This week, Nonviolence Radio hosts Mubarak Awad, founder of the National Youth Advocate Program, which provides alternative foster care and counseling to “at risk” youth and their families. He is also the founder of the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in Jerusalem and Nonviolence International, which works with groups and organizations all over the world. Michael Nagler asks Mubarak about his path from Palestine to the United States, his early work with kids in prison, his long commitment to nonviolence (sparked by his mom), and the recent violence in the Middle East. Mubarak goes to the deep and entrenched roots of the problems between Palestinians and Israelis and finds clarity and hope:
There is always an alternative. It doesn’t matter what is the conflict, what is the problem, you have to create an alternative. Many times, people will come to [Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence] and they would say, “The Israeli soldiers, the Israeli settlers came and uproot all our olive trees that are hundreds of years old.” And I said, “Okay, so what do you want me to do? Is it to find those trees and bring them back?” They said, “No, we don’t know where they’re at.” I said, “Okay, let’s get groups together. Let’s get even Israelis with us and let’s go.” And they took 100 trees, 1,000 trees. We’ll plant 4,000 trees so that in years to come, we’ll have more trees than the original. And that’s how we start.
He highlights the need for both sides to listen and respect each other, however different their individual beliefs might be, “Our idea of understanding is first to respect other peoples’ beliefs. It doesn’t matter if you believe in it or not, they believe in it. That’s an important thing.” He stresses the need for equality amongst all people, “The Israelis have to see that they are not better or worse than the Palestinians, we are equal to them. That equality is important.”
Creative solutions, respect and equality are all, according to Mubarak, essential aspects of living, active, effective nonviolence.
Michael: Greetings everyone and welcome to another episode of Nonviolence Radio. I’m Michael Nagler, your host from the Metta Center for Nonviolence. We’re very pleased and proud to present today an interview with a long-time friend and a very important nonviolent actor in this world and a Palestinian, Mubarak Awad, who started the Nonviolence International Center in Washington D.C. and did a great deal more than that in Palestine, in the Holy Lands.
So, let’s go right to that interview.
Mubarak: My name is Mubarak Awad. I was born in Jerusalem in 1943. That was Palestine then. In 1948, my father was shot and killed when I was 5 years old. I have seven brothers and sisters and my mother. Then, we had to bury my father really inside our house because it’s fighting everywhere. My mother, even at that point, she told us, “The one who killed your father has no idea that he left me as a widow to take care of seven children. One other thing I’ll tell you all, never carry a gun. Never kill a person. It doesn’t make any sense of killing anyone. There’s no excuse. Doesn’t matter what excuse. Don’t kill.”
And that’s my start of nonviolence; in a way of, I should not kill, I should carry no gun. We all did that in the family. I followed that when I was in high school — during the Jordanian time, we were under Jordan — when the principal of the school at St. George’s School would bring soldiers to train us. I completely refused. They would tie even a gun around me, and they would have everybody spit at me. But completely I said, “I would not carry a gun.” I refused completely.
So, it was my commitment that started there, and I have no idea what is nonviolence at this time or what is a conflict resolution at this time. It’s like it’s my mother telling in my ears every time, “No. Don’t do it.” I never could feed the angry wolf in me. I always feed the wolf of peace inside me. And really, that makes it easier to make life easy for me.
Michael: Well, what a wonderful story, Mubarak, and what a wonderful way to live. Not everybody can have a mother like you had, but we can all take a leaf from your book, as we say. Get that lesson. Now, Mubarak, you actually lived in Sheik Jarrah. Isn’t that correct?
Mubarak: Yeah. I lived there. I got a scholarship to go to Yale University and to another college called Lee College in Cleveland, Tennessee. I was in the orphanage at that time and the scholarship came with Lee College. It’s a religious school, very much Pentecostal. And they will give me spending money, $100 a month. And here, from the orphanage to having $100 a month in the States, is great. So, I didn’t care for what Yale would offer — and they didn’t offer me $100. So, without any – without anything, I went to Lee College. And I hated every minute of it because it was in late 60, early 70.
My interest – I studied religion. But when I saw how people treat each other, the whites treat blacks, I felt that this is not a religious college. They don’t believe in the Bible. They just talk Bible, but they don’t believe in it.
Michael: Well, you had that discrimination which I wish a lot more people had.
Mubarak: So I wasn’t able to finish school because I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like America. I thought America and Americans are – they’re hypocrites in their religion. To say, “We have to respect everyone” – I have all the time carried with me the Statue of Liberty and was reading every time, nearly every other day what it says. But they don’t mean it. They don’t mean it when they deal with blacks.
And when they deal with minorities, when they deal with Native Americans… It’s tough for me. It was very tough. So, when I left school, I came back, and my mother, she said to me, “We sent you, you were very religious. When I brought you back, you came without any religion.” I said, “Mom, I cannot handle it over there.” And then I started teaching at the Mennonite school, which is an orphanage, which I loved because I was an orphan myself in school.
And I changed completely my mind about Americans. Those Mennonites were so great in their way of living, looking at things. It was Vietnam and Mennonites were helping even the Vietnamese so that we gave them food. And they are in peace groups. And I felt good about it. So, I restore my confidence in the U.S.
Michael: Well, that’s a wonderful story too. I wish I could say the Mennonites were more typical of the U.S. than some of the other people that you met. But at least they’re there. I remember that when we were working on what’s called, “Nonviolent Intervention,” you know, “Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping” is what we call it now, the Mennonites were, as we say, ahead of the curve. They had planned where the budget was going to come from, and they were very advanced in their thinking. So, the Mennonites and the Quakers, they have always been taking the lead, which I wish more people would follow.
Now, I’m guessing, Mubarak, that it was your experience in your own youth that led you to start Ohio Youth Advocates. Was that after you were deported and returned to the U.S.?
Mubarak: No. I started the Ohio Youth Advocate Program while I was – a Mennonite at that time, he said, “It is so sad that you only have two years in the United States. If you come to Bluffton College, Bluffton Ohio, which is a Mennonite college, we would love for you to come and work with us.” I was working with Mennonites so I decided I’ll come to Ohio again and study social work and sociology. In one of my classes, in my sociology class, I’m supposed to go and do a term paper on the children in one of the jails in Lima, Ohio – which is a big city nearby Bluffton, Ohio.
I was so upset, so angry that there were children behind bars, there were children with adults there. I went to the judge and I told him, “There’s something wrong here. I am from Palestine. And we never put children behind bars. We never put children with adults. They don’t have any family? They don’t have an uncle, a grandmother, or somebody rather than put them behind bars?”
And he was upset with me. He was saying, “You don’t know our culture. You have no idea.” I said, “Children are children. I don’t need to know a culture. When you do that to children, you reflect so much about them in later life. When they get upset and angry, then they feel strongly that this is the way that you have to deal with people, by punishment. We cannot deal with children like that. They are kids. They are 12, 13, 14, 15. You cannot put children there.”
And then he was like, “Well, if you want, you take them out and you work with them.” I was in college, I was a student in Bluffton, and I took those children right to the dorm. And that’s how I started the Ohio Youth Advocate Program. In the dorm, I have my fellow students bring them food, to help them. Then the school president, he came and he told me, “This is not a social work. This is not – you have to have a license. You have to have this. You cannot do things without – anything happen to you.”
Then I decided I would find somebody who would help those children. I still felt strongly. I went to the Mennonite minister and I will say, “Here is a kid. You take him. You have a nice – God gave you this house and you have to take care of these kids.” Even I went to the judge, that he gave me those kids. I gave him a kid that he would take care of. That’s how I started the program.
Michael: Oh wow.
Mubarak: Then the president of the university of Bluffton College, he said, “I will help you. I’ll become the board – the president for you, and then we have to have a license.” And really, that’s how we were. After that, we start having a lot of kids from Indiana as well as from West Virginia, which are neighboring states to Ohio. I said, “That cannot work because I like to have the kids beside where their family lives. It’s important because we want to take the kid back to his home after the parents resolve their problems.”
So, I started the West Virginia Youth Advocate Program and Indiana Youth Advocate Program. And that’s how I started the National Youth Advocate Program. Then I gave it to someone else to run it. Her name is Marvena Twigg. She’s so good. But then suddenly, we have these problems on the border. The problems on the border is children who really have no choice of their own, that they will be taken from their families. I wrote a very huge proposal to the government, and the government gave us $150 million.
Michael: Oh my gosh.
Mubarak: To train Latino foster parents and Latino social workers, and Latino supervisors just to take care of those children. Now we have hundreds of foster parents who are Latino, and we start taking all those kids. My heart is with kids. It’s not Palestinian kids, but any kid who is being hurt or being deprived or being kicked out of his house, or a family who is Black and white then nobody wants that kid. Or a kid who is really – he don’t have sexual orientation. Is he a boy or a girl? We take them. We never refuse a child. Never ever.
And now, in the National Youth Advocate Program, we have around 3000 kids a day.
Mubarak: It’s a big thing in different states.
Michael: A very big thing.
Mubarak: So, then people are doing very well. And we never, ever ask a penny from anybody, and we don’t raise funds. We don’t raise funds because I insist from Day 1 that if the state wants to give us a kid, to work with a kid, if the federal government, if the county, if the city or anybody wants to give us – they have to pay for the services. Since we don’t accept a kid, they have this is how much it costs to help a kid. We have a budget of over $100 million a year without raising a penny.
Mubarak: We are happy with that. Not many people know that this is my thing, you know?
Michael: Well, you’re like that.
Mubarak: Advocating for kids. After that I went to Palestine and I started the Palestinian Counseling Center. And that center has to deal with families. Either their kid is being killed or the families are in jail. The man or the woman is in jail and we have to find help to work with the kids. Or if a man, after 15, 16 years in jail, is coming home, how to deal with them? It was very, very successful.
And within that, I have that in my head how to have the Palestinians use nonviolent methods to get rid of occupation, so I gave the Palestinian Counseling Center to another group to run it who are very professional, who live there for a long period of time. Then I opened the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence and I start pushing the Palestinians in the way of nonviolence methods.
Michael: You know, you also got involved in some actions when you were back in Palestine. It wasn’t just studies, you took people out to replant olive trees and things like that. Tell us a little bit about what you did back then.
Mubarak: It was an idea in my head to study counseling, to study psychology. There is always an alternative. It doesn’t matter what is the conflict, what is the problem, you have to create an alternative. You have to do something, even if people will think that it’s small, if it becomes important – they did something.
Many times, people will come to the center and they would say, “The Israeli soldiers, the Israeli settlers came and uproot all our olive trees that are hundreds of years old.” And I said, “Okay, so what do you want me to do? Is it to find those trees and bring them back?” They said, “No, we don’t know where they’re at.” I said, “Okay, let’s get groups together. Let’s get even Israelis with us and let’s go.” And they took 100 trees, 1,000 trees. We’ll plant 4,000 trees so that in years to come, we’ll have more trees than the original. And that’s how we start.
Also, we find a law in Israel [that said] if a land is being planted with trees — fruit trees, and olive is considered fruit trees over there – then it cannot be confiscated. So if your land is being confiscated, we knew about it. So at night, we go and plant trees and then the Israelis couldn’t confiscate the land. We did thousands of acres, we saved them from being taken by settlers or by Israelis. Every time an Israeli would arrest me when I do that, I loved to be arrested. I’m one of those who loved it, and laughed and smiled. Big smile on my face to be arrested.
And the Israeli get upset and said, “You are the only one when we arrest, you are smiling and happy.” I said, “I love to talk to Palestinians, and those Palestinians you arrest are people who want to work on ending the occupation. You put us all in one spot, and I love to speak to them.” I was giving lectures in prison, believe me, in the jails, and the Israelis, they find out. When I would be arrested, they start putting me in one small, tiny corner that I wouldn’t be heard or seen by any other prisoner.
Michael: So they’re smart enough to know that nonviolence is dangerous. In fact, we have interviewed more than one Palestinian who told us that he learned nonviolence in jail in prison, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you were one of those teachers.
Mubarak: Let me mention something which is important to me. I’m a Christian. Most of the Palestinians are Muslim, and when we heard about Abdul Ghaffar Khan — okay, he wasn’t Gandhi and he was a Muslim, and he became specifically nonviolent because he felt Islam is a nonviolent religion. I was so happy to start getting his books — and you were helping with that, A Man to Match His Mountain. We translated to Arabic and it was read all over. A lot of people really enjoyed to see one fellow from their religion believe that nonviolence is also a Muslim part of Islam, which is great because, as a Christian, I couldn’t push it as much as we push it through Abdul Ghaffar Khan.
Michael: That makes sense. We’re actually teaching a course this summer and my co-teacher is a Pashtun, Safoora Arbab. She’s an expert on Abdul Ghaffar Khan. We’re taking one big step forward. But the thing that I take away from everything you’ve been saying, Mubarak, is nonviolence has the capacity to turn harm into good, to turn evil into good, to turn death into life. You have to understand it in your heart well enough to make that process work. And it sounds to me like that’s how I would describe who you are and what you do. You understand that heart of nonviolence, and you put it into practice in a way that it could really be creative and life-affirming.
So, let’s think now about where we are at the moment. We’re in a ceasefire in this horrible conflict. I know that a lot of Americans are outraged by the violence, but we feel helpless. So, if you could tell us about some resources, where we could go to, what we could do to help promote nonviolence in that situation, it would be very, very useful.
Mubarak: I think that the recent conflict between the Palestinian and Israeli is not a new one. It’s very unfortunately, every four years, six years, eight years, it’s come back again and again and again. And with the ceasefire now, it cannot be an end without understanding the reasons why the Palestinians are upset and why the conflict continues. The people who hear us have to really think of the reasons because that’s an important thing. Palestinians – they are religious people; they are very Muslim people, especially the ones in Jerusalem.
The Dome of the Rock is the third holy place for Muslims all over the world. From that holy place, [Unintelligible 00:22:45.3] that Mohammed went up to heaven, okay? If you are not Muslim, it’s up to you believe it or not, but that’s what the Muslims believe. We have to respect that because Muslims respect also what Christians believe and what Jews believe. Our idea of understanding is first to respect other peoples’ beliefs. It doesn’t matter if you believe in it or not, they believe in it. That’s an important thing.
Michael: So, we were asking what can we do as Americans? Where can we go to find out about the struggle, what can we do to help? Whom can we write to? If you can name a few resources for us.
Mubarak: We have a need, as Palestinians, to be understood. And as Palestinians, it doesn’t matter – we are, and we will never surrender. It doesn’t matter how many Palestinians will be killed, how many Palestinian will be destroyed, and how many Israeli put punishment on the Palestinian by having blockades, by having checkpoints, by putting people in prison, putting children in prison. It’s not going to affect, okay, that the Palestinian will surrender and that they will fall in love with the Israelis. The more the Israelis behave in that punishment idea, the more Palestinian will insist that we are right.
It has been [this way] for many years, and somehow, the Israeli doesn’t understand that. Neither has the American policy understood that. There is always American government support for Israel in whatever they do — and they are doing the wrong thing. You know, it’s like a delinquent child; you have to correct them, that child. But the United States is not willing to correct Israel at all and supports it in whatever they want, especially, at the U.N. and especially with other countries.
And they still make it, on every occasion they can, they make it difficult for the Palestinians. That’s a point that has to be taken. The second thing, that we have difficulty understanding the Israelis. They have Arabs, Israelis, Palestinians who have Israeli passports, who are citizens of Israel, under their control from 1948 until now. They never, ever treat them as equal. So, to take more Palestinians and to add to those Palestinians was the wrong way, it’s not acceptable. Even if a Palestinian will be in the Knesset, which is the parliament of Israel, [he/she] suddenly doesn’t have a word. He doesn’t have a say-so. They will ignore him.
So, all those things. They have to have equality. The Israelis have to see that they are not better or worse than the Palestinians, we are equal to them. That equality is important. The third point for us, is the hypocrisy of the American and the Israelis, okay? The American and the Israeli, they will say, “Well, Israel is a democratic country.” What do you mean a democratic country when you ignore 7 million Palestinians? In Gaza, the West Bank, and inside.
If you ignore them, where is democracy? Where is the democratic thing? And even in the recent situation that we have, they were pushing Abu Mazen, who is the President of Palestine, not to have an election. Why in the heck, as Americans who push for election everywhere, but not election for the Palestinians?
Those things will eat the Palestinian up and we’ll see different – because we are Palestinians. We are seeing ourselves as Black Americans in the United States. We are seeing ourselves as Native Americans in the United States, and we have been there for even longer. It is right over there to have [rights for] everybody – human rights and international rights for everybody, as a human being. These are taken away from us.
The other thing is you have to read about Gaza. You cannot have 2 million people being sieged completely. You can’t go on sea, on air, and travel and leave the country . The problem in Gaza was they want to feel with the Palestinian in Jerusalem. A 17-year-old kid never saw Jerusalem. He cannot go to Jerusalem.
When Jerusalem was being evicted – people were evicted from their homes and the Dome of the Rock was being attacked — they were thinking that they want to do something about it to let them feel, “Hey, that’s ours! Even though we are far away from Gaza and separated by the Israelis.” That mentality has to be understood. America cannot understand that mentality, but the Israelis have to understand it because they live with us.
We are very tribal, very, very tribal. If you have five kids and three kids die, okay, they are not going to forget who killed them. They grow up. They are going – their children who killed them. And so on and so on. So there is no love between the communities, there is no way of empathy in the communities. In nonviolence, we try hard to let Palestinians who lost children and Israeli who lost children in this conflict to come together and work it out and commit themselves; both groups say, “No more violence. We don’t need more kids to die.” And we were able to do it.
So there are people on both sides who are willing. Yet, we still have governments acting not in the interest of people, but in the interest of themselves. And I have to tell you that Netanyahu’s idea wasn’t for the interest of Israel or the interest of the Palestinian, it was for his own interest to be re-elected and not to go to jail on this occasion. You know, we know it there, any kid knows it. Anybody knows it. But here, it’s not known so much or not being mentioned. [We need] to tell the American people, this is what happened.
And Palestinians, they are not good in advertising and pushing their cause. They are not good at all. The Israeli’s are 1,000 percent better at telling, even as wrong as they are, but they can tell their story. And they tell it so many times that people believe in it.
The other thing that is important to understand is religion. You cannot be called and accept that you are the chosen people, okay? If you are a chosen people, what about the Muslims and Christians? They are not chosen? If God make you only chosen, then what kind of a God is this?
Michael: Not only that, but it seems to me if you’re chosen, that might mean that you’re chosen to do nonviolence, you’re chosen to grow up.
Michael: Greetings everyone. This is Michael Nagler again with the Metta Center for Nonviolence bringing you another episode of the Nonviolence Report at a particularly critical time in the world for the development of nonviolence because of the intense conflict in the Middle East, which at this point in time is on the shelf, so to speak, is experiencing a ceasefire. We hope that that ceasefire will last, and much more importantly, we hope that it will lead to be used as a time for reckoning and recognition. There are certain things that are not going to change on the ground and we need the international community and Israel, in particular, to be aware of the new situation.
Amongst Palestinians there is a widespread feeling — Palestinians of all kinds, living both in Gaza and in the West Bank, the occupied territories — that “there is nothing left to lose.” This is an important principle. Now they are saying, “Nothing left to lose. There’s no going back.” The principle was defined by a sociologist by the name of Ted Gurr in a book called, Why Men Rebel. He showed that there is a qualitative difference between being in poverty and being in destitution. If you are in poverty, you can survive that, though it isn’t very comfortable. But when you’re destitute, when you’re starving, when your children are going without, then you need to do something. It’s at that point that you typically rebel.
That’s the economic side, but there’s a similar situation now on the side of conflict that, as the Palestinians feel, there is no amount of punishment visited upon them by the Israeli military — the IDF, fully backed by the United States, unfortunately, as it always is — no amount of punishment visited upon them is going to make them give up, is going to make them yield and do whatever the Israelis want them to do.
So, that is a situation which all parties, internationally and in Israel, have to reckon with. The Netanyahu policy of more force, more force, more force is only going to lead to incredible devastation of Palestinian humanity. Which means, although he does not recognize this, a tremendous devastation of spirit amongst Israelis also. That’s a most important thing that purveyors of violence fail to realize: violence is damaging to the human spirit. It is as damaging to those who inflict the violence as it is to those upon whom it is inflicted. Well, that’s one of the reasons for Nonviolence Radio.
So, first a few things about the Middle East conflict which is now on hold. I hope that you have had or will have an opportunity to listen to the inspiring and very informative interview that we just recorded with Mubarak Awad, the founder of the Palestinian Centre for Nonviolence – for the study of nonviolence, but it also got involved in actions. And here in the United States, Nonviolence International in Washington D.C.
For a few resources that we might look at for information and tips on what we can do, last Monday on Truthout, a Palestinian who was born in Beirut and raised in the U.S., Dima Khalidi wrote an op-ed. She’s the founder and director of Palestinian Legal, a nonprofit legal and advocacy organization working to protect people speaking out for Palestinian freedom from attacks on civil and constitutional rights.
I’m going to quote from that op-ed. Dima writes, “Together with this desperate sorrow and impotent rage, there’s also a familiar energy of feeling that this is it. There’s no going back. The truth is bare. Our people can no longer contain their need to resist a settler colonial state that has trafficked in generations of disposition, oppression, and lies sold to justify our dehumanization.” So, that’s a very powerful statement by Dima Khalidi. And I think it’s important for us to read it because it is representative of how Palestinians feel.
As Mubarak pointed out in the interview that we did with him, this is the first time that all Palestinians have pulled together in resistance. It’s quite important that we recognize the significance of that from the point-of-view of nonviolent resistance. When the resistance itself is fractured, it loses a tremendous legitimacy and influence. But when it’s not, when it’s unified as it is now – you can remember how long Gandhi spent preparing the people and unifying them for resistance before he launched his activities.
In addition to that one op-ed, there is a long list of resources by a very prolific Palestinian author who runs the Center for Biodiversity in Jerusalem. His name is Mazin Qumsiyeh. That’s Q-U-M-S-I-Y-E-H. Mazin Qumsiyeh. And he has, in addition to his own very powerful writing, a lot of resources that he lists now on the website which I’m positive you can find with that name.
Now, a young man named Cody O’Rourke who is part of the Good Shepherd Collective, which is in turn part of Christian Peacemaker Teams, their Hebron Defence Committee. He’s also part of the Youth of Sumud, sumud being one of the Arabic terms for nonviolence. It means patience. Human rights defenders and the international solidarity movement – let me say a word about that in a second.
They are asking that activists take charge in the United States to push the New York Attorney General to investigate settler organization, and they have a petition for you to sign on Italy Networks – https//italyfreehebron. Organizations who want to be involved can make an institutional endorsement by emailing them back, and they will be happy to work with us.
Now, mentioning the International Solidarity Movement gives me pause to go into this. The ISM was never really completely a nonviolence organization in the sense not that they advocated – heavens forbid — that they themselves used violent force. But they were not nonpartisan so they really did not fit into the third-party nonviolent intervention or unarmed civilian peacekeeping institution that we’re always promoting on this program. ISM was completely pro-Palestinian. I’m not saying that they had no right to have such a position. Of course, they can do whatever position that feels right to them, but it does not allow for one to be a third-party if one is not nonpartisan.
Now, in Nonviolence International which I just mentioned, our friend David Hart conducted an interview with two prominent Palestinians, Mubarak Awad and a mutual friend, Jonathan Kuttab, an extremely vocal Palestinian lawyer living most of the time in the United States. There’s an action page that comes out of that interview and you can find it in the following way. You go to NonviolenceInternational – one word – NonviolenceInternational.net/nonviolence_in_wartime. That reminds me of the very first video that Metta Center ever did which was called, “Nonviolence in the Holy Land” and it was an interview with Mubarak Awad.
Then there are videos from a very important organization called Combatants for Peace. Combatants for Peace consists – as the name would imply – of former IDF soldiers and former Palestinian fighters who had gotten together. At first it was a very small group but now it is very large and very influential, and they have annual memorials for persons who have died in the conflict. Last year was the 16th such annual memorial and there were 200,000 people either physically present with masks on or watching it online. You will find a very eloquent talk there with Mubarak and his nephew, Sami Awad who runs Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem. Again, that’s NonviolenceInternational.net. This one is /action.
Moving beyond the near east for just a minute and still talking about some resources, I want to mention four organizations that merit constant monitoring or checking, along with our own, the Metta Center for Nonviolence. One is the Peace Alliance, another is Pace e Bene, a Fransciscan organization — especially their project, Campaign Nonviolence. We’ve reported on that quite a few times and Waging Nonviolence, where you will find writings by the Metta Center and many others.
Pace e Bene has a new project that they’re excited about called, The Soul of Nonviolence Podcast, and the host of it will be Veronica Pelicaric. She’s a long-time nonviolence trainer from Pace and she’s the co-author of a nonviolent study guide that Pace e Bene put out quite a while ago called Engaging Nonviolence. The deal is this: each week on Wednesdays they’ll be putting up a short audio podcast, 5-10 minutes, featuring one of the quotes that they send out through their daily email series called, This Nonviolent Life.
World Beyond War, coming up soon, June 4-6, will be having their 6th Annual Global Conference. They are bringing nonviolent direct-action trainers, grassroots organizers and activists from around the world to share what works and what doesn’t, best practices and worst ones. These trainers will be coming from New Zealand, Canada, England, and Australia and they will describe how activists have successfully shut down weapons expos. That’s a very important cultural event to disrupt and what lessons they can learn from base closure campaigns that have taken place in Montenegro and the Czech Republic.
They’ll be considering, What does nonviolent direct action organizing look like in Iraq as compared to the United States? And they’ll be asking which of our assumptions can we let go of by meeting people from countries that have been sanctioned and demonized like Iran.
Now onto some steps that you can take – and again, most of them from Nonviolence International with Mubarak and Jonathon Kuttab. There is a statement that you can sign. This will all be found on Nonviolence International’s website. A statement you can sign and there are various groups that they sponsor, including U.S. boat to Gaza which is challenging the blockade of Gaza this summer. They’ve been doing that for some years, of course, but this is an extremely important occasion to do it, when world opinion and the position of the United States does seem to be tilting away from Israel which from the point-of-view of nonviolence, we can regard as an extremely hopeful development.
Incidentally, in the recent conflicts, the clashes, the terrific attacks on Gaza, the popular uprising in Sheikh Jarrah and other parts of Palestine Jerusalem — I meant to say East Jerusalem — there has been recently called, and I’m not sure what happened to it when the ceasefire intervened, but there was recently called a general strike. And that was involving Jews and Palestinians, and they actually had a demonstration about this in Midtown, New York – New York City. It was coordinated by the organization called Jewish Voice for Peace.
All of that led me to think that maybe, just maybe, what we’re seeing here is the onset of what we might call the Third Intifada. Mubarak, as you know, was a principal figure in starting the first one, but he was back in the U.S., deported from Israel by the time the second one came. And again, an important feature of the recent uprising which isn’t new, but is extremely important, is the collaboration of Jews and Palestinians which happened both in Midtown New York, a general strike and in Palestinian itself.
Well, to move on now to other events, there was a very good report back on what took place in Minneapolis. What was done by intervention groups, particularly Nonviolent Peaceforce, which happens to have its American headquarters in that city because that’s where Mel Duncan lives. Incidentally, I want to celebrate Mel Duncan’s birthday which is happening at the date of this recording, May 22, and also mention, while I’m at it, that recently we passed the 50th anniversary of Dan Ellsberg releasing the Pentagon Papers. There’s two very good nonviolent friends of mine, quite famous.
But now getting back to this report, there were two reporters, Kalaya’an Mendoza and Manu Lewis. They reported that they had had 10 actions so far, and they have trained since February 320 people. For example, they were present on March 8 and then on April 19 and 20 for the Chauvin trial. They supported 19 injured persons and provided protective accompaniment for three young Black men. There’s a team of four that managed to get them out of the conflict area to safety, at which point they mentioned that an auntie, an older Black lady, came out of the crowd and said to these four young black men, “You go with them right now.”
At the end of all of these trainings, I’m happy to report that a woman said, “Now I feel I can leave my house safely in the city of Minneapolis.”
In the City of Glasgow in Scotland, there are hundreds of people mobilized recently to protest the arrest of some immigrants, referred to as immigrant neighbors. They called this movement, “Nothing is More Beautiful than Solidarity.” You’ll find that on CommonDreams.org/news. And then the date. Hundreds of residents mustered out, devoted the entire day to making sure that the men were released safely. What they did actually was completely surround a van – a police van — in which a couple of what we would call here, “undocumented aliens,” who were being taken for deportation. They surrounded it. One protestor actually laid down underneath the van so it could not start. It’s a very well-known nonviolence technique to block an action. Of course, it doesn’t go as far as convincing the opposition to do it themselves as you would do in absolutely ideal conditions if you had enough time. But it’s a very important type of nonviolent protest which has happened elsewhere as well.
Last time I was in Germany, which was a while ago, I spoke at a convent in the City of Dinklage. That was the very city where four nuns had knelt down in prayer to block a police car that was coming to take a Turkish family that had sought shelter with them and deport them. Both these episodes that I’m reporting on now were successful.
Incidentally, our good friend Rivera Sun had recently, in Waging Nonviolence, in her own Nonviolence News, listed 13 examples of successful nonviolence. Another type, another example of actions of this type, activists gathered at the Trident Nuclear Submarine Base in Bangor Washington. They did that the day before Mother’s Day. Five people blocked the main highway entrance holding banners that read, “Congress wants $1 trillion for Nukes. What will be left for our children?” They also had banners saying, “Trident threatens all life on earth,” which is indisputable. There are eight Trident submarines deployed at Bangor. One of them has the destructive force, for example, of 1200 Hiroshima bombs.
Now, some additional resources supplied by Jewelia White: beginning very soon, May 25, you can register for this at PaceeBene.org. Remember, I mentioned all the things going on at Pace? This will be called, “Disarming Conversations,” connection across divides. It’s an 8-week program that you can find at Pace.
Also, if you go to something called ActionNetwork.org/ticketed_events on July 18 – so we have some time for this one – but you can register now. It’s called, “War and the Environment.” That again is an online course.
When a U.S. company decided to lay a pipeline without consulting the Yaqui people of Mexico, the community dug it up and sold it as scrap metal. Now, it’s important that they had tried tirelessly to have their voices heard, but when the company wouldn’t listen, they took things into their own hands, quite literally moving the illegal pipeline.
On the plus side, looking at it again from the point-of-view of ideal nonviolence, on the plus side, it was a last resort effort which is just what you want to do – make every effort to communicate before you do your action, do it only when you have to. Remember our formula at the Metta Center, constructive program always; obstructive program when needed. On the side, which is a little more of a gray area, this was property destruction which does not persuade. It blocks. And so, this again is not to say it shouldn’t be done because at that moment they had no choice. But it should be recognized that if you can possibly start earlier and train and so forth, you can do things that are more classic nonviolence and will be more effective for that reason.
Now, here in the U.S. in 50 cities and in 7 other countries there have been protestors who are pressuring banks to defund Line 3 Pipeline. Of course, they’re also calling on President Biden to do that. The idea is that if financial backing can be withdrawn it could bring the project to a halt. We know that mountaintop removal was stopped in Appalachia – sorry, I don’t say “Appa-lah-chia,” as some people do today. But mountaintop removal was stopped by going to the banks and protesting in the banks until they withdrew their support.
The Sunrise Movement which is the U.S. equivalent of Extinction Rebellion began recently a 400-mile march from New Orleans to Houston and will be presenting President Biden with a general demand for good jobs for all and a civilian climate core. They want this to be included in his $2.6 trillion infrastructure plan. On the one hand, it is a protest, but on the other hand, they will be dropping into cities along their route, and they’ll be hosting rallies and visioning sessions with the local communities.They’re joined by political leaders, environmental justice, and others. So, that’s a nonviolent plus.
And one final thing close to home, an example of constructive program. Down in Oakland people have come together to create a village underneath a highway overpass. It was a refuge for the homeless who were inhabiting a nearby encampment. They built these beautiful small structures out of foraged materials, scrap materials and they have a hot shower, a fully stocked kitchen, and a health clinic. There’s even a free store which gives you clothes, books, and of course, has a composting toilet.
According to those who built the village, the most important thing is that it’s uniting people, creating a sense of community and dignity. It’s for that reason that I cite it as an important nonviolent constructive program. And they pulled this together in five months. They are skill-sharing for an estimated 300 people who are living in nearby encampments, and they hope this could act as an alternative model for approaching homelessness in the United States. That’s what we always hope will happen when we create a successful nonviolent structure that we want to be duplicable.
Well, that is a sample of what is going on in the world of nonviolence right at this point in time. It’s been very good communicating this to you and hope to hear from you — and I look forward to sharing other reports with you in the near future. Signing off now, this is Michael Nagler for the Nonviolence Report at the Metta Center for Nonviolence.