Archive for November, 2012

Observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in Cairo

By Richard Falk

Text of my remarks delivered in Cairo at joint UN/Arab League ceremony marking the observance of the 2012 International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, 29 Nov 2012, some 10 hours prior to the historic vote in the UN General Assembly.

Your Excellency, Dr. Nabil Elaraby, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, H.E. Barakat Al Fara, H.E. Amre Dou Al Atta, Dr. Mohammad Gimi’a, Bishop Macos – Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is an exceptional honor and challenge to speak on such an occasion. We meet at a tense historical moment with heavy potential consequences for the Palestinian people and for the peoples and governments of the region. I along with many others throughout the world share Nelson Mandela’s view that the denial of Palestinian rights remains the “the greatest moral issue of our time.” This 2012 International Day of Solidarity with the People of Palestine possesses a special significance. A ceasefire ending the latest orgy of violence afflicting the two societies, but especially affecting the people of Gaza, has been agreed upon just over a week ago, and appears to be holding. And in a few hours the Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is scheduled to ask the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer State within the UN, a status similar to that of the Vatican. When this initiative is approved later today it means an upgraded status for Palestine within the UN System, including probable access to other organs of the UN.

Meeting here in Cairo on this occasion has an added resonance. It was the Egyptian government that played such an instrumental role in producing the ceasefire in Gaza, and it is the democratization of Egypt that has done more to improve Palestinian prospects than any other recent regional or international development. It also raises expectations that Egypt will in the future exert its influence to bring this conflict that has lingered far too long to a just end by working toward a peaceful solution based on the recognition of Palestinian rights under international law. Nothing would better convey to the world that the Arab Spring represents a regional declaration of independence from the dominion of external influence. In doing so it would enlarge upon the earlier historic achievement of unexpectedly bringing about the downfall of a series of dictatorial regimes reigning throughout the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »

Can U.S. Citizens End Israel’s Legal Impunity?

By Stephen Zunes

Each time international law has attempted to censure Israel for its recent violations of human rights, the United States has stepped in to stop the process. If anyone is in a position to do something about this, it’s the U.S. public.

The great wish of the early Zionist leader Theodor Herzl was that Israel would be treated like “any other state.” Were that the case, there might be more rational and productive discourse regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is particularly critical in light of Israel launching yet another devastating attack against civilian-populated areas of nearby Arab lands.

What we are witnessing from the Obama administration, however is the unfair phenomenon of exempting Israel from criticism.

There are certainly those who do unfairly single out Israel, the world’s only predominantly Jewish state, for criticism. There is a tendency by some to minimize Israel’s legitimate security concerns and place inordinate attention on the Israeli government’s transgressions, relative to other governments that abuse human rights. There are also those who, in light of the five-year siege of the Gaza Strip and the enormous suffering of the Palestinian people, try to rationalize terrorism and other crimes by Hamas, the reactionary Islamist group currently in control there.

What we are witnessing from the Obama administration, however—as Hamas rains rockets into Israel and Israel rains bombs, missiles, and mortars into the crowded and besieged Gaza Strip—is the similarly unfair phenomenon of exempting Israel from criticism. While most of the international community has criticized both Hamas and Israel for their attacks on areas populated by civilians, the Obama administration has restricted its condemnation to the Palestinian side. Read the rest of this entry »

Abetting murder in Gaza

By Stephen Zunes

The November 22 ceasefire between Israeli and Hamas forces is a huge relief for the civilian population on both sides—the primary victims of the conflict. But the Obama administration’s unconscionable decision the previous week to block a ceasefire effort by the UN Security Council not only resulted in additional civilian deaths but also serves as an indication that, despite the president owing his re-election to the hard work of his progressive base, his foreign policy will continue to lean to the right.

The draft resolution blocked by the United States explicitly condemned all acts of terrorism and violence towards civilians, reaffirmed the right of all states to live in peace within secure and recognized borders, and called for an immediate and durable ceasefire. It reiterated that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could only be resolved through peaceful means and called for an immediate resumption of a substantive bilateral negotiating process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Richard Falk on Israel’s attack on Gaza

Democracy Now! interview
November19, 2012

The history of Peace: The Past and the Future?

By Johan Galtung

Review of The Glorious Art of Peace by John Gittings, NYC: Oxford University Press, 2012. Info about this book and a video with Gittings here.

Editor’s note
This is Galtung’s draft which has been submitted to International Affairs.

What a wonderful idea, the history of peace! Something most people want to learn about, the art of peace! Like the history of health, food and love, as opposed to the history of wars, illness and hunger, of generals, kings and empires. This is the history of something that can inspire people, statesmen-women among them, to do better. This is a more adequate textbook for schools than the usual list of kings (and queens, like “divorced-beheaded-died-divorced-beheaded-survived”).

Gittings’ historiography covers seven periods: “ancient peace” based on Greece and China; the “morality of peace” of the middle ages, from Jesus to the Crusades; the “humanist approach” of the early modern renaissance with a focus on Erasmus; then the “peace consciousness” of the enlightenment; the “alternatives to war” of the League of Nations, peaceful settlement of disputes, and nonviolence (Tolstoy, Gandhi); the “misappropriation of peace” from the UN to the Cold War; “giving peace a chance” from the Cold War to Iraq. The focus is on modernity with five of seven periods, and on the West, with laudable excursions into China and India-Russia for their impact on the West. Missing: the small non-West peace, like American Indian (Sioux confederation), Polynesian (ho’o pono pono), Zulu (ubuntu). Missing: the big non-West mega-peace between the biggest countries in the world, China and India. But Gittings covers a rich lot “from the Iliad to Iraq”.

Gittings’ methodology is empirical with events, countries and persons, and fascinating quotes and art photos; relating them causally and by similarities; always interestingly. Missing: theoretical explorations based on, say, conditioning by nature (geography, nutrition); by culture, like dualism for Greeks, yin/yang for Chinese; by structure, like caste/class verticality vs equity. But Gittings offers a lot of raw material for the theoretically minded.

The major impression from the book is the history of anti-war carried by persons and sometimes by groups; in other words, negative peace against violence. Of positive peace, like building equity and harmony, dissolving traumas and conflicts, there is close to nothing.

But Gittings is not to be faulted for this; rather, the civilizations he explored are. Read the rest of this entry »

The Gaza ceasefire: An early assessment

By Richard Falk

The Gaza Ceasefire, unlike a similar ceasefire achieved after Operation Cast Lead four years ago, is an event that has a likely significance far beyond ending the violence after eight days of murderous attacks. It is just possible that it will be looked back upon as a turning point in the long struggle between Israel and Palestine. Many have talked about ‘the fog of war,’ but it pales besides the ‘the fog of truce making,’ and in our media-infected air, the outcomes along with conjectures about the future are already being spun in all possible directions.

Supporters of every position give their own spin, and then proclaim ‘victory.’ But as with the violent phases of the conflict, it is clarifying to distinguish the more persuasive contentions and interpretations from those that are less persuasive. What follows is one such attempt at such clarification. Read the rest of this entry »

Cultivating peace, preventing violence

By Johan Galtung

… was the title of the Symposium at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia-USA 17-19 Nov 2012. An example of the blossoming wave of peace studies all over the US; inter-disciplinary and international. Most papers were given by very promising students on most aspects of peace studies. It is inconceivable that this will not have a major impact on US foreign policy in a generation or so, particularly with the demographic shift from the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) males voting Romney to the negations of all of that, including Blacks, Latins and women voting Obama. And with that shift the idea of a Chosen People with a Promised Land and a Covenant with the Almighty making them exceptional and indispensable, above the law of ordinary states, will slowly die. Read the rest of this entry »

The latest Gaza catastrophe: Will they ever learn?

By Richard Falk

This post is an updated version of an article published in the online English edition of Al Jazeera, 17 Nov 2012, taking account of some further developments in the new horrifying unfolding of violence in Gaza.

President Obama, upon his arrival today in Bangkok at the start of a state visit to several Asian countries, reminded the world of just how unconditional U.S. support for Israel remains. Obama was quoted as saying, “There is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside of its borders. We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.” Much is missing from such a sentiment, most glaringly, the absence of any balancing statement along the following line: “and no country would tolerate the periodic assassination of its leaders by missiles fired by a neighboring country, especially during a lull achieved by a mutually agreed truce. It is time for both sides to end the violence, and establish an immediate ceasefire.”

But instead of such statesmanship from this newly elected leader what we hear from Ben Rhodes, his Deputy National Security Advisor, who is traveling with the president in Asia is the following: that the rockets from Gaza are “the precipitating factor for the conflict. We believe Israel has a right to defend itself, and they’ll make their own decisions about the tactics they use in that regard.” Of course, these tactics up to this point have involved attacking a densely urbanized population with advanced weaponry from air and sea, targeting media outlets, striking residential structures, and killing and wounding many civilians, including numerous children.

Since when does ‘the right to defend oneself’ amount to a license to kill and wound without limit, without some clear demonstration that the means of violence are connected with the goals being sought, without a requirement that force be exclusively directed against military targets, without at least an expression of concern about the proportionality of the military response? To overlooks such caveats in the present context in which Gaza has no means whatsoever defend itself indicates just how unconditional is the moral/legal blindfold that impairs the political wisdom and the elemental human empathy of the American political establishment. Read the rest of this entry »

An open letter on my 82nd birthday

By Richard Falk

Exactly two years ago I wrote my first blog. Throughout this period it has been a bittersweet experience consisting of work, play, challenge, and occasional consternation. Many warm and generous responses have given me an appreciation of the distinctive satisfactions of cyber connectivity.

Such pleasures have been somewhat offset by hostile commentary and related monitoring, not mainly for disagreements as to substance, but to find discrediting material, usually torn from context, that might induce me to resign or be dismissed from my unpaid UN position as Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine on behalf of the Human Rights Council. What is most distressing is not the attacks that are well known to come with this territory, but the degree to which important government officials in the United States and at the UN so easily become willing accomplices in such malicious campaigns of defamation, and do so without ‘due diligence.’

Of course, someone more prudent than I, would have long ago abandoned the blogosphere, Read the rest of this entry »

Hope, wisdom, law, ethics, and spirituality in relation to killing and dying: Persisting Syrian dilemmas

By Richard Falk

In appraising political developments most of us rely on trusted sources, our overall political orientation, what we have learned from past experience, and our personal hierarchy of hopes and fears. No matter how careful, and judicious, we are still reaching conclusions in settings of radical uncertainty, which incline our judgments to reflect a priori and interpretative biases.

As militarists tends to favor reliance on force to resolve disputes among and within sovereign states, so war weary and pacifist citizens will seek to resolve even the most extreme dire conflict situations by insisting on the potentialities of non-violent diplomacy.

In the end, even in liberal democracies most of us are far too dependent on rather untrustworthy and manipulated media assessments to form our judgments about unfolding world events. How then should we understand the terrible ongoing ordeal of violence in Syria? Read the rest of this entry »


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