Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Global Peace Index 2010, a Vision of Humanity

I thought it is appropriate to revisit the GPI 2010 report today, the International Day of Peace.

This is interesting, the 4th edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI). The results of the GPI for 2010 suggest that "the world has become slightly less peaceful in the past year."

Check out the peace indicators used and map of results at the link below.


And here is a link to the GPI 2010 Discussion Paper. The correlations with economic and societal indicators are interesting, and also the section on the monetary value of peace, and the cumulative effects of peace.

Do these statistics really help understand the factors associated with peace or inform our methods for the future? What is missing?

Here is my favorite part of the Key Findings section:

The economic gains from even modest reductions in violence would easily equal the losses due to the world
economic crisis of 2008/9.

At a peace symposium, the most peaceful 2 countries shared wisdom and lessons... here are a few lines from that section:

A “forward focus” is one of the themes that researchers have seen emerge when looking beyond the concrete characteristics of peace and examined the less quantifiable dynamics that has driven each country’s path to peace. Peaceful countries tend to focus on building their future, rather than righting past wrongs. They also focus on getting their own house in order, rather than intervening in others’ affairs. Regionally and globally, the peaceful countries participate in international governmental organizations to harmonize approaches with their neighbors, but not to impose their ways. These peaceful countries realize they are not perfect, as they see better futures they want to build. Their peace is a process of cooperating to meet common aims, not a static state.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Suffering of Palestinian Children

Yes, I hope the peace talks are real and not another "Yes But" game, for the sake of Palestinian children of Area C. Amineh

Published in the Haaretz.com on 17.09.10

Suffering of Palestinian children is something both sides can agree

Even Israelis should be able to realize that they are responsible if Palestinian children in Area C are malnourished and worse.
By Margaret Atwood

More than 40 years ago, a psychiatrist named Eric Berne published a best-seller called "Games People Play" that is still instructive reading for those involved in difficult negotiations or complex debates.
West Bank school children

Berne defines "game" as "an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome. Descriptively, it is a recurring set of transactions, often repetitious, superficially plausible, with a concealed motivation; or, more colloquially, a series of moves with a snare, or 'gimmick.'"

All of Berne's "games" are basically dishonest, as they have an ulterior motive, and some are self-destructive as well as destructive to others. The word "game" suggests frivolity, but some games are grimly played and deadly serious - deadly in the literal sense. The term "war games" is no accident.

One of the games Berne describes is called "Why Don't You - Yes But." In this game, the player complains about a problem, and the dupes - who are conned into "helping" - propose solutions; but for every "Why Don't You" offered, the player comes up with a "Yes But" - a reason why the solution can't possibly work. Finally the helpers run out of ideas and are left feeling stupid and inadequate, and the player wins: His problem is smarter and bigger ... The only trouble is, he still has the problem. But maybe that's the goal he was aiming for all along: maintenance of the status quo, so that he can keep on doing whatever he was doing already.

Has Israel been playing a very long game of "Why Don't You - Yes But" when it comes to the "Palestinian problem"? Is there a mirror-image game in which Israel itself is "the problem"? Certainly the outside commentators - pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian - are ready with a "yes but" whenever someone they consider an opponent proposes anything like a logjam-breaker. The ideological positions are by now so dug in that the field of discourse resembles the western front in World War I: There are trenches everywhere, and anyone who sticks his head up is met with a barrage of well-worn verbal missiles: "mental defective," "idiot," "criminal" and the like. If some witless innocent lacking a trench wanders into the line of vision babbling of human brotherhood or something seen as equally fatuous, all those entrenched let fly.

Why anyone considers it an aid to positive resolutions to heave these overblown nouns and adjectives through the air is anyone's guess: If convincing others is the goal, this tactic fails, as the heavers sound like irrational fanatics. It does, however, deter anyone not already entrenched from taking an interest. ("Don't touch it! It's a swamp!" ) Perhaps the adjective-heaving comes from frustration, which is understandable considering the lack of positive momentum. Or perhaps it's a universal human characteristic: Having chosen and dug one's trench, one feels the need to defend it.

Meanwhile, the game of "Why Don't You - Yes But" goes on. "Return the Golan Heights to Syria." "Yes, but we need the strategic position for security." "Join the whole area politically and give Palestinians equal rights, thus making the state a true democracy." "Yes, but then Jewish Israelis would be outnumbered and unsafe, as in the Diaspora." "Invite Hamas to the peace talks, because nothing can be resolved otherwise." "Yes, but they want to destroy us." "Tear down the punitive walls." "Yes, but then we would get blown up in cafes again." "Acknowledge Israel's right to exist behind the 1967 borders." "Yes, but Israel is not a legitimate state, and anyway all the land is Palestinian by right, and anyone who would accept less is a quisling." "Stop kicking Palestinians off their land and making it impossible for them to reach what land they still have." "Yes, but this is allowed by our laws, and it's for security, and you are an enemy of Israel and also an anti-Semite." "Stop killing Israeli civilians." "Yes, but that's the only weapon we have left." And so forth. Surely the nature of the conversation has to change, on all sides - that is, if it's not really a game of "Yes But."

I proposed a different sort of game to myself: Would it be possible to choose a subject on which all those entrenched could agree, for which there is a clear solution, and to which there would be no plausible "Yes But" response? Let's give it a try.

For instance: What about the Palestinian children of Area C? (Area C, for those witless innocents who have never heard of it, is not that part of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority, nor is it Gaza, for which Israel now claims no administrative responsibility other than blockading it. Instead it is that part of Palestine entirely occupied and controlled by Israel since 1967. ) According to a 2009 report by Save The Children U.K. called "Life on the Edge," the rate of malnutrition of the children in Area C is higher even than that in Gaza, and many kids are not only developmentally stunted, but are dying from related illnesses.

Is Israel responsible for this situation? Yes, because it alone controls the Area C Palestinian population's access to food and its ability to earn a viable living. Is there a "Yes But" that could possibly justify the conditions being imposed on these children? Unless the report is lying, I can't think of one. Even the most wild-eyed extremist can hardly claim that children under the age of seven are terrorists.

There's a traditional china-shop sign: If you break it, you own it. Israel owns this problem, and Israel should fix it. Or does it really want an international campaign in which every doughnut shop in North America features a collection box, a sad-eyed child holding a dead sibling, and a stack of outrage-generating leaflets? Write your congressman: Tie aid to Israel to action on Area C child malnutrition and deaths? Give at church, save an Area C baby? Or how about: On the Day of Atonement, when considering wrongs to other human beings for which you bear some responsibility, start with the children of Area C?

As the peace talks begin again, some Israeli help on behalf of the children of Area C would be a signal that those talks are real, and not just another "Yes But" game.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where the Hell is Matt? ... Matt is in Gaza with UNRWA

Engaging children in play, games and sports increases their sense of social support and have tremendous positive short & long term health benefits on young and older children. UNRWA, like many other agencies working in Gaza, recognize these evidence-based findings and develop and implement many innovative programs to promote psychosocial health among the children of Gaza and the West Bank. UNRWA also strives to show the common humanity Gaza shares with the world. Below is just an example. Amineh

26 July 2010

Celebrity YouTube film maker Matt Harding, whose film “Where the Hell is Matt?” secured over 30 million internet hits, has made a flying visit to Gaza as a guest of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Today, UNRWA released its own film of his visit, entitled “Where the hell is Matt? Matt is in Gaza with UNRWA”. The film shows dozens of kids in Gaza rehearsing and then dancing with Matt, imitating his trademark dance. Within the first few hours, the UNRWA film received nearly one thousand hits on YouTube.

“It was was a massive surprise to see the number of YouTube hits rise exponentially in just the first few hours of its release”, said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.

“Clearly, the idea that kids in Gaza are just like kids anywhere in the world is greatly appealing to audiences in the Middle East and beyond.

“Like the original, Where the Hell is Matt?”, this film celebrates the common humanity that the children of Gaza share with the global community”, said Gunness. “This is an important message: kids in Gaza are like kids anywhere in the world. All they want is to have fun. If allowed to be, Gaza can be a normal place where children can thrive.”

Background information:

UNRWA's Summer Games, conducted for the fourth year with the full support and involvement of the community, is the largest recreation programme for Gaza’s children, providing a diversified set of activities including sports, swimming, arts and crafts, theatre and drama. The Summer Games commenced on 12 June and will run through 5 August, providing 1,200 summer camps for over 250,000 refugee children across the Gaza Strip.

The film “Where the hell is Matt? Matt is in Gaza with UNRWA” was shot and edited by blogger Yousef Ahmed.

To see the film, and access up-to-date photos, videos and commentary on UNRWA and the Summer Games, visit Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/unrwa

For Arabic speakers, a dedicated website provides information on the Games: http://summergames.unrwa.ps

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Slow Death of Palestinian Democracy

By Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi | JULY 21, 2010

The cancellation of municipal elections in the West Bank marks another setback for democratic institutions. That's bad for Palestinians, and it's bad for peace.

Palestinian municipal elections were supposed to be held last week. Instead, they were canceled. A statement released by the Palestinian Authority claimed the cancellation was "in order to pave the way for a successful end to the siege on Gaza and for continued efforts at unity" between Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and the government in the West Bank.

The cancellation of this election was an unjustified, unlawful, and unacceptable act. It damages democratic rights and makes a mockery of the interests of the Palestinian people.

But this is far more than an internal Palestinian issue. The only lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians will be based on a settlement negotiated between two democracies -- this was the case in Europe, and it will be the case in the Middle East.

The Palestinian struggle for democracy has been long and painstaking. Against long odds, we succeeded in constructing a remarkable civil society in order to survive the oppression of the Israeli occupation and to fill the void left by the lack of a central government. We developed parallel nongovernmental health and educational systems, built 17 universities, and established thousands of local community organizations. We even developed grassroots, community-based rehabilitation programs for disabled citizens, which received worldwide recognition.

The Israeli government has long paid lip service to Palestinian democracy while simultaneously crushing initiatives that produced results it didn't like. In 1976, then Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres offered the illusion of local leadership by launching municipal elections, which were meant to dilute the authority of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

To Peres's great surprise, 90 percent of Palestinians voted for pro-PLO, pro-independence electoral lists. Within two years, the Israeli government -- that self-proclaimed paragon of democracy -- deported the election's victors and dismissed the councils.

With the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the 1990s, we hoped to have a true democracy. However, we were forced to endure wild swings between successful popular elections and efforts -- both self-inflicted and foreign -- to crush our fragile democratic institutions. Palestinians waited until 1996 to cast their votes in Palestine's first-ever parliamentary election for seats in the newly created Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). I still remember the smile of one woman, a septuagenarian named Fatema, when she told me, "This is the first time in my life I can vote."

But that joy did not last. We had to wait 10 years, until 2006, to hold parliamentary elections again. Although these elections were praised by the world -- former U.S. President Jimmy Carter termed them "honest, fair, and safe" -- the results were never accepted by Israel or most Western governments because they did not like the outcome: Hamas emerged with a plurality of the seats.

Even when Palestinians managed to create a national unity government, which represented 96 percent of the Palestinian electorate, we were kept under siege and embargo. This fact contributed to the protracted conflict between Fatah and Hamas, which led to the internal division between the West Bank and Gaza in 2007. It also resulted in the cancellation of the PLC elections that were supposed to take place in January.

This is the context in which one must consider the Palestinian Authority's decision to cancel the West Bank municipal elections that were scheduled for July 17 -- and the willing participation of the United States and European governments in the abrogation of the democratic process.

Most Palestinians accept the impossibility of holding presidential and parliamentary elections without first healing the division between the West Bank and Gaza. It is precisely because of this fact that all Palestinian political parties and civil society organizations, excluding Hamas, agreed on the vital importance of holding municipal elections on time. The only alternative would have been the appointment of new local councils by an executive authority, which itself is not approved by the PLC, thereby further depriving the people of the right to choose their representatives.

We saw local elections as a way of keeping the seeds of democratic principles and systems alive despite vicious internal disputes. Properly contested municipal elections would have been a means to remind each and every authority that they are accountable to the people. It was also intended to promote nonviolent means for resolving internal differences, by giving Palestinians an opportunity to express their interests through democratic means rather than the use of force.

The Hamas government prevented voter registration in Gaza, thus stopping elections from taking place there. At first, Palestinian Authority officials correctly decided to go forward with the elections in the West Bank, providing lengthy explanations for why they would not contradict reconciliation efforts. Many gave speeches lauding the role of local elections in building the state. However, it soon became clear that, though Hamas would boycott the election, Fatah would still face tough competition from unaligned, democratic parties. This was evident in all major cities, including Hebron, Ramallah, and Tulkarm.

Nevertheless, until the elections were canceled on June 10, it appeared that voting would go forward as scheduled. Voter registration took place, electoral lists were formed, observers were chosen -- and then, a few minutes before the candidate registration lists were to be closed, the government in the West Bank announced that it was postponing the election until further notice.

So, while the government in Gaza prevented local elections, the government in the West Bank canceled them. This has caused great dismay among the people, who never believed the Palestinian Authority's argument that the election was canceled for the sake of intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

And, of course, it raises a fundamental question about the meaning of "state-building." Doesn't this term mean more than new construction projects, big government buildings, and a larger security apparatus?

Isn't the lesson from numerous failed states throughout the world that what matters most is the establishment of legitimate, representative democratic institutions? Surely this is a significant part of the reason why India and Brazil succeeded while Somalia, Afghanistan, and others have failed.

Our democratic shortcomings should not, however, be used by Israel as an excuse for the continued subjugation of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. This cruel Israeli practice is designed to provide an excuse for Israel's complicity in undermining our democracy, while whitewashing the greater crimes of its occupation.

Palestinians do not want a state in name only, with a flag and an anthem. We want a sovereign nation -- not clusters of Bantustans. And we want a democratic state where we can choose our leaders and our government. We do not want them appointed by foreign powers, who claim to act in our name. A real state requires that people live in freedom and prosperity, with dignity and full rights -- and not with constant machinations from one party or another that subverts this process. Such maneuvering only squelches Palestinians' democratic rights and sets back the cause of peace.

Mustafa Barghouthi is secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He was a candidate for the Palestinian presidency in 2005. He is the president of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A look at whats happening on the ground in the Gaza Strip with Michael Slackman

The following link gives a 20 minute look at what's happening on the ground in the Gaza Strip with Michael Slackman of 'The New York Times' and Mort Zuckerman.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Silent War: Israel's Blockade of Gaza

This is a new film by Medical Aid Palestine. Amineh

February 15, 2010

Israels blockade of Gaza has been in place for almost three years.

Building on existing closures and restrictions, the blockade means the delay or denial of a broad range of items food, industrial, educational, medical deemed "non-essential" for a population largely unable to be self-sufficient at the end of decades of occupation. The blockade prevents access by sea, land and air, effectively closing off a population of 1.5 million Palestinians from the outside world.

This short film examines what the blockade means for the people of Gaza, as they struggle to rebuild their lives over a year after Operation Cast Lead.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In The Wake Of War: Gaza One Year On

Among many narratives of Gazans, this film depicts the narrative of a women who was pregnant when injured during the war. She gave birth during her 40 day long coma. Amineh

Medical Aid Palestine (MAP)
February 15, 2010

MAP FILMS visit the Gaza Strip and speak to its residents 1 year on from the Israeli Operation 'Cast Lead' that killed nearly 1,400 people.