Working towards peace and sustainability

In Support of the People of Gaza

As part of our "Peace, Not Famine" rolling hunger strike, nearly three dozen of us gathered on April 5 outside CoMo City Hall to rally in support of adequate food and other necessities being provided to the desperate people of Gaza. We also called for a lasting ceasefire, the release of hostages and political prisoners, and a halt to U.S. military exports to Israel. 

We had three speakers at the rally. The first was Palestinian-American activist, humanitarian aid worker and adjunct professor, Rasha Abousalem. The text of her talk at the Rally for Gaza, May All be Fed peace gathering has already been posted here.

Today, we are posting the text of the comments of the Rev. Larry Brown. We will also be posting soon the texts of the remaining  speaker, Rachel English.

Please note that all are invited to join in our daily peace vigils which are held from 12:15-12:45 p.m. by the Keyhole sculpture outside City Hall. We vigil for peace seven days a week.

More then 33,000 dead, mostly women and children, in just the last six months; AND at least a million more at risk of starvation, disease, and further displacement. Gaza, and some places in the West Bank and Southern Lebanon have been blasted into rubble with an intensity of explosives the world has not seen in decades. Gone are villages, neighborhoods, homes, schools, hospitals, religious facilities, orchards, museums, parks, businesses, infrastructure, refugee tents, graveyards, and safe passage relief workers, and now we are leaving behind a toxic wasteland. These are real people in a living nightmare who have become the tragic consequence of failed policies of power, resource acquisition, revenge, and ethnic cleansing.

And despite much of the world’s condemnation of this atrocity, it continues. We gather here today to say, “No more! Stop the killing! Step back and find the way out of this worsening disaster.” Must a million more die to make a point of revenge? Cannot we as citizens of countries around the world be better than our governmental policies, at least to stop the killing of civilians and aid workers, at least pause the war long enough to insure safety, food, and health for innocent victims? As Bob Dylan sang, “How many deaths will it take ‘til we know that too many people have died?”

My cynicism leads me to say, “I doubt we can do better,” primarily because my cynicism is deeply rooted in our American experience. After all, this country was founded on the practice of colonial settlement where Europeans, specifically Christian Europeans, invaded and declared possession of a continent (indeed a hemisphere) occupied by indigenous cultures; then ethnically cleansed, slaughtered, removed, forced them into concentration camps. And when they violently resisted in desperation we justified further violence against them, destroying their homes, livelihood, land, and ecology. And we replaced indigenous people with enslaved people from other continents. We Americans know how this works, justifying our behavior with religious perceptions of superiority, and dehumanizing those we want removed. Centuries later we still struggle to remember that history and are attempting to repair the damage.

What is going on in Palestine and Gaza today is in one sense the continuation of the same processes of colonial settlement, and for the past seventy-five years the specific continuation of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians: the Nakba of 1947-48 (that killed thousands, destroyed hundreds of villages, and forced at least 700,000 Palestinians out of their country), and the 1960s and 70s internationally illegal possession of the so-called “Occupied Territories,” the annexation of land and resources, the imprisonment into refugee camps, tightly controlled movement, and the continued forced diaspora over the years, and now the forced relocation of 2 million. Have we forgotten this history, as we forget our own history? I must add that remembering is a spiritual discipline.

But I want to be optimistic. I want to declare and support the concept of food as a universal right, not conditioned upon who one is or what identity one claims. And, as a practicing follower of the teachings of Jesus, I want to stand on a spiritual, moral foundation by which I can support the not just the general cause of freedom, but specifically support the Israeli conscientious objectors to the war, and Christians for a Free Palestine, for example; and support all the movements, voices, and actions that are working for a just and equitable peace. As John Prine sung, “Jesus don’t like killing, no matter what the reason’s for.” I want us to find all the reasons to stop the killing. Could we dare consider turning the other cheek, forgive one another, and/or love (even enemies)?

I realize that there are many, many passages in the Hebrew texts from Deuteronomy to the Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Amos) that clearly condemn nations who oppress others, who deprive the rights of the needy, who do not care for the refugee and stranger, who sell out the innocent for self-satisfaction, power, resources, who spill the blood of the innocent. In all those passages is stated the consequences of such behavior—doom and destruction. An eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth was a radical departure from the disproportionate revenge of wiping out a whole village to avenge one criminal act. Even then, as Gandhi said, such proportionate revenge leaves everyone blind and toothless. Could we dare NOT seek revenge?

What if we rediscovered the places in the texts of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religious traditions that call for the compassionate, forgiving, merciful, reconciling, if not sacrificial behavior that makes for peace? We have the moral foundation to act to stop the bombs, feed the people, and negotiate for peaceful coexistence. But this will only happen when we remove the perceived profitability of war, ethnic cleansing, and power over others. The world cannot survive any more greedy, authoritarian, supremacist, racist leaders, organizations, and countries. Let us do the things that make for peace.

Rally for Gaza: May All be Fed!

As part of our "Peace, Not Famine" rolling hunger strike, nearly three dozen of us gathered on April 5 outside CoMo City Hall to rally in support of adequate food and other necessities being provided to the desperate people of Gaza. We also called for a lasting ceasefire, the release of hostages and political prisoners, and a halt to U.S. military exports to Israel. 

We had three speakers at the rally. The first was Palestinian-American activist, humanitarian aid worker and adjunct professor, Rasha Abousalem. Below you will find the text of her talk at the Rally for Gaza, May All be Fed peace gathering. We will also be posting soon the texts of the other two speakers.

Please note that all are invited to join in our daily peace vigils which are held from 12:15-12:45 p.m. by the Keyhole sculpture outside City Hall. We vigil for peace seven days a week.

I am the child of Palestinian refugees from the original 1948 Nakba (or "catastrophe" in Arabic). My father, one of the 700,000 Palestinians expelled or forced to flee, was only 8 years old when his family was violently forced out of their home in Haifa, and my mother's family was expelled from their ancestral land in Nazareth.

I was privileged to be raised in the US, as my parents brought their 4 young children to a new country and culture in the hopes that they could live safely and give us the opportunities they were robbed of. But rather than be able to celebrate my beautiful heritage through our food, music, embroidery, and diverse history... my entire existence as a Palestinian is instead politicized, vilified, dehumanized, and questioned. Simply for stating, "My heritage is Palestinian," I am no longer seen as American (or "American" enough). I am looked at suspiciously and accused of being hateful and violent, and that the Palestinian existence is "complicated." For decades, Palestinian history has been erased, appropriated, and taken over by Zionist propaganda. Anti-Palestinian sentiment and rhetoric is so normalized and acceptable that everything from its flag to a kufiyah or even simply saying the word "Palestine" is deemed extremist, dangerous, and at best, makes people feel uncomfortable. 

For the first time in history, a genocide is being live streamed by the very population that is being targeted. Horrific scenes of wide-scale devastation, slaughter, and starvation flood our screens. Israeli military forces, armed by the US, have killed more than 32,800 in Gaza (as of April 2nd), including over 13,000 children. 

More than a million Palestinians will face famine in the coming weeks, as Palestinians have resorted to eating grass and animal-feed in a desperate attempt to ward off starvation. Gaza is now the most severe humanitarian crisis in modern history and has turned into a 21stcentury concentration camp. Almost 30 people have been starved to death, with 27 of those being children. But we need to be clear that although the people in Gaza indeed are starving, it is not due to natural or uncontrollable causes...rather, the people of Gaza are being intentionally deprived of the most basic human right to food and water...as Gaza-- besides being bombed-- is literally being starved, dehydrated and diseased to death by Israeli officials.

Since WWII, the international community has prohibited acts of apartheid, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. After the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, the world said "never again." Today, the same leaders and nations that have developed these international laws of moral conduct are the very same ones ignoring them, as they passively stand by and watch Israel blatantly and very publicly disregard international law after international law on a massive scale.

As heavy bombardments continue in Gaza, aid workers and even Israeli hostages have not been spared from the fury of the Israeli military. This most recent attack on the WCK aid workers, who just prior to being murdered by the Israeli military were part of a team that was distributing food, has infuriated humanitarians like myself...except our outrage falls on deaf ears, blind eyes, and sealed hearts.

Decades from now, when future generations study not just this genocide, but the apartheid as well, they will discuss how the world failed to stop yet another atrocity. They will read accounts of the horrors that took place in Gaza and think to themselves exactly what so many of us think now about past horrific events – "I would have said something!"..."I would have been outraged!"...."I would have..."..."I would have..."...."I would have...."

Instead, what so many will end up saying is, "I should have taken a stand...I should have been more publicly outspoken...I should have done this or I should have...I should have...I should have...I should have."

But here we all are today, taking a stand together. Here we are today, people of different faiths, races, ethnicities and backgrounds...coming together to stand for humanity. Do not feel defeated or tired...do not feel like your voice is too small. The people of Gaza are depending on each and every single one of us to be their voice. They do not have a choice, but we do. And every day we can choose to be on the right side of history. Every day we can choose to be firm in our stance...or we can choose to stay silent and pretend that we have no say in the matter.

Thank you, friends, for choosing to fight the good cause...for taking a stand with us not just today, but everyday. Thank you from my friends in Gaza and the West Bank who everyday cling onto a little bit of hope...because as long as they have hope, they have the will to survive....because the act of existence, is the simplest and most powerful form of resistance. And today, we are existing here, now, all together in resistance against brutality. Thank you all again.

May All be Fed

When is the last time you went a full day without eating? Thankfully, for most of us here in Missouri it’s a rare occurrence. Fasting, for us, if done at all, is most likely to be part of a religious ritual or something believed to have health benefits, not the result of a shortage of food.

A group of more than 60 of us, however, have signed up with Mid-Missouri Peaceworks to participate in “Peace, Not Famine,” a rolling hunger strike, to call attention to the horrific situation facing 2.2 million people in Gaza. Those participating in the fasting are doing so one day each week. My day is Saturday.

Israel’s attacks on Gaza have already killed more than 30,000 noncombatant civilians, the majority of them women or children, and injured many tens of thousands more. While most of these casualties have been due to aerial bombardment or artillery fire, a growing concern is mass starvation, due to the siege of the enclave imposed by the Israelis. They have been severely limiting the flow of needed food, water, medicine and fuel.

A report from the World Health Organization states: “An unprecedented 93% of the population in Gaza is facing crisis levels of hunger, with insufficient food and high levels of malnutrition.” WHO goes on to document the heightened incidence of many ailments attributed the lack of food, medicines and basic sanitation. Infants are the most susceptible, due in part to the fact that many mothers are unable to produce sufficient breast milk and infant formula is generally unavailable.

Israel’s ability to cause such loss of life and limb is due, in no small part, to U.S. backing. It is our government that supplies much of their arms. And it’s the U.S. veto at the UN Security Council that has prevented any enforceable resolutions being passed that would sanction Israel for its war crimes.

Of late, the Biden administration, politically pressured, has been calling on the Israelis to allow more food and other necessities to be delivered to the Gazan people, but the reality falls short of the rhetoric.

A few weeks ago the media reported the U.S. was dropping Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) in by plane. It seemed like a cause for celebration until the details came out. They were delivering 38,000 MREs, which might, at first blush, sound like a lot. But there are 2.2 million Gazan mouths to feed. That means 6.6 million meals a day are needed and these 38 thousand meals provide the food needed to feed just over one-half of one percent of the population for one day. Basically, a drop in the bucket.

Shortly thereafter, at President Biden's State of the Union speech, he announced a more ambitious initiative; having the U.S. military install a temporary pier so ships can bring needed food in by sea. We don’t know how much can be delivered this way, but the experts are saying it will take at least two months to install the facility, a long time to wait when one is starving.

More to the point, there is no good reason sufficient food can’t be delivered by truck and distributed to the population throughout Gaza. The only real impediment is Israel’s unwillingness to allow the food in. And, who is arming Israel? Who has the leverage to get Netanyahu to relent on this? That’s right, it’s our government and thus it is urgent that we let them know we insist on a ceasefire now.

The “Peace, Not Famine” rolling hunger strike is ongoing with participants picking one day a week to fast. We are also holding a daily vigil calling for letting Gaza live at the Keyhole outside City Hall from 12:15-12:45 seven days a week. All are invited to join us, whenever they can, whether fasting or not. It’s really up to us—people of conscience across the country—to create the pressure needed to end this senseless, lethal conflict. We urge you to make your voice heard.

By Mark Haim, Director, Mid-Missouri Peaceworks

Dear President Biden--Peaceworks Calls for Transforming U.S. Foreign & Military Policy.


Peaceworks sent the following letter to the White House on Feb. 3, 2024. We urge you to join us in speaking out. Below the letter you will find a link that allows you to send your message to the President.

Dear President Biden,

We, the American people, have had enough of war and militarism.

There is no good reason for our country to be spending as much on our military as the next ten biggest spenders combined, with most of those ten being U.S. allies.

There is no good reason for U.S. troops to be in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar or anywhere else in the region.

We are deeply concerned that the Israel-Palestine conflict is morphing into a wider regional conflict and the action taken yesterday to attack 85 targets in Iraq and Syria only heightens tensions and makes such a war more likely.

We call upon you to use our country’s leverage to press for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas, the release of hostages, the provision of adequate humanitarian relief and the suspension of military transfers to Israel.

We believe it is in the interest of our nation and world peace to pursue an agenda that focuses on negotiations to end ongoing conflicts and further negotiations to pursue mutual, verifiable, incremental disarmament. This, along with the re-direction of funds currently being squandered on wars and militarism, to fund instead human and environmental needs, are necessary ingredients in the creation of a peaceful future for our children and grandchildren in this and in all nations around the world.

I am writing on behalf of the approximately 500 member households in Mid-Missouri Peaceworks.

Thank you for considering our concerns.

All the best,
Mark Haim
Director, Mid-Missouri Peaceworks

To send your message to the White House, please CLICK HERE