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.