“We’re doing this to rescue Israel’s honor”

March 3, 2015

Last week, Haaretz reported that Israelis have been working with Mount Zion churches in recent months to repair damage to cemeteries belonging to Jews, Christians or Muslims, whether due to vandalism or the ravages of time.

graves mount zion cemetery

The first project, sponsored by the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites, is the restoration of the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion [above]. The work was done by master masons – Circassians from northern Israel – with funding from the preservation society. After the gravestones were repaired, groups of volunteers — ranging from religious Israeli Jews to overseas Christians studying here — began cleaning up the cemetery and tending the greenery.

“We did this to correct, at least a little, the bad impression left by the authorities’ failure to deal with the hate crimes,” said architect and historian Gil Gordon, who oversaw the work. “They haven’t caught and indicted a single person, and the mayor is ignoring it. If you like, we’re doing this to rescue Israel’s honor, so they’ll know there are also people who care.”

armenian cemetery jerusalem

The organizers are talking with the Armenian Church about restoring its cemetery [above, before damage], and also with the Dajanis, a respected Palestinian family that has long taken care of Mount Zion’s cemeteries. Next week the volunteers are expected to begin cleaning up the mount’s Muslim cemetery. After that they plan to restore the Sambursky Cemetery, a Jewish site on the mount.

In addition to cleaning up the cemeteries, the volunteers are documenting the graves, some of them very old. They came to remind people that Jerusalem is a multicultural city where we all live, and will continue to live, side by side.

dr yisca harani“We began the project after dozens of crosses in the Protestant cemetery were broken,” said Dr. Yisca Harani (right), a historian of Christianity and one of the project’s initiators.

The volunteers, she added, “came not just to show solidarity, but to show commitment and try to remind people that Jerusalem is a multicultural city where we all live, and will continue to live, side by side.”

Once Mount Zion’s cemeteries have been restored, the plan is to create a tourist route that will cover both the cemeteries and the site’s many cultures and faiths.

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A process applied by public figures and the mainstream media to the Muslim community

February 27, 2015

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woolf institute logoDavid Bone is a former director of the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations at the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge. His reflection was broadcast on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire on 8th February and published in the Friend, 27 February 2015.

Labels are a method of shorthand that we use to embrace a concept. They are very useful and very powerful.

However, the power of labels can also be misused and can be very dangerous. Under the Nazis in Germany we saw the word Jew come to be given extreme and negative connotations. To the German people being labelled a Jew was to be made an outcast and, ultimately, to be denied your humanity. In denying the Jews their humanity Adolf Hitler was able to legitimise the oppression and slaughter of millions of innocent human beings.

What we see today is the same process being applied by public figures and the mainstream media to the Muslim community.

Islam, a word rooted in the concept of peace – Salaam – is being persistently linked to acts of grotesque violence. It would sound farcical to talk about ‘peace terrorists’ yet we are hearing about ‘Islamic terrorists’ every minute of every day. This is deeply offensive to more than 1.7 billion Muslims across the globe and is an association that is only beneficial for Islamophobes and the depraved extremists that seek to justify their barbarism through some perverse interpretation of the faith.

This approach is only being used for Islam. When we watched the carnage in Bosnia we rightly didn’t talk about the Serbs as ‘Christianist extremists’, even though they crucified the imams and severed all but three of their fingers to represent the trinity. We didn’t because we recognised that this was not a ‘Christian’ problem. This was a problem of radical extremists hiding behind a pretence of religiosity.

The pope and the archbishop of Canterbury were never asked to account for and denounce the behaviour of those barbarians, yet we are constantly hearing calls for Muslim leaders to denounce ISIL, even after they have done so repeatedly and unreservedly.

We were all horrified to hear of the Jordanian pilot who was burned to death by ‘Islamic extremists’ – yet every established scholar of Islam across the globe, from every school of thought, agrees that such a barbaric act was wholly un-Islamic and forbidden by Shariah, which states that fire is so extreme that it is only permissible to God to use for punishment.

The impact of this on public perceptions is clear. Recently, research was publicised on terrorism in Europe. It revealed that less than half a percent of European terrorism was carried out by people who were Muslims, yet when I have asked people what their impression is, they consistently guess that it is seventy per cent or more because of the completely disproportionate coverage in the media and the emotive and bigoted language of our political leaders that promotes hatred and division.

As a community the way for us to truly combat radicalisation and extremism is to promote and ensure the mainstream understanding of the true followers of each faith.

David Bone

David Bone

The Qur’an states clearly that the sin of killing a single innocent person is equal to that of destroying the whole of humanity. It also acknowledges, in the same verses, that this is the same teaching given to Moses and Jesus uniting the Abrahamic faiths on this divine truth.

We need to work together to promote a true understanding of our own faith and that of the other faiths to build peace, understanding and a united community.

Climate change – a threat to peace

February 17, 2015

maw dvd first shotThe first shot of the MAW DVD

The Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change was produced by a team led by Stern at HM Treasury and released in October 2006. In the Review, climate change is described as an ‘economic externality’.

Instead of polarising debate, bear in mind that the steps advocated to counter climate change are beneficial in themselves – as pictured:

GWhoax (2).

Some experts called the genocide in Darfur the world’s first conflict caused by climate change, as the Scientific American reported in 2009. A major factor was a decline in rainfall over the past 30 years as the region’s population doubled, pitting wandering pastoral nomads against settled farmers for land and water.

In 2011, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), told the media: “We have enough evidence, enough scientific findings which should convince people that action has to be taken. Based on observation, we know that there will be more floods, more drought, more heat waves and more extreme precipitation events. These things are happening . . . The UN is particularly concerned about the impact of global warming and climate change on low-lying areas, especially islands”.

conflict climate change coverThis 2013 guide (cover, left) addresses the links between conflict and climate change. It includes an attractively produced 18 minute DVD which explains that conflict and climate change are linked, and can be tackled by ordinary people, communities, businesses and governments.

Colleagues at the Centre for Holistic Studies in Mumbai noted in the 80s the growing unpredictability of the climate which was affecting agriculture even then. This is described in the DVD’s opening sentences by Saleemul Huq (IIED). Other well-chosen speakers are listed on the cover opposite.

Many predict that impacts will include increasing strains on water and food supplies, civil resource wars, mass migration and international conflict.

Lord Stern, currently chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (LSE) and president of the British Academy, last year wrote: “Rises in temperature could cause mass migrations of hundreds of millions of people away from the worst-affected areas. That would lead to conflict and war, not peace and prosperity . . . The risks are immense and can only be sensibly managed by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which will require a new low-carbon industrial revolution . . . (implementing) a strong price on greenhouse gas pollution across the economy, which would also help to reduce emissions”.

RTCC, a news and analysis website focused on providing the latest updates and insight into global low carbon developments, reports that local conflicts over water and land are being increasingly linked to civil war and genocide in North Africa, according to the UN. A UNCCD report released at the start of February warns that an ‘Invisible Frontline’ is emerging in the Sahel region, driven by land degradation and the effects of climate change.

The positive benefits of moving to a low carbon economy listed in the cartoon shown above include:

  • clean air
  • clean water
  • healthy children
  • ‘livable’ cities
  • green jobs
  • forests preserved and
  • energy independence

The climate change impacts listed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group II, which compiled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, led to widespread agreement that fossil fuel divestment needs to end now.

Noting that the impetus for change now is seen in civil society, the speakers listed above called for the political will to see high levels of military spending reduced, with funds and expertise redirected to peaceful and constructive purposes.

When will governments hear this call and act together?

climate change cartoon 1990 2019-

Crude conspiracy theories expensively confirmed

January 30, 2015

university warwick logo

A reader sends news that, with ineffable condescension, Warwick University’s recent press release announces a research paper (‘Crude conspiracy theories could be right’) by three academics who have discovered that what observers have plainly noted and stated for years is correct.

The researchers are said to have “provided strong evidence for what conspiracy theorists have long thought – oil is often the reason for interfering in another country’s war”.

We await their provision of strong evidence that intervention and destabilisation also occurs where there is oil but no civil war.

middle east destabilisation cartoon pinn

And further research to show that this is openly or covertly perpetrated by Britain’s Special Friend with British assistance.

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Buy the paper if you feel inclined to do so: http://www.academia.edu/1012204

The International HANDBOOK on Tourism and Peace

January 27, 2015

Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, World Tourism Organization, writes in the Foreword:

taleb rifai wtourismWith over one billion tourists travelling the world every year, tourism has become a worldwide social and cultural phenomenon that engages people of all nations as both hosts and guests. The fundamental experience of tourism – visiting a new place and meeting its people and culture – is a transformative aspect that defines tourism’s role as an agent of peace.

Never before have people travelled so widely, nor encountered such a wide variety of cultures. These connections spur dialogue and exchange, break down cultural barriers and promote the values of tolerance, mutual understanding and respect. In a world constantly struggling for harmonious coexistence, these values espoused by tourism are integral to building a more peaceful future. Indeed, peace is the cornerstone of travel and tourism, and essential to social growth and development. It is against this backdrop that tourism has been hailed as the first “Global Peace Industry”.

International Handbook on Tourism & Peace coverYet in spite of tourism’s positive global impact, its full potential as an instrument for peace remains to be realised. I trust that this International Handbook on Tourism and Peace will help enhance our understanding of the intrinsic relationship between the tourism sector and global peace-building efforts.

Published within the framework of the project “Tourism and Peace”, an initiative by World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the University of Klagenfurt in Austria, this book offers a range of perspectives from leading specialists from all over the world, covering topics from sustainable development and conflict resolution to ecotourism and heritage preservation.

These pages provide invaluable insights on the vital role tourism plays in paving the way towards a more peaceful planet and open new possibilities to foster tourism as an instrument of peace, and I would like to extend our deep appreciation for all those who contributed their experience and knowledge to this project.

In today’s increasingly diverse and globalised world, the message of peace through tourism has never borne more significance. By all coming together, each as Ambassadors of tourism and peace, we will continue to come closer to realising our shared vision of a better world.

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Read about the United Nations World Tourism Organization here: http://www2.unwto.org/content/who-we-are-0-

Note: The International HANDBOOK on Tourism and Peace can be downloaded for free at http://www.uni-klu.ac.at/frieden/downloads/International_Handbook_on_Tourism_and_Peace(2).pdf or attached for easy reference.

Japanese-Palestinian relations: support in times of trouble

January 23, 2015

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A March kite flying event was held in Gaza to express solidarity with the Japanese people affected by the tsunami disaster in 2011.

gaza kites tsunami anniversary

A thousand Palestine refugee students from UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools in Gaza gathered to fly kites in commemoration of the disaster that killed thousands of people and caused immense damage. Read on here.

In July people staged a silent protest in Tokyo against the bloodshed in Gaza, the biggest gathering in the Japanese capital since the violence began.

gaza tokyo candles

As night fell demonstrators holding candles formed huge letters spelling “Gaza” in a city park, and offered a one-minute prayer for victims of the violence in the Palestinian territory. Some waved Palestinian flags while others carried signs reading: “Stop the killing in Gaza. Japan cares.” “We want people in Gaza to know that they are not isolated from the world,” said Sonoko Kawakami, one of the organizers. “Gaza is far from Japan, but we are going to continue to do whatever we can do here.”

gaza tokyo candle pattern

Leading members of the Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Jewish faiths delivered brief messages calling for an end to the violence. Read on here.

In August, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) accepted a contribution of US$ 4.5 million from the Government of Japan which has a tradition of commitment to international humanitarian efforts.

unrwa

The Japanese contribution will support UNRWA’s distribution of daily food rations as well as non-food items such as blankets, mattresses, hygiene kits, and diapers to all IDPs in UNRWA shelters. It will also enable UNRWA health centres to provide quality health care through provision of medicines.

Mr. Junya Matsuura, Ambassador for Palestinian Affairs and Representative to the Palestinian Authority explained that the US$ 4.5 million contribution to UNRWA was part of Japan’s assistance to Palestinians in Gaza affected by the conflict and emphasized that Japan continues to make efforts to achieve a lasting ceasefire in coordination with the international community.

The Government of Japan has been a major UNRWA partner for many years, and has responded generously to support UNRWA programmes throughout the region. As a member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission since 1973, Japan has also provided valued advice and support to the Agency’s Commissioner-General. Read on here.

gaza abbas meets j pm

On Tuesday, 20th January, during a visit to Israel and Palestine, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announced during that his country would provide $100m. to help reconstruct the Gaza Strip and create job opportunities for Palestinians.

At the joint press conference he added that Japan plans to send experts in March to help the Palestinians establish small businesses and reiterated Japan’s support for the two-state solution, expressing hope that peace would prevail in the region so that people could enjoy prosperity and development.

Mr Abbas told the press conference that Israel had to choose between peace and settlements, and that he is committed to resuming peace talks with Israel “on the basis of the Arab peace initiatives and UN resolutions.”

He thanked Japan for its support for Palestinian refugees over the past few decades and for the 2012 Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations. Abbas said he had briefed the Japanese prime minister on the latest developments surrounding the peace process and his efforts to seek a UN Security resolution that establishes a timeline for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. Read on here.

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Irish peacekeeping commitment and neutrality maintained: no membership of NATO

January 20, 2015
irish uk mou signedMichael Fallon, UK defence secretary (left) and Simon Coveney, the Irish defence minister

On Monday, Ireland and the UK signed a memorandum of understanding at historic Dublin Castle – a medieval tower (below). The MOU will allow soldiers from both countries to co-operate on peacekeeping in conflict zones.

The press release states that the agreement “provides opportunities for more joint and collaborative work in support of international peace and security.

The Irish Army will train their British counterparts in peacekeeping operations.

dublin castle

Irish and British soldiers recently served together in an operation in Mali and the Irish defence force has extensive peacekeeping experience in Lebanon.

Relations between Dublin and London have improved following the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

Simon Coveney, the Irish defence minister, said the agreement was “voluntary and non-binding” and did not have any impact on Ireland’s official stance of military neutrality.

For many years Ireland’s peacekeepers have a maintained fine reputation for peacebuilding, due to their courteous and insightful engagement with local people wherever they serve. Many who, like most Indian peacekeepers, come from farming families, are able to connect with those in rural areas on other continents on matters of agriculture and animal husbandry.

The Irish government is drafting a white paper that will set objectives for the succeeding two years. This may include military forces training, exercises and education, joint procurement and general sharing on reform in defence services.

 

The white paper will not propose Irish membership of NATO.

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Today’s visitors came from:

January 19, 2015

c3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paris 1986 and Paris 2015: Ed Vulliamy

January 14, 2015

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A neighbour brought Ed Vulliamy’s thoughtful and informative Saturday article to the writer’s attention.

paris protest 86

He opened by recalling a procession of 600,000 people winding along the Paris boulevards in December 1986, outraged at the killing of a Franco-Algerian student in police custody, after his arrest and allegedly severe beating during demonstrations against a proposed education law.

Arab France, liberal France and leftwing France, linked arms: “The militants of mai ’68 and the sons and daughters of the Algerian war of independence – the Latin Quarter and the poor, immigrant suburbs – united in common cause”.

Last week there were marches by Muslims behind banners reading “Non à la fanatisme” and parades by Muslims singing the Marseillaise. Business Insider records a mourner holding a candle next to a note stapled to a flower reading “Not in my name (from a Muslim)” during a gathering at the end of Shabbat called by the Jewish Student’s Union of France (UEJF) association on January 10th. paris unity march nuslim jewish
But Vulliamy observes that “this is not the welded, blood-brotherhood between the liberal left and Arab Paris that characterised that day in 1986”. Three decades later, “these two communities are at best ill at ease in each other’s company, at worst riven by mutual hostility”.

He asks why Charlie Hebdo, a “sworn enemy of the establishment“, which had incorporated those who challenged imperialism, combatted racism and supported Algerian independence, began to target ‘so ferociously’ others who oppose that same establishment.

An answer appears to lie in the profound conviction and commitment that religion has no right or role to influence in society, most strongly held by the Left Front, Front de gauche, or FDG – the closest, Vulliamy explains, that Charlie has to a political home: “No other leftwing movement in Europe puts quite such emphasis on a determined stance against the influence of religion”.

In December 1986, Vulliamy points out, the language of conflict was that of class and race, but “by the time the Kouachi brothers reached adulthood, that discourse was replaced by Islam versus the west”.

‘Freedom of speech’ – a myth

He described “Massacre of the insolents” as the best of last week’s many headlines, in La Voix du Nord and yet Jean Plantin, cartoonist for Le Monde, insisted: “We have to do this work of impertinence.” But the much-trumpeted ‘freedom of speech’ is a myth; statutes restrict ‘hate speech’ relating to ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation and courts convict those using libellous speech and revealing state secrets.

This ‘work of impertinence’ has added insult to the feelings of French Muslims – who take the brotherhood injunction seriously – and are already suffering from the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, the accounts of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and the civilian deaths by drone strikes in Afghanistan.

So are protestors today actually defending the freedom to make use of hurtful, provocative language which 19th century statesman Charles-James Fox described as ‘repulsive and bitter’ – and calculated to inflame people with whom we should seek to live in peace?

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The article may be read here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/10/paris-attacks-france-liberal-left-protest-arabs

Freedom of (courteous) speech

January 8, 2015

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At this time the tenets of Civilisation 3000 come to mind – an extract: 

A civilised society should be ordered so that every person has:

  • pure drinking water
  • clean air
  • uncontaminated food
  • adequate shelter
  • access to good medical care & education
  • right livelihood
  • freedom of (courteous) speech
  • effective participation in decision-making
  • freedom of association (political, religious etc)

and in which:

  • each person acts honestly and transparently in the workplace and in personal relationships
  • conflict is resolved by dialogue and other peaceable means

 

 


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