Two NVI Interns Reflect on Impact of Gun Violence and Call on Us to Do Better

By: Lea Hilliker and Paige Wright, Nonviolence International Interns

In the wake of the tragedy in Oxford, Michigan, many questions have been raised about gun violence, and school safety. On November 30th, 2021, at approximately 1pm one troubled 15 year old student opened fire on fellow students at Oxford High School. While the student was quickly detained, the impact of this event left many students, faculty, and staff traumatized, numerous injured, and forever took the lives of 4 students. Since this incident, schools are reporting a high number of copycat threats made, which have forced many to close out of precaution for their students. While many officials believe that this individual acted alone, this incident opens up a conversation about the responsibility of school administration in protecting students. Paige and I will discuss our personal experiences associated with preparing for active shooter situations, and address the general ideas associated with the topic of gun violence. Our passion for nonviolence, and activism at Nonviolence International propelled our dedication to recognize the events in the metro Detroit area. Growing up in Northern Michigan, and studying in the Oakland community, I want to acknowledge the pain and grief that my community faces, and recall the potential strategies to help students feel secure in an academic environment. 

Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of an active school shooting In the United States, and it will not be the last until we see change in gun control. Since 1970, the United States has had 1,316 school shootings and this number is increasing. Students across the United States and world are being trained to protect themselves in the classroom. Below we discuss both of our experiences in active shooter training and how preparation for a shooting benefits and harms students.

Lea: “During my first year at Oakland University, my school gained national recognition for suggesting the use of hockey pucks in an active shooter situation. The idea sparked from a comment made by the campus Police Chief, who suggested that the hockey pucks could be used in emergency situations. While the technique appeared immature, and insufficient, the overall movement to give hockey pucks to college students built a stronger push to support campus security. The distribution and sale of the hockey pucks were linked to a fundraising campaign that paid for classroom locks, and other safety measures. I think the success of this campaign highlighted the efforts made by faculty and students to protect their fellow Grizzlies, but also illustrated the lack of accountability of the administration in allocating funds towards this project. 

Similarly, I know that this tragedy has deeply impacted the lives of many families in the area. Many of my classmates grew up in the area, or have family members that work, or go to school in Oxford. In the past few weeks since, Oakland University, various high schools, and other institutions have offered mental health services to help those in grief, and various community leaders have hosted vigils to support the families of those victims and survivors. The Oxford tragedy deeply transformed the Oakland community, and united the metro Detroit area. I am hopeful that this unity continues, and leads to significant changes in legislation to address problems like gun pollution and male violence.” 

Paige: “In my last two years of high school, my high school looked at the dangers of rising school shootings and the unfortunate bomb threats we had received. My administrators decided that students should undergo ALICE training for an active shooter response. ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. The main elements to ALICE training were strong communication on the location of a potential shooter, acting on the defensive without fighting (building barricades, creating distractions, etc.), and leaving when the area was safe.

During an ALICE drill, we were told ahead of time that we would be doing the drill on a certain date but the time was unknown to resemble the unexpected behavior of a shooter. Later an individual masking as an active shooter would enter the school with a blow horn. We then began following ALICE as receptionists alerted the school, students near the shooter locked their doors and hid, and students far from the shooter exited and walked to a close by school. After the training, the student body would gather in the other school as our principal told us how many students “died” and how we did with the overall training. At the end of this, we would return to our regular school day.

While going through ALICE training prepared me for an active shooter, it also stripped away my idea that school was a safe place to learn. While I never consciously considered if my school was unsafe, my teachers telling us potential classroom items that could be our weapons and our escape routes shattered my assumed perception of safety. It is a harsh reality students must face to protect themselves.”

Lea: “Moreover, I know that my high school often held lockdown drills to prepare students for active shooter situations. Unfortunately, students did not take these drills seriously, and I felt relatively unprepared in the instance of a lockdown. While I grew up in a relatively small community in Northern Michigan, I wished that more schools adopted trainings, and extensive drills that encourage students to recognize the risk of active shooter situations, to take responsibility for holding school administration accountable, and to communicate potential threats in the area. Based on my experiences, I felt underprepared, and ill-informed on how to manage active shooter situations. Sadly, these strategies to better prepare and inform students do not solve the larger societal issues at hand. We need drastic change, and political activism to curate deep, and lasting change."

How do students respond to school shootings? While we are speaking from the perspective of a middle class, suburbians, outside of mandatory school trainings, we have seen students hold discussions on potential solutions, participate in walkouts, advocate for their lives to their school administration, honor the lives of victims, and so much more. Students have taken nonviolent means to end violent action. Their bravery in advocacy has brought significant attention to the prevalence of gun violence in schools but students are still waiting on legislation that will create formidable change. Instead of asking students to prepare for the worst, our leaders must pass legislation and take action that favors students and helps prevent active shootings in schools.

 

March for Our Lives (April, 2018)

Paige: “I remember my school participated in a National Walkout Day where students across America left their schools, holding signs that called for an end to gun violence and the need for legislators, school administrators, and communities to act. When walking those couple of miles, we were not just advocating for our safety but also, we were fighting for our lives and our need to be safe in schools. 

The lack of action from our leaders is an action against our lives. Until we see change, I know the students after me will not give up. We will walk-out of our schools, speak to our administrators, and keep a conversation going on our safety until we see change. Until our lives are valued and protected.”

In acknowledging the events in Oxford, and the significant threat that gun violence poses to our youth, Nonviolence International (NVI) seeks to inspire our communities, and loved ones to take action, and support the protests against gun violence. We hope that through discussing the events in Oxford, we can work to provide our resources and knowledge on this topic. 

Here is what you can do to help:

  1. Donate to the victims and survivors of the Oakland school shooting, organizations that advocate for gun control like the Coalition To Stop Gun Violence, and nonviolence promoters like NVI or our partners.
  2. Support research into gun violence.
  3. Sign petitions to give our students more protection.
  4. If you are in the United States, message your representatives calling for more gun control.
  5. Join movements such as the youth-led March for Lives to promote change.

We are calling for action beyond searching school backpacks and red flag laws. We need radical reform to reverse the US Supreme Court’s new interpretation of the 2nd amendment, efforts to ban semi and automatic weapons, and more laws to protect children from gun use. Gun violence is yet another symptom of the epidemic of violence in our communities. NVI calls on all people everywhere to rise up against the forces of dehumanization and destruction all around us. We are stronger together, please join us in protecting our students.

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Kuttab Brothers Debate the Future of Palestine

June 28, 5:00 PM Jerusalem time, 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Kuttab Brothers Debate the Future of Palestine:

Where are We Now and Where are We Going?

Register Here!

The situation in Palestine is becoming increasingly dire. Daily ferocious and deadly attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continue, alongside the blockade of humanitarian aid and medical care for those most in need. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, ongoing violence from settlers and the Israeli army against Palestinians persists, including harming civilians, land confiscation, and destruction of property. In Israel (1948 territories), Palestinians are facing unprecedented levels of discrimination and violence. 

Public declarations and positions by Israeli officials are undermining efforts not only for a ceasefire but also for a genuine and viable solution that ensures peace and security for all residents of the region. Subjugating the Palestinians seems to be the only solution offered by these politicians and there seems to be wide support for them.

Additionally, many experts warn that the Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse, rendering it even more powerless than before to provide for its population and protect it from these relentless attacks and violations, even in statements of condemnation.

The ongoing struggle has left many around the world with questions about the future of Palestine and the nonviolence resistance movement.

The Crucial Questions:

  • Where is the Palestinian movement for liberation standing now?
  • What is the future of the Palestinian political leadership?
  • Is there any viable solution to the occupation and what does it look like?

Joining us to answer these questions and many more are two brothers who have dedicated their lives to Palestinian liberation and peace.

Featured Speakers:

Jonathan Kuttab: Jonathan Kuttab is a leading human rights lawyer. In 1979, he co-founded Al Haq, the first international human rights legal organization in Palestine. Later, he co-founded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Non-Violence (now Nonviolence International) and also founded the Mandela Institute for Prisoners. Jonathan is a Palestinian Christian, past chair of the Bethlehem Bible College, and serves on the board of the Sabeel Ecumenical Theology Center in Jerusalem. Jonathan was part of the 1994 legal team for the Cairo agreement that resulted in the Oslo II Accord. He was a visiting scholar at Osgoode Law School at York University in Toronto in the Fall of 2017 and is a founding director of Just Peace Advocates Mouvement pour une Paix Juste, a Canadian-based international law human rights not-for-profit. Jonathan is a resident of East Jerusalem and a partner of the Kuttab, Khoury, and Hanna Law Firm in East Jerusalem.


Daoud Kuttab: Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and media activist. He is the former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Daoud Kuttab is currently the director general of Community Media Network (CMN), a not-for-profit media organization dedicated to advancing independent media in the Arab region. CMN is registered in Jordan and Palestine and administers Radio al Balad in Amman and ammannet.net. He is a regular columnist on Palestinian issues with Al-Monitor, Arab News, and writes frequently in the Washington Post, LA Times, Al Jazeera, New Arab, Newsweek, The New Republic, and other publications.

Born in Jerusalem in 1955, Daoud studied in the United States and has worked in journalism since 1980. He has received several international awards, among them: the CPJ Freedom of Expression Award, the IPI World Press Freedom Hero, the PEN Club USA Writing Freedom Award, the Leipzig Courage in Freedom Award, the Next Foundation Peace in Journalism Award, and the Japanese Peace Award for producing Shara'a Simsim, the Palestinian version of Sesame Street.

Join us for an insightful and compelling discussion on the current state and future of the Palestinian movement, political leadership, and the quest for a viable solution to the occupation. We will be taking a limited number of questions from the participants. 

Register Here!

Direct Action by Solidarity Activists to Break the Siege

 

https://youtube.com/shorts/yD8V3kn-UKE?si=bGj0edTBl51e5Fst

 

 As we witness the daily horrific attacks against the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, we also see the global movement calling for a ceasefire and an end to Israeli genocide grow with protests taking place across every major city in the world today. Taking this activism a step further, many are also engaged in direct action to break the siege of Gaza that has lasted for over 17 years and intensified in the last 8 months. People that are ready to put their lives on the line to save others. These people represent us, the global nonviolence movement, coming together from different parts of the world and from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.These are the ones who said, in the face of the impossible, we want to do something.

This will be hosted by Sami Awad. Our impressive speakers updated us and answered our questions!

Freedom Flotilla-Ann Wright

Rabbis for a Ceasefire- Ilana Sumka

Host- Co-Director of Nonviolence International, Sami Awad


Register Now!

Stop Arms to Israel

NVI is supporting efforts to pressure governments, most notably the USA, to halt its weapons transfers to Israel so as not to contribute to further war crimes and human rights abuses.

Control Arms (which has recently spun-off from NVI) issued a statement that calls on governments to abide by the Arms Trade Treaty.  US Pres. Trump withdrew from the ATT and the Biden administration has shamefully refused to re-sign.  NVI is proud to have supported Control Arms and the Arms Trade Treaty and encourages all to support this valuable citizens' network and this humanitarian disarmament treaty.

May 2024 - #Stop Sending Arms - Control Arms Statement on the Israel - Palestine Conflict

1. Control Arms, in partnership with the Ceasefire Now coalition of 688 NGOs, calls attention to the role of transferred weapons, parts, and ammunition in facilitating the atrocities taking place in Gaza, and demands a halt to these transfers and the immediate establishment of a ceasefire.

2. Israel’s bombardment and siege are depriving the civilian population of the basics to survive and rendering Gaza uninhabitable. Today, the civilian population in Gaza faces a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented severity and scale caused by systematic, deliberate destruction of the basics of life. Palestinian armed groups have indiscriminately fired rockets into Israel without concern for the protection of civilians and with open disregard for international humanitarian law (IHL). 

3. We have witnessed more than six months of relentless Israeli attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, including the use of starvation as a weapon of war. The International Court of Justice has ruled it is plausible that this could amount to genocide. All States have an obligation to prevent atrocities. In these circumstances, the Arms Trade Treaty is clear: any transfer of weapons, ammunition, parts and components that are at risk of being used in Gaza is likely to violate international humanitarian law and therefore, must cease immediately. 

4. The four Geneva Conventions and customary international law obligates all states to ensure respect for international humanitarian law. By ending their supply of items that are at risk of being used in the conflict, major arms exporting states can help to bring an end to serious violation of IHL and most importantly to the suffering being witnessed in Gaza. As close partners to Israel, the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom shoulder a distinct duty in this regard.

5. Despite the United States and its allies repeatedly urging Israel to protect civilians in Gaza, the United States has decided to provide over US$14 billion in further military support without any new conditions to protect human rights. This aid includes expanded authorities for arms transfers and subsidizing Israel's defense industry. The U.S. should withhold this assistance or enforce existing laws, such as Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act, which prevents aiding countries that restrict humanitarian assistance. Failure to act risks prolonging civilian suffering in Gaza and escalating regional tensions.

Here is another coalition Letter to US State Department calling for a Halt of Weapons Transfers to Israel

For more information on Control Arms, here is a link to Control Arms work seeking to halt weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen. Otherwise, one can go to the website Controlarms.org

Nonviolence Can Heal National Traumas, by Jonathan Kuttab

Dear reader,

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and more generalized trauma are not only personal and individual in character but often afflict whole nations and peoples. Frequently historical in nature, trauma can be passed down intergenerationally. 

One of the greatest examples of such trauma afflicting  humanity is that of the Holocaust, compounding the historical experience of centuries of persecution, hatred, and discrimination against Jewish people. This is a trauma that made it easy for many to succumb to the doctrines of Zionism, offering Jewish empowerment via Jewish supremacy in a Jewish-dominated state as the only cure for their ongoing suffering. It has made many easy prey for fascist doctrines, of belief in the value of violence and military overkill as the only path to survival. It has also made it difficult for many to take seriously any path towards peace and reconciliation that is not firmly rooted in their military power and supremacy. And while many cynically exploit the traumas of the Holocaust for political ends, there exists a genuine phenomenon of authentic fear that cries out for healing and needs to be addressed.

That rabbit hole of domination and “deterrence” will likely doom Israeli Jews to eternal strife and enmity with their neighbors, leading to ever increased militarization since in their traumatized state no amount of military power will ever be sufficient, and any attempt by Palestinians to resist that domination is only likely to reinforce the trauma. Similarly, all peace efforts will be viewed with deep suspicion and reticence, particularly if they require concessions that seem to reduce Israeli military domination or appear to make Israel weaker or more vulnerable to the risk of future attacks.

As a Palestinian, I am keenly aware of these traumas. I realize, however unjust it is, that our liberation is tied to the healing of our oppressors from the traumas of the past, for which we are the current victims.

Rubble from a destroyed school in Palestine

I am also aware that armed struggle by Palestinians, however legitimate under international law—and even if it were directed solely at armed soldiers and settlers—still risks reinforcing rather than healing the trauma.

In addition to this, we cannot forget that the Palestinians also have a long history of trauma, are now being traumatized, and are in great need healing, especially when the current genocide stops and the difficult process of rebuilding Gaza commences. Tens of thousands of orphans, bereaved families, over 70,000 wounded, and millions who have lost their homes require not only justice but also time and space to undertake a long process of healing.

I am also deeply conscious of how attractive the call to violence can be for oppressed and traumatized peoples. The events of October 7—apart from the attacks on civilians at the music festival and the kibbutzim as well as the taking of civilian hostages, which are properly to be condemned in no uncertain terms—were also viewed by many Palestinians as a brilliantly successful military operation whereby resistance fighters armed with primitive hand held weapons simultaneously breached the sophisticated walls imprisoning Gaza in 30 locations, captured two army bases, including the headquarters of the Gaza Battalion, killing 340 soldiers and capturing about 40 others, and carried the fight into the territory held by their enemies (rather than their own). Despite the massiveness of the Israeli retaliation and the utter destruction of Gaza, the events of that day will likely hold an appeal to those who preach armed resistance for many years to come.

So we clearly need to resist the siren call for violence, especially in our pursuit of justice. But what can we do to bring about some measure of healing to these deep traumas that are currently feeding the cycle of violence and without the healing of which, no peace is possible?

NVI's fiscal partner, Holy Land Trust along with FOSNA held an extensive series of trainings, attended by over 70 Palestinians in the West Bank, to work on the process of dealing with ongoing trauma. We are also committed to pursuing such healing globally. 

Another conversation between NVI's new Co-Director, Sami Awad and Gabor Mate “From Pain to Healing: Healing Collective Trauma in Israel/Palestine” deals with this problem as well. It is this healing process that is urgently needed by all sides, and it is one area that supporters of nonviolence, can be part of the solution.

Peace,

Jonathan Kuttab, Co-Founder and Board Member

P.S.The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is delayed in Turkey, but another boat is headed from Sweden and is currently near Eurovision raising awareness of the ongoing blockade and siege of Gaza.

 

(Art Credit - Kayla Ginsburg - from CJNV)

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