In the history of warfare the twentieth century stands out as the bloodiest and most brutal – three times more people have been killed in wars in the last ninety years than in all the previous five hundred
Since the end of the Second World War in 1945 there have been some 250 major wars in which over 50 million people have been killed, tens of millions made homeless, and countless millions injured and bereaved.
Many contemporary struggles are between different ethnic groups in the same country or in former States. When ethnic loyalties rule, other moral codes are often abandoned. It becomes horribly easy to proceed from neighbourhood hostility to ‘ethnic cleansing’ and genocide. After that, killing adults is not enough; future generations of ‘the enemy ‘ – their children – must also be eliminated. Women and children are then not just caught in the crossfire, they become targets as well. As one political commentator put it (in a 1994 broadcast before violence erupted in Rwanda), ‘To kill the big rats, you have to kill the little rats.’
Behind many of today’s armed conflicts lies a long history of wars which ended, maybe, with winners and losers, but rarely with solutions to the problems which caused war in the first place. Wars don’t happen by accident. To wage war, you need weapons, many of which take a lot of time, money and people to produce. Weapons make people feel more important and powerful (and more dangerous). Many political and military leaders therefore feel they must have the most powerful weapons possible.
Wars don’t happen by accident. As well as weapons, wars need people who are prepared to use them: to kill, and to be killed. Certainly there are people who don’t need persuading. But more often people fight because it’s what they’re paid to do: they work for the armed services or as mercenaries. Certainly there are people who, however reluctantly, choose to go to war because they believe it’s the right thing to do. (Unfortunately, sometimes they believe it’s the only thing to do). But more often people are forced, ‘conscripted’, into the armed services by their government, and have no choice in the matter.
In fact, organised war is not a natural activity, but ‘a highly planned and co-operative form of theft and murder, which began over ten thousand years ago when those who learned to grow wheat and save the surplus were robbed by nomads of the things they could not provide themselves.’ Men began to use spears to kill people as well as animals: the arms race was already under way. Ten thousand years ago people may not have known what else to do; today we don’t have that excuse.
Since the beginning of history people have got angry, had disagreements and punch-ups, and even killed each other. This we have in common with a few other animal species. But it’s very different from war.
War is an activity that needs preparation, organisation, planning and calculation, like farming, or education, or building. It has little to do with aggressive moods or eruptions of anger. There is no baring of teeth in the chemical weapons laboratory. Designing a nuclear bomb that can kill millions of people is a long-term project, requiring skill, imagination, quiet concentration, and a lot of taxpayers’ money. The hundreds of thousands of people employed in armaments factories in Britain alone don’t go to work in the morning red with fury and ready to slay ‘the enemy’. Most of them are loving parents who take care of their children, seldom considering that the weapons they help to make might one day kill some other parent’s children somewhere else.
Murder, the world over, is a crime punishable by long prison sentences (in some countries by execution). Yet hundreds of thousands of people in the world’s armed forces are trained to murder – and murder people they do not even know. Whatever words we use to disguise the fact, war is essentially about murder. To drop bombs on a city, for example, is to murder ordinary citizens, many of them children; the pilot has no personal quarrel with them, but drops the bomb in the name of war – and thereby commits a mass murder
Rest in peace is carved on tens of thousands of gravestones up and down the country. People ask to be left in peace and insurance salesmen guarantee us peace of mind. The police attempt to keep the peace; there are peacekeeping forces dotted about the world in blue helmets, surrounded by the horrors of war. People on demonstrations demand peace now and peace with justice; some are accused of disturbing the peace. Some search for inner peace while others insist on peace with honour. The Americans have named a nuclear weapon the Peacekeeper, and the US airforce proudly boasts that Peace is our profession.
‘Give peace a chance’ goes the song widely adopted by the peace movement; but it’s probably not sung during a peace process which is rarely a peaceful activity. Over sixty years ago, people began to take a pledge for peace – there were hundreds of thousands of them, and today the organisation those people formed has produced this information sheet. Yet, despite the fact that everyone appears to want peace, it is still in short supply. (It has been calculated that between 3600 BC and today there have been only 292 years of peace; that there have been over 14,500 major wars in which close to 4 billion people have perished. The war dead thus come close to equalling the total population of the world today.)
We can begin to see from the wide and varied use of the word that the nature of peace isn’t simple.The truth is that peace needs all the planning, dedication, organisation and imagination that people spend on making war. And because it is a positive plan to preserve life rather than waste it, it resembles such activities as farming, education, building, far more than war does (which destroys all three).
In today’s wars especially there is a significant relationship between underdevelopment and armed conflict. Societies incapable of meeting their citizens’ needs are the most liable to break down; conflict, in turn, does lasting damage to the political, social and economic foundations of any stable and prosperous society.
The lesson that the communities of the world have yet to understand fully is that security – peace – is not primarily a matter of military preparedness. Peace cannot be enforced where social and economic conditions fail to sustain it; it must, instead be created.
Being peaceful – as ‘pacifists’ try to be – is all too often associated with being passive and dull, lacking the excitement and drive that conflict can provide. But creating peace is full of interest and adventure, and danger too. It needs bravery, imagination, determination and resourcefulness – so it means using many of the characteristics that people associate with being warlike.
It also means that nobody gets killed, or injured, or sick from chemical weapons. It means that whole families, whole communities, don’t get wiped out simply for being where they are. It means that people can trade in useful things instead of weapons of destruction. It means that money can be spent on water supplies and medicine, and on protecting the planet instead of laying it waste.
And making peace is a job everybody can do. All you need is the attitude.
Education is the key to uniting nations, bringing human beings closely together. In many parts of the world, civil society suffers because of situations of violent conflicts and war. It is important to recognise the crucial role of education in contributing to building a culture of peace and condemning instances in which education is undermined in order to attack democracy and tolerance.
A culture of peace and non-violence goes to the substance of fundamental human rights: social justice, democracy, literacy, respect and dignity for all, international solidarity, respect for workers’ rights and corelabourstandards, children rights, equality between men and women, cultural identity and diversity, Indigenous peoples and minorities rights, the preservation of the natural environment to name some of the more obvious thematics.
We need to affirm the right to peace and pledge our support for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and practice of non-violence through education, dialogue and cooperation. Cultural differences should not separate us from each other, but rather cultural diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity. Intercultural dialogue is the best guarantee of a more peaceful, just and sustainable world.
“There was a time when moral concern only went as far as the walls of a man’s city. Indeed, it didn’t even go that far, as women, children, slaves and non-property-owning males within the walls didn’t count either. Gradually some of these others came to be recognized as moral equals, but each step was a fight. The abolition of slavery took centuries. And illegal slavery still exists around the world. Deeply rooted forms of racism and sexism still persist. So does suspicion of outsiders those not of ‘our’ race or nation or culture and the willingness to abandon them to whatever misery fate may impose on them.”
Equal opportunity is also central to the system of international human rights: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It goes on to guarantee all people equal protection of the law, equal pay for equal work, equal access to education, equal access to public service, equal rights as to marriage, and an equal right to vote, among other protections. Virtually every human rights document contains a similar guarantee of equal treatment.
And the conventions on the elimination of racial discrimination and discrimination against women make concrete the affirmative obligations of all nations to provide equal opportunity. The race convention, for example, requires governments “to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists.” And it recognizes the need, in some cases, for measures that affirmatively promote the inclusion of members of previously excluded groups “as may be necessary in order to ensure such groups or individuals equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Ensuring equal opportunity in the 21st Century demands a nuanced understanding of the progress that we’ve made as a nations, as well as the nature of contemporary bias and systemic inequality. It requires understanding, for example, how stereotypes based on gender, race, and other social characteristics can come together in unique ways that require individualized attention. It includes the reality that we are all capable of bias and discrimination, including against members of our own group. And it requires acknowledging and addressing the instances of overt discrimination and bigotry that do remain in our society without believing that those are the only kind of inequality worthy of our attention.
Finally, equal opportunity means not only ending overt and intentional discrimination, but also rooting out subconscious bias and reforming systems that unintentionally perpetuate exclusion. It requires proactive efforts to remake our institutions in ways that ensure fairness and inclusion. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “with equal opportunity must come the practical, realistic aid which will equip people to use it.”
Whether we are concerned with suffering born of poverty, with denial of freedom, with armed conflict, or with a reckless attitude to the natural environment everywhere, we should not view these events in isolation. Eventually their repercussions are felt by all of us. We, therefore, need effective international action to address these global issues from the perspective of the oneness of humanity, and from a profound understanding of the deeply interconnected nature of today’s world.
At birth, all human beings are naturally endowed with the qualities we need for our survival, such as caring, nurturing and loving kindness. However, despite already possessing such positive qualities, we tend to neglect them. As a result, humanity faces unnecessary problems. What we need to do is to make more effort to sustain and develop these qualities. Therefore, the promotion of human values is of primary importance.
We also need to focus on cultivating good human relations, for, regardless of differences in nationality, religious faith, race, or whether people are rich or poor, educated or not, we are all human beings. When we are facing difficulties, we invariably meet someone, who may be a stranger, who immediately offers us help. We all depend on each other in difficult circumstances, and we do so unconditionally. We do not ask who people are before we offer them help. We help because they are human beings like us.
Responsibility for working for peace lies not only with our leaders, but also with each of us individually. Peace starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighbouring communities and so on. When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace. We can work consciously to develop feelings of love and kindness. For some of us, the most effective way to do so is through religious practice. For others it may be non-religious practices. What is important is that we each make a sincere effort to take seriously our responsibility for each other and the world in which we live.
I believe that these goals can be achieved on the basis of increased awareness. Let us widen our perspective to include the well being of the whole world and its future generations in our vision of prosperity and freedom.
” The great thing a little lamp can do, Which the big sun can not do is, It gives light at night. So, no one is superior by size, but by purpose “
HE Lady Emanuela De Marchi
Cabinet OK’s razing Bedouin towns to build Jewish settlement in their place
After being expelled and relocated in the 1950s, the residents of Umm al-Hiran are about to lose their homes once again – this time to make way for a Jewish national-religious settlement.
The Israeli government on Sunday made one of its most outrageous decisions in recent years (and there is no shortage of those, as you know). The cabinet held a special session in Sde Boker – the Kibbutz in which David Ben-Gurion is buried – to approve plans to build a new Jewish town (along with several others – all for Jews) in the northeast region of the Negev desert.
The symbolism of meeting at Sde Boker is clear: Ben-Gurion believed that the Negev is Zionism’s final frontier, and all Jewish pioneering effort should take place there.
There is no better example of how Zionism as a state ideology represents, in practice, the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. Two Bedouin-Palestinian villages, Umm al-Hiran and Atir (where members of the Al-Qia’an tribe live), are the location where the kibbutz is planned.
Last year, Lia Tarachansky of the Real News produced a comprehensive video report about Umm al-Hiran and the Israeli government’s plans for it.
Despite the fact that it was the state who told the Al-Qia’an tribe where to move, the new villages were never made part of a zoning plan, and their residents still lack basic infrastructure like water and electricity. The government is finally deciding to build a proper settlement there – but not for the Palestinian Bedouin (who are citizens of Israel, some of whom even served in the IDF).
In remarks at the start of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the new Jewish towns but did not mention the Bedouin who will be displaced to make room for them. The plan, he said, will “expedite the development of the entire Negev, which Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, very much wanted to do.”
The Bedouin residents of Umm al-Hiran will be pushed to the township of Hura, one of the poorest cities in the country, according to the socio-economic index of towns and municipalities. I suppose the government believes that things are so bad in Hura that its residents won’t mind another 500 refugees.
I visited Hura and Umm al-Hiran along with some other +972 bloggers last year – here is an account of that visit. Here is a video report on the Jewish group that is planning to settle on the ground as soon as the Palestinians are expelled. I will update tomorrow after the government’s decision.
By Noam Sheizaf |Published November 10, 2013