Mandela, King, Gandhi? Jeremy Ben-Ami’s heroes are mine

Israel/Palestine
on 8 Comments
With Liberty and Justice for All!
 

Like thousands of others, I too, received Jeremy Ben-Ami’s Independence Day email blast admonishing those who are not expressing optimism about Secretary John Kerry’s “efforts aimed at jumpstarting diplomacy” between Israel and Palestine.

I understand why Jeremy is looking for something to feel optimistic about.  He is not the Lone Ranger here.  Many of us who work on this issue and care deeply about the people who live in Palestine and Israel, constantly look for things to feel optimistic about.  We leave buckets out to catch water, just to keep our cups half full.  I get it!
 
I for one, am feeling optimistic about Jeremy’s letter itself.  He asked,  ”What would they have said to the Martin Luther Kings, to the Nelson Mandelas, to the Gandhis? Don’t bother; the forces you’re up against are too powerful? Don’t waste your time?” 
 
I was thrilled to hear him praising the efforts of my heroes!  Of course, all of them achieved their goals in large part by using the tools of nonviolent resistance and collective legal action against those who oppressed them (using violent means)– Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions.
 
“What we need from those who recognize the importance of the Secretary’s work isn’t a recounting of the reasons why this may not work but their help in building momentum and pressing the leaders on all sides to make it a success.”
 
I agree with him that we need to build momentum and press leaders, but pressing them with words and wishes hasn’t changed the situation, which as we all know, worsens by the (settlement and infrastructure) day.  
 
Maybe all the stories about our founding fathers seeking independence from their colonizers has gotten to me, but I hope that my heroes will continue to fill the thoughts of Jeremy Ben-Ami and the imaginations of those who work for peace between Israel and Palestine but draw the line at urging the Israeli government to change it’s policies squarely between the carrot and the stick. Those who believe it is wise to keep offering carrots but reserve their sticks for negotiating with the powerless Palestinian Authority.
 
I do believe that my heroes are the clear examples of how We the People can and will create change, not with the words which have failed to move those who continue to expand Israel and block attempts to hold them accountable for their actions; but with tools of nonviolent, democratic action that have turned tides and broken institutional injustice, suppression, and subjugation historically.
 

While we celebrate America’s independence we still dream and work to make it a reality for all the people between the river and the sea, equally, with liberty and justice for all.

About Estee Chandler

Estee Chandler is the Los Angeles Organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace. Producer/Co-host Middle East in Focus, KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles

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8 Responses

  1. American
    July 6, 2013, 12:19 pm

    ”While we celebrate America’s independence we still dream and work to make it a reality for all the people between the river and the sea, equally, with liberty and justice for all.”

    That is not America anymore. If it was we wouldnt be here talking about I/P…..there would be no I/P.

    • W.Jones
      July 6, 2013, 5:07 pm

      American,

      I was surprised to learn recently that the unanimous 28-ovation speech Netanyahu received at the Senate was a joint session with Congress. How is the US’s envoy Kerry supposed to be a successful neutral mediator and effect anything he doesn’t want?

    • Citizen
      July 7, 2013, 10:19 am

      Well, we do have Snowden, and Manning. Nader, Code Pink, Allison Weir. It’s hard to piss into the American wind you feel when you hold up your finger.

  2. DICKERSON3870
    July 6, 2013, 1:18 pm

    RE: What would they have said to the Martin Luther Kings, to the Nelson Mandelas, to the Gandhis? Don’t bother; the forces you’re up against are too powerful? Don’t waste your time?” ~ Jeremy Ben-Ami (from Chandler’s post above)

    EXAMPLES OF WHAT “THEY” DID SAY TO KING, FROM WIKIPEDIA [Letter from Birmingham Jail]:

    [EXCERPT] The Letter from Birmingham Jail or Letter from Birmingham City Jail, also known as The Negro Is Your Brother, is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King, Jr., American civil rights leader. . .
    . . . King’s letter was a response to a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen on April 12, 1963 titled, “A Call for Unity”. The clergymen agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not in the streets. They criticized Martin Luther King, calling him an “outsider” who causes trouble in the streets of Birmingham. To this, King referred to his belief that all communities and states were interrelated. He wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider…”[2] King expressed his remorse that the demonstrations were taking place in Birmingham but felt that the white power structure left the black community with no other choice.
    The clergymen also disapproved of the immense tension created by the demonstration. To this, King affirmed that he and his fellow demonstrators were using nonviolent direct action in order to cause tension that would force the wider community to face the issue head on. They hoped to create tension: a nonviolent tension that is needed for growth. King responded that without nonviolent forceful direct actions, true civil rights could never be achieved.
    The clergymen also disapproved of the timing of the demonstration. However, King believed that “this ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.'”[2] King declared that they had waited for these God-given rights long enough and that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”[2]
    Against the clergymen’s assertion that the demonstration was against the law, he argued that not only was civil disobedience justified in the face of unjust laws, but that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
    King addressed the accusation that the civil rights movement was “extreme”, first disputing the label but then accepting it. He argues that Jesus and other heroes were extremists and writes: “So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?”[3] His discussion of extremism implicitly responds to numerous “moderate” objections to the civil rights movement, such as President Eisenhower’s claim that he could not meet with civil rights leaders because doing so would require him to meet with the Ku Klux Klan.[4] . . .

    SOURCE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_from_Birmingham_Jail

  3. DICKERSON3870
    July 6, 2013, 1:27 pm

    RE: “I hope that my heroes will continue to fill the thoughts of Jeremy Ben-Ami and the imaginations of those who work for peace between Israel and Palestine but draw the line at urging the Israeli government to change it’s policies squarely between the carrot and the stick. Those who believe it is wise to keep offering carrots but reserve their sticks for negotiating with the powerless Palestinian Authority. . .” ~ Estee Chandler

    MY COMMENT: Offering more and more carrots to Israel just allows them to make more and more “carrot stew” to consume!

    ● MAGGIE THATCHER’S “FEARS” AS TO APARTHEID-ERA SOUTH AFRICA :

    . . . While Thatcher maintained throughout her political career that she “loathe[d] apartheid and everything connected with it,” she . . . refused, alongside Ronald Reagan, to back sanctions against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. “In my view, isolation will lead only to an increasingly negative and intransigent attitude in the part of white South African,” she said in December 1977. . .

    SOURCE – http://mondoweiss.net/2013/04/supposed-democracy-dictator.html

    ● FROM WIKIPEDIA [Constructive engagement]:

    [EXCERPT] Constructive engagement was the name given to the policy of the Reagan Administration towards the apartheid regime in South Africa in the early 1980s. It was promoted as an alternative to the economic sanctions and divestment from South Africa demanded by the UN General Assembly and the international anti-apartheid movement.[1]
    The Reagan Administration vetoed legislation from the United States Congress and blocked attempts by the United Nations to impose sanctions and to isolate South Africa.[2] Instead, advocates of constructive engagement sought to use incentives as a means of encouraging South Africa gradually to move away from apartheid.[3] The policy, echoed by the British government of Margaret Thatcher, came under criticism as South African government repression of the black population and anti-apartheid activism intensified. . .

    SOURCE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructive_engagement

    ● FROM foreignaffairs.com: “South Africa: Why Constructive Engagement Failed”, By Sanford J. Ungar and Peter Vale, Winter 1985/86

    Article Summary
    Ronald Reagan’s imposition of limited economic sanctions against the South African regime in September was a tacit admission that his policy of “constructive engagement”–encouraging change in the apartheid system through a quiet dialogue with that country’s white minority leaders–had failed. Having been offered many carrots by the United States over a period of four-and-a-half years as incentives to institute meaningful reforms, the South African authorities had simply made a carrot stew and eaten it. Under the combined pressures of the seemingly cataclysmic events in South Africa since September 1984 and the dramatic surge of anti-apartheid protest and political activism in the United States, the Reagan Administration was finally embarrassed into brandishing some small sticks as an element of American policy.
    [We’re sorry, but Foreign Affairs does not have the copyright to display this article online.]

    SOURCE – http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/40525/sanford-j-ungar-and-peter-vale/south-africa-why-constructive-engagement-failed

  4. American
    July 6, 2013, 3:53 pm

    Hero Alert

    Venezuela Offers Asylum to Snowden, Nicaragua Also Hints at Possibility
    France Rejected Bid, But Snowden May Have Options
    by Jason Ditz, July 05, 2013

    This US whistleblower Edward Snowden has continued to apply for asylum around the world in an effort to get out of the Moscow Airport. Those requests appear to have finally borne fruit, as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro became the first to officially offer him asylum.

    France was the latest nation to turn down an asylum bid, and Iceland’s parliament also rejected an effort to grant him citizenship, but for the first time since fleeing Hong Kong, Snowden finally seems to have options other than staying in the airport.

    Venezuela may just be the first of many options, as well, as Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega also said he was willing to offer asylum “if circumstances allow,” though he didn’t specify what those circumstances would be.

    Snowden has sought asylum in at least 26 different nations worldwide, though many of those nations have simply been unable to process a request unless Snowden is able to get to their embassy, which so far he has been unable to do.

    Getting to Venezuela, or elsewhere, may be a big challenge in itself, as even the rumor that Snowden might be on the plane of Bolivia’s President Evo Morales was enough for EU nations, at the behest of the US, to force Morales’ plane to land and submit to a full search.

    If Snowden can’t overfly the EU in a trip, it may be awfully hard to get a plane from Moscow to anywhere in Venezuela without a layover anyplace.”

    If this offer is solid I am sure some of Putins old buddies in the KGB can get Snowden to Venezuela.

  5. lyn117
    July 6, 2013, 4:02 pm

    Estee, may your dream of equal rights for all people between the river and the sea come true.

    But haven’t you heard? Advocating equal rights regardless of creed is the same thing as advocating the destruction of Israel. At least, that’s what some people say.

  6. W.Jones
    July 6, 2013, 5:00 pm

    I am glad that you want to see justice for Palestinians. Me too.

    You wrote: “I for one, am feeling optimistic about Jeremy’s letter itself.” The main problem with Kerry’s mediation is that it lacks any practical force. Obama’s administration has been mediating the massive disenfranchisement of Palestinians for the last 5 years, and it has been failing for this reason. Ben Ami’s Letter worries that eventually people will fault the Obama administration for including any persuasive force in his mediation. Yet the lack of such practical implementation is the problem. How then is one to be optimistic about a letter supporting a failed strategy, even if it was well-intentioned?

    You wrote: “I was thrilled to hear him praising the efforts of my heroes!” Supporters of the State system also support those heroes’ efforts. They allege that Martin Luther Ling Jr. supported their system too, but CounterPunch has cast intense doubt on that claim. They misportray those heroes’ efforts towards their own goal. You are right that the heroes’ strategy was nonviolent resistance. Ben Ami opposes that, as well as Palestinians’ pleasing before international bodies set up to protect oppressed peoples’ rights.

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