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.

Testimony by John Morearty, Ph.D.

Bombplex hearings held by the U.S. Dept. of Energy

(DOE calls the hearings Complex Transformation)

Tracy, California, March 18, 2008

On this beautiful spring evening, I wish you peace. And that very much includes you, Mr. Wyka. [presenter from DOE]

Let me offer you an image, from James Carroll’s magnificent recent book House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of Pentagon Power. The image is, we are all on a lovely pleasure boat, drifting with the current down a broad river. It’s a sunny afternoon, people are chatting, drinking their coffee and their wine, enjoying the day. We’re drifting on a quiet day-or almost quiet. Except that from somewhere ahead, down river, there seems to be a soft noise. One can barely hear it. A sort of gentle roar.

The name of the river is Niagara.

I’m John Morearty, I’m sixty-nine and a half, I live in Stockton. Between us, my wife and I have ten grandchildren, ages three to fourteen. They are the first of three reasons I’m here this evening. I’d like them to have the same opportunities which God and our beautiful country have given me-to live in joy, and contribute to building the earth community. But I’m afraid they won’t get that chance. As the Chinese proverb says, if you keep on going the way you’re going, you’re likely to wind up where you’re headed.

The second reason I’m here is, I’m a Ph.D. in Social Thought from the University of Chicago, trained as a cultural historian. As a young guy I helped found a small liberal arts college at University of the Pacific in Stockton, dedicated to global understanding. I left academia in 1975, became a carpenter, a licensed general contractor-and a peace activist.

I got arrested blocking the road to Livermore Lab in 1982, and went to jail, with thousands of others. Did it again in 1983, and then crossed the line onto the Nevada Test Site a few times. I’ve worked for peace candidates for Congress, created and hosted a public affairs cable TV show every week for fourteen years as a volunteer, and I still help produce a free monthly community newspaper, Connections, published by the Peace and Justice Network of San Joaquin County.

What happened to me at the age of forty was, it dawned on me that the very existence of thousands of nuclear weapons threatened the lives of my beautiful twin sons, who were then fourteen years old-and I could not tuck them under my arms and run away to hide. No place to hide. Have you read On the Beach, by Nevil Shute, or seen the movie? You really should. It’s about people in Australia, when there is a nuclear war in the northern hemisphere.

Nuclear explosives are not even properly weapons. A weapon is something like a knife or a gun; you use it, and you may survive. But the intrinsic dynamic of these clever and horrendous devices, in a world full of them, is that once some fool uses one, global catastrophe threatens. And we all know that. These nuclear-things-are the absurd culmination and linchpin of the imperial war system which has dominated and bedeviled humankind for about five thousand years. But Martin Luther King was right. He called our country the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, and he said, “Our choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is between nonviolence and nonexistence.”

The third and final reason I’m here is that the whole nuclear enterprise is so sad: its a tragic squandering and diversion of capital resources and human ingenuity from the urgent problems that confront our species and our planet. Economists call it opportunity cost. There are thousands of brilliant scientists and meticulous engineers in the nuclear system, I honor them, and we need them-our country needs them, the world needs them-we need them to become green scientists and engineers. My twin sons are successful engineers-but they have never done war work.

Livermore and Los Alamos and the rest must become Green Laboratories, working not on bombs but on clean sustainable energy and transportation systems, medical technology, ways of cleaning up and cooling down the rivers and oceans, saving the forests and the topsoil, so our great-great-grandchildren can live in peace and plenty. The immense dangers of this planetary era summon us to immense opportunities. We human beings are so smart! We are so inventive, so capable. And now we get to decide: Will we be midwives of a new time on earth, or hospice workers?

Again, I wish you all peace!

Winter Soldier marches again--Amy Goodman on Common Dreams

Gandhi of the West Bank


Abdullah Abu Rahma is a child of the First Intifada, an orphan of the Second Intifida, and a man central to the rebirth of Palestinian nonviolence on the West Bank.

This thirty-six-year-old high school teacher in Bil’in, a town on the West Bank, organizes weekly nonviolent protests against Israel’s separation wall. Every Friday for the past three years, Palestinians—together with Israeli dissidents and young solidarity activists from overseas—have been climbing the hillside where Israel has erected its fence. Soldiers routinely turn them back with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets. Abu Rahma estimates that 800 people have been wounded since the protests began.

But this has not deterred the protestors, who keep coming back. Once they came with a bride and groom in tow who took their marriage vows as resisters of the wall. Another time they taped their mouths shut and on their bodies they had written the names of countries whose governments condone the wall.

Except for periodic stone throwing, reminiscent of the First Intifada, the protest in Bil’in is remarkable for its discipline.

After one Friday protest, featuring a squad of bikers all the way from Tel Aviv, the demonstrators gathered on the floor of Abu Rahma’s house. He managed to slip away from the crowd to a quiet upper room.

He does not draw you in with any magnetism, but his quiet defiance exerts its own power.

What Anne Lamott said of Grace Paley in Traveling Mercies applies to him. She reminds me of a durable desert shrub that the wind just can’t blow over.”

Abu Rahma is quick to point out that the nonviolent resistance at Bil’in is very much in the Palestinian tradition.

“During the ’36 uprising, workers staged a general strike that lasted six months, “ he says.

Then he discusses the First Intifada. “Workers refused to go to their jobs in Israel,” he says. “Students went on strike, In Beit Sahout, people refused to pay taxes to Israel. There was a boycott of Israeli textiles. Nonviolence gave Palestinians a chance to get involved in the resistance in many different ways.”

That has changed now, he laments: “To be part of the Second Intifida, you have to be a part of some militia.”

But not in Bil’in.

Its creativity has proven vexing to the Israelis.

“On May 4, 2005, the Israelis told us that they would uproot our olive trees in the morning,” he says. “We defied them by chaining ourselves to the olive trees, saying to them, ‘If you uproot our olive trees, you must uproot our lives.’ The Israeli press was there. Al Jazeera was there. People woke up in the morning and saw us on television.”

The Israelis arrested Abu Rahma three times after that action. But thanks to campaigns on the Internet and to progressive supporters in the Knesset, he won quick release.

The Bil’in resistance can take credit for one of the few tangible triumphs won by Palestinians fighting the wall. In September 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the wall at Bil’in was inessential to Israel’s security, and the construction of it had to be discontinued. Farmers whose land was seized to build the final, forbidden segment of the barrier would get back their land.

“The ruling meant we achieved our goal of getting the building of the wall stopped,” he says. But it was not a total victory, he explains, because the court decision gives back to the farmers less than half the land the Israelis took to build the wall.

“By continuing to resist, we intend to get the rest back,” he says. “If we hadn’t used nonviolent methods, we wouldn’t have gotten anything back.”

Nonviolence is still met with skepticism by many Palestinians. As a group of women told Amira Hass of Haaretz: “Nonviolent? Do the Israelis recognize such a thing as nonviolence?”

But due in part to Abu Rahma’s efforts, and in part to the horror over the fratricidal bloodletting between Hamas and Fatah, receptivity to nonviolence is on the rise. The leaders of two nonviolent groups, Lucy Nuseibah of MEND (Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy) and Sami Awad of the Holy Land Trust, both claim that they get more requests for nonviolent trainings than they have trainers to go around.

“When I look out my window,” Abu Rahma says, “I see soldiers and the wall, and the trees behind the wall that used to be ours. When harvest time comes, my children say to me, “We don’t want to come with you to the harvest, father. We are afraid of the soldiers.”

His words sadden him. He is silent for a minute or two.

“What Gandhi achieved in his country,” he then says, “I want to achieve in mine.”

Reprinted with permission from The Progressive, March, 2008.