Originally posted here on Oct. 19, 2015.
I am starting to see very clearly that there are those people who have the moral and emotional intelligence to understand two sides of a conflict, two enemies at once, and there are those who need to demonize someone in every situation. There are those who can empathize with their own community and with another, and there are those who at every turn look to demonize one group and whitewash their own. These are two camps of humanity, one with an evolved mind, and one with a primitive mind. Educational levels and graduate degrees having nothing to do with these two camps.
I am horrified by the mob mentality, I am saddened by many people I have helped and defended, not from my own community, who the first chance they get, join virtual lynch mobs.
The fact is that it is easy to …
There are important next steps being debated for what states can and should do to stop the current war, and set the stage for ending the current cycle of violence. That is not my subject. I thought recently that leaders are followers and followers are leaders, and neither knows it. The fact is that people and their individual initiatives have much more impact on the course of history than is acknowledged by government officials, by cynics, and by those too apathetic, too callous, or too fearful to act. If you are in that category, do not read forward. Just go back to Al Jazeera, Fox and CNN and choose a side. Or go back to Jon Stewart and have a good laugh.
Here is what is necessary, efforts that have worked before in history in changing the available information available to all parties so that more rational and more morally …
Here is an excerpt from a recent Huffington Post article I wrote. You can read the full article here.
I am not impressed anymore by the emotional bonding and euphoria created by revolutionary crowds. Finished, done, my enthusiasm squashed after years of promising rallies in central squares whose intent and hopes smashed headlong into reality.
The crowd is not to be trusted. It only knows enthusiasm, not direction, not vision, not a moral compass. We went as civilizations from one kind of crowd delirium to a better one only by building solid, unbreakable emotional and legal bonds between every citizen, no matter how strange or foreign. Bonds that were so strong that most of us now get physically sick just imagining a festival of sadism in the heart of civilized London.
Roger Fisher, one of the greatest luminaries in modern times of negotiation practice died at the age of 90 on August 25 of this year. Roger exuded that confidence of Harvard elites, and American leaders, that has both been admired and admonished globally, that has been a source of optimism in the face of impossible circumstances and also a source of alienation and distance between American thinkers and actors and others. I come from a side of the field of conflict resolution that has emphasized local cultures, religions, psychological issues, that is far more receptive and encouraging of approaches uniquely tailored to each situation, each set of cultural actors. I stand by those differences that I had with him. And yet I always loved him in some fashion.
I loved Roger’s courage coming out of World War II, the worst era of Western civilization’s capacity for human degradation, with a …
There is a pervasive fear that is being spread by American, Israeli and Sunni Gulf leaders that the most dangerous development in modern history will be the capacity of Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. The fear of nuclear weapons is a natural one, and it is well deserved, because a nuclear weapon is far and away the worst technological innovation of murder ever developed in human history, probably the worst that ever will be developed.
It is especially understandable that Israel, composed mostly of Jews many of whom are from Holocaust families, would be especially vulnerable to the fear of sudden and mass extermination by inveterate enemies. Israel has almost 400 advanced nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and yet there seems to be no limits to the fears that leaders can generate at even the possibility that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons.
Nuclear terror almost brought the world to …
This is reprinted from my latest Huffington Post article:
Tourism is a business involving a billion people a year meeting several other billion people whose lives they profoundly affect economically and socially. The question for the future is whether that effect is going to be negative or positive, peaceful or destructive.
I want to argue that it is all up to us travelers.
Recently, in the major Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot, there appeared a picture of a beautiful little girl holding and aiming a machine gun almost her own size, being coached by a smiling soldier in fatigues in a West Bank settlement in the Occupied Territories. The caption mentioned how many foreigners come on tours and are given this kind of exposure.
This is a very different kind of tourism and educational seminar experience than the kind I and my colleagues have been running for years in Israel …
Here is in excerpt from my latest article co-authored with Aziz Abu Sarah.
…So now we have Christian funds from the United States that have effectively supported the misguided second and third generation settler youth who are actively attacking churches and referring to Jesus as a son of a whore. If this is what Pastor John Hagee and other radical Christians intended, then it suggests a rather bizarre theology of interfaith love and care. It seems in reality that these funds are intended to foment conflict, to promote a confrontational, apocalyptic and messianic end to the State of Israel….
Just a few days ago was the longest night of the year. Another way of looking at is that this was night in which the tide of darkness began to turn back in favor of light. Bunched around this time are so many ancient holidays of lights and candles, of which Hanukah and Christmas are but two. Ancient rabbinic tradition suggests that the purpose of the small light at night is to teach that it takes only the light of one individual candle to illuminate the darkness of an entire room—or the world.
Peering at small lights at night, meditating on them, also has another interesting impact. It makes the blinding light of the morning sun feel almost miraculous. Indeed, many of the pre-monotheistic nighttime celebrations of light at this time of year are actually celebrations of the birth of light, and particularly sunlight. There is an inescapable reality to …
This article originally appeared on the Al Jazeeera English website on Dec. 12, 2011. You can view it by clicking here .
Washington, DC – There is a long record of the grim effects of sanctions in international struggles against those states deemed as “rogue”. Sanctions are seen as righteous instruments, a non-violent way to pressure problematic regimes to change. But when you really don’t care about a country or its people, then your true attitudes emerge in the way in which you use the sanctions instrument of policy.
Let’s take Iraq. Based on estimates of the massive increase in child mortality rates through the years of the sanctions in the 1990s, anywhere from 300,000 to a million people lost their lives. But no one in Saddam’s inner circle, none of the wealthy, and none of the killers, died from those sanctions. Such sanctions were touted as an enlightened and …
(A version of this essay was recently published in The Jerusalem Report.)
Across the world in the last 40 years politically organized religious forces have played an increasingly important role in national politics. From India to Indonesia, from Lebanon to Israel, from the United States to Russia, organized religion has increased its impact on politics.
We are also aware of the frightening rise of very violent religion, expressed through terror groups. For this reason, it is easy to misunderstand the relationship between religion on the one hand and between states and ethnic groups and their very secular interests, on the other hand.
Precisely because so many millions of people care about religion, religion has become an essential tool of secular state and ethnic interests. Indeed, what may seem to be a religious issue often turns out to be very secular state interests. Missing this relationship, it becomes easy