By David Hart
With thanks to our friends at Waging Nonviolence and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, I am pleased to share a piece I wrote that they just published. If you are not already getting their inspirational newsletters, please sign up now here.
As ‘annexation’ looms, let’s expand our compassion to include Palestinians
For decades, Israel has used talk of peace as a cover for expansion of an unjust system. We are now poised on a dangerous cliff that should offend everyone who believes themselves to be committed to human rights, international law or creative conflict resolution.
I am Jewish and was raised being told of land taken during a war when the whole world was against us and still somehow we prevailed. Yes, international law made clear that no nation can occupy land they took in war. But, we were defending ourselves and we certainly would not hold the land long.
The story I was told was one of an oppressed people eeking out a fragile living in a harsh land. Not surprisingly those people were “my people.” I wasn’t told of the suffering of the Palestinian people. When I learned of this deep affront to the basic values Jews are taught are at the heart of our faith, I was somehow more able to accept this contradiction because it came with a story that land would be traded for peace and the occupation would soon end.
That was decades ago. Sadly, cruel and illegal actions taken again and again have reshaped “facts on the ground” and made the call for a two-state solution more of a cover for oppressive policies than a realistic path towards justice and peace.
Now Trump, Netanyahu, and Jared Kushner are forming an unholy alliance of callous disregard for the suffering of others. When we are appropriately focused on COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests sweeping our nation and the globe, a great evil will likely be advanced. They put out a swiss cheese map that is not — nor can it ever be — a real nation. It appears likely that some form of annexation may move forward over the next several weeks or months.
To make the so-called “international community” respond less harshly, they will likely not take all the land in one fell swoop. Maybe they will take smaller steps or call it something other than annexation, but have no doubt they are continuing a long and destructive pattern — one that flies in the face of international law and makes a joke of mediation and conflict resolution.
For years I made my living as a conflict resolution practitioner and believe deeply in the power of those tools. Even people with minimal exposure to mediation understand both parties must be at the table for the process to have any credibility. What Jared dreamt up or built from pieces fed to him by those without the vision to imagine a world of peace with justice is not a peace plan at all. Don’t let them fool you. They have put forth a series of unworkable proposals that have neither been considered nor approved by both sides to the conflict. Instead, they talk out of both sides of their mouths, declaring a love for peace while harshly ignoring the basic human rights of the Palestinian people. The “deal of the century” is no deal at all. Turns out it is a dangerous and deceitful farce that negates the power and potential of actual negotiation.
Many progressive, moderate and conservative American Jews are now expressing deep, and hopefully, heartfelt sympathy for the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a major step and one I celebrate with all my heart. Similarly, the vast majority of my community — other than a handful of religious fanatics who are on the wrong side of history — celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on LGBTQ rights. The court said simply you can’t be married legally on a Sunday and then be fired on Monday if the boss finds out who you love. Most Jews understand this as a step forward on the path to the much needed and long delayed Tikkun Olam — our moral obligation to heal and repair the world.
Wanting to meet people wherever they are and seeking to embrace radically honest conversation even when it scares us, I must ask, what will it take to extend our compassion to the Palestinian people? Maybe we could start with the simple recognition that they are fully human. Radical I know, but true nonetheless. We seem to be able to accept the suffering of others when we are able to dehumanize them. When we can not see them to be as loving and fully alive as ourselves or our families, we can turn away when we see them suffer needlessly.
If the repulsive and important video of George Floyd being murdered by a uniformed police officer bothers you, you are alive. You are human, you are decent, and able to feel for the suffering of others. And now I ask, can you extend your compassion to those young people in Palestine with the knee of occupation on their necks? I know this is not easy and that there is much to do at home to help create a just society, but neither of those facts can be used as a reason to avoid our ongoing moral obligation to speak up about the suffering of the Palestinian people.
My hope is that those willing to begin to grapple with this complex and difficult series of interrelated issues will read the recent article by Daoud Kuttab, the celebrated journalist and creator of Sesame Street Palestine. He challenges us to come to terms with some harsh realities of occupation and lovingly urges us to look at the pattern of lies — and to question our own beliefs. I found reading his words to be both challenging and worthwhile. Even while asking us to examine the painful truth of our own complicity in the occupation, he warmly welcomes us into the conversation, noting kindly and correctly that “Palestinians have made mistakes too.” I urge you to bravely ponder what he says at this critical moment.
I feel moved to share a short story that shook me to the core. Recently, I was on yet another Zoom call, this time with a group of old friends knowledgeable of the reality in Palestine. It is a mixed group with substantial involvement from different relevant communities. Before beginning an open discussion, two Palestinian experts were asked to speak. One, an attorney, noted several different scenarios of how annexation or something like might play out. His remarks have informed this piece. Another longtime nonviolent Palestinian leader said, “I’m not too worried about annexation.”
Many of us on the call seemed shocked, but then as he explained, we became more sad than surprised. He spoke movingly of the brutal reality of day-to-day life for so many Palestinians. He noted with particular concern the trauma inflicted on young people who have known no reality other than occupation. He wasn’t telling us annexation isn’t a big deal. He was reminding us it has been underway in one form or another for decades.
There are however two major differences annexation will, in fact, bring. First, it will be very hard to change course after this illegal and immoral executive action is taken. Reversal would require a supermajority vote of Israeli Knesset members, which is not likely.
Possibly even more significant to the day-to-day reality for Palestinians is how the change could impact settlement construction. As noted above, with every new settlement we were told that Israel remained ready to trade land for peace. But, facts on the ground made that less and less likely. At least under current law, new settlements — in land that all understand to be occupied by force and thus not legally held by Israel — have to receive special permission from both Israel’s defense and prime ministers. If annexation moves forward, settlement expansion will become a local issue and thus it will be much easier to proceed without a time consuming approval process.
I struggle to remain hopeful in the face of so many terrible things happening in the world these days. The interrelated crises coming at us will not be easy to solve, but if we can expand our compassion to all those experiencing unnecessary suffering, we will find a path forward that embraces our deepest values. Our Palestinian brothers and sisters are calling out to be heard and need our support. Let us push past the boundaries of our comfort zones and look directly at the harsh reality of occupation and annexation. May that difficult process bring us closer to real and lasting peace.
We were pleased to see Gene Sharp's foundational work on the power of active nonviolence highlighted in The Atlantic recently. Check out this short excerpt and read the full piece on their site.
The most important theorist of nonviolent revolutions is the late political scientist Gene Sharp. A conscientious objector during the Korean War who spent nine months in prison, Sharp became a close student of Mahatma Gandhi’s struggles. His work set out to extract the lessons of the Indian revolt against the British. He wanted to understand the weaknesses of authoritarian regimes—and how nonviolent movements could exploit them. Sharp distilled what he learned into a 93-page handbook, From Dictatorship to Democracy, a how-to guide for toppling autocracy.
Sharp’s foundational insight is embedded in an aphorism: “Obedience is at the heart of political power.” A dictator doesn’t maintain power on his own; he relies on individuals and institutions to carry out his orders. A successful democratic revolution prods these enablers to stop obeying. It makes them ashamed of their complicity and fearful of the social and economic costs of continued collaboration.
Sharp posited that revolutionaries should focus first on the regime’s softest underbelly: the media, the business elites, and the police. The allegiance of individuals in the outer circle of power is thin and rooted in fear. By standing strong in the face of armed suppression, protesters can supply examples of courage that inspire functionaries to stop carrying out orders, or as Sharp put it, to “withhold cooperation.” Each instance of resistance provides the model for further resistance. As the isolation of the dictators grows—as the inner circles of power join the outer circle in withholding cooperation—the regime crumbles.
Franklin Foer is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of World Without Mind
We are excited that years of focused effort are coming together to allow us to publish an update of Gene Sharp’s seminal work The Politics of Nonviolent Action, with our friends at the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict. This monograph, which was blessed by Sharp, was written by NVI’s Director Michael Beer and includes 346+ powerful tactics of nonviolent action.
We are developing an online database that will allow activists and scholars worldwide to learn from this resource. It will be a living document that grows as friends and allies provide feedback and new ideas.
We Are All Part of One Another - Webinar Series
Co-Resistance and Solidarity with Palestine
Our wonderful partners explore how to model grassroots co-resistance and the value solidarity has in the struggle to transform a broken world.
Thanks to our friends at Nonviolence International NY who produced this video.
Elias D'eis - 12:42
Said Durzi Zarar - 25:29
Scout Bratt - 30:31
Clare Jordan - 39:08
Hosted by Mohammed Abu-Nimer
Holy Land Trust and the Center for Jewish Nonviolence are fiscally sponsored projects of NVI.
To support their vital work please visit https://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/donate.
We Are All Part of One Another - Webinar Series
Nonviolent Resistance to Nuclear Weapons and War
With so much happening in the world these days, it is hard to remember that nuclear weapons remain on hair trigger alert and can quickly put an end to life as we know it. NVI celebrates the bold, beautiful, creative nonviolent witness of our friends around the world working to build a peaceful world with true justice for all. Need some inspiration - check out this video.
Thanks to our friends at Nonviolence International NY who produced this video.
Martha Hennessy, King's Bay Plowshares - 12:15
Patrick O' Neill, King's Bay Plowshares - 19:43
Divina Maloum, Children for Peace - 29:49
Mani Shankar Aiyar, - 41:22
Alyn Ware, - 57:05
Hosted by Paul Magno, former NVI staff and Plowshares activist
The Isaiah Project is a fiscally sponsored partner of NVI. To support their vital work please visit
Nonviolence International celebrates the bold leadership of Rev. William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign in the United States of America. We are inspired by their moral witness and join with them in solidarity asking all our friends and supporters to do whatever you can to help raise up their vital work.
On Saturday, June 20th, Americans will come together with a movement led by those whose value has been consistently undermined by our brutal and oppressive system.
There are 140 million poor and low-wealth people in the richest country in the world. Somehow we have allowed enormous and totally unnecessary suffering to continue year after year, decade after decade. It is as if we have forgotten our moral obligation to reduce the violence inherent in the way our society is structured. We at NVI ask - how have Americans become accepting of violence in their economy?
Those who recently lectured on how Dr. King would have felt about property destruction seemed to have missed his larger point. We must recognize the humanity of all people. That recognition requires long-delayed and bold action. This movement, rooted in the leadership of poor people, deserves the active support of all who consider themselves to be committed to nonviolence.
Focusing our attention on those who are most in need has long been a central guiding principle of active nonviolence. For those interested in history, please see how Dr. King’s final campaign echoes in the work we are engaged in today.
See our earlier post on this topic that explores Gandhi and King’s moral commitment:
By Stephen Zunes who thanks the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict for supporting his research.
NVI's longtime Director, Michael Beer, has provided advisory support for Dr. Zunes in his Sudan research.
Sudan’s Democratic Revolution is Being Undermined by the United States
Last year’s nonviolent pro-democracy revolution in Sudan which brought down the brutal 30-year dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir and the subsequent military junta inspired the world. Few popular uprisings in history faced such extremely difficult circumstances and few displayed the kind of courage, tenacity, and effective strategy by pro-democracy activists which led to their victory.
Unfortunately, the United States has been pursuing policies which almost seem designed to destroy Sudan’s fragile democratic experiment.
Since August 2019, Sudan has been ruled by a sovereign council made up of six civilians and five members of the military, along with a cabinet of liberal civilian technocrats headed by Prime Minister Hamdok, a former economist with the United Nations. Elections are scheduled for 2022 to give time for civil society, decimated under the Bashir regime, to reemerge and strengthen. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and other rights have been restored.
For the democratic revolution to succeed, the civilian-led government must have legitimacy in the eyes of enough Sudanese.
The Sudanese people have twice before—in 1964 and then again in 1985—risen up in unarmed civil insurrections which toppled dictatorships and established democratic governance only to have the military again seize power several years later. Few people believe the military will not try again. For the democratic revolution to succeed, the civilian-led government must have sufficient legitimacy in the eyes of enough Sudanese for the people to be willing to defend it if threatened. Even if the military is unable to completely overthrow the civilian leadership, chronic economic problems could lead autocratic elements in the armed forces to further assert their influence within the ruling coalition.
A critical factor will be whether the civilian-led government is able to revive the economy which, even prior to the pandemic, was struggling with inflation, a weakening currency, and a foreign debt more than twice the country’s annual GDP. Jonas Horner, a Sudan specialist with the International Crisis group noted, “If the civilians within the government look like they are unable to respond to Sudan’s myriad problems, that leaves space for other actors to pour into the vacuum.”
The single biggest obstacle to Sudan’s economic recovery is the continued US economic sanctions.
The single biggest obstacle to Sudan’s economic recovery is the continued US economic sanctions, which—as is the case with U.S. sanctions against Iran—not only impacts trade with and investment from the United States, but from other countries and multilateral entities as well. Despite Sudan now being led by secular civilians inexorably opposed to terrorism and Salafist extremism, Washington still officially lists Sudan as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Most absurdly, the United States is holding Sudan’s transitional government responsible for crimes committed by Al-Qaeda, not only when al-Bashir was providing the terrorist group sanctuary in Sudan between 1991 and 1996, but for terrorist attacks which took place in 1998 and 2000 after they had been expelled.
Prime Minister Hamdok, in an address before the UN General Assembly this past fall, noted: “The Sudanese people have never sponsored, nor were supportive of terrorism. On the contrary, those were the acts of the former regime which has been continuously resisted by the Sudanese people until its final ouster. These sanctions have played havoc on our people, causing them untold misery of all types and forms. We, in the transitional government, call on the United States of America to take Sudan off the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and not to continue punishing the Sudanese people for the acts committed by that vicious regime, especially that our people have been victims of and courageously resistant to.”
Sudan’s inclusion as a state sponsor of terrorism requires the US to block loans from international financial institutions.
In addition to prohibiting any economic assistance, Sudan’s inclusion as a state sponsor of terrorism requires the United States to block loans and other assistance from such international financial institutions as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, prohibits US citizens from engaging in financial transactions with the government without approval of the Treasury Department, denies individuals or companies tax credit for income earned, and bans duty-free imports, among other restrictions.
Furthermore, if a country is on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, they no longer have diplomatic immunity from families of terrorist victims who file civil lawsuits in the United States. US policy is that the civilian government of Sudan must pay billions of dollars in compensation to these families in order to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism regardless of the fact they no longer sponsor terrorism. The paradox for Sudan is that they can’t be immune from being sued as long as they are on the list and they can’t be removed from the list unless they pay damages from the lawsuits.
Sudan agreed to pay $30 million USD to the families of sailors on the USS Cole killed in a 2000 Al-Qaeda attack.
In one step towards getting themselves removed from the list, the government agreed to pay $30 million USD to the families of sailors on the USS Cole killed in a 2000 Al-Qaeda attack on the Navy destroyer in Aden Harbor, along with wounded survivors. More significantly, the United States has demanded that the civilian-led government pay up to $10.2 billion USD in compensatory and punitive damages for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, though negotiations are under way that could significantly lower the amount Sudan would need to pay.
Sudan’s projected budget revenue for 2020 is only $12.63 billion USD. The civilian-led government has few options, however. The International Monetary Fund ranks Sudan as the world’s 14th poorest country out of 186 nations. (Meanwhile, the United States – the world’s wealthiest country – refuses to pay compensation for crimes committed by its government against Iraq, Vietnam, or other countries, including Nicaragua, which the International Court of Justice ruled in 1986 that the United States needed to pay reparations for damages from attacks against its civilian infrastructure.)
Despite desperate needs in health, education, and infrastructure, as much as 70% of the country’s budget went to the armed forces.
Despite desperate needs in health, education, and infrastructure, as much as 70% of the country’s budget while under military rule went to the armed forces. With a huge backlog of domestic needs now facing the civilian government and a foreign debt more than twice its annual GDP, Sudan is still required to repay. It is hard to imagine how Sudan could afford to give this kind of money to the United States.
Punishing Sudanese for the crimes of others is nothing new. Following the 1998 embassy attacks, the United States bombed a large pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum North, falsely claiming it was a chemical weapons factory controlled by Al-Qaeda. While no one was killed in the precision nighttime missile attack, the destruction of the facility—which produced over half of Sudan’s vaccines and antibiotics—likely contributed to thousands of deaths in the subsequent months.
A critical factor in stabilizing civilian rule in Sudan is ending the rebellions in Darfur, the Blue Nile, and South Kordofan regions.
A critical factor in stabilizing civilian rule in Sudan is ending the rebellions in Darfur, the Blue Nile, and South Kordofan regions where tenuous ceasefires are now in place but frequently threaten to break down. There are many complicated factors to be worked out, but peace will also cost hundreds of millions of dollars in order to demobilize and reintegrate rebel fighters, reform the security sector, and provide economic support for these desperately poor regions, which the previous military regime spent huge sums to suppress but almost nothing to develop. Meanwhile, there are more than two million displaced people from these conflicts needing assistance. According to Magdi el-Gizouli, a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute, “The great risk is that Sudan cannot even afford a peace process.”
Most immediately, ongoing US sanctions have made it difficult for the Sudanese to fight the coronavirus. In April, the World Bank approved a $1.9 million USD emergency fund for 25 developing counties along with plans to spend as much as $160 billion USD through mid-2021 to fight the pandemic. However, the US policy of vetoing international financial institutions from providing even humanitarian support forced the World Bank to exclude Sudan from this critical funding effort to fight the pandemic.
The US policy of vetoing humanitarian support forced the World Bank to exclude Sudan from its funding effort to fight the pandemic.
Cameron Hudson of the Atlantic Council has noted lifting the sanctions is a “crucial ingredient in Sudan’s long-term recovery and in its hopes of ushering in a civilian-led, democratic regime.” However, according to Hudson, the process of removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism “involves an interlocking network of legislative processes, legal rulings, financial settlements, intelligence assessments, and, most of all, politics, to unwind this ultimate tool in America’s sanctions arsenal.”
To further punish Sudan’s efforts for a democratic transition, the United States announced in February that it was ending migration visas from Sudan, effectively making immigration from that country impossible.
Even prior to Trump, the United States has long supported autocratic regimes in both the Middle East and Africa.
Even prior to Trump, the United States has long supported autocratic regimes in both the Middle East and Africa and has maintained particularly close relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. These countries are strong supporters of the conservative military officers who ruled Sudan between Bashir’s ouster and the August 2019 agreement allowing for a civilian-led government, and whom many believe would still like to see the military regain control. A large bipartisan majority of the US Congress supports sending $1.7 billion USD annually to prop up the Sisi dictatorship in Egypt and supports large-scale subsidies for arms transfers and military training to the wealthy absolute monarchies in the Gulf, while refusing to provide any relief for the impoverished democratic Sudan.
The Sudanese not only suffered over 30 years of brutal dictatorship, the United States is effectively punishing them further for having overthrown that dictatorship. The Sudanese people are being held responsible for the crimes of a military regime against which millions struggled for decades at enormous sacrifice and finally succeeded in removing last year. The resulting economic crisis is crushing the optimism Inside Arabia reported on just a few months ago, on February 26.
It’s unclear why there is so much hostility coming out of Washington for Sudan’s democratic struggle. Trump’s fondness for authoritarians is well-known. Depicting Arab, African, and Middle Eastern countries as chronically violent and teeming with angry extremists with a propensity toward terrorism helps reinforce the perceived need for the United States to intervene militarily and to back authoritarian governments and occupation armies. Though there’s no direct evidence to suggest this is conscious policy, downplaying pro-democracy movements and undermining democratic governments does play a function in justifying such policies.
Perhaps acknowledging Arab, African, and Muslim peoples embracing a passionate desire for freedom and democracy doesn’t fit the Western narrative.
During a background briefing at the US embassy in Khartoum back in January, this writer got the strong impression from officials there that they assumed Sudan’s democratic experiment would fail, essentially seeing the country as too poor, too divided, and with too many problems to overcome through democratic governance. This underscores that perhaps acknowledging Arab, African, and Muslim peoples having agency, thinking strategically, engaging in effective nonviolent action, and embracing a passionate desire for freedom and democracy simply doesn’t fit into the Western narrative. Regardless of the motivation, the United States seems to be doing what it can to get this remarkable democratic experiment to fail.
It may be difficult to mobilize public opinion in the United States to force a change in policy amid the pandemic and ongoing struggles against racial injustice and other inequities domestically, yet international solidarity in support of the Sudanese people is no less important now than it was during their struggle against dictatorship.
Dr. Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as coordinator of the program in Middle Eastern Studies. Recognized as one the country’s leading scholars of U.S. Middle East policy and of strategic nonviolent action, Professor Zunes serves as a senior policy analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies, an associate editor of Peace Review, and a contributing editor of Tikkun.
For a quick post about a mural in Sudan thanking Stephen Zunes and NVI's longtime Executive Director Michael Beer, please see: https://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/sudan_mural
By David Hart
With thanks to our friends at Waging Nonviolence and Campaign Nonviolence, I am pleased to share a piece I wrote that they just published.
Waging Nonviolence started out as a fiscally sponsored partner at NVI. They are now doing essential work and describe themselves as "an independent, non-profit media platform dedicated to providing original reporting and expert analysis of social movements around the world. We believe that when ordinary people organize they have incredible power and are the drivers of social change — not politicians, billionaires or corporations.
In short, people power is our beat, and we cover the ways it is shaping our world, grounded in both history and the latest research."
If you are not already getting their inspirational newsletters, please sign up now here.
On a tight timeline, Campaign Nonviolence welcomed my article on their Community page on Waging Nonviolence. They are "a project of Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, is working for a new culture of nonviolence by connecting the issues to end war, poverty, racism and environmental destruction. We organize The Nonviolent Cities Project and the annual Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions."
Learn more and sign up at: https://paceebene.org
Could June 7 be the day humanity begins to save ourselves?
Could it be that on June 7 humanity finally comes together and begins to save ourselves? Long overdue, and desperately needed, a major change did begin on this date — June 7, 1893 — in South Africa. This is the day that Mohandas Gandhi refused to give up his seat on a train. Instead of accepting the humiliation of racial discrimination, he accepted the inconvenience. He didn’t get where he was headed as quickly as he intended, but he began a lifelong journey of discovery that may still, at this late date, have the power to save us. A young Gandhi learned that day about the importance of saying “no” to injustice.
Many know something of his work to liberate India through the power of active nonviolence. He became a renowned practitioner of what he described as “a force more powerful” than any other in the history of humanity. But if you read Wikipedia’s article about June 7, you will learn of many battles, but not of this pivotal moment. Interestingly, one year earlier on this same date, Homer Plessy attempted to ride in the “whites only” section of a train in Louisiana prompting the famous Plessy v. Ferguson case and its evil “separate but equal” ruling. That ruling echoes to this day in the unjust system being laid bare even as I write these words.
Sadly, we have allowed the beauty and impact of nonviolence to remain largely in its infancy. We should have studied how to build a world of peace with justice, as seriously as we have studied war. Yet the early successes of active nonviolence teach us that it is the only path forward that will allow us to achieve our vast potential.
Our world is both beautiful and dangerously broken. In recent days and weeks, many people are waking up to the harsh reality that we are addicted to violence. All over people are seeing that violence is built right into our very system. We face epidemic levels of violence. Even as we hear that “we are all in this together,” we know that to make that commitment real, we have to change our policies in deep and lasting ways.
Recently in the United States, people who don’t understand the heart of nonviolence call loudly for “nonviolence.” Why? Because they want to maintain the brutally violent status quo. Active nonviolence must always be on the side of justice and can never support an unjust order. Both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. shared a deep and lasting commitment to those at the bottom of the social order.
These days people are repeating King’s line “riots are the language of the unheard.” True and important, but let’s also remember that he repeatedly told us that we have a clear and ongoing moral obligation to not only hear those voices, but also to make big structural system changes that reflect the reality that all people everywhere are valued.
When Gandhi sat down on that train, he awakened the potential to change the world without resorting to violence. Of course, he wasn’t really the first to use nonviolence. He read Henry David Thoreau, who in turn had read the Bhagavad Gita. These techniques have been used in small, but meaningful ways for thousands of years. What Gandhi did was to bring nonviolence into the modern world. He was a deep strategic thinker who used creative, constructive nonviolence to overcome a powerful and brutal occupying force.
Gandhi paved the way. Years later Martin Luther King Jr. took these methods and applied them to the flawed experiment in democracy that is the United States. As he fought peacefully for justice, he showed us that nonviolence could be applied to a wide variety of situations. King told us “the choice before us is clear — nonviolence or nonexistence.” His prophetic words ring true today more than ever.
We face a series of interrelated crises that can never be won through the barrel of a gun. All our nation’s vast military might will never manage to fix them. It never could. It never will. Our investment in war has been grossly excessive. We spend treasure and human life in search of a solution that will always elude us. What if we spent a small fraction of what we spend on the military on the serious study of peace and on our pressing human and environmental needs?
Could we find a path out of this darkness to a new and better day? Could this pandemic be the “portal, a gateway between one world and the next” that Arundhati Roy calls on us to build together? Maybe. We certainly have a better chance if we unite a global movement of movements to explore the power of creative nonviolence. Some say it is already too late, but that suggests we are going to accept untold human suffering now and in the future. If we don’t quickly embrace, explore and expand the power of nonviolence, the worst is yet to come.
Let’s consider what happened 127 years ago on June 7, and decide together to address the epidemic levels of violence in our society with love, a commitment to justice, and the transformative potential of active nonviolence.
We Are All Part of One Another - Webinar Series
Creative Nonviolent Action for Palestine During COVID-19
Our expert panel explores campaigns promoting nonviolence amidst the pandemic. Panelists included: Pam Bailey and Raed Shakshak from our partner We Are Not Numbers, Alex McDonald from our partner US Boats to Gaza, our partner Hebron International Resource Network, and Roshan Dadoo, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, South Africa. Hosted by our founders Mubarak Awad & Jonathan Kuttab
Thanks to our friends at Nonviolence International NY who produced this video.
Pam Bailey - 9:37
Raed Shakshak - 16:45
Alex McDonald - 25:47
HIRN - 37:45
Roshan Dadoo - 45:48
HIRN, WANN, and US Boats to Gaza are fiscally sponsored projects of NVI. To support their vital work please visit https://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/donate and become monthly donors.
Starhawk's Response to Current Events:
A cop murders a man in cold blood, in an icon of humiliation, knee on neck, a man who is bound and pleading for his life, and all this happens not just in front of other cops who do not intervene, not just in front of a live crowd, but is videoed and shown to the world.
It’s a public murder, a lynching, a display of brute power.
And this murder is one in a long string of murders, black life after black life, and in the majority of cases, the perpetrators have walked free.
And we wonder why our cities are in flames?
We are surprised when a cigarette butt sparks a raging fire in a tinder-dry forest?
I am a life-long advocate and practitioner of nonviolence, but I’m not going to preach it to those who have the knee on their neck. Not until I first send out a larger call:
I call for nonviolence from the cops, whom we as a society entrust with the right to carry weapons and to use force, and who therefore must be accountable and responsible when they abuse that trust.
I call for nonviolence from the president, who has condoned and advocated violence on every level, stoked racial fear and hatred, supported white supremacists, egged on armed, white protestors, and so much more that I can work myself up into a froth just trying to list it. And from all the other power-holders who aid and abet him, who ignore their duty to govern fairly and accountably.
I call for nonviolence from the media that focus on and glorify violence and too often ignore peaceful protest, from the media outlets that spread misinformation and outright lie, from the social media that provide platforms for lies and hate to spread.
I call for nonviolence from any folks of privilege, whether that’s vanguardist leftists or, far more prevalent, organized white supremacist groups, who are using the protests to advance their own agendas instead of taking the lead from those whose lives are most directly impacted.
I call upon us all to acknowledge that racism is violence, continual and nonstop, like a low-level inflammation that saps your energy and occasionally erupts into agonizing pain. And occasionally sets the world on fire.
We live steeped in and surrounded by violence, shaped by it, entertained by it. Violence is outright force but it is also neglect, appropriation of resources, lies, stereotypes, devaluation, unwillingness to acknowledge and reward the beauty and creativity and gifts of those who are deemed not to matter. It’s our reluctance to let someone else determine the norms, set the rules, be the center of the story.
So if we are shocked, shocked by broken glass and burned-out cop cars, then we have a responsibility to change the climate that is stoking the fires.
Nonviolence isn’t something to preach. It’s best put into practice, by actively working against the inherent violence that pervades our system.
The Many Faces of Nonviolence- Reverend Joseph Lowery
By Maegan Hanlon
Reverend Joseph Lowery dedicated his life to the civil rights movement. Growing up in the Jim Crow era in Alabama, Reverend Lowery saw first hand the damage violence and racism caused in everyday life. In fact, Reverend Lowery cites an incident with Alabama police that sparked his dedication to nonviolence and civil rights. He recalls as an eleven-year-old, a police officer in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama “jabbed him with a nightstick.” The police officer then accused Reverend Lowery of not respecting white men. Rather than letting this incident allow rage to fester internally, the reverend said it inspired him to dedicate his life to nonviolent resistance. After college Reverend Lowery worked on a newspaper column about racial injustice, and later decided to attend seminary school to become a minister. He was ordained into the United Methodist Church and joined the NAACP. His experience with faith greatly inspired his commitment to nonviolence throughout his life.
As a minister in the American United Method Church, he believed in using nonviolent tactics to advocate for equal rights under the law. He organized his first nonviolent protest with the goal of desegregating buses in Mobile, Alabama during the 1950s. Later, he helped organize the 1955 Montgomery Bus boycott in which black riders sat in seats reserved for white riders. Their efforts were successful, and Montgomery's buses were desegregated. When reflecting on this victory, he said that the boycott, “sparked and triggered an era of self-determination.” Additionally, the bus boycott victory led to the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The SCLC, led by Reverend Lowery and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., aimed to coordinate local activist groups with a strong commitment to nonviolent protest and action against injustice.
In 1965, Reverend Lowery led the march from Selma to Montgomery that brought demands on voting rights to Alabama’s Governor, George Wallace, a fervent segregationist. Reverend Lowery brought marchers from the SCLC and other organizations to the Alabama state capital to protest racial discrimination in voting procedures. His peaceful marchers were attacked by state police on the Governor’s orders, but the altercation only served to further inspire Reverend Lowery and his supporters. Later that year the reverend led a march on Washington, DC, which ultimately led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Reverend Lowery continued to work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for many years, using his nonviolent tactics to fight for justice all over the world.
In the 1970s, he shifted his nonviolent focus to the power of the ballot, and he encouraged millions of black Americans to use their votes to fight for justice. After his success with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Reverend Lowery wanted to assure both young and old black voters that voting held power. Throughout his career Reverend Lowery continued to advocate for nonviolence tactics after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. He used his platform as a nonviolent civil rights leader and minister to preach about peace. A great example of this occurred during his eulogy for Coretta Scott King, a fellow civil rights leader and friend, who passed away in 2006. During the eulogy he denounced the United States’ involvement in the Iraq War in front of President Bush and emphasized both his and King’s lifelong commitments to peace.
In 2008 he gave the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration, and in 2009 President Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. After a long and passionate life of nonviolent activism, Reverend Joseph Lowery passed away at the age of 98 on March 27, 2020. He was a celebrated pioneer for civil rights in the United States. He led the fight for equal rights in a time when it was dangerous. Reverend Lowery provided a light among the darkness for millions of Americans. His nonviolent legacy sets a remarkable example for all of us to live by.
Reverend Lowery worked diligently for civil rights in the United States, and he accomplished a great deal. However, there is still more to be done. Thus we must ask ourselves, how can we follow in Reverend Lowery’s footsteps and stand up for peace in our own communities?