Saturday, June 28, 2008

Words Not To Say; People Not To Speak To

Ah - the little ironies of life.

I was watching TV two weeks ago and saw Laura Bush speak of the need for "Palestine to be an independent state." Given the silence of President Bush on the topic during his visit to celebrate the birth of Israel, this was a welcome address.
What struck me is that the US State Department goes out of its way to forbid the use of words like "Palestine" and "occupied Palestinian Territories" from its documents and the writings of its contractors. And here comes the First Lady using one of these forbidden words. (Even PM Sharon himself had said that people should call the occupation for what it is.) If the agency in charge of implementing US Foreign Policy is not allowed to use simple words, which Israel and the First Lady find natural to use, what does it tell us about dogma and rhetoric in how we conduct our affairs? And how long can even a super-power remain relevant when it becomes tied to rhetoric rather than reality?

Then last week Israel revealed it had negotiated a truce with Hamas which is effectively ruling over Gaza. Well, to me that makes plenty of sense for the two sides. Gazans could do with a weekend without someone getting killed; they might enjoy some cement and gasoline to start rebuilding and trying to kick-start a dead economy; and Israel's Southern districts might enjoy some time without the fear of some dumb rocket falling from the sky, with the risk that it might hit someone. But here is the irony: The US is threatening with sanctions and retaliation anyone who speaks with Hamas. Will that apply to Israel? Of course not. If it's OK for Israel to talk with Hamas, why is it not for others? And--here comes the serious question--it certainly makes sense to talk to Hamas if it stops the rockets over Israel; but in that case wouldn't it have made greater sense to talk to Hamas in 2006 after it had stopped violent action of its own free will, in order to join a democratic political process? What message has "the West" given to a somewhat confused and strifing Muslim world? 'Engage in democracy, we will shun you and reduce you to dust; but shoot rockets at us, we will talk to you.'

I'm not one to look naively on Muslim Fundamentalism, but maybe when our dogma reduces us to a language of violence, we become stuck with only understanding a language of violence ourselves. It is great time we talk, and maybe learn to hear the voices of people a little quicker than we hear the voice of powder.

Opponents of dialogue always point back to Münich, when Chamberlain talked to Hitler, signed a treaty, came home stating he had 'secured peace for our time,' only to have Hitler invade Poland immediately after that. The lesson is always: "don't talk too much and try to appease evil; shoot first!" The problem with that historical shortcut is that it misses the point. Certainly taking Hitler at face value was a big mistake, but not hearing and not talking to the German people being squeezed into misery between the two world wars was probably the original mistake. Fortunately, in 1945 the US having led the liberation of the free world chose a different strategy and led the development of Germany and Western Europe. After WWI, the agenda was 'make the Germans pay' -- and it led us to a nightmare. After WWII, the agenda became the 1948 Declaration on Human Rights, and investments not only in German economy, but also education, culture, the arts... Which course of action was better in the end? For Christians: which was more infused with Jesus' principles of forgiveness, love of enemies, grace and charity?

So--who we talk to, what we can say: how is that working out for us today?


Friday, June 27, 2008

Israel may be the worst enemy of a Jewish State

Coming soon...

... an examination of how current Israeli policies are forcing it into an untenable situation. Not necessarily one in which the nation-state of Israel wouldn't overcome and endure; but certainly one in which the heart of the Torah--the essence of Judaism--is being gutted out from the inside.

There are no easy path for peace in the land of Palestine, where Israel has successfully established itself. Israel has many allies today, and some who could be its allies tomorrow if they were seen as people today. The real enemies of Israel are so confused and so wrong on so many fronts, their chances of prevailing are slim to none. But the one enemy of a Jewish State, which Israel seems incapable of resisting is its own self--this "self" is the resulting collective entity created by its conflicting beliefs, greed and ambitions.

What will be Palestine?

Coming soon...

... Proponents of the occupation and eviction of Palestinians from their land have long made use of divisions among Palestinian groups and factions to undermine the legitimacy of an entire people. This is absurd, but it is also quite effective as a propaganda tool.

Regardless, Palestinian society has been going through significant shifts and fragmentation. One of the most diverse, progressive and certainly democratic societies in the Arab world is undergoing huge changes. How much these changes are due to the occupation is not as relevant as the facts that (1) the occupation is here, (2) changes are taking place at great speed, and (3) some of these changes will be the cultural inheritance of future generations, which I hope will be free generations.

This post will attempt to discuss some of the questions Palestine has to face about its future--and waiting for the end of the occupation to address them might not be a winning strategy. What will be "Palestine," once the choke of the occupation is removed?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A blog by Elrig Ciles

Well- I've done it: started a blog.

O, how the mighty have fallen!

I'm living between worlds, physically, culturally, emotionally, and spiritually. Like many of us. In so doing, I often wonder what it takes to make any one setting an inhabited city, a livable place: professionally - those are questions about development; culturally - I'm not one of those who sees culture as something sacred, but rather something we build for better and sometimes worse; emotionally - what clumsy creatures we are in this big world, in those small worlds we construct around ourselves; spiritually - like a stranger and traveler on this planet, but still wanting to leave it no worse than I found it.

So, I'll be writing about life, faith, politics, culture, peace and human folly. I suspect how those things interplay in the painful context of Palestine / Israel may take a lot of my ponderings. We'll just see where this goes. I'm new at this, but I hope to leave options for responses (yeah, right!) and I'll try using labels for themes as they emerge. I'll have a label for English and French languages -- who knows if I'll remember my mother tongue?

Peace - within and without.
Elrig (and yes, I'm using a pen name for this)

Un blog par Elrig Ciles

Et oui; j’ai finalement créé un blog.

Quelle affaire!

Je vis entre plusieurs mondes (d’où le titre “living between worlds), géographiquement, culturellement, émotionnellement et spirituellement, comme beaucoup d’entre nous.

Je m’interroge souvent : que faudrait il faire pour rendre un coin de ce monde une ville habitable, un lieu de paix et de vie ? Professionnellement – ce sont les questions du développement (durable) ; culturellement – je ne vois pas les cultures comme des objets sacrés, mais comme des réalités que nous construisons pour le meilleur et parfois pour le pire ; émotionnellement – quelles créatures inadaptées nous sommes dans cette immensité et dans ces petits mondes que nous construisons autour de nous ; spirituellement – je reste étranger et voyageur sur cette planète, mais j’espère toujours la laisser au moins aussi propre que je l’ai trouvée en entrant.

Je vais donc écrire sur la vie, la foi, la politique, la culture, la paix et la follie humaine. Il est très probable que l’intersection de ces thèmes dans le champ douloureux de la Palestine / Israel continueras de prendre bon nombre de mes pensées. On verra où cela mène…

C’est un nouvel exercice pour moi. Le blog aura l’option pour le lecteur de poster des réponses (poussez pas derrière !) et j’utiliserai les labels de façon au moins à pouvoir rapidement identifier les thèmes qui émergent, et les textes en français ou en anglais si tant est que je me souvienne de ma langue maternelle.
Paix à tous – intérieure et extérieure.
Elrig (oui ; je vais utiliser un nom de plume pour ce blog)