Peace & Justice

Wednesday afternoon at Modesto Peace/Life Center

Wednesdays, the Peace/Life Center is usually open from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. Bring brown bag lunch. Come by for some coffee or tea or to chat or to see a film or browse through various books and magazines. Beverages will be provided.

Vigil and March on the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War


In mid-March, it will have been four long years since the war in Iraq began, a war that many of us sought to prevent and have continued to strongly oppose. Once again, it’s time to voice our opposition to this war’s ongoing violence, death and destruction.

Last year, we gathered to mourn all those who had died in the Iraq war, proclaim the kind of world we yearn for, and voice the hope that we would not need to gather again in 2007. But the horror of war continues, the violence escalates, and a greater surge is underway, so we must again collectively speak out again and again until we are heard.

On Saturday, March 17, from noon to 2 p.m., those who long for peace will gather at Modesto’s Tenth Street Place to mourn the death and destruction this war has brought and proclaim a fervent message: NO MORE WAR! Saturday was chosen so that those who wish to participate in Sunday’s San Francisco March may do so.

Recognizing that some people prefer a quiet, thoughtful vigil while others want to march with signs and banners, this event will offer both opportunities:

• A quiet gathering in the fountain area of the plaza, featuring the tolling of a bell to mark the deaths of both US troops and Iraqi civilians, a circle of sharing that invites people to voice their opposition to the war and their hopes for a more peaceful world, singing of peace songs, and an opportunity to sign a petition opposing war and promoting peace.

• An ongoing procession along the sidewalk down K Street, down 9th Street, up J Street, and across the Tenth Street Place walkway, proclaiming our message to passersby on their way through downtown area. It will circle past the quieter vigil every 15 minutes or so, so folks can take part in both.

All ages are invited to participate and to bring signs with personal messages, though we ask that you please keep signs respectful and child-friendly.

Help us spread the word. If you know of veterans or families of troops serving in Iraq who might want to participate or share their experiences and hopes, call 523-8445.

Co-sponsored by the Stanislaus Network of Spiritual Progressives and the Modesto Peace Life Center. Literature tables, peace buttons, petitions to sign, and materials for signs will be provided.

ACTION: Make your voice heard on this global day of action to stop the war!

Important Truths: 2007 Peace Essay Contest

After Iraq, What? Generosity: An Alternative to War


Not just on the right but across the political spectrum, many have believed that security requires domination and control of others, that realism requires that we dominate others before they dominate us. The Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), along with a coalition of other peace, justice, and religious groups, is advocating a very different path: security through generosity. Genuine caring based on the moral recognition of our inter-connectedness, expressed in substantive actions to use a portion of our wealth to assist and empower those with whom we share this planet, will undermine the climate of support both for those who would use violence against us and for those in our own nation who would resort to violence against perceived enemies. (For more on this shift in paradigm, see

As an expression of the new Generosity Paradigm, NSP is launching a national Generosity Campaign advocating, along with military withdrawal from Iraq, the Global Marshall Plan. Along with other wealthy nations, the United States will annually dedicate 1-2% of its Gross Domestic Product to eliminate hunger, homelessness, inadequate education and health care and other manifestations of poverty, to build sustainable economies, and to repair the environment throughout the world (and in our own nation as well). The Plan will be implemented in ways that avoid the pitfalls of inefficiency and corruption and that empower the people of diverse communities and respect their cultural and religious traditions. Supporting the Strategy of Generosity is not only morally right, but is also in our best interest. We can help raise the standard of living in the developing world so dramatically that terrorists will find it difficult to recruit people who are angry enough to want to give their lives to fight an America now identified with domination and selfishness. Practical details of the Global Marshall Plan may be found at

NSP additionally supports such parallel approaches as those of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (approx. 0.7% of GDP), the One Campaign (1% of the federal budget), and Jubilee USA (an approach based on foreign debt forgiveness). Each of these approaches would help correct the present situation: contrary to general public belief, the U.S. proportionate share of foreign development aid remains shamefully infinitesimal, ranking us last among the developed nations of the world.

ACTION: One peak of activity in both the local and national NSP’s Generosity Campaign will occur on the days before taxes are due (this year, April 17) with a nationwide presence at post offices, offering citizens wishing their tax dollars to be put to better use than war the opportunity to send postcards to Congress advocating a change in the homeland security paradigm, “From Domination to Generosity.” As a key element of the campaign, clergy of all denominations will be invited to incorporate the Generosity Paradigm into their sermons around that time.

The Stanislaus NSP Chapter will also staff information tables, including the postcards for Congress, at such events as the Peace Vigil on the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War (March 17) and at Earth Day in Graceada Park (April 22). To help in this effort or to obtain postcard(s), call 577-0883.

Pariah State”: Meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismai’l Haniyeh


Part 2

In Part 1 published in Connections last month, we followed Scott Kennedy on his journey to Gaza. He has now arrived at the office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismai’l Haniyeh.

After shaking hands, Prime Minster Haniyeh motioned for me to sit next to him at one end of a rectangular office. A Palestinian flag stood behind us. Another faced us from the far reach of the office where four men in dark suits sat chatting and answering cell phones during our meeting. Introductions later revealed they were the Palestinian cabinet members, representing the Ministries of Information, Transportation, and the Interior, and a spokesperson for the PA.

Haniyeh turned to face me and through an interpreter welcomed me warmly. He wore a neat gray suit, a freshly pressed shirt opened at the neck. I introduced myself and explained that I was visiting the region on behalf of three pacifist organizations that oppose violence by all parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I had come to express my opposition to the United States’ campaign to isolate the PA because of Hamas’ victory in the January 2006 elections and to oppose the killing economic sanctions against Haniyeh’s government and Israel’s military siege of the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Haniyeh said how pleased he was to have a visitor from the United States and that Hamas bears no ill will toward the American people. He noted with irony that those calling for the spread of democratic society didn’t respect the results of the Palestinian elections, even though the January elections were universally viewed as fair. “I was shocked by the US response to the Palestinian electoral process,” he added.

Haniyeh acknowledged that I had already seen some of the evidence of the Palestinians’ suffering and the destruction brought about by Israel’s “incursions” into Gaza. “The Gaza Strip is under total siege by sea, air and by land. This has resulted in tremendous humanitarian suffering.” He said the military escalation culminated in the recent massacre in Beit Hanoun in which 19 people from one family were killed by Israeli artillery. I had met two young survivors earlier in the day. The week before my visit, the USA vetoed a UN Security Council condemning the accidental killings in Beit Hanoun. Haniyeh said the US veto gave a green light to Israeli aggression against Gaza. The veto also sends messages that Israel is above the law and Palestinian lives are worth less than other lives.

Many commentators say that Hamas had not expected to take control of the Palestinian government. This view is widely shared by those I met in Gaza. Hamas ran on a platform of “reform and change” and the Islamic movement’s candidates benefited from the moribund peace process, deteriorating economic situation in Gaza, and widespread corruption in the PA dominated by Arafat’s Fateh Party. Their political strength is rooted in an Islamic social program that has developed over a decade and a half. A secular woman activist told me that the Hamas political program largely focuses on the role of women in society. She described a recent attempt to alter Palestinian law in order to permit polygamy according to Hamas’ reading of the Koran. The proposed change was withdrawn after meetings with a broad coalition of grassroots human rights and women’s organizations. Hamas does not have a strong “foreign policy” agenda. They choose instead to fold themselves within the Palestinian consensus. Hence Haniyeh’s indications that Hamas will live with a political accommodation with Israel.

I pressed the Prime Minister about the question of Hamas making peace with Israel. Haniyeh said that the problem remains that Israel has yet to determine its position towards the Palestinians. Despite all of the peace talks, “We have received no real offer” of peace from Israel, he said. Instead a series of demands have been made of the Hamas-led government: that they recognize Israel, honor agreements previously entered into by the PA, and renounce violence. He asked rhetorically whether the same demands are made of Israel. Answering his own question, Haniyeh argued that Israel must first recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, including a clear statement about what borders the Palestinian state will have. Only then will Hamas be able to clarify its position.

Haniyeh reiterated his oft-stated position that Hamas is willing to enter into a ten-year interim peace agreement with Israel and perhaps longer term truce to enable the Palestinians and Israelis to build a new relationship. For the past eighteen months, they had observed a unilateral cease-fire with Israel. He covered the same points he has made elsewhere, “We are strongly in favor of direct talks between Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the PLO and the head of the government, and the prime minister of Israel, Olmert.... If they reach an agreement in their discussions that’s acceptable to the Palestinian people, we will accept it, also. Hamas will.”

There is an international consensus in support of a Two State Solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. This solution calls for an exchange of “land for peace” and creation of a Palestinian state consisting of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, that Israel occupied in 1967. Support for a Two State Solution has been officially adopted by every Arab state, the European Union, the United Nations, the nonaligned countries, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, and every other significant grouping of world nations. Sheer exhaustion, if not a change of heart, has brought the Palestinian people to accept the international consensus in support of a Two State solution. Hamas would have had to bend to domestic Palestinian pressure and the international consensus, just as the grizzled guerilla leader Yasser Arafat had been compelled to do. Sadly, the US gave Hamas no grace period to come to terms with this Palestinian consensus.

Meanwhile Israel’s continued annexation of Palestinian land threatens to render the “land for peace” formula meaningless and the Two State solution irrelevant.

I can’t claim the same gift George Bush professes — the ability to look into a man’s eyes and size up his soul. But I did look squarely into Haniyeh’s eyes during much of our half-hour conversation. There was no evasion and no shifting of eyes. He seemed to be a kind and thoughtful person.

When I asked Haniyeh about the so-called “clash of civilizations” that has dominated American understanding and discussion of global events since the September 11th terrorist attacks, I sensed a deep sadness. With a clear and determined voice, he slowly laid out his position on a question he obviously had answered many times: “We believe in dialogue between civilizations and not the clash of civilizations.... We know how special the relationship is between the US and Israel. We don’t look to stop this strategic alliance. We are only asking for a more balanced position.” He lamented the fact that after September 11th, the US missed a real opportunity for cooperation and coordination between East and West, based on mutual respect. The USA missed another opportunity when it chose to oppose the democratically elected government of Hamas. “Hamas is moderate and pragmatic and realistic.... We are not a terrorist organization just because we are part of the Islamic world. We can be a bridge between the US and the West and Islam and the Arab World. Instead, the US has pushed Hamas into a corner….”

Haniyeh rose to prominence after his mentor Sheikh Yassin and other Hamas leaders were assassinated by Israel. Immediately after his election, Israel and the United States moved decisively to bring about his downfall. I couldn’t help but wonder whether this soft-spoken man is well-suited for the job. When I shared my assessment of their prime minister, my guide and translator said that Haniyeh is known among the people in Gaza as a very thoughtful and kind person both before and after his election as prime minister. His stature was enhanced in recent days when he offered to step down as Prime Minister if necessary for Israel and the United States to lift the devastating siege on the people of Gaza.

President Bush would have none of this talk of building bridges or lifting sieges. His administration decided immediately after the election of Isma’il Haniyeh to bring down the Hamas government. Taxes that Israel has collected from the Palestinians are withheld from the Palestinian Authority in defiance of written agreements and international law. International aid has also been suspended. 150,000 government employees including teachers and police have not been paid for more than eight months.

Standard operating procedure for the Bush Presidency includes breaking off communication with those who won’t go along with our nation’s global agenda and trying in turn to bring down governments we stigmatize as “terrorist.” Syria fought alongside the US in the first Gulf War, was taken off the list of “terrorist nations” and the US publicly thanked Assad’s regime for their active cooperation combating terror after 9/11. Bush helped force Syria out of Lebanon and then watched as that country slid into chaos and war with Israel. Now the Bush Administration faults Damascus for the situation in Lebanon and Iraq and shuns Bashar al Assad along with Iran and North Korea.

The net effect is that relations with these countries continue to decline and drift towards escalated conflict and war. Meanwhile, the United States grows more isolated. 156 countries, including the European nations, voted for a UN General Assembly resolution expressing sympathy for the Palestinians killed in the Israeli attack on Beit Hanoun. The resolution also opposed Palestinians firing rockets from Gaza into Israel. Seven nations abstained, but only half a dozen nations, including several Pacific island nations, joined the US in voting against the resolution.

In the five years since the World Trade Center attacks, President Bush has squandered global solidarity and support for the USA and the American people by fomenting an unprecedented anti-American sentiment around the globe. For the first time in my four decades visiting the region, I experienced explicit anti-American feeling in my two weeks in Israel and the occupied Palestinian West Bank. This rising anger at the American people for their government’s actions prompted the heavy security arrangements in Gaza, the likes of which I have never experienced before.

In his effort to isolate Hamas as a “pariah state,” Bush has achieved quite the opposite effect. The US is increasingly isolated on the world stage and it is our nation that is viewed as bullying and warlike. The US’s continued backing for Israel, no matter how heinous its crimes, reinforces the general deterioration in world esteem for our nation and its people. Bush may very well have succeeded within our own borders in defining Hamas and other political movements as terrorist groups. But there is little doubt, from the perspective of the broad international consensus about how to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is the United States that has become the pariah state.

President Bush sits by while Israel effectively destroys the possibility of a Two State solution, the only basis for a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that enjoys an international consensus and offers a diplomatic rather than a military solution. He may in the short run bring down the Hamas government, but at what long term cost to regional stability and peace?

Join a delegation to Israel/Palestine. IFPB upcoming delegation dates: May 26 - June 9, 2007; July 28 - August 11, 2007; November 3 - November 17, 2007

Interfaith Peace-Builders, 1326 9th St., NW, Washington, DC 20001; 202.244.0821; fax: 202.232.0143.

The author is Coordinator, Middle East Program, for the Resource Center for Nonviolence, 831 457 8003,;

United for Peace & Justice January weekend


Tuolumne County Citizens for Peace

On Saturday, January 27th I joined over 500,000 people from 47 states and an estimated 54 countries to brave the elements in Washington DC to tell Congress and the White House to de-escalate the war and bring the troops home. In addition to the march, which for the first time in history, surrounded the Capital with protesters, United for Peace & Justice had planned lobby training on Sunday and congressional meetings on Monday.

On Sunday over 300 of us crowded into Bethesda‘s Chevy Chase High School Auditorium for training, inspiration and camaraderie. Joined by Holly Near, Phyllis Bennis, Tom Andrews, Brian Hill, Michael McPhearson and other, we heard that:

Monday morning, several hundred peace workers met with at least 80 representatives or staffers in the Rayburn Congressional Office Building. Security was tight – but the guards would not allow political buttons or any type of message to be worn. Most of us complied, but several brave ones, especially Code Pinks, refused or replaced their messages after entry. Some of them wore the number “3,080” – the number of US troops killed to date in Iraq.

I was proud to represent Tuolumne County Citizens for Peace for George Radanovich’s (R) gerrymandered 19th district from north Fresno to Tuolumne. The California contingent was well represented for Dan Lungren (Calaveras, Amador, San Joaquin) and McNerney (Stockton).

After receiving much encouragement from fellows in the cafeteria, I met at 10 am with George Radanovich’s Legislative Assistance, Lacey Kiriakau. Waiting at the door was Rebecca Griffin, the Deputy Political Director from Peace Action West in Berkeley. They knew I was the only contingent and she came to support me!

Radanovich’s office is basically bare, save an oil painting of Yosemite and a television tuned to Fox News. Lacey Kiriskau, a Turlock native, politely met listened to our points. She repeatedly let us know that the Congressman will always support the President. No matter what our point or query, the response was the same; “He backs the President.”

We told her that there are many contingents that do not support the President’s plans for escalation of the war, and specifically ask for the war not to be funded, reject all funding of the war unless tied to a specific plan for withdrawal, block a future war with Iran and investigate this war including the misuse of intelligence.

We peace workers need to follow this up with letters, faxes, emails, and telephone calls, and organize meetings in the California offices of our representatives and persistently keep on them!


Congress is called upon to:


According to the National Priorities Project, the cost to California Congressional Districts of the cost of the Iraq war to date:

Radanovich/19: $647,096,261, for this district: Number of children that could have been provided with health care for the length of the War: 100,915. Number of affordable housing units that could have been built: 3,773. Number of elementary schools that could have been built 70!

Lungren/03: $805,947,473 – for this district: Number of children that could have been provided with health care for the length of the War: 125,687. Number of affordable housing units that could have been built: 4,699. Number of elementary schools that could have been built 88!

McNerney/11: $974,122,241- for this district: Number of children that could have been provided with health care for the length of the War: 151,914. Number of affordable housing units that could have been built: 5,680. Number of elementary schools that could have been built 106!

ACTION: Visit for information. They deserve much appreciation for this past weekend.

Second Central Valley Journey for Justice


(From Community Alliance, Feb. 2007)

The original idea for the California Central Valley Journey for Justice was to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the United Farm Workers march on Sacramento. The journey for justice is a network of people, organizations, and unions working together in a unified movement for health care. The journey is a unity in spirit, a living, breathing relationship between common people with goals with plans to build committees in every area, leave literature, educate the leaders, and help empower the communities to fight their battles more effectively. Thousands of people participated in April 2006 going from town to town. This year we will carry forward the fight for health care for all. Our goal is to strengthen and unify our movement on a statewide level.

The governor has released a plan to “make more health care accessible to all, more affordable.” What we aren’t being told is that his offer mandates individuals to purchase their own health insurance, to make us bear more of the cost of getting sick, thus high deductibles. His plan does little to address the true costs. Many families will go without food to meet the mandated requirements of the governor’s plan.

The journey for justice demands:

ACTION: Join the Journey for Justice April 13 -21 kick off in Sacramento to Bakersfield. Contact Ed Castro 559-250-2733,  or Gloria Hernandez, 559-268-2261.