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.
Political Realism Needs to Discover Nonviolent Social Change
When I start to hear in forums around Washington in the last few months that the people of Syria might have been better off without a violent revolution then we are witnessing a slow learning curve of the political realists. From Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria they are beginning to see the absurdity of embracing guns that give rise to everything they fear the most from the Middle East. The horror of the present makes the courageous crowds in Syria of 2011 something of a wondrous miracle, a proud pluralistic mass movement of social change, without the insanity of ideological extremism.
The lesson is simple. We activists must be much more prepared to massively support every nonviolent turn in social history across the world, but we also must be accompanied by policy makers who at the very least stay out of the …
Nonviolence and Violence, the Shocking Difference
For decades, there was hardly any opening in this strong police state to train and plan for creative and steadfast nonviolent social change. Some of us as peace activists did our best to introduce even the mildest ideas of social change at great personal risk to our Syrian friends. For over ten years I had been working steadily in Syria with Syrian partners on interfaith diplomacy and peacebuilding. We built bridges between both average people and between influential people across the spectrum from Alewite, Sunni, Shiite, Catholic, Protestant, and atheist. We engaged in what nonviolence practitioners refer to as exercises in solidarity.
We built a cadre of students in conflict resolution from young to old, inside and outside the government. We did this work with the grudging permission of the regime, through clever strategies of diplomacy. We also enjoyed the friendship of some Western …
This article was originally published on January 18th here.
At the beginning of December 2011, the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University convened a meeting of over twenty world famous Islamic scholars and dignitaries together with over one hundred and twenty clerics from every province of Afghanistan. The event was unprecedented in the history of Afghan conflict resolution. Never before had anyone brought together the beleaguered Imams of the Afghan provinces, men who had stood up for peace and risked their lives to fight against the misuse of their religion. These men stood witness as colleagues, who dared stand up at Friday prayer and advocate for Islam’s commitment to nonviolence, for women’s rights, and for tolerance, were assassinated by radical forces in the region and neighboring states whose only purpose was to keep the war going and Afghanistan divided. Nevertheless, these men …
A version of this essay appeared recently in the Jerusalem Report on November 21, 2011.
The Arab Awakening is facing serious challenges, and some new strategic decisions are required that will end up being good for all the revolutionary movements afoot this year, in the Middle East, in Israel and beyond.
The essential point is this: The Arab Street has demonstrated incredible heroism and nonviolent principles in the face of torture and death, and even Libya began as a very peaceful revolution, even if Libyans felt at some point that they had no choice but to fight. This is a paradigm shift of ethical and political values that will be remembered for generations. It may also signify a broad-based Middle Eastern democratic shift.
The going is tough, however, because no revolution easily dislodges corrupt structures of power. The temptation is just too great for those immediately below the revolution’s chosen …
(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
By Dr. Marc Gopin and Aziz Abu Sarah
In his speech to the Central Council of the PLO in Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced his strategy to end the occupation. The President stressed in his speech that he will not retreat from seeking recognition of the Palestinian state from the United Nations. Abbas had been under enormous pressure to withdraw the request for recognition of a Palestinian State on borders of June 1967. He announced that 122 nations are already in favor of the draft submitted to the UN. Concerning US opposition, he referred to the fact that this has not been communicated in a formal manner.
President Abbas surprised many of his listeners when he spoke about another element of his strategy. Perhaps for the first time Abbas highlighted clearly his vision of the Palestinian people’s active participation to achieve the dream of a Palestinian state. He called …
From the explosion of Osama Bin Laden into our consciousness on that terrible day in 2001, all the way to his death, feels like a frame of existence, a distinct period of our history and fate as an American community. There have been many deadly wars since then that America has participated in or supported. As an American Jew and a veteran peacebuilder in the Middle East, I also feel like this decade has been a whirlwind of violence, from Iraq to Lebanon to Gaza, and now to Arab countries in which I had worked, especially Syria where I put my heart and soul.
Every war, every massive act of violence, always makes me reflect anew on the origins and nature of human violence, and on its opposites, empathy, compassion, and love. We humans have made so many efforts through the millennia to create one political arrangement after another in …
(This article was written in collaboration with Aziz Abu Sarah, Co-Executive Director of The Center for World Religions Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution.)
Ever since the disastrous split in Palestinian leadership of several years ago into Fatah and Hamas it has become clear that disunity has been a critical factor standing in the way of Palestinian statehood. Many reconciliation efforts, with several third parties, were attempted and aborted. This time it seems that things are different, despite the enormous ideological divisions and outstanding grievances between Fatah and Hamas.
Why is this happening now? Clearly, the historic impact of the “Arab Spring” on Egypt and Syria, and across the region, is an enormous game changer. The increasing instability of Syria suggests that there is a strong possibility that A) Hamas may no longer have a stable home in Syria, but, on the other hand, Palestinians now have a much more sympathetic …
By Hind Aboud Kabawat (Senior Research Analyst and Expert in Conflict Resolution, CRDC, George Mason University).
May 20, 2011
Can our beloved Syria be saved from the brink of destruction? This is clearly the question on the minds of millions of our fellow countrymen (and countrywomen). And it is truly astonishing how quickly events have transformed the so-called “facts on the ground” in this country. One of the most locked-down societies in the Middle East quite suddenly erupted in rage, anger and frustration after forty years of political repression and economic stagnation. Just think of it: the first demonstration was on March 15, just a mere two months ago. But so much has changed in the minds, hearts and aspirations of the Syrian people that it is impossible to think that we can ever return to the status quo ante—the Syria of March 14th.
What the …