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and was often called the 'Albanian or Balkan Gandhi'. He advocated non-violent action and self-reliant economic development.  Like Gandhi, he tried to keep lines of communication open to the colonial overlords - thus the visit to Milosevic.  Like Gandhi, he had many followers who approved of his aims but who were not deeply convinced of the value of non-violent methods. Like Gandhi, there was a violent section of his own people who wanted to kill him to prove that violence was the only road to independence.


     The violent fringe became the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which started in 1996 to kill Serb administrators in Kosovo and Albanian civil servants as 'collaborators' in the hope that such provocation would lead to strong Serb repression which in turn would provoke external aid to independence.  This policy bore fruit in 1999.  There were wide-spread rumours in the late 1990s that the KLA was plotting to kill Rugova, and recently he narrowly escaped being killed when the car in which he was riding was badly damaged in an armed attack.


    Conditions in Kosovo in the 1980s brought two men to power who by training and previous experience were most unlikely to hold such posts: Both became symbols of nationalism: Slobodan Milosevic and Ibrahim Rugova.  Milosevic was by training a banker who had spent a good number of years in the USA working for a Yugoslav bank.  He was a communist technocrat with little interest in Serb history or culture.  Rugova was a professor of literature at the University of Pristina.  He was interested in European literature with a focus on French authors - a 'European' by education and sentiment.


     After the death of Tito in 1980, tensions between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo grew stronger - nearly 90 percent of the population being Albanian, but Kosovo is considered the original 'homeland' of the Serbs and a landmark of mytho-legendary significance.  Under the 1974 Yugoslav constitution, the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo was a 'constituent part' of the Republic of Serbia.  In practice, Kosovo was largely autonomous but some wanted to have the same status as Serbia as an independent republic within the Yugoslav Federation.


    By 1981, Kosovars began agitation to become a full republic within the Yugoslav Federation.  This agitation was considered dangerous by Serbs and was countered by strong police measures. In 1983 there were wide-spread protests followed by massive arrests.


     Milosevic was too young to play a leadership role in Yugoslav politics, being only 46 in 1986 and his technocratic suggestions for economic management had little popular appeal.


     Nearly by accident, Milosevic found in the Kosovo issue and the defense of the Serb minority living there an issue which stirred many Serbs.  He took on the role of Serbian nationalist and finally brought the country to economic ruin despite his real competence in economic mattes.


     Likewise, Rugova had to focus upon the defense of Albanians and their culture in Kosovo.  He first concentrated on overcoming the family and clanic divisions which weakened Albanian society from within.  He helped to organize large ceremonies where family heads were able to renounce their antagonisms toward other families and to forgive past wrongs.


     By 1990, the Serb-Kosovar antagonism reached the breaking point.  The Kosovars declared independence - which no country recognized.  The Serbian government fired a large number of Albanians working in the Kosovo administration as potential enemies. At this time, Rugova followed the inspiration of Gandhi and the Congress Party of India and created a parallel administration and society.


     Rugova helped set up a parallel Albanian school system from primary through university, meeting in homes and barns. All the institutions of Kosovo largely stopped  as the Albanians created their own parallel administration.  The 'real government' was the parallel government, and in 1992 Rugova was elected president in parallel state elections.


     The most difficult was to create a parallel economy for an area that was largely rural and one of the poorest in Yugoslavia.  Many young Kosovars left the country to work abroad in Europe and sent money home.  The drug traffic and prostitution became Kosovar specialties - not exactly a Gandhian model.


     Unfortunately, Rugova's Gandhian efforts were not supported by European governments or even powerful NGOs as attention was focused on the fighting in other parts of Yugoslavia.  The Kosovars had hoped that their non-violent efforts would be recognized in the 1995 Dayton accord which tried to bring an end to the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina. When the Kosovo situation was totally ignored at Dayton, fringe groups which advocated violence grew stronger.  Many of Rugova's followers were not ethically wedded to non-violence and were willing to support violence 'if it would work better'.  Also, like Gandhi, Rugova had no strong successor as a champion of non-violence as well as a leader of the people.


    The constitutional, economic and political issues of final status negotiations are complex and are likely to prove difficult.  Without the non-violent philosophy of Rugova, there will be a gap of moderate voices seeking reconciliation.  The action and philosophy of Rugova merit to be better known outside Kosovo.  Perhaps his spirit can continue to inspire the negotiations.


Rene Wadlow is editor of the online journal of world politics and an NGO representative to the UN, Geneva. Formerly, he was professor and Director of Research of the Graduate Institute of Development Studies, University of Geneva.


Note: For a good account of Rugova and his efforts by a non-violent activist see Howard Clark. Civil Resistance in Kosovo (London: Pluto Press)







             Franck Biancheri


Distributed by the Common Ground News Service

permission to republish


      Paris - Their elders speak only of land and states, while the youth on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict dream of mobility, of freedom of movement within their own borders, and beyond.


     In December 2005, at the invitation of the Young Israeli Forum for Cooperation (YIFC), I held a series of seminars and discussions with Israeli and Palestinian youth.  During our debates, I asked a mixed group of these young people a very simple, but unusual, question: "If our meeting room was a time machine bringing us into 2025, what would you dream of finding in the Middle East at that time?" After a moment of refection, these young people started to share their vision of their region in 2025, concentrating on the main thing they would hope to find. An Israeli mentioned his dream of visiting countries in the Middle East that he is presently prevented from entering.  A Palestinian said he wanted freedom to move around his own country, and another wanted to travel around the world. This desire for mobility was consistent among all the youth that I interviewed.  It was shared by the students and professors in universities, where many would like to see Israeli and Palestinian universities connected to a student exchange program such as the European Erasmus Student Exchange.  To my surprise, and the surprise of the young leader who organized my visit, all of the youth, women and men, Israeli and Palestinian, were dreaming of the same thing: freedom of movement.


      It is easy to imagine how these young people feel trapped.  In a country the size of Belgium, roughly the size of the U.S. state of New Jersey, both Israelis and Palestinians have limited freedom to travel around as they please.  Israelis cannot visit the West Bank and Gaza region, which starts only a few kilometers away from their homes and cities.  They cannot visit most other countries in the region.  Palestinians cannot freely travel within their own country and cannot visit other parts of the world without difficult-to-obtain permits and permissions from Israel.


     While their elders are talking about the important, but static, concepts of land and states, the Twenty-First Century Generation expressed a simple, decent human expectation and right.  They dream of being able to do what their peers are doing elsewhere: moving, traveling, visiting.  The past generation of leaders from both sides, as well as the international community, have not been able to fulfil this very basic human right.  They have even managed to further restrict movement in the last decade, and especially now, with the construction of the barrier.


      From my European experience, it is clear that people need a common dream to be able to build peace.  After speaking with the youth of Palestine and Israel, I am now convinced that young Israelis and Palestinians do have a dream in common: freedom of movement.  They only have to become aware that they share it.  But if they do, for the first time in this region, peace will not be abstract, but will take the shape of something meaningful for an individual, for a young individual: his/her own ability to move, to travel, to belong to the Twenty-First Century.


      I am also convinced that this is where the European Union has a major role to play. We Europeans are the very symbol of this cross-borders, cross-cultural mobility of which young Palestinians and Israelis dream. As one of them said to me: "I am amazed to see that, when I chat with friends in Europe, they may be in London for a year, then they go to study or work in Frankfurt, or Paris, then go on holidays in Rome, or do a stage in Prague ... and here we are stuck. Even moving a few kilometers is a major trouble"


     It is vital that Europe and the rest of the world listen and respond innovatively to such a call coming from the young people of this region.  Perhaps a peace process involving this common dream of free movement can trigger the massive youth support needed to pave the way for a new reality in the region.


* Franck Biancheri is the Director of Studies and Strategy for Europe 2020 where he heads a series of seminars, Global Europe 2020, that focuses on the future of EU Common External Policy.





         Hazem Saghiyeh


Source: Common Ground News Service, December 3, 2005.

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service

permission to republish.


     London - In the wake of the 1993 Oslo agreement, optimism became more prevalent among Palestinians, and the negative image of the „Israeli‰ and the „Jew‰ began to change. At the same time, the power wielded by Hamas and the other opposition forces started to recede. Knowledgeable observers were asking questions such as: „Will Hamas engage in political activity instead of violence? Will Hamas split into 'Hamas - Inside'‚ and  'Hamas - Outside'? This positive mood lasted until the election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996.


     And after the Israeli Army invaded Lebanon in 1982, hundreds of thousands of Israelis demonstrated in solidarity with the Lebanese and Palestinians, demanding an end to occupation and war. Theirs was the only big demonstration in the region. The remaining chapters of that story are well known: Sharon was fired and Menachem Begin grew his beard, mourning his dead wife and leaving politics altogether.


     In both cases, Israelis and Palestinians were mobilized in peaceful directions, as they came to see the grave damage caused by war, and they recognized that stability and cooperation provide generous rewards. A sense of utilitarianism is always a pre-requisite for the emergence of noble ideas. Indeed, during the Middle Ages, Europeans created the idea of „tolerance‰ after they realized the huge cost of religious wars. Much more recently, American public opinion turned against the Vietnam War, as the number of fatalities skyrocketed.


     The Middle East has suffered enough for everyone - Palestinian, Arab, and Israeli - to recognize the magnitude of the losses. Yet, what is worrisome is that Middle Easterners today see pain and loss not as factors which have political implications, but as the normal order of things. With the situation having fallen to such a miserable level (though I hope I am wrong in this assessment), public opinion on both sides seems unlikely to play a positive role. 


     In such an atmosphere, national and religious solidarity tends to dominate, as conservative views protect orthodoxy. This, in turn, compels the rest of us to view history through dark lenses and to look at the future as a natural, inevitable extension of the past - where people inevitably will live by the sword (though the past itself was never as bad as the one which has been invented by nationalists and fundamentalists).


     In situations like these, three dynamics prevail. The first includes general approval of small steps, real or apparent, that improve the situation and that continue until the next Israeli raid or Palestinian suicide attack erases all progress. The Gaza disengagement provides an example. Cautious optimism was soon replaced by bitter disappointment as this unilateral Israeli action occurred in the absence of coordination with the Palestinian Authority or assurances against reoccupation, and in the shadow of continued settlement activity in the West Bank.


      The second dynamic consists of naïve jubilation over what US President George W. Bush will achieve for us. Some seem to think that he accumulated political capital through his many 'victories,' from Iraq to New Orleans, and that he has enough left over to share  in the Middle East. But the sad truth is that this president, who once promised a Palestinian state before the end of 2005, has turned around to say, in front of Palestinian President Abbas, that this state will not see the light of day before his administration ends. (It's unclear if Bush spoke with God before his first announcement or the second.)


     The third prevailing dynamic embraces the philosophy, which has become conventional wisdom and which says that the situation remains tolerable as long as it does not explode into something worse. Somehow, statistical consciousness concerning the numbers of dead and injured becomes more important than political consciousness aimed at peacemaking. Public opinion has fallen prey to a herd mentality. It would do us good to consult Freud, Elias Cavetti, and others to understand how politics can degenerate into pathology, turning whole societies into horrible clinical cases.


     In order to employ public opinion in the pursuit of peace, it is necessary to know the difference between the true moralist and the impostor; the former knows his duties, while the latter knows the duties of others. Hence, the former acts morally without preaching to others, while the latter preaches morality but does not abide by it. With the exception of a select group of writers, journalists and activists, the collective Israeli voice today instructs the Palestinians on what they should do. With the exception of President Abbas and his immediate circle, the collective Palestinian voice similarly tells the Israelis what they should do. But there is one important difference, although the results are the same. In Israel, there has been an erosion of enlightened public opinion, rooted in democracy and based on the presence of a middle class and a civil society closely connected to the West. For the Palestinians, however, the development of modern public opinion is being blocked, and people are prevented from moving beyond their ties to religion and kin. When external Arab elements intervene to push in this direction, everything repugnant becomes more so. How can it be otherwise when most Arab attempts to turn public opinion toward peace are aborted by calls for struggle against the 'enemy'?


     Time, it seems, is not working in favor of those who wish for peace. For this reason, the name 'dreamers' will stay for a long time as a synonym for them


* Hazem Saghiyeh is a Lebanese veteran writer, commentator, and columnist for the Arabic newspaper al-Hayat in London, and the author of many books among them the new book Iraqi Ba‚ath: Ascending and Descending of Saddam regime. This article is part of a series of views on "The Dynamics of Public Opinion," published in partnership with the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and the United Press International (UPI).





Uri Avnery


March 18, 2006

Reprinted from Gush Shalom list serve



     THE CENTRAL theme of this article is disgust. Therefore I apologize in advance for the frequent use of this and similar words. In the thesaurus I find quite a number of synonyms: loathing, revulsion, dislike, nausea, distaste, aversion, antipathy, abomination, repulsion, abhorrence, repugnance, odium, detestation, and some more. They are all present in my feelings about the action that took place in Jericho on Tuesday.


          IT WAS abhorrent, first of all, because it was an election propaganda gimmick. For a politician to send the army in to collect votes is an abhorrent act. In this action, three people were killed. Many more lives, Palestinian and Israeli, were put at risk.


     The horrible cynicism of the decision was plain for all to see. Even the voters noticed it: in a public opinion poll two days later, 47% said that the decision was influenced by electoral considerations, only 49% thought otherwise.


     This is not the first time for Ehud Olmert to walk over dead bodies on his way to power. As mayor of Jerusalem, he pushed for the opening of a tunnel in the area of the Muslim shrines, causing (as expected) dozens of casualties Binyamin Netanyahu, his accomplice at the time, is made of similar material. Netanyahu, at least, was once a combat soldier, who risked his own life in action. Much more distasteful is a politician who sends others to risk their lives but takes great care not to risk his own. This inglorious band also numbers George Bush and Dick Cheney, two serial war-mongers.


     Olmert had a problem. His party was slowly sinking in the polls. As time passed, some of the Kadima fans started to notice that Olmert, after all, is no Sharon. Sharon's glory derives mainly from his being a victorious general, who walked around during the Yom Kippur war with a large bandage around his head (to this very day it is not quite clear what purpose it served). Olmert was in urgent need of a military action that would provide him with the laurels of a tough military commander, and would also help him shake off the nickname attached to him by the Likud: Smolmert. (Smol, in Hebrew, means left.) The trick paid off. In the same poll, 20.7% of the voters said that the Jericho action persuaded them to vote for Kadima, or, at least, reinforced their decision to do so.


     In general, one should beware of a civilian politician who succeeds a leader crowned with military laurels. It is enough to mention the classic case of Anthony Eden, the heir of Winston Churchill, who initiated the Suez war of October 1956.


     WHAT DOES that war remind us about? The collusion.


     The British wanted to topple Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, because he had the temerity to expropriate the property of the British shareholders of the Suez Canal Company. The French wanted to bring him down because of his support for the Algerian war of liberation. They conspired with David Ben-Gurion, who wanted to destroy the newly re-equipped Egyptian army. The main middleman of the collusion was Shimon Peres, now No. 2 on the Kadima list.


     It worked like this: Israeli paratroopers, commanded by Ariel Sharon (founder of Kadima), were dropped near the Suez canal. Britain and France issued a fake ultimatum, calling upon Egypt and Israel to withdraw their forces from the canal - a preposterous demand, since the canal is deep in Egyptian territory. As agreed beforehand, Israel refused, and then the British and French forces invaded the canal area, leaving the Israeli army to take control of the entire Sinai peninsula. The collusion was so primitive and obvious that it was uncovered at once. End of Eden.


     The Jericho affair is incredibly similar: the British and the Americans pretended to fear for the safety of their monitors, which were stationed in Jericho according to an agreement which we shall touch upon later. They told Mahmoud Abbas that they might withdraw them. At a time secretly agreed upon with the Israeli Prime Minister, the British and American monitors went out and the Israeli army went in. Preparations for the action had been going on for weeks.


     One thing should be said in favor of George Bush and Tony Blair (and his miserable Foreign Minister, Jack Straw): they have returned the oldest profession in the world to the oldest city in the world. The scarlet thread of Rahav the Harlot (Joshua, 2) leads to this act of prostitution.


     LIEUTENANT GENERAL Dan Halutz can be proud of this victory. In the past, he became famous for saying that all he feels is a slight bump on his wing when he drops a bomb on a civilian neighborhood, even if women and children are also killed. After that he sleeps well, he said. Now he has won real glory: with the help of dozens of tanks, gunships and heavy bulldozers he has succeeded in capturing six unarmed prisoners in the tranquil, non-violent little town that lives off tourism.


     In the course of the action, Halutz' soldiers created a disgusting picture that has sullied the image of the Israeli army in the eyes of the hundreds of millions who saw it on their screens. They ordered the Palestinian policemen and prisoners to take their clothes off, and then let them be photographed, again and again - and again and again - in their underpants. There was no need for that. The pretext, that they might have hidden explosive belts on their body, was ridiculous under these circumstances. And even if it had been necessary, it could surely have been done far from the cameras. No doubt: the intention was to humiliate, to debase, to satisfy sadistic tendencies.


     A person can, perhaps, get over beatings, or even torture. But he cannot ever forget humiliation, especially when it was done in full view of his family, friends, colleagues and all people around the world. How many new terrorists were born at that moment? On that day I happened to visit friends in a Palestinian village in the West Bank. We - my hosts and I - were riveted to the TV screen (mainly Aljazeera). When these pictures appeared, I could not look them in the eye for shame.


     THE ISRAELI media had a ball. Not just a ball, they went gaga for sheer joy. They contributed their special part to the loathsome event and stood to attention behind the government. Like a flock of parrots, unanimously repeating the mendacious official version.


     It was a festival of brain-washing. The "Murderers of Ze'evi" have been captured! It was our national duty! We could not rest until they fell into our hands, dead or alive!


     These three words - "Murderers of Ze'evi" - turned into a mantra. They were repeated endlessly on radio and television, and appeared in the printed newspapers (all of them!) and the speeches of the politicians (all of them!). That's how it is: Israelis are "murdered", Palestinians are "eliminated".


     Why, for Gods sake? Rehavam Zee'vi, a cabinet minister at the time, preached day and night about "transfer" - the euphemism for driving the Palestinians out of Palestine. Compared to him, Jean-Marie le Pen in France and Joerg Haider in Austria are bleeding-heart liberals. His targeted killing is no different from the targeted killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin and scores of other Palestinian leaders, including Abu-Ali Mustafa, the chief of the Popular Front, who was allowed by Israel to return from Syria to the Palestinian territories after Oslo.


    This is part of the endless chain of violence: The Israeli army killed Abu-Ali Mustafa. He was succeeded by Ahmed Sa'adat, who, according to the Israeli security service, ordered the killing of Rehavam Ze'evi in revenge, and whose capture was the aim of the Jericho action. And so it goes on.


     Let's be clear: I oppose all murders. Theirs and ours. The murder of Abu-Ali Mustafa and the murder of Rehavam Ze'evi. But whoever spills the blood of a Palestinian leader cannot complain about the shedding of the blood of an Israeli one.


    THERE IS still another side to the affair, which is no less disgusting: the attitude towards the keeping of agreements. Sa'adat and his colleagues were held in Jericho in accordance with an agreement signed by Israel. On the strength of it, they left the Mukata'a in Ramallah, during the siege on Yasser Arafat, and entered the Palestinian jail in Jericho. The US and the UK guaranteed their safety and undertook to monitor their imprisonment.


    What has happened now in Jericho is a blatant breach of the agreement. The miserable pretexts invented in Jerusalem, London and Washington are an insult to the intelligence of a 10-year old.


    Israeli governments often regard the breach of an agreement as a patriotic act if it serves our purpose. Agreements are binding only on the other side. This is not only a primitive morality, it is also damaging to our national interests. Who will sign an agreement with us, knowing that it obligates only him? How can Israel convincingly demand that the Hamas leaders "accept all the agreements" signed by the Palestinian Authority?


    Many Israelis believe that the Jericho action was a brilliant exercise. I found it simply loathsome.





Lord George Carey


Source: Common Ground News Service


December 3, 2005

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service

Permission to republish


     London - In the summer of 2001 I was asked to help bring together Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders in the Holy Land as a means to achieving a religious track to the political process to bring peace to that region. From that gathering of religious leaders in January 2002 in the ancient city of Alexandria, under the joint chairmanship of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Tantawi, and myself, the famous Alexandrian Declaration emerged; a Declaration that condemned "the killing of innocents in the name of God" as "a desecration of His Holy Name."


     It was at that meeting that I began to discern some of the weaknesses as well as strengths of institutional faith. The strength and authority of religion is, of course, often taken for granted, even when it is ignored. It is simply quite mad of any politician to think that peace in the Middle East may be found by sidelining religious faith! Religion defines what we are and who we are; it shapes us more profoundly than any other ideology and its contribution to human values and to the fashioning of society is incalculable.


      At our first meeting in Alexandria, so ably served by Canon Andrew White and his colleagues from the Centre of Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral, I saw the power of faith. I saw it through the eyes of Jewish leaders like Rabbi Michael Melchior, Rabbi David Rosen, Rabbi David Brodman and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Bakshi Doron. I saw the same characteristics of a life shaped by prayer and wisdom in Sheikh Tantawi, Sheikh Talal Sidr, Sheikh Taisir Tamimi and Sheikh Mohammed Taweel. I saw it also in the prayerful wisdom of Christian leaders such as Archbishop Aristarchos and Archbishop Boutros Mualem. I was moved by our meeting. In spite of my unswerving devotion to Jesus Christ at the heart of Christianity, it was impossible to deny the devotion and love of people of other faiths. For all of us there, it was a life changing experience.


      But I saw through the eyes of my colleagues one of the problems of institutional faith. It is difficult to let go of power whether one is religious or political. It is extremely difficult to criticize our own faith because we might be misunderstood by our own co-religionists! How difficult it is for Jewish leaders to say: "We have not fully understood the pain of Palestinians in the way they have been 'forced' from their ancestral homes and made to be refugees." How difficult it is for Muslim leaders to say to Jews: "We abhor suicide bombers and we must separate ourselves from them and condemn their tactics as inimical with Islam itself." Similarly with Christians- I longed to hear some of the Palestine Christian leaders see the Jewish point of view ˆ and when it came, it came reluctantly and not at all convincingly.


     It is hard to break from our cultural roots and begin the process towards healing because it appears to be an unnecessary surgery. After all, aren‚t all the problems of the world someone else‚s fault? Surely we are not to blame! Well did Jonathan Swift assert bleakly over two hundred years ago, "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."


     But at Alexandria we began to transcend the bitterness of the past and began to walk a new road together. I recall the Chief Rabbi meeting several Muslim leaders after supper and continuing a frank and heated discussion into the early hours. That following morning he said to the assembled company: "I had a meeting with Muslim leaders last night and for the first time I have fully understood their pain and anger. We are going to work together now. Before 10 pm last night they were strangers. Now they are my brothers." Those words emerged from a willingness to listen - beyond the outrage of perceived wrongs - to the beating of one‚s own heart of faith and to chart a new course towards the religion of another.


     If religion is being driven from the heart of political action and being ignored by politicians could it just be that we have not allowed our faiths to speak to the problems of our day? Could it be that we have become custodians, protectors, of religion and have not allowed the radical message of all our faiths to love one another? At Alexandria I saw a new way emerging as our different faiths drew us together instead of driving us apart. Perhaps we are at last beginning to show that Jonathan Swift is wrong after all.


Lord Carey was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991-2002. Since retirement he continues to be busy in inter-religious dialogue. This article is part of series of views on "the role of religion in the Middle East conflict."





          Gershon Baskin


Source: The Jerusalem Post

November 22, 2005

\Distributed by the Common Ground News Service

permission to republish.


     Florida - I am writing from the White Oak retreat in northern Florida, where I am attending a meeting of the Leaders Project hosted by former US defence secretary William Cohen. He has brought together an impressive group of 50 people from about 20 different countries to discuss the interdependence of energy and water in the global context. The rising price of oil has focused world attention on reexamining the scarcity of these two commodities and the need to direct research and policy attention toward the future national security of nations and world peace. In this tranquil setting it seems easier to postulate these global problems and imagine how we in Israel might deal with the issues in a more intelligent and sustainable manner.


     One conclusion of any rational and scientific discussion is that cooperation and building interdependence is the key to both survival and prosperity. We are not alone in facing the issues of how to provide affordable clean water for our increasing population and ensure a reliable flow of energy to meet our growing economy. Cooperation among conflicting parties involved in water disputes increases access to water and lowers the risk of armed conflict over scarce resources.


     Water and energy can be utilized as a catalyst for conflict resolution and for peace building. We can learn from other areas of the world and other periods in history where key commodities were used to build foundations on which peaceful relations between former enemies were advanced.


     Perhaps the best example can be found in the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). This was the first treaty organization in Europe created after World War II that eventually led to what has become the European Union. The treaty was first proposed by Robert Schuman in 1950. In 1952, member nations of ECSC pledged to pool their coal and steel resources by providing a unified market for their coal and steel products, lifting restrictions on imports and exports and creating a unified labor market.


     Economically, the Coal and Steel Community achieved early success; between 1952 and 1960 iron and steel production rose by 75% in the ECSC nations, and industrial production by 58%. When overproduction of coal became a problem after 1959, especially in Belgium, the ECSC demonstrated its flexibility by reducing Belgiums coal-producing capacity by 30% and making large sums of money available to aid in retraining miners and developing new industries.


     THE PRESENT-day parallel to coal and steel is water and energy. Israel and Palestine share common surface water and underground aquifers. There is no just way to divide the common pool. The resource is simply too scarce to divide in a way that would be equitable and that could be used as a tool for building more peaceful relations in the future. Recent discoveries of large natural gas reserves in the waters off Gazas shores provide the Palestinians with an opportunity to put some real assets on the negotiating table with Israel. Until now Israel has chosen to purchase natural gas from Egypt, by-passing the Palestinians out of fear that the exploitation of those resources by the Palestinians would provide them with too much cash that could be spent on armaments. Without Israeli readiness to use the Palestinian natural gas and with a depressed economy in Gaza, the economic feasibility and prospects of exploiting those reserves remain slim. As such, British Gas which was awarded the concession by the Palestinians, is very reluctant to develop those fields because there would not be a sufficient quantity of customers.


     There is a clear win-win potential for both Israel and Palestine in advancing cooperation on both water and energy. Utilizing Palestinian gas would be economically beneficial to both sides in the development of additional desalination plants on the coast. Increased shares of fresh water would enable the sides to negotiate more equitable means of sharing the other water resources, as well as working together on the reuse of recycled waste water, increasing efficiency in agriculture and more.


     The development of Gaza's gas resources would have a direct impact on the economy of Gaza; this would facilitate greater and more positive trade relations between the two sides. Both societies need to turn more attention to the need to conserve energy and optimize its use by introducing more efficient power plants and hybrid vehicles using petroleum and natural gas; and by developing more solar power and wind fields for generating electricity. There is no reason why borders and fences should remove possibilities for cooperation in areas that clearly serve mutual interests.


     THE PALESTINIAN co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information, Hanna Siniora, a visionary Palestinian leader, has suggested for the past several years that Israel and Palestine be the first in the world to develop a water and energy commission on the model of the coal and steel agreements of postwar Europe. While Israel and Palestine have not quite reached the postwar period, advancing a mutually beneficial water and energy commission could be a pre-cursor to more peaceful relations between the two warring parties.


     Peace is built by developing mutual interests and interdependence that make violence and conflict obsolete. For years we have been working on the premise that we must reach 'end of conflict' agreements before we can pursue long-lasting alliances that both rely on and build interdependence. It is time to reexamine the axiomatic notion that real cooperation before full peace is not possible.


*Gershon Baskin is Co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information.





Gershon Baskin


Source: The Jerusalem Post

January 2, 2006

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service

permission to republish


     Jerusalem - When preparing for the Gaza withdrawal, the strategic planning branch of the IDF laid down two possible scenarios for the post-disengagement era. One looked at Gaza as a test of the Palestinians' ability to govern. The results of the test, as stated in the IDF's strategic thinking, would determine to what extent it would be possible to enter a negotiated process with the Palestinians or advance the road map.


      The alternative strategy looked at Gaza as a "pilot," which like the first scenario, would be a test. But rather than viewing it as something the Palestinians have to achieve on their own, in the pilot model Israel would do everything possible to ensure the success of the Palestinian take-over. The IDF strategic planners strongly recommended that the government adopt the pilot model; nonetheless, it is quite clear, four months down the road, that the "test" model was adopted and that, so far, the Palestinians have failed it badly.


      It should also be mentioned that virtually nothing from the pilot model of assisting and ensuring success from Israel's side has been adopted and implemented. The failure of the Palestinians to govern, to assert law and order, to control security, to prevent Kassam rocket attacks on Israel, to hold free and open primaries, and more is quite evident. As if the script had been written in advance, voices from the Israeli right wing can be heard loud and clear, saying, "I told you so."


     Like in Oslo, the fate of the process has almost been predetermined by a total lack of good will (on both sides) and a failure to implement agreements and understandings in good faith. With the exception of the opening of the Rafah crossing - which was only one element of a much wider agreement - nothing has been implemented that might assist in achieving more positive test results.


     IN GAZA, the main failures of both sides are clear. The Palestinians have completely failed to maintain order, to create a sense of security for their people, to impart a sense of confidence in the future. The Israeli government is continuing to maintain and enhance the policy launched at the beginning of the intifada to completely separate Gaza from the West Bank. With the exception of keeping the Karni transportation zone open, as promised to the Americans, Israel continues to impose and enforce knee-jerk policies that punish the Palestinian public and do little to fight terrorism.


     Immediately after the disengagement Israel launched a program to grant work permits to Palestinian laborers and "businessman's cards" allowing holders to move freely inside Israel and even use Ben-Gurion Airport. However, after the continued Islamic Jihad attacks and Kassam launchings Israel once again imposed a full closure on Gaza and on the West Bank. The plan to begin bus convoys between Gaza and the West Bank was cancelled and, most recently, we saw the launching of Operation Blue Skies, bombing northern Gaza every night to prevent the launching of Kassams.


      There is little doubt that the continued deterioration of life in Gaza will lead to a clear Hamas victory in the upcoming Palestinian elections (if they are not cancelled), and it may be too late to do something that could preempt that result. Cancelling or postponing the elections is almost surely going to lead to renewed Hamas violence against Israel.


     FOR YEARS now, even during the Lebanon War, the IDF held firmly to the working assumption that collective punishment is effective. The basic idea is that if the local population suffers, they will pressure their government to fight terrorism. This has never happened. Israel was greeted by the Shi'ites in south Lebanon with candies and flowers in 1982; within less than a year the Shi'ite population there joined the "resistance" that planted road side bombs and killed Israeli soldiers for 18 years. There was a direct correlation between the level of suffering the public felt as a result of Israeli actions and its willingness to take up the armed struggle against Israel.


     Likewise, in Palestine, the Palestinian public has suffered enormously over the past five years. At no time during that period did it adopt the Israeli thinking and apply pressure to its leaders to fight and prevent terrorism. Instead, its hatred of Israel increased and its desire to hit Israel and Israelis increased accordingly. It is amazing that a policy which has for so many years consistently failed to achieve its stated strategic goals is applied instantaneously, without thought, as a knee-jerk reaction.


     AMONG THE upper echelons of the IDF it is clear that most senior officers recognize that these policies of collective punishment against the Palestinians provide more answers to Israeli public opinion needs and concerns than to fighting and preventing terrorism.


     In light of decades of failure it is time to evaluate the chances of success of a different course, of different policies. The policy recommended here is valid for the Gaza Strip only and not for the West Bank. It is based on the reality of the end of the Israeli occupation of Gaza, which is not the case in the West Bank, where Palestinians will continue to fight against it. The recommended course is based on reciprocity and on price tags. The notion of collective punishment is that when Israeli security is violated, the Palestinian public pays the price. The policy I am now suggesting is based on a reverse logic - there is a price tag that Israel will pay for security achievements.


     If, for instance, the Palestinians find and close down a tunnel used for smuggling weapons, Israel will issue 2,000 closure-proof work permits. If the Palestinians discover and close down a Kassam factory, Israel will grant 1,000 closure-proof work permits. If the PA security forces begin to collect illegal weapons, each verified weapon collected will be worth X amount of work permits, or seats on the Gaza-West Bank bus, or Businessmen's Cards, etc.


     Positive security performance by the Palestinian Authority would have a price tag that Israel would pay to benefit the Palestinian public. That price tag would be well known, and published. The payment would have to be immediate and visible. Israel would have to commit itself to implementing this policy consistently and over a long period of time. It would be worthwhile including third-party monitors to verify the actions of both sides - a tunnel should be identified and closed permanently and verified by a reliable third party. Israel would have to make its payment in a verifiable way. The reports of the third party would be open and visible to the public.


      It is time to try a new course that, rather than threatening and punishing, rewards positive actions and encourages the public to support an increasingly better reality. The alternative is more despair and hopelessness.


Gershon Baskin is the co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information.





Mohamed Mosaad


Source: Common Ground News Service

December 8, 2005

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service

permission to publish


     Cairo - Dialogue is the first step to peacefully end conflicts; interfaith dialogue is its religious version with one of its objectives being to end religiously motivated conflicts. This promising approach is anything but unusual. Many regional and global interfaith meetings are held, and attended by high ranking religious scholars. To counter the vehement exchange of theological arguments among the masses, these scholars have issued statement after statement emphasizing the message of love and peace which naturally exists in all religions of the world. These statements, however, never materialize into palpable change in the reality around. The dissonant picture we have now is one of a liberal bourgeois enclave of interfaith dialogue surrounded by a vast terrain of conflicting masses who are either uninterested in, or not invited to, that enclave.


     To repair this picture let us consider two objectives, which are unfortunately frequently overlooked. First, scholars should apply their knowledge to seriously counter the conflict discourse. In its Islamic variant this discourse evolves around a number of essential concepts such as Jihad, Martyrdom, The Jews, Holy Land, Islamic Caliphate and the Prophecy of the end of world. Here Jihad is used to mean an eternal war against non Muslims; Martyrdom is used to legitimize suicide operations against civilians; The Jews are a people destined to eternal hostility against Muslims; and the Holy Land has a special sacred nature which imposes specific political regulations. The Islamic Caliphate which was a specific historical formation now becomes a substantial part of the practice of Islam; Muslims believe if it does not exist then they can not really be Muslims. All these concepts, and their discourse, are led by a prophecy, a vision of the future, whose main feature is a fierce war between Muslims and Jews that will mark the end of the world. The creation of these religio-historical concepts and their weaving together is a recipe for eternal violence that nice rhetorical preaching of peace or promising economic incentives can not neutralize.


      To call this discourse fundamentalist and attribute it to some fringe extremists, who "do not represent the real Islam," has always proved to be a failing and, in fact, a hypocritical strategy. The overwhelming Muslim majority believes Jihad, Martyrdom, the Holy Land and the Islamic Caliphate are essential parts of its religion. They continuously listen to Friday preachers quoting Quranic texts, which plainly condemn the Jews for their hatred of Muslims; and were they to put these quotations aside, how would they ever escape a prophecy they consider an essential part of their creed? On the other hand, a common prescription to shift from a wrong literal reading to a correct interpretative one has fallen on deaf ears. Both the absolutely literal reading that never attends to the socio-cultural context and the absolutely interpretative reading that renders the text almost irrelevant have not found their way into mainstream Islam. It has always been something in between, a negotiated reading that dynamically correlates the text and the context. Moreover, it was ironically an interpretative reading which legitimized suicide operations and a literal reading which strictly prohibited them.


     Scholars, therefore, must quit composing peace statements, a task many people can do, and commit themselves to the task only they can promote. They should create, develop and further an Islamically authentic discourse of peace. Such a discourse must be tradition-friendly; one that pays serious attention to the holy text and builds on, not ignores, the Muslims‚ historical experience and socio-cultural forms. Only a discourse like this can serve as a legitimate outlet for the majority of religious Muslims, who long for peace but can not neglect their faith. Such a discourse is not impossible, given the richness and diversity of a multilayered tradition that has been carved out and produced through a plethora of times and locales.


      The second ignored objective is the engagement of religious communities in interfaith activities. Interfaith dialogue has to move from the five star hotels to the neighborhood mosques, churches and synagogues. Religious people of different religious backgrounds have to meet frequently, listen to each other, communicate humanely and share what they value the most: their individual religious and spiritual experiences. That should be allowed and nourished in a safe space devoid of political representations and full of personal and intimate relations.


    In conclusion, scholars have to create and develop an authentic discourse of peace and understanding. The religious communities, on the other hand, need neither preaching nor clerical leadership. Motivated by an authentic discourse, they have to get directly involved in dialogue and peacebuilding. The activist scholar/theologian laity situation we are locked in has to be urgently reversed.


 Mohamed Mosaad, an Egyptian psychiatrist, anthropologist, and freelance writer. He is an interfaith dialogue activist and serves currently as the Middle East and North Africa Coordinator of the United Religions Initiative (URI).





Gul Rukh Rahman


Source: Common Ground News Service (

December 8, 2005

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service

permission to publish


     New York - Jews and Muslims have been tied together by culture and history for centuries. For over a thousand years both peoples have contributed to the Middle Eastern civilization. But this relationship has become increasingly difficult in recent years. Blood, tears and violence have marked these relations. Both sides continue to blame the 'other'.


     The 'other' and the problems they create - have been used as an excuse to hide behind the ignorance that has shaped our views about each other. The mass media - in most part - has dehumanized the 'other' and has played a significant role in perpetuating the distrust, misperceptions, skepticism, fear, hatred and violence against each other.


     Islam and Judaism - the two monotheistic faiths, have lost their identities in the political chaos of today. The distinction between religious identities and that of political one has been blurred to a point where Islam equates to Arabs and terrorists and to be a Jew means to be an Israeli. Neither all Muslims are Arabs nor all Jews are Israelis and neither do all adhere to the same political philosophies.


Most of us today emphatically defend our political positions but have lost focus on creating and having a constructive dialogue between Islam and Judaism. Not only have these two Abrahamic religions shared the same roots and ancestry through Prophet Abraham, they are joined together by faith in the One God.


     The Muslim testimony of faith - la ilaha illa Allah, ("There is no god but God") - has been narrated in the Torah by: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). While the latter words are not found in the Muslim testimony of faith, they are found in the Koran: "Truly the believers are those whose hearts quiver when God is remembered." (8:2). Islam has a deeply universal spirit. Its message for all humanity is one of peace and mutual respect. It has built into it respect for Judaism and Christianity.


      As Muslims and Jews, we have a responsibility to create a world where we can live together in peace and with dignity. Many of us believe that Jews and Muslims cannot co-exist because of the political divide. But both religions emphasize the need to live peacefully with others. Prophet Mohammed (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) - once said: "None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." The Torah says, "Love your neighbour as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18).


      Even in the contemporary world, France and the United States are an example where the Jewish and Muslim communities live together in harmony, despite their religious and political differences. It's not that Muslims and Jews cannot co-exist but words like 'Jewish lobby', 'Jewish conspiracy' and statements like Jews are the main cause of most problems in the Muslim world keep not only reappearing in our discussions but it adds fuel to the fire of ignorance. The imagery of Jews and their nefarious plans against the Muslims are portrayed in the Muslim media as much as Muslim being a terrorist and hating the freedoms of the West in the Western media.


      Among the Muslim world, it is still rare to hear Muslim voices that encourage dialogue. Mostly, this attitude is explained as an outcome of deep-rooted frustration. Muslims in most parts of the Islamic world have been disillusioned by their governments, and they blame the West for keeping those governments in power and hence their reluctance to a dialogue.


     What as Muslims we overlook is that nothing in Islam allows us to reject or harm a human being due to his/her religion, language or ethnicity. The message of Islam requires respect of Jewish faith. Jews have been called "The People of the Book," in the Koran. Prophet Mohammed (May Peace be Upon Him) constantly taught respect for all human beings, with all their differences. One day, he stood up out of respect when he saw a funeral procession nearby. When someone told the Prophet that it was that of a Jew, he replied "Is it not a human soul?"


      During the initial phase of the Prophet's time in Medina, the Prophet Mohammed said: "He who is unjust with a contractor [Christians and Jews of Medina], I shall bear witness against him on the Day of Judgment." Later, during a period of conflict between Jews and Muslims, eight Koranic verses were revealed to absolve a Jew who had falsely been accused of a crime by a Muslim.


     The recognition of Moses and the Torah is as much a part of Islamic teachings as the belief in all the other prophets and the divine books. In the light of these teachings, we, as Muslims, cannot continue to perpetuate the negative image of Jews in the name of Islam. It is the responsibility of all Muslims and Jews to recognize the link between Islam and Judaism. From the Muslim perspective, it also means that we must respect the pain and suffering of the Jewish people during the Second World War that has had long lasting effects on the Jewish way of thinking. This is not to say that the Palestinian issue should be overlooked. From a Jewish point of view, they need to understand that Islam is not their enemy; it never was and will never be. Those who use Islam as a tool to propagate hate and violence must not be taken as the voice of Islam.


     As much as it is the responsibilities of the Muslims to take this message to their communities, it is as important for Jewish communities all over the globe to reciprocate. Both sides must understand that criticism of a regime either in the Muslim world or Israel does not mean disrespecting Islam or Judaism. Muslims and Jews alike should work together to have a constructive dialogue to break down the existing prejudices and discover the 'other'. Continuation of keeping ourselves ignorant of the 'other' will ultimately have devastating consequences religiously, socially and politically. If we fail to have a dialogue, we may lose our generations to hate and violence.


     There are many who are working either as individuals or as organizations to talk about this issue. One such organization that is working to create bridges among the younger generation of Jews and Muslims is Children of Abraham. They use the Internet to promote dialogue, discovery and respect through thought provoking online discussion as well as photography. What makes them unique is their use of photographic images that draws upon the similarities in both the religions. Their students come from more then 40 countries and their participation in the Discovery Program will result in a Jewish-Muslim educational guidebook.


Gul Rukh Rahman is the co-executive director of Children of Abraham. She may be contacted at







                         Stephen M. Sachs, Professor of Political Science Emeritus, IUPUI


     Contemporary western efforts at getting to peace are hampered by lack of a clear vision, by a great many people, of peace as a dynamic, positive entity. Too often peace is seen as the negation of a negative, such as "non-violence" or the absence of discord or war, or as some ultimate static state beyond the practical realm1. To help create a positive vision of peace to guide the world today, it is useful to remember indigenous traditional concepts of peace, which are at the roots of all modern cultures, of which the closely related sets of traditional American Indian approaches to peace are typical.




      For traditional American Indians, the ideal for individual and social life is harmony, and balance2 (which the Navajo call beauty [hozo]3), based upon respect for all beings (and everything is alive, even the rocks are living), in accordance with the natural order of which human beings were a part and all are related. The Lakotas, for example, state this at the end of prayers: Mitakue Oyasun: "all my relations - amen!" - a word, which like the Hindu Om, when fully stated contains all the vowels4. But harmony, balance, beauty, peace is not automatic, one has to work continually to attain and maintain it at every level. As the Chaudhuris say of the Muskogee, "Given the unpredictable .elements of nature and the quirks of human nature, the search for harmony takes sustained effort in all social institutions."5 Hence, in personal inner work and in all relationships, including with the natural environment and all its nations of plants, animals, etc., one continually participates in processes for returning to harmony. Each Native culture did this in a different manner, but almost all followed the same general principles (at least until they become too large or events put them sufficiently out of balance).6


     A major component of the natural and human order, and a key to peace-harmony (seen slightly differently by different indigenous cultures) is what some would call the principle of the circle, itself based on a fundamental value of respect, which in an important sense involves an equality between the whole and the part, at every level (i.e. the whole at one level being the part at the next, e.g.: the individual in the family or group, the family or group in the tribe, the tribe in the world). As some Lakotas might understand it, the places in the circle have no meaning without the whole of the circle, but there is no circle without each of the individual places, which have their own qualities and ways of seeing. Hence if anything is to be decided, everyone must be heard from in an inclusive participatory process, in which everyone affected is a participant, and so far as possible, everyone's concerns are worked into the decision.7 This means, also, that leaders, chosen for their fine qualities, are primarily facilitators and announcers of collective decisions, though as persons respected for their wisdom and integrity8 (something like "virtue" - but that is a Roman, now Western concept, that isn't quite the same as the American Indian sense of "good qualities"), they do have influence and exercise what in an Eastern sense might be called "guidance." Thus, every decision needs to include the input and interests of the whole community, with the goal of maintaining balance for the long term. And for native people, the community includes all beings (i.e. the plants, animals, etc.), so that the concept of peace includes keeping the natural environment in balance.



     Indeed, traditional Indian societies functioned as families, with all tribal members treated as if they were relatives, regardless of whether they were biologically related. As Ella DeLoria said of the Dakota, this was a system that worked.9


Kinship was the all-important matter. Its demands and dictates for all phases of social life were relentless and exact; but on the other hand, its privileges and honorings and rewarding prestige were not only tolerable but downright pleasant for all who conformed. By kinship all Dakota people were held together in a great relationship that was theoretically all-inclusive and co-extensive with the Dakota Domain. Everyone who was born a Dakota belonged in it; nobody need be left outside. [And since being Dakota, as with Indian societies generally, was more a matter of participation in the community than blood, kinship included all who effectively joined the community, whether they married in or were adopted, a common practice throughout traditional Native America].


     While all of the above teachings, practices and social arrangements helped to establish the ideal of peace-balance-harmony-beauty, and to approach and attempt to maintain it in practice, Native North Americans understood that in a complex interactive world, harmony will constantly be lost, individually and collectively, and steps must be undertaken to regain it. Hence, on the spiritual-psychological level, Indian cultures had ceremonies for reestablishing balance. For the Navajo (Dine), for example, virtually all ceremonies are healing rituals to return people to beauty. In addition to healing rituals for rebalancing individuals and/or groups, many tribes had major rituals for the "renewal of the earth and the people," such as the Sun Dance of the Lakota and other plains, Rocky Mountain and Great Basin Tribes.23 


     On the socio-political-economic level (with some spiritual-psychological aspects) all native cultures traditionally had what are often called "peace making" processes for settling conflicts and disputes, and for redressing injuries and grievances. These are almost always facilitated participatory processes for returning the parties to harmony: good relationship. Thus tribal people more often dealt with harms in ways that western legal systems would consider torts (injuries to be dealt with by civil law) than crimes, with the emphasis on restoring the preexisting situation and/or set of relations, rather than attaining justice or retribution. This might involve a gift or payment for damages, such as when a Kiowa or Cheyenne man eloped with another man's wife, it was required that the absconder provide a suitable compensation to the injured husband, with a peace chief facilitating the resolution of the dispute between the parties.24 In some instances of homicide, restoration went so far as to have the party causing the death (whether intentional or accidental) take on a role of the deceased, as with an Aleut (Eskimo)25 or Lakota26 man marrying the wife of the husband he had killed, in order to insure that the deceased's family was cared for, and, particularly in the latter case, to restore harmony between the families involved in the dispute. With the importance of familial relations in native societies, an injury involved not only the individuals involved, but the familial group of which they were members. In some instances, the process of restoration even extended to warfare. Among the Wendat (Huron), for example, a captured enemy would sometimes be adopted to replace a family member killed by the enemy, with the adoptee taking on all of the lost person's roles, including leadership positions. 27


     Since the handling of disputes and trouble cases aimed at restoration and maintenance of harmony in the community, working out a proper solution often involved consideration of the full range of relations between the parties, and the whole catalogue of ill feeling, and its causes, between them. This contrasts with the narrower focus on what is specifically relevant to the case at hand in deciding on fault or guilt in U.S. courts (though they do consider wider concerns in deciding upon punishment in criminal cases).


    Similarly, the emphasis on restoring harmony meant that acts of improper behavior were generally handled with a focus on rehabilitation of the wrong doer by traditional native North Americans. Thus, when some Cheyenne young men were caught hunting buffalo on their own, which might have stampeded the herd so that further hunting of it would have been impossible, the miscreants were beaten and had their horses killed and gear destroyed. But once it was clear that they accepted the punishment, the young men were resupplied and brought back into the ranks of the hunters.28 It was generally only in extreme cases that a person was killed or exiled. Among the Aleut's, for instance, a man who killed community members several times, or someone who lied repeatedly, might be executed or forced out as a danger to the community.29 Even in extreme cases, some rehabilitation might be possible. With the Cheyenne for example, killing another tribal member was considered so serious that the whole tribe would be polluted by the act, requiring purification and renewal of the nation's most sacred objects and the expulsion of the murderer.30 Yet, after several years, the offender, if repentant, might be permitted to return, with permission of the family of the deceased, which there was usually social pressure for them to give.




      It would do well for the world today to apply the traditional American Indian principles for attaining and maintaining harmony, in ways that fit present circumstances, with an eye to the future, if we are to get to peace: to survive and live decently. Circumstances have changed in many ways for both Indian peoples and the wider world, but with somewhat different application, the traditional approaches are increasingly relevant. Indeed, some of these processes are being renewed by tribes, today, to return to harmony after centuries of colonialism, such as the use of peacemaker courts33 and inclusive participatory decision making,34 while there are numerous developing equivalents of traditional North American Native ways in the contemporary world.


     The heart of what is necessary to attain productive and harmonious relations within and between communities is to return human interaction to a basis of mutual respect.35 Unless people deal with each other as equal partners in a mutual relationship, interaction is likely to continue to lead to injustice and dangerous dominance. This in turn will most probably increase ongoing struggles marked by open and structural violence. To break out of the recurring cycles of repression and violence, it is necessary that we build human relationships upon the principle of "unity in diversity," so that each of us respects the interests, views and ways of all individuals, groups and cultures. This is important not only to avoid doing harm to others, but because we each have something to learn from every person, group and culture. Moreover, repression is costly and inefficient in comparison with collaboration, which is also far more emotionally rewarding to everyone. Thus, it is mutually advantageous for all of us to move from relations founded upon cultural hegemony to relations centered upon cultural sharing and exchange.


     The attainment of mutually respectful relations requires appropriate processes. One of these is the use of participatory mutual problem solving of issues, often involving some form of consensus decision making, undertaken appropriately for the context. For example, business, government and nonprofit organizations around the world have improved their internal relations, communications, quality of decision making, productivity, efficiency, effectiveness (by every measure) and flexibility in adapting to changing conditions by initiating a variety of participatory decision making processes, following the same principles traditionally used in tribal councils.36 Thus, modernizing organizations have been learning that by treating employees humanely, as partners in their operations, participating from each person’s unique viewpoint and abilities, that not only are internal relations improved, but organizational knowledge, creativity and quality of operation are very significantly enhanced.


     Similarly, at the level of the community, there are contemporary examples of political decision making leading to better decisions, achieving a better balance of interests, and thus providing a basis for transforming sharply divisive rifts in the community into collaborative partnerships for creative advancement, by involving all the concerned parties in decision making processes. In the field of environmental regulation, for instance, more collaborative and inclusive approaches have been taken to overcome the slow system of command regulation, requiring a large bureaucracy, that often produces decisions that do not adequately balance the needs of the effected parties, and that are often ineffectively enforced, at considerable expense.37 In a number of  cases, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has utilized a process for developing regulation by bringing all the interested parties (primarily representatives of environmental groups, business and the agency) together to participate in consensus decision making. Any of the parties may withdraw from the process at any time. But if they accept the final agreement, they cannot challenge it in court. As in traditional tribal governance, the process of dialog takes time, but usually results in better decisions than competitive processes because of the attempt to accommodate all of the concerns and interests of those affected to create a viable policy. By contrast, decisions in competitive processes tend to be the result of the ability of the individual contenders to force the inclusion of as much of their position as possible in the final outcome, with compromises being determined more in terms of including the diverse agendas of strong pressure groups than in achieving a well working policy as a whole.


     This inclusive method was used by EPA in 1991 to set new standards for the contents of gasoline.38 Several states, including Indiana, California and Florida have taken such an inclusive approach to promoting energy conservation and pollution reduction in the generation of electric power.39 In the past, there have been no incentives for power companies to operate efficiently or to encourage customers to conserve energy.40 Using an inclusive process, power company, environmental group and consumer group representatives sat down together along with state officials to develop regulations that meet the primary concerns of all the parties. This resulted in measures that save consumers money and reduce energy use (thereby reducing pollution) through allowing power producers to benefit financially from encouraging consumers to be energy efficient.


     Organizations like Search for Common Ground (SFCG) have been working to heal intra and inter-community conflict by bringing the discordant parties together in peacebuilding processes aimed at finding mutual interest as a basis for resolving or transforming disputes and developing collaboration. At the end of 2005 Search for Common Ground was working in 17 countries around the world. For example, in the United States, SFCG was assisting communities bridge their divides through a consensus building process bringing political, community and business leaders together to address important policy issues such as health care for the uninsured. In several nations SFCG has been teaching conflict resolution values and skills, and using radio and TV to create peacebuilding dialogues on major issues.41 Similarly, the recent launching of “truth commissions” in South Africa and other nations have been vehicles for bringing reconciliation to countries and communities after the ending of repression, as an alternative to applying the currently more common methods of retribution, which often continue destructive conflict, at times continuing the repression, reversing the roles of repressor and oppressed, in.42 


     Where individuals, in the United States and many other Twenty-First century nations, disturb the harmony of the community by acts that are defined as criminal, in a high percentage of cases the punitive approach of the criminal justice system does little to return the offender or the community to harmony, as there is a high recidivism rate among those convicted of crimes, and extended incarceration in prisons focusing almost entirely on detaining large numbers of convicts, often provides more education in criminal behavior than rehabilitation. Thus, there has been a growing interest in what are often more effective alternative approaches to correction, many of which mirror the restorative approaches to deviance of Native nations. These include programs that reintegrate convicts with society, such as halfway houses with job programs, and various forms of restorative justice that involve the law breaker doing work in the community. Sometimes this is undertaken among those injured by the criminal’s act, to repay at least some of the damage done and to return the criminal to a good relationship with the community.43 Among these approaches is a growing movement to bring young offenders face to face with their victims, when appropriate. After one such mediation, the juvenile wrongdoer stated, “I now realize I hurt them a lot.... To understand how the victim feels makes me feel a lot different.” Hearing that in a meaningful dialog is often healing to the victim and the perpetrator.44


     Finally, in the face of rising oceans, more - and more intense - storms, and the exigencies of climate change from human induced global warming; increasing skin cancer rates and considerable environmental damage from industrial production of ozone layer destroying chemicals; and extensive serious harm to people and the environment from a plethora of man made pollutants, it is now clear that returning to the Native practice of living in balance with the ‘natural’ environment is essential for human beings living decent lives, if not human survival. Moreover, as indigenous people knew from experience, in the Twenty-First Century, we need to return to living in balance with our environment, if we are to live harmoniously with one another, in order to avoid disastrous conflict over resources, made scarce from over exploitation, pollution and other destructive action. Similarly, if we are to remove the causes of disharmony in human affairs, our societies need to return to economic harmony, by reinstituting sufficient levels of redistribution and reciprocity for everyone to have the opportunity to participate equitably in well functioning societies. As Native people in North America, and indeed all our tribal forbearers, understood from experience, living in peace, harmony, balance, beauty is not an unattainable ideal, but an ongoing process of living by seeing our own interest in working to keep in balance the long term interests of ourselves and all our relations, in what one might call an ‘ethics of respect,45 in a contemporarily appropriate application of traditional ethical principles.46



     Perhaps it is time to remember to be buffalos without horns:


We Are the Buffaloes Without Horns   12/30/05

                                                                                       (Written morning after dreaming:

We are the Buffaloes without horns.                                   Having seen the movie,

In the olden days living was easy.                                       The Interpreter:

We ate the grass                                                               Sensing what it means

And we knew                                                                    To return to Africa,

What to do.                                                                      Where we no longer have anyone

Life was good,                                                                  But that is where

Though not perfect.                                                          We remember them.)


We have to eat the air:

Remember how to be

Like Gods,

Or we become Demons.

We have to look inside,

See the patterns of the Stars

As they move

Across eons:

Dance them into the fabric

Of our days,

That together

We realize

The perfection of our lives.


This is a revised version of a paper presented to the Native/Indigenous Studies Area, 2006 Southwest/Texas Popular Culture/American Culture Association Conference, Albuquerque, NM. February 8-11, 2006.





1. Most of the peace and conflict resolution community knows better, as can be seen by going to some of their web sites and list serves. But much of the general public and many political decision makers do not. Some examples of peace and conflict resolution web sites include:


     The Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR):


    The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) engages in many practical peacebuilding projects and produces numerous publications. FOR is at:, or can be contacted via Jacqueline Haessly, 


     The Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA), which publishes the newsletter, The Peace Chronicle, and copublishes the scholarly journal Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research with the Peace History Society, as well as running a peace and justice list serve and holding an annual conference, can be contacted at: PJSA, 5th Floor University Center, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117 (415)422-5238,


     The International Crisis Group (ICG) carries regular reports and sets of recommendations about difficult developing situations around the globe, at: ICG also has a regular E-mail report circulation sercvice that can be subscribed to on its web site.


     Peace Media publishes a monthly web magazine at:


     The Bulletin of Regional Cooperation in the Middle East, a publication of Search for Common Ground (SFCG), seeks to provide an ongoing link among non-governmental cooperative efforts in the Middle East. It is available via E-mail. For a free subscription to the Bulletin of Regional Cooperation in the Middle East and to the Common Ground News Service, E-mail as follows: (English), (Arabic); (Hebrew). Search for Common Ground in the Middle East (Jerusalem offices) are at 26, Heleni Hamalka Street, 95101 Musrara, Jerusalem, Israel. For international mail: Search for Common Ground in the Middle East, 83 Nablus Road, Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, Israel. is a website that presents Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints on prominent is-sues of concern. It focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and peace processes as well as a variety of topics affecting the Middle East with the goal of contributing to mutual understanding through the open exchange of ideas. Each weekly edition, addressing a specific issue of controversy, is posted on the website. Readers can obtain a free subscription by entering their email address in the space provided on the homepage: as well as, for their new "Middle East Roundtable".


    The online journal, Nonviolent Change, edited by the author is at:


2. As, for example, with the Muscogee (Creek), as seen in their creation story, and in all their related stories showing how everything is interrelated and must be kept in balance, as set forth by in Jean and Joyotpaul Chaudhuri, A Sacred Path: The Way of the Muscogee Creeks (Los Angeles: UCLA American Indian Studies Center, 2001). The Chaudhuris tell us, for example, "The beautiful astronomical legends give us a picture of the balance of male and female energies, thereby showing the patch of darkness in light and light in darkness, all circling in the search for harmony in motion. The legends provide a humanities parallel of the science of the Creeks which also sees the search for balance between the four elements and the synergy linking the cycles of dynamic energies of the earth, the water, the sun (fire), and the sky (air). This is no romantic pipe dream, but the vision of an earth-centered culture with sacred trust responsibilities. The Earth centered physics involves exchanges between and transformations of various forms of energy and the cycles of energy among soil, water, nutrients, animals, sunlight, air and rain in an environmentally balanced manner (p. 19)". This dynamic balancing, that is necessary in the physical sphere, is also necessary in society, in which all the elements: men, women, the different clans and the two moieties - indeed all individuals - each have their unique and essential functions that must be kept in, and returned to, balance (Ch. 5-10). The same is true of the individual, who if internally out of balance can not act socially in a balanced way. "In the Muscogee Creek cosmos, all things consist of particular combinations of body, mind and spirit. When these are not in harmony, one is truly lost and healing becomes necessary for the entity to continue (p. 23, the theme pervading chapter 4)."


3. See Kluckhohn and Leighton, The Navaho; James F. Downes, The Navajo (New York: Holt Reinhart and Winston, Inc., 1972), particularly chapters 2, 3 and 8; Robert W. Young, A Political History of the Navajo Tribe (Tsaille, Navajo Nation, AZ: Navajo Community College Press, 1978); and Alice Reichard, Navaho Religion (New York: Pantheon Books, Bollingen Series, 1950).


4. See Gerald Mohatt and Joseph eagle Elk, The Price of a Gift: A Lakota Healer's Story (Lincoln: the University of Nebraska Press, 2000), pp. 3, 35, 145-146, 298-199; and Joseph M. Marshall III, The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons of Living (New York: Viking Compass, 2001), pp. 211, 227. The Muscogee, like numerous other indigenous nations, have a very similar approach to interrelatedness, and when they dance the first friendship dance, recognizing and honoring the creator that surrounds all things and beings, they chant "iyabileyuppe," which also contains all the vowel sounds (Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri, A Sacred Path, p. 26).


5. Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri, A Sacred Path, Ch. 9, especially where quoted at p. 68,


6. See for example how this worked very well in Muscogee terms in Chaudhuri and Chaudhuri, A Sacred Path.



24. Hoebel, The Law of Primative Man., pp. 146, 160-167 and 172-176.


25. Ibid., p. 87.


26. Deloria, Speaking of Indians, p. 34.


27. Trigger, The Huron: The Farmers of the North, pp. 58-60


28. Hoebel, The Law of Primitive Man, pp. 143 and 150156.


29. Ibid., pp. 70 and 88-91.


30. Ibid., pp. 142-143 and 156-160. Murder, however, was such a heinous act for the Cheyenne that the pollution never fully left the reformed killer, who was ever after perceived not to smell quite right, and thus was not permitted to share in communal ceremonies, though he might otherwise participate in the life of the community.


31. Deloria, Speaking of Indians, pp. 32-37, discusses the traditional ways of maintaining and recreating harmony among the people.


32. Oren Lyons, "The American Indian in the Past" and Donald A Grinde, Jr., "Iroquois Political Theory and the Roots of American Democracy," in Oren Lyons, John Mohawk, Vine Deloria, Jr., Lawrence Hauptman, Howard Berman, Donald Grinde, Jr., Curtis Berkey and Robert Venables, Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations, and the U. S. Constitution (Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers, 1992).

33. For examples from the Coast Salish peoples see, See Bruce G., Miller, The Problem of Justice: Tradition and Law in the Coast Salish World (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001). For examples from Navajo Nation see, Chief Justice Tom Tso, "The Process of Decision Making in Tribal Courts,"  and Justice Philmer Bluehouse and James Zion, "Hozhooji Naat'aanii: The Navajo Nation Justice and Harmony ceremony," in Marianne O. Nielsen and Robert A. Silverman, Native Americans, Crime and Justice (Boulder: CO, Westview Press, 1996), pp. 170-189.


34. LaDonna Harris, Stephen Sachs and Benjamin Broome, "Returning to Harmony Through Reactivating The Wisdom of the People: The Comanche Bring Back the Tradition of Consensus Decision Making," Native Americas, Vol. XII, No. 3, Fall 1996; and "Wisdom of the People: Potentials and Pitfalls in Efforts by Comanches to Recreate Traditional Ways of Building Consensus," American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 1, Winter 2001.


35. For a discussion of this necessity and of the process of building a culture of peace based upon mutual respect and unity in diversity, see Stephen M. Sachs, "Building the World Team: Getting to Peace Through Developing a Collaborative Culture," Organization Development Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1, Spring 1990, and "Learning the Pedagogy of Peace: or Living the World Team into Existence," paper presented at the COPRED 16th annual Conference in Milwaukee, 1987 (available from the author).


36. For discussion of the gains realized from organizational democracy, and the reasons for them, see: John Simmons and William Mares, Working Together (New York: Albert Knopf, 1983);  Stephen Sachs, "The Cutting Edge" and "Employee Participation: The Next Stage",  Workplace Democracy, Vol. XII, No. 2, Fall 1985, and No. 61, Summer 1988. Stephen Sachs, "The Interest and Goal Structure of Self-Managed Organizations" (Paris: Second International Conference on Participation, Workers Control and Self Management, 1977) discusses the reasons for the advantages of collaborative over hierarchical organizations including the tendency of collaborative organizations to minimize status differences stemming from the division of labor in comparison to hierarchical organizations. The paper is available from the author ( Stephen M. Sachs, "Building Trust in Democratic Organizations," Psychology, Vol. 31, No. 2, 1994.


37. See Zachary Smith, The Environmental Paradox (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992); and Charles Davis, The Politics of Hazardous Waste (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993); and on finding solutions see, David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1992), Introduction, "An American Perestroika," and Ch. 4, "Mission Driven Government: Transforming Rule-Driven Organizations.


38. Jeff Smith, "Traditional Foes Agree on Gasoline Formula," Indianapolis Star, Vol. 89, No. 73, 1991, pp. 1, 7.


39. Citizens Power, Vol. 18, No. 2, Fall 1992, published by Citizens Action Coalition, 3951 N. Meridian St., Suite 300 Indianapolis, IN 46208, contains several articles on this topic. Reinventing Government, pp. 299-395 touches on this issue in environmental regulation and discusses some other incentive based approaches to environmental regulation.


40. Wilson Clark, Energy for Survival (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1975), Oh. 3.


41. For more information go to: Common Ground's "vision is of a world in which:


*           Individuals, organizations, governments and societies respond to their differences in non-adversarial ways - where those differences stimulate social progress, rather than precipitate violence.

*           The predominant approach to conflict is to reach out to cooperate with those we disagree with - where reconciliation is considered the norm.

*           Our underlying respect for one another and our shared interests and concerns are not overwhelmed by our differing points of view.

*           In their everyday lives, human beings are safer and more secure.


Our goal is to make finding common ground the common thing."


42. See Wanda D. McCaslin, Ed., Justice as Healing, Indigenous Ways: Writings on Community Peacemaking and Restorative Justice from the Native Law Center (Saint Paul, MN: Living Justice Press, 2005), pp. 38-47, 413 and 416.


43. For discussion of the problems with punitive approaches to corrections and the value of restorative and related alternative approaches, see Michael Branegan, “Restoring Community to Restorative Justice,” Research and Creative Activity, Indiana University, Vol. XI, No. 3, January 1997. For an extensive consideration of the applicability of various applications of Native principles of restorative justice, see the various writings in McCaslin, Ed., Justice as Healing.


44. Jon Wilson “Real Justice,” Hope Magazine, No. 20 Fall, 1999, pp. 58-62, quote on p. 60.


45. See John Brown Childs, with commentaries by Guillermo Delgado-P, et. Al. Trans-communality: From the Politics of Conversion to the Ethics of Respect (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003).


46. For an example of traditional ethics see, Phil Lane, Jr., Judie Bupp, Michael Bupp, and Elders, “The Sacred Tree: Code of Ethics,” The Sacred Tree: Reflections on Native American Spirituality, Third Edition (National Book Network, 1984), on line at





©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.