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U.S. Diplomacy, Not Arms Sales, Needed in Middle East

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: usa, United Church of Christ, faith-based organisations, appeal, diplomacy, development aid, justice, peace, military aid, arms sales, violent conflict, arms manufacturer industry, profits, violations of rights and international l )

- 1112 days ago -
UCC/partners calling for greater U.S. diplomatic & development spending in the ME - lifting the U.S. role as promoter of justice & peace in the region, a major shift away from military aid & arms sales that only prepare participants for violent conflict


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Evelyn B (63)
Friday May 6, 2016, 9:14 am
U.S. Diplomacy, not arms sales, needed in Middle East
May 05, 2016
Written by Connie Larkman

The United Church of Christ is joining more than a dozen faith based-organizations speaking out against the U.S. role in militarized engagement in the Middle East. In a letter sent Thursday morning, May 5, to the Obama administration and all members of Congress, the UCC and partners are calling instead for greater U.S. diplomatic and development spending in the Middle East — lifting up the U.S. role as a promoter of justice and peace in the region, taking a major shift away from military aid and arms sales that only prepare participants for violent conflict.

"Our commitments to peace and justice in the Middle East, and our General Synod policy, which includes advocacy for constraining the militarization of the Middle East, have made it imperative to continue to press our elected officials to rethink how we engage the region," said Peter Makari, Global Ministries executive for the Middle East and Europe. "Our country contributes significantly to the arming of the countries of the region. That kind of engagement can only result in more violence and abuses of human rights and dignity."

Here is the complete text of the letter:

Dear Honorable Members of Congress,

As people of faith, we are deeply grieved by the violence, displacement, and abrogation of human rights playing out in the Middle East today. We believe the role of U.S. military assistance and arms trade is a major factor in fueling a downward spiral of militarization, dehumanization, and destruction of lives and livelihoods across the region. We are devastated by the ways our nation's arms manufacturer industry has profited from war and oppression across the Middle East. As U.S.-based Christian denominations and faith-based organization, we call upon you to show bold global leadership in ending these cycles of violence by ceasing all arms allocations and transfers to the region, and calling on other countries to do the same.

The U.S. arms trade represented a $36.2 billion enterprise in 2014, a $10 billion increase from the previous year, while U.S. military aid exceeded $5.9 billion. Military aid to the Middle East from 1946-2010 totaled approximately $150 billion, nearly half of which went to Israel, with the remainder primarily going to Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Despite promises of regional peace and expanded political and economic influence, the ever-growing U.S. commitment to arms transfers in the Middle East has instead increased the deadliness and scale of conflicts for civilians, fueled regional instability, and weakened this nation's moral standing. The Middle East today offers decisive evidence that peace cannot be bought through military strength, and positive influence cannot be bought or sold through arms transfers.

Arms sales and military aid make the U.S. a party to myriad violations of rights and international law, including Saudi Arabia's indiscriminant bombing in Yemen, Israel's violations against Palestinians, Egypt's human rights record, and the breaches of international law perpetrated by U.S.-armed Syrian rebels. Though justified as policies that support U.S. interests, such immoral tactics fuel ever-expanding violence. That many military aid recipients in the Middle East, including Israel, are arms sellers adds to this quagmire.

We urge the U.S. to consider how these policies conform to the Arms Trade Treaty signed by Secretary Kerry which requires states to implement its own policy to "assess the potential that the conventional arms or items […] would contribute to or undermine peace and security" in the Middle East. We also believe Congress should investigate whether these arms sales promote accountability and require enforcement as required by the Leahy Law and the Presidential Policy Directive on United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy (PPD-27).

The U.S. government should exercise moral leadership that, in addition to a rigorous adherence to national and international law, recognizes and reacts to the growing threat arms transfers pose to stability in the Middle East. A recent letter signed by 11 members of Congress calls for investigations into human rights abuses in Egypt and Israel, mirroring this call for consistent and comprehensive accountability.

As a country, we can and should play a role in ending human devastation in the region and promoting regional peace. As a first step, the U.S. must call for an international arms embargo on the region and be the first actor to halt all relevant arms sales and military aid. Such an approach should be reinforced by more robust development aid and enhanced diplomacy to promote a holistic and lasting peace.


American Friends Service Committee
Armenian Orthodox Church
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Pax Christi International
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church USA
United Church of Christ
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

Roger G (148)
Friday May 6, 2016, 9:18 am
noted, thanks

Darren Woolsey (218)
Friday May 6, 2016, 12:29 pm
Violence is NEVER an answer; communication is ALWAYS a key. . .

Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Friday May 6, 2016, 1:54 pm
I fully endorse what they say.

Animae C (508)
Friday May 6, 2016, 5:15 pm
Me too!

Thanx Evelyn

fly bird (26)
Saturday May 7, 2016, 12:58 am
Agreed!! thanks, Evelyn

fly bird (26)
Saturday May 7, 2016, 1:35 am
Palestine-Israel: Is peace activism serving occupation?

The "peace industry" is gradually pushing Palestinians further away from any real peace, analysts say.

Focusing on dialogue, social change and cooperation, activists say they are working to humanise "the other" and to construct peace on the personal level. These organisations range from joint Palestinian-Israeli schools, radio stations, cafes, women's organisations to interfaith institutions and legal centres.

As part of the several programmes she participates in, Schor is the Israel-Palestine project manager of Extend Tours, an organisation that gives tours of the West Bank to young Jewish American students interested in face-to-face dialogue with Palestinians.

"This person-to-person connection is vital in creating communities, networks, and empowering an individual to think that they can make a difference," said Schor.

"I believe in grassroots efforts, and in the face of institutionalised racism, it's the only thing that we, as individuals living here, have at the moment," she added.

Although Amany Khalifa, a Palestinian activist and organiser at Grassroots Jerusalem, an umbrella NGO that supports Palestinian communities in occupied East Jerusalem, has previously participated in dialogue and collaborative efforts, she is critical of their tangible impact.

"It's a crazy process where you put the Palestinian with the Israeli, the occupier with the occupied. This basically maintains the power relations within the group itself," she said.

"You don't talk about the group itself, you just talk about 'Amany' as a person and 'Moshe' as 'Moshe' - but you never address the political situation that led to this setting. And by the end of it everyone hugs everyone and we go back home to our own realities and nothing has been changed."

Despite these individual efforts to garner substantial international and local attention, their work remains largely sidelined within Palestinian and Israeli societies. In fact, those who do participate risk being touted by both Palestinians and Israelis as traitors or collaborators.

Running largely on European Union and Western funds through packages such as the EU Partnership for Peace Programme, many civil society organisations are additionally often obliged to comply with the rules set by the donors - a sticking point for some ventures.

In mid-April, Khalifa's Grassroots Jerusalem launched a crowd funding campaign to break free from the limitations set by EU funding programmes. Such restrictions include, among other things, bringing both Israelis and Palestinians together in order to receive funding.

"Current programmes perpetuate the notion that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is a humanitarian disaster. They [donors] provide aid which helps Palestinians "survive under occupation", not end the occupation. "This way they normalise military occupation and economic colonisation," said a statement released by Grassroots Jerusalem at the launch of the campaign.

In the past, about 70 percent of Grassroots Jerusalem's funds came from top-down project-based international aid. Today, the NGO is working to become financially independent - a strategy that the group organisers view as being more sustainable.

Critics, however, have also attacked what they see as the movement's trivialisation of Palestinian oppression and the normalisation of an abnormal situation between two unequal sides.

The anti-normalisation movement stands in strong opposition to any joint Palestinian-Israeli activism that says peace can be achieved through dialogue and increased cooperation. The movement also refuses to accept any projects that dilute Palestinian oppression, right of return or right to self-determination.

Alaa Tartir, programme director of Al-Shabaka Palestinian Policy Network, says in the past 20 years a "peace industry" has been created, with the number of organisations that claim to build peace proliferating.

"This industry is helpful for few but harmful for many; simply because we are farther away now from any form of just and lasting peace than two decades ago.

"Any effort that does not fundamentally challenge and change the power dynamics in the colonial relationship between Israel and Palestine will just hinder the ability of the Palestinians to liberate themselves from the occupation."

Grassroots peace-building initiatives entered the scene in 1967 when Israel occupied the remaining territories of historic Palestine comprising the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza. The Israeli Left stepped in to protest over the occupation side-by-side with Palestinians.

The 1980s came to symbolise the heyday of the Israeli peace movement. Civil society organisations and protest groups such as Peace Now, an Israeli group that campaigns against settlements, proliferated, working to foster dialogue and cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis and opposing policies such as the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

With the outbreak of the 1987 Palestinian popular uprising, known as the Intifada, however, many of these groups failed to survive in the atmosphere of the uprising.

Another set of similar peace-building organisations emerged after the 1993 Oslo agreements. They developed under a markedly different "co-existence" tone in contrast to the "co-resistance" one of the earlier movement.

Coming to be known as people-to-people projects, they evolved under the pretext that the Oslo agreements had resolved the political aspect of the conflict, and all that was left was to break down the psychological barriers of "us" against "them".

Salim Tamari, a Palestinian sociologist and former director of the Institute of Palestine Studies, says that yet again, the failure of politics to institute real change led to the collapse of those efforts in the modern day.

"These projects became increasingly untenable because the political process was moving in the other direction in terms of Israeli dictate of entrenchment of settlements and undermining the authority of the Palestinian government. They involved collaborative gestures that created a social psychology of reconciliation without the political process of Palestinian independence," said Tamari.

The ones that continue to exist today, says Tamari, are peripheral and have no real effect.

The current uprising, which erupted in October, has been spearheaded by post-Oslo Palestinian youth. For many, it signals a serious loss of hope and pent-up repression among the new generations who have turned to violence in the absence of other means to an end.

Schor believes that for any change to take place, the politics at the top need to change. "There needs to be a serious desire from Israeli society to make concessions and from Palestinian society to disengage from the rhetoric of all or nothing."

Khalifa, on the other hand, believes that bottom-up grassroots efforts are crucial, but that Israeli peace activists need to work within their own communities to dismantle the Zionist ideology

"Why is it that they're leaving the 1948 [territories] and going to the 1967 [territories] to support Palestinians? Shouldn't we expect them to talk with their own Israeli communities and families? It's much easier to speak to Palestinians," she said.

"They go to a protest and then after the protest they know there's maqloubeh [a traditional Palestinian dish] somewhere in one of the villages. They know Palestinians will welcome them. But it's the fight at home that's going to cause them much more of a headache."

Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian non-violence activist, former presidential candidate and head of the Palestinian National Initiative political party, says he associates occupation with the 1967 annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the continuing refugee problem.

Barghouti is an advocate of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which he believes is key to moving forward.

"I don't think there is anything that can be called a joint peace movement. We don't accept them. They are normalisation projects used by Israel and certain foreign countries to normalise the situation.

"Palestinians now realise that we need to adopt popular resistance combined with BDS."

Evelyn B (63)
Saturday May 7, 2016, 5:15 am
I don't believe there is an "either-or" to this.

I think there is a lot of validity to the concern about "normalisation" & the power dynamics - IF one relies ONLY on the one-to-one grassroots & groups of individual peace activists (or as Tamari puts it:
"collaborative gestures that created a social psychology of reconciliation without the political process of Palestinian independence,")

The idea that Israeli peace activists should give greater attention to working among Israelis, combatting the extremist political Zionist hasbara among Israeli Jews makes a great deal of sense - because those who start to question whether the Palestinians ARE the hateful monsters who hate all Jews and want to wipe them out can then be encouraged to meet with Palestinians, listen to them, start to understand their reality (which is far from the hasbara narrative) and allow their understanding to evolve in ways that can allow peace-building.

The proportion of Palestinians who have swallowed extreme ideas of "what Israelis/Jews are like" is smaller - after all, their grandparents lived alongside Palestinian Jews, and many have more nuanced ideas about the different Jewish/ Israeli/ Zionist categories (unlike Israeli Jews, relatively few of whom coexisted for generations with Christians, Muslims, Druze; most have arrived since politics formed a massive divide between the Jewish/Non-Jewish communities).

The real challenge is how to bring about the necessary change at political levels .... and that needs numerical pressure ...

BDS is one strategy that could bring pressure to bear on politicians ... but it shouldn't be the ONLY strategy, either.

It will take multiple complementary strategies
And if things don't change soon, Israel is liable to lose its soul - which might destroy it "from within". Sadly - without peace.

BUT - this article is about the broader Middle East situation -more US (& other) investment in diplomacy and development instead of military aid would make a big difference in most of the Middle East. Not only for Palestine & Israel.

fly bird (26)
Saturday May 7, 2016, 8:54 am
Thanks Evelyn, I was looking forward to your response on this.

Donna G (42)
Saturday May 7, 2016, 12:39 pm
I've been saying Give Peace a Chance for such a long time. It is impossible for two people to achieve peace if they are fighting all the time. Same goes for groups of people, countries, states, etc.

margaret cochran (41)
Saturday May 7, 2016, 5:06 pm
The U.S.A. is the worlds biggest arms dealer

Darren Woolsey (218)
Sunday May 8, 2016, 11:44 pm
Dealing in arms and military/weaponry, for some, is just ANOTHER BUSINESS, which makes profit.

I don't see how things will ever change without the above statement being challenged.

Winn Adams (179)
Monday May 9, 2016, 6:54 am
Give Peace a Chance . . . . . . .

Roseann d (178)
Monday May 9, 2016, 5:31 pm
They've gotta keep war going to give the military industrial complex something to do...and legitimize the need to continue ripping off the American public.
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