Working towards peace and sustainability

Responding to the Unfolding Tragedy in the Middle East

As we write we stand at a precipice. In the wake of the outrageously criminal Hamas attack on innocent civilians in southern Israel, the Israelis have been making war on Gaza, from the air, for nearly three weeks. And, we are waiting with apprehension to see if the other shoe will drop, in the form of an on-the-ground incursion.

While there is some uncertainty to the numbers, we know that approximately 1,400 Israelis have lost their lives and it is likely that more than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s bombs. Many more have been injured and more than a million people are newly homeless. Hamas is also holding more than 200 hostages who were kidnapped and are being held in Gaza.

Both sides are guilty of heinous war crimes. Laying siege to Gaza, prohibiting, and now severely limiting, the Gazans access to food, water, medicine and fuel, is a severe violation of international law, just as the mass murder of Israelis by Hamas was earlier this month.

As if this isn’t sufficiently tragic, we also face the prospect of a wider, regional war. Hezbollah and Israel exchange artillery fire daily. Israel has been routinely bombing Syria, including attacks on Damascus’ civilian airport. And the Houthi regime in Yemen has been launching missiles at Israel from hundreds of miles away. All this speaks to the possibility of a long-feared regional war, with Iran and its allies facing off against Israel; with the possibility of U.S. direct intervention.

News reports are heart-wrenching. Each day our radios, TVs and digital devices bring us new reports of lost loved ones; of bodies buried in the rubble; of those hospitalized who can’t be treated for lack of drugs or even of electricity to power the lights and the surgical equipment.

Seeing images of the corpses, and the thousands of wounded, compels action, but many feel at a loss, not knowing what might help. Right now, if you share our perspective we would urge you to let the White House and Congress know following:

1)  We want the U.S. government to press all parties, especially Israel, where U.S. influence is greatest, to adopt a ceasefire.

2)  We want our government to press Hamas to release all Israeli and other hostages, and to urge Israel to, in exchange, release the hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners it has recently rounded up on the occupied West Bank.

3)  We urge the Biden administration to press for the rapid distribution of sorely needed humanitarian aid to Gaza. The U.S. should help fund this effort.

4)  Now is the time for an immediate halt to the U.S. provision of arms to Israel, both the $3.8 billion in military aid given annually, as well as the $14.3 billion proposed last week as “emergency military aid.” Israel is an affluent nation with a very powerful military and it does not need the billions in munitions the Biden administration proposes to provide. These funds should be redirected instead to investments in sustainable development provided jointly to the Israelis and the Palestinians to jumpstart the long process of building trust and learning to work together.

Please find contact info for the President on Congress HERE:  

We reiterate that we are pro-peace. We aim to see the Palestinians and Israelis outgrow nationalism and learn to live together as close branches on the human family tree. To be pro-Palestinian, one must be pro-Israel, and to be pro-Israel, one must be pro-Palestinian. Continued conflict leads to the abyss. Cooperation leads to a peaceful, prosperous future.

This moving message was shared recently by Rabbi Irwin Keller:

Taking Sides

Today I am taking sides.

I am taking the side of Peace.

Peace, which I will not abandon

even when its voice is drowned out

by hurt and hatred,

bitterness of loss,

cries of right and wrong.

I am taking the side of Peace

whose name has barely been spoken

in this winnerless war.

I will hold Peace in my arms,

and share my body’s breath,

lest Peace be added

to the body count.

I will call for de-escalation

even when I want nothing more

than to get even.

I will do it

in the service of Peace.

I will make a clearing

in the overgrown

thicket of cause and effect

so Peace can breathe

for a minute

and reach for the sky.

I will do what I must

to save the life of Peace.

I will breathe through tears.

I will swallow pride.

I will bite my tongue.

I will offer love

without testing for deservingness.

So don’t ask me to wave a flag today

unless it is the flag of Peace.

Don’t ask me to sing an anthem

unless it is a song of Peace.

Don’t ask me to take sides

unless it is the side of Peace.


- Rabbi Irwin Keller, Oct. 17, 2023


Seeking a Just Resolution to an “Intractable” Conflict


We grieve the tragic bloodshed of the last several days; Israelis and Palestinians alike, losing life and limb, and condemn the resort to violence in general, and particularly violence against peaceful civilians. Moreover, we grieve the injustice and the violence that has marked this conflict for fully a century now.

Sadly, there is no easy solution to the conflict, especially given the ascendency of absolutists on both sides; extreme Zionists who claim a God-given right to the entirety of the historic kingdom of Solomon, and their counterparts who chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free,” sometimes not knowing that this is a call for the abolition of Israel. Many, on both sides are not interested in negotiating a settlement if it involves giving up their long-run objective to control all of the land that was in Mandate Palestine post World War I.

Peaceworks has long condemned the expansionist Zionism that has led to a massive increase in the Israeli population living in settlements built, and being built, on land that was promised to the Palestinians in the Oslo Accords for a state on the West Bank and Gaza. We have also condemned the violation of human rights that has gone on as Israel has built a system similar to South African Apartheid, restricting where Palestinians can live and even where they can travel.

We have, for decades now, supported a partition of the land providing the Palestinians all of the lands that Israel took control of in the 1967 Six Day War, including the land that is now occupied by Israeli settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. We have supported the two-state concept, with independent states in an economic union, including major investments to build a prosperous economy in Palestine. This would include both states having sovereignty over portions of Jerusalem, which would be the capital of both, and international administration of the sites that are holy to all three monotheistic faiths.

While there would be many details to be negotiated, from water rights to reparations to security guarantees, the very concept of two states is moot if maximalists are in charge in both societies and refuse to even consider some form of compromise. After so many decades of conflict there is a deep-seated, mutual antipathy to contend with, along with a virtually congenital distrust of the other.

The alternative to two viable, contiguous states is a bi-national state that includes all living within the boundaries of Mandate Palestine as equal citizens. While this seems to be a desirable end in a world that outgrows nationalism and recognizes that we are all one human family, in the short run the antipathy and distrust mentioned above make this hard to envision, let alone implement.

While there are some examples of viable, bi-national, or even multi-national, states (e.g. Canada, Switzerland), these generally have their diverse ethnic populations living in separate parts of their countries and they don’t have the recent history of violent conflict that exists in Israel-Palestine.

While, in theory, a bi-national state might seem desirable, nationalism is deeply embedded in our cultures. Just look at a picture of a pro-Palestine or a pro-Israel demonstration and you will undoubtedly see a sea of Palestinian or Israeli flags and, no matter how hard you look, you will be very hard pressed to see even a single Earth flag.

So, what is the solution? Sadly, there is no easy answer. That said, our government has significant leverage. For decades, however, the U.S. has not been a fair broker of peace, but rather a close ally of Israel that has consistently taken their side. In particular, our government supplies Israel with $3.8 billion annually in military aid, most of which goes directly to U.S. military contractors.

Israel is already a military powerhouse and an affluent nation capable of funding its military. We would suggest redirecting this funding to joint Israeli-Palestinian projects that would, on the ground, lead to cooperation and the building of trust between members of both communities.

In addition to its own efforts to prod both parties to try something different than their current, failing approaches, our government could work, diplomatically, to gain the participation of other affluent nations, including, but not limited to, the EU, to join in such an endeavor, leveraging new approaches.

None of this is certain to yield improvement, but continuing to do what’s been done for decades that has, most obviously, resulted in failure is certainly not acceptable. We urge all to learn more about the roots of this conflict, its history and its current power dynamics.

We also urge you to avoid the simplistic, black or white, good or bad, camps who tout the cause of either side. In war, there are no winners. Likewise, continuing the current process of taking up sides ignores a reality, Palestine can only “win” if Israel wins, and the opposite is true as well, Israel only “wins” if Palestine does. Continuing warfare, yields death, destruction and hate. We need, instead, peace, compassion and cooperation.

Count it All Joy!

Note the following is a personal message from Peaceworks Director Mark Haim

We rally. We march. We walk. We vigil. We demonstrate. We cry out and often it seems no one is listening.

We grieve. We see the violence; the injustice; the fires; the floods; the dislocation; the extinctions; and we cry out, even when it seems our voices have been silenced. As Dylan put it 60 years ago, “I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken”

Truth be told, while our situation is likely worse than many think, our power to make change is far greater than most of us realize. Those who profit from business as usual remain in charge as long as they can keep most of us distracted, divided, disempowered.

My first march or large demonstration was an anti-war gathering that took place in New York City. On April 15, 1967, 400,000 of us gathered in Central Park and marched to the United Nations (see picture below). I was a senior in high school. While I’d already joined picket lines on a few occasions, this was something new and very different.

We were a generation coming of age. We sought a just, peaceful, caring future, but were being handed instead, as Dr. King put it, “a bad check,” and for many of us, along with it, a draft notice. We or our peers were being sent off to the jungles of Southeast Asia, to risk their own lives, to destroy the lives of millions who meant us no harm.

For those of us who were becoming aware of the insanity of the system, gatherings such as this, organized by the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade, gave us a powerful shot of solidarity. Although millions were still going ’round with blinders on—oblivious—there was a culture of resistance growing. We were something new, saying “no” to the system and pressing forward, insisting on peace, justice and a livable future.


“Mark,” you might say, “What’s this got to do with our present situation? It’s 2023, not 1967. What’s this go to do with our current predicament?” My answer is, “Plenty!”

As we prepare to Rally and Walk for the Climate, we are approaching the end of the hottest summer on record. All around the world, humanity is living through unprecedented numbers of extreme weather events. This is truly a Climate Emergency but, the politicians, who could address the crisis, fiddle while the planet burns. And it’s the fossil fuel industry that calls the tunes they play.

Millions of us, young and old recognize the urgent need for action, but, again, the sense of disempowerment holds many of us back. And the doubts many feel as to the value of joining a rally or a climate walk, become self-fulfilling prophecy. Expecting no good to come of it, many feel “why bother?” and when our numbers are small, our impact is less than we hoped and this leads, in turn, to fewer participating.

The reverse, however, is also possible. If even a tiny fraction of those concerned about the climate join in an event like this, the impact will be significant. And, small successes create a sense of empowerment that allows us to leverage even greater successes moving forward.

Why can’t CoMo have 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030? Why not a requirement that all rental properties meet minimum efficiency standards? Shouldn’t we have curbside recycling pick-up back? What about a no-idling ordinance? Fair electric and water rates? The list goes on and getting action on the municipal level is just the tip of the iceberg.

Just as I discovered, some 56 years ago, demonstrations, marches and the like not only hold the potential to create the pressure to enact policies (and ultimately created a climate in which Nixon had to end the war), they also build a shared sense of movement. We are, indeed, a movement for survival; a movement for climate justice; a movement that understands the interconnectedness of climate action and peace action and action for social, racial and economic justice; a movement that unites and empowers us.

And, again, as I discovered, there is joy in this solidarity. It feels good. Sharing the company of dozens, if not hundreds of caring, likeminded people lifts us up. So, bring a friend, a lover, a parent, a child, a neighbor, a co-worker, a fellow student, a member of your house of worship—all are welcome and, if you have no one to come with, bring yourself and meet some wonderful folks when you arrive. Join in the welcoming embrace of some of the nicest people in our community. And, as the singer-songwriter Charlie King puts it, “Count it All Joy!”

Charlie wrote:

“I’d like to sing a song tonight for those with unsung names,
Who face with common decency a world gone insane.
You may think you’re living thankless lives,
But you’re the reason we’re survivin’
So, count it all joy all the same.”

Note: The Walk for the Climate will be held Sunday, Sept. 10. We gather between 1-1:30 p.m. at Courthouse Plaza, 8th & Walnut in downtown CoMo. After a short rally, our 5K walk begins at 2 p.m. Join us for whatever portion of the event you can.